As I've mentioned in the past, I have an obscure little learning disorder called Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD). Like all "disorders", it comprises a bunch of things I'm supposed to be bad and good at, not all of which apply to me. However one of the main facets of NLD is a difficulty understanding nonverbal communication, which people will gleefully tell you is 90% of all communication. I don't know if someone who does understand nonverbal cues can really understand what it's like to not understand them. The best analogy I can come up with is that I constantly feel like I'm in a different culture. It's very interesting, but can be tiring as well. When I was prepping to study abroad, everyone was telling me about how much culture shock I'd experience-- and I was only going to England, at that. However, I experienced no culture shock whatsoever that was attributable to English vs. American culture. It's not that I felt more comfortable in England than I did in America, but that I feel equally uncomfortable anywhere that nonverbal communication makes up 90% of communication.
I'm not saying this to make you think I'm really unusual or anything, just to point out that none of us are "just" our orientations, and we all have other traits and experiences that inform how we go about relationships. Hopefully among friends, we can be honest about the way we see the world without having people yell at us about what "causes" our orientations. Anyhoodle...
I've been trying to articulate this post for awhile, but was inspired to get 'er done by today's post from Shades of Gray. In that post, she talks about the issues surrounding initiating sexual activity when you're an asexual (or gray-asexual) in a relationship with a sexual person. Of course, I wouldn't know how to initiate sexual activity. But in my case, that's like worrying about calculus when you can't do arithmetic. What's baffled me ever since my friends started dating en masse was how people initiate romantic relationships. My wonderment about this seems to come from an unlimited wellspring. I could chalk it up to being asexual-- how the hell do you know who to date when you're not attracted to anyone-- but it seems like plenty of asexual people date. I could also chalk it up to NLD somehow-- but it doesn't follow that I can figure out how to make friends but not how to date people. I can sort of understand how online dating works, probably because in its early stages, it takes place in writing, my preferred mode of communication. I read a statistic somewhere that one in eight people who get married met their partner online. That's a pretty big number, but still, most people are finding love through more organic means. So the initiation of dating, as well as its importance in our culture, do feel like entries in a rulebook that I never got.
Maybe that's not a terrible thing. But, I've got to be honest, I'm not one of those "asexuals who could get sex if they wanted". I've always had some degree of interest in dating, but could never figure out a way to get it to work for me. While I've felt some degree of romantic attraction in the past, I haven't had a real crush (as opposed to a fake crush, thank you) in years, and my crushes never accompanied feelings that I wanted to be in relationships with those people. I seem to be getting more aromantic with age, if such a thing is possible. Other asexuals seem to "fall in love" with people, something I can't understand (unless we're talking about Felt's "Penelope Tree" or some such). Maybe I'm just trying to fit myself into a mold where I really don't fit. I'd think it would follow that my romantic feelings about Felt songs could translate to another person, but perhaps not. Maybe part of my lack of understanding stems from the fact that it's hard to understand couple relationships as one person sitting and thinking. Half of the energy of the hypothetical relationship (one would hope) would be brought by the other person. So maybe it's a futile thing to ponder as an individual. Andrea Dworkin would probably hit me over the head for saying such a thing-- to the plumbers of the depths of (a)sexuality, no line of inquiry is too pointless, no question too random, no train of thought too convoluted. Well, I promised articulation and didn't deliver it. But, I'd love to hear any experiences that people have, asexual or not, with initiating romantic relationships. Or is anyone else like me about this stuff?