What it’s like, not knowing

When I was a little kid, I was too cold.  I mean that literally.  Winters in Texas aren’t much to worry about, compared to some, but they can still be severely unpleasant; and from how much the others around me would complain about being cold, I gathered that this was normal — that feeling cold was normal.  And it is, when it’s cold outside.  At some point, the temperature is just too low for you to do much about it save for stay inside with a heater.

My parents did care about keeping me warm, and we had the means to keep me warmer than I was, but there was a period of time when, for a variety of reasons, I was colder than I could have been, wearing a thin cotton jacket all winter because I didn’t know how to ask for something warmer.  Looking back, I think sensory issues were part of it — Mom had bought me some warmer clothes when I was much younger, like thermal underwear and a puffy coat, and I couldn’t stand the way they felt against my skin.  And most of the year, it was too hot for them anyway.  So they seemed like more trouble than they were worth, and I could just suffer through with a regular hoodie on the cold days.

There was never a need to spend much time outside on a cold day, anyway.  Just a short trip from a car to a building and back.  That bonechill feeling was inevitable, and that was a fact of life.  That I felt physically colder than other people seemed to do didn’t clue me in at all — there were boys at school who would still show up in shorts on days when it was near freezing outside, so I just took it to mean that some people withstood the cold better than others.

And then I got a serious warm coat, at my mom’s persuasion, and it was a revelation.  As I said, there’s always going to be that threshold, at which additional, warmer clothes will have little effect, but it turned out that threshold was a lot lower than I thought it had to be.  I was able to go outside in freezing weather and still stay warm, cozy, impervious.  I had an article of clothing that fit me comfortably and suited the needs of my environment, and it felt so much better than I had thought possible.  Before, I hadn’t even known that this was an option.

I’m one of the luckier ones, I think, in terms of my pre-discovery of asexuality years.  My social environment was insulated enough that I never presumed myself to be sexually (or romantically) “broken”.  But I still think there’s a common thread, among many of us who chose to adopt an ace label after finding out about them, of not realizing how right it could feel, and just how cold you felt without it, wearing a label that wasn’t enough.  I won’t presume it’s the same for all aces.  But for me, finding the ace community and realizing that I belonged felt like coming in from the cold and only then realizing just how warm I could be.

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