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  • Writer's pictureKara San

The "boyfriend question” makes me take critical damage

I attended an in-person wedding for the first time in over two years recently, that of a university friend’s. As was my tendency, I spent some time admiring the set-up of the place, watching the photo montage of the bride and groom from their infant days to adolescence to adulthood, of the progression of their relationship from friends to where they are now. I listened to the speeches of the fathers on both sides. I admired how radiant my friend looked, how happy she and her now-husband looked as they held hands and greeted guests, stopping by tables to chat or pose for photos. I thought about how there is at most a 5% chance that could ever be me.


At some point that night, one of my friends who’d been sitting beside me throughout the entire ceremony innocently asked me, since it was the first time we’d seen each other in two years, if I had a boyfriend yet. I casually shook my head and gave her a smile, but I’d be lying if I said that question didn’t affect me. On the inside, I wondered when it would be appropriate for me to drop the bomb on her about my asexuality, but it turned out, not any time that night. Or rather, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. I didn’t know where to begin. Could I just tell her, “I don’t think I’ll ever get married because I’m asexual”? How long would it take for me to launch into an explanation about asexuality, about how my experience didn't speak for everyone on the ace spectrum? Did I want to add that I was also biromantic? How much more explaining would that take? Could I just tell her I was unable to imagine myself with a man in particular?


None of this is my friend’s fault, or the fault of any other person who popped the question of a male partner in the following days. To use a gaming expression, each time I was asked that question, I could mentally feel myself take critical damage; I could visualise my HP bar deplete over my head and flash red in warning. I think it’s only natural for my friends to ask: I’m in my late twenties and I can no longer fall back on the excuse of focusing on my studies or graduating before thinking of a boyfriend. But the essence of my excuse has never changed: I don’t have the time. Or rather, I don’t want to give up a portion of my (very limited) free time—which I could spend on my hobbies or alone time or with friends—to give to One Particular Person. As I get older, I’ve become increasingly okay with that. I don’t think I could ever adjust my routine to fit in another person’s. How long until I could tell people, without feeling awkward, that I was perfectly normal if I didn’t care for a partner? Was I hiding behind my asexuality and using it as an excuse to never give even dating someone a try? For the record, for the past 4 years or so, I believed I was also biromantic, but now I’m questioning even that.


The first boy I said I liked? Some older boy from my international school that the two girls I always spent my break times with said they liked. I decided I did too, for the sake of fitting in, even if I had no clue what it all meant. I was six years old. In retrospect, I think it was just children playing pretend at being adults (thanks, heteronormativity in media). When I was ten, a few of my classmates gathered in an empty classroom during lunch one afternoon and decided to share who they liked. I was confused, both at this idea that you had to like someone of the opposite sex, and that they were all so bold as to openly declare it, even amongst the five of us. All I could do was lie to try to seem normal, but my attempt at it fell flat because the boy I named was a younger student I looked after like a little brother. That wasn’t at all what my classmates had in mind.


Until my sibling told me that they suspected I was asexual, I never knew a thing about it. I’d definitely heard the word, but only in the context of plant biology: asexual reproduction. I didn’t know it could apply to humans, and I was sure I’d liked boys before, didn’t I? How far was I from normal? It took me the remainder of my sophomore year in university and almost the entirety of my semester abroad to come to terms with it. And even then, it didn’t help that, while I was coming to terms with my asexuality, I was also learning that... I might be attracted to girls? Was I bi too?


It took me about another year to come to terms with being biromatic. Or rather, it took me that long to find these labels that I thought made the most sense to me, that best helped me understand myself and my experiences. But the truth is that that’s all these labels are for: to help me try to understand myself. I can’t speak for everyone who identifies as asexual or biromantic or both. And now, I don’t know how much biromantic applies to me anymore. Were all those crushes I said I had on boys just me lying to myself to try to be “normal”? Did I jokingly ask, “Where’s my girlfriend?” because I really wanted a girlfriend although I could’ve sworn I'd made up my mind that I don’t want a partner, whatever their gender? Or was I saying it just because I liked the idea of a partner—just not male? Am I an asexual lesbian? Am I, after all this time, an aro ace still trying to find my footing in a world built around amatonormativity? Where, even in the queer community, being asexual could be perceived as being "broken" or traumatised or downright abnormal? I don’t know, but I think I finally understand what an online friend meant when she said she didn’t want to assume any labels, even as she told me in private that she felt “demisexual” was the closest to how she identified. Perhaps just not assuming a label, or at least not letting any label define and confine me, is what I need to work towards.


Whatever it is that I identify as, whether or not I assume a label, I believe I am content without a partner. I might never see myself as the bride at a wedding the way I've been seeing my friends at theirs, and I might never have someone I think I can spend the rest of my life with, but that's perfectly okay.



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