Asexuals are constantly talking about romance. However, it has long been my bugaboo that I've never actually seen a definition of "romance" that makes sense to me. When people talk about it, they're almost certainly not talking about the same thing. But thanks to E. Kay Trimberger's The New Single Woman, I've finally found a definition that I can embrace. She writes:
Nor do I deny the attraction of romance, but let's expand our conceptions of it. I like what Barbara Lazear Ascher writes in Isn't It Romantic? Finding the Magic in Everyday Life. "Romance is structured yearning," she writes. "In the romantic moment, we gather and focus that yearning in order to connect with something outside ourselves, believing against all odds that such connection is possible." But Ascher has an expansive notion of romantic connection. "The romantic quest can be embarked upon solo," she writes. "It doesn't call for a significant other, great beauty, pulsating sexuality, a new dress, or complex planning. Its only requirements are the courage of an available heart and freedom of imagination." Ascher gives a wonderful description of the romance involved in bird-watching. (258)
Okay, that was long, but I think it was worth it. I don't know who Barbara Ascher is, but she's said exactly what I'd thought about romance but somehow couldn't put the words together to say. Most of this blog probably preaches to the choir, but I do have at least one controversial opinion: My great dislike of the romantic/aromantic distinction that many aces seem hellbent on figuring out. Especially when you use a definition like Ascher's, the distinction makes even less sense. I worry that when people usually discuss aromanticism, they're talking about romance in a very limited sense. Maybe you're not interested in romantic relationships, but if bird-watching sets your soul afire, are you really aromantic? Maybe I just take things too literally, but shouldn't personal labels be somewhat literal? The label "aromantic", I think, just privileges certain kinds of romance over others.
I think part of my perspective comes from writing poetry. When you write a poem, you have to develop some romantic feelings for whatever you're writing about, whether it's a human relationship or a train station. While Donald Hall's eulogies to Jane Kenyon are supremely romantic, so are David McFadden's odes to Canada. If you have a great passion for something non-human, I wouldn't sell it short. How else would we invent anything, discover anything? I remember reading an astronomy book that quoted a scientist that couldn't get to sleep because he was so thrilled that a comet was passing. Romance is, truly, wherever you find it. I'm not trying to replace "all people are sexual" (shudder) with "all people are romantic". But I do believe that redefining these sorts of concepts is "the asexual way". Rather than just responding to our culture's ideals of traditional "romance", we need to go beyond them.
Next time: An expanded idea of romance taken to the extreme? I try to understand a sexuality even rarer than ours.