Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yearly Thoughts on Dating (Oy)

I'm putting this question out there: If you're not attracted to anyone, how do you choose who you're supposed to date?

Marinate on that one for a moment.

Every so often, I reassess the question, "Should I date?" Many asexuals do. I want to have some kind of life partner, and I've had no luck achieving this without dating. No matter how convincing the idea may seem though, my answer always ends up being "no". In fact, as time goes by, I only come up with more reasons not to date. I'd be willing to date someone specific, but don't like the idea of dating random people. I've been on online dating sites, the prime source of random people to date, and feel very put off by the supermarket-like feel of them. In my interactions with people from these sites, they were trying to judge me, and draw some specific conclusion, extremely quickly. I can understand why, since dating is a numbers game, but I couldn't help feeling like the process was so artificial. Then there's the whole "when to disclose asexuality" issue. Once in a while I go back on OKCupid, where I have an inactive profile, but I'm just like, "Oy. What am I thinking?"

However, this creates a contradiction: it's almost impossible for me to find a specific person to date when attraction is absent. Since I have experienced romantic attraction, however briefly and/or pointlessly, I'm able to know what I'd be "missing" in a relationship without it. I've tried to see if, in the event that I met more people, I might develop romantic feelings for someone. But I just ended up developing these feelings for someone whom I could never actually date. Maybe in time, after meeting many more people, I could find one person that I might have mutual romantic feelings with (numbers game!). Still, I wouldn't bet any money on it.

Nor do I know how to figure out what gender(s) to date, which makes online dating even harder than it already is. I don't think I would feel comfortable dating someone who is not committed to challenging gender roles (now, there's a tall order). I feel like dating would activate a bunch of gender dysphoria that I might otherwise be able to avoid. The thought of being seen as someone's "girlfriend", or as being in a heterosexual relationship, makes me feel a little sick. As described in this article, I do tend to see dating as "a threat to my gender identity". While I have a hard time choosing an exact label for my gender identity, I know what it is and isn't, and I feel strongly about it and its "integrity".

Like any social skill, dating takes practice. Practice that, as you know, I've never had. I don't think it's "too late" to start now. Because despite prevailing myths, people start dating at many different ages and there isn't some arbitrary age where you're "too old". What I don't know is whether it's worth the effort, and the huge amount of anxiety around dealing with people who may not respect my sexuality and gender.

Yes, my yearly thoughts ended up being mostly complaints; that's just how it goes sometimes. But this is also a minority report, in a way. I do want some kind of life partner, but (GASP!) it's not the most important thing to me, at least right now. That this could be a goal of only moderate importance is basically unknown to our culture. But of course, it's part of many people's lived experiences, asexual and also not asexual.


Sara K. said...

Do you think it would be possible for you to have a satisfying relationship with a life partner without romantic attraction? I know you said that you would miss the feeling, but it is possible to accept the missing-ness? Or is having romantic attraction so essential to what you are looking for in a life partner that, without it, you would rather not have a life partner?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is one of those posts that's necessitating comment or not, but I have to say I understand where you're coming from. I've tried to explain to close friends how difficult it is to date someone when you 'don't feel anything' (my words) but I don't think they quite get it. I can't rely on attraction or 'pull' to push me into that second date. Instead I go on the first date and even though I can converse with the best of them it doesn't make me any more inclined to do it again. I guess that means I've yet to meet someone that I'd consider having the asexual conversation with, but still the problem stands.

Like you, eventually I would like a life partner. I think. I can't say definitively as I have no experience on which to base the opinion, but some of my friends do appear to be happy (at least from the outside). I can say that I've developed some opinions on the aesthetics of what I think I'd like in a partner but I'm not sure if that's a help or hindrance. Ditto for the fact that for most people I probably represent a 'normal' heterosexual female. My needs and wants are different than what my outer appearance suggests so when I do go on the odd date there's a dichotomy that I don't know how to get around without the 'way too much, way too soon' conversation.

I guess there's no easy out for anyone, even 'normal' people don't have the best time at dating or finding a partner, but I have to say that sometimes it seems astronomically harder for me.


Ily said...

@Sara: I do! I would be happy to have platonic or "queer-platonic" kind of partner. Like a Boston-Marriage type of thing, I guess. I don't think I could find this type of person through dating, though. Also if I was in this kind of platonic relationship, I think it would be really important that it be mutual. Like, if someone sees me in a romantic way, but I see them in a platonic way, I'm not sure if that would work out.


"My needs and wants are different than what my outer appearance suggests so when I do go on the odd date there's a dichotomy that I don't know how to get around without the 'way too much, way too soon' conversation."

*nodding* Yep, I can relate, not just with dating, but with anyone I want to be friends with. Sometimes I feel like I'm on this tightrope of what to reveal and what to conceal, at any given moment. Not because I'm trying to create a false impression, but because I don't want to overwhelm people with new information.

Anonymous said...

I could have written most of that and have the same thoughts about wanting a life partner. Being aromantic, it is unlikely I will ever have on. Oddly enough, I re-enable my OkCupid profile about every 18 months, and after reading a few profiles disable it again.

Ily said...

@Anon: Yeah, it's tough to date online when you're ambivalent about dating, period. Your OKCupid activity sounds like mine ;)

Anonymous said...

You've pretty much nailed my feelings on the subject, including the part about not knowing what gender(s) to date. I feel as though it could be men or women, but if I dated a man, would I be perceived as gay? Dating a woman and being perceived as straight would not be as complicated for me, socially, but would be just as personally problematic.

I'd like to be really close friends with someone, but I have trouble determining whether that counts as romantic or not. I guess that makes me "WTFromantic", a term I've lately heard bandied about. If it means flowers and late night serenades and long walks, then, yeah, I could enjoy those things, but it's not as though..I don't even know. It's not as though I dream about being with particular people, I guess? I can imagine being in a relationship with another person that's just as important and enduring as the mainstream conception of the marriage bond, but whether I'd ultimately describe that as platonic or romantic, I don't know.

It's all much too confusing to put on a dating website.

Ily said...

@Anon: I feel glad that other people have had such similar thoughts! Although I wish that it wasn't all so confusing...

WTFromantic, all the way! I consider myself romantic, but it's not in the same way that most asexuals use the term. I like romantic things, like you're saying, but not necessarily in the context of a romantic relationship.

Caspar said...

Hi, I can relate too, I can't really add very much, just wanted to say it's good to relate.

I also wonder whether OKCupid is a good-enough site for certain people, as in the premier page one already has one's options cut down to nearly zero. No wonder it goes nowhere from there. And I would presume that even if there were other, more comprehensive dating sites there'd still be a lot of misunderstanding or willfull misinterpretation of one's profile.

I have yet to find an answer to the 'dating' problem' as part of a greater universal problem of the human condition :)

Anonymous said...

Right on!
I'm so Pleased to have read that, you've made such an impact here. I wish I could've read your inspiring message sooner but I had no idea this sexuality existed until fifteen minutes ago.

I'm JUST starting highschool so I'm naive in the whole "love"industry. But now that I'm confident there is a reasonable explanation for why I'm terminally disinterested in relationships and a community of people who know how I feel, I think I'm right where I need to be :)

heidi said...

Ily! Unrelated note - kinda. But this makes an interesting point about movies... without love as a central thread, a lot of plot lines are just crap. ...granted, I dislike zombies, but, eh, at least it apparently requires no weird love triangles.

Ally said...

I go through this a lot. I don't know who I'm supposed to date, or how I'm supposed to feel about them. I get lonely, and think, because I'm taught to, that maybe I would LIKE to date. But it becomes this kind of checklist. I look at relationships I've seen, and go "I don't want that." "No, that's not what I want." "Okay REALLY not that." and I end up putting those thoughts aside, knowing that I do NOT want a boyfriend, and being no clearer on what I do want. It's frustrating.