When I first came to terms with the fact that I’m on the asexual spectrum, my automatic assumption was that I was heteroromantic (thanks, heteronormativity). Recently, I’ve been exploring the possibility that I might be aromantic, which would make things complicated because I’m not nonamorous. Now I’ve been second-guessing myself wondering if I might be more heteroromantic than I want to admit.
I’ll see if I can explain.
The first time I tried writing this post, I attempted to confront the issue by breaking the concept of a “crush” into a set of criteria and then seeing how much and/or how many of my varied crush-like experiences met those criteria. This was an unproductive exercise. Ultimately, I had to conclude that on the face of it, it would appear that I have, indeed, had several crushes, if you allow for not meeting one or two of the criteria. And given the genders of the people involved, at least in the instances I was using for data at the time, it would appear that I am heteroromantic. I can easily accept labeling myself that way — or at least, the “hetero” part.
But the issue I ran into, in this analysis, was that I feel a formless reluctance to name any of my specific experiences as romantic. They exhibited most of the characteristics I could think of, by all appearances resembling the crushes that others describe — except for, in my case, 1) a more mild level of intensity and 2) a lack of this nebulous sense of character that is the “romantic”. Setting aside cultural convention, what even is this term romantic meant to get at?
Certainly, in every case, I didn’t actually want to date the person, knowing that we were incompatible at a more pragmatic level — but having a crush doesn’t necessarily mean willingness to act on it, the same way that sexual attraction does not always translate into sexual desire. It’s possible to have a crush and still recognize that romancing the person would not be a good idea (and proceed to act accordingly). So what I just mentioned, not “actually” wanting to date the person, is not enough to disqualify anything. If they’re not crushes, that’s not the reason.
Yet I can’t get over this hesitant feeling I have, and seeing no reason to just ignore it, I want to examine this feeling as meaningful. Perhaps it is because I devalue or am suspicious of romantic attraction. I don’t know where that feeling would come from, but okay. That’s a possibility. The only other possibility is that I don’t want to label them that way because… they aren’t.
Considering the data I drew up, however, identifying as aromantic would feel fraudulent — specifically because I hate the trope of “they have a crush and they just won’t admit it” — hate with a roiling passion, and the last thing I want is to give anyone, even myself, a valid, accurate reason to use that logic on me, ever. Whatever my feelings are, I want to be frank about them. I’m not exactly sure where my disassociation with romance even comes from, given that I’d be okay with a lot of traditionally-romantic behaviors and partnership, but between my options, I would rather risk claiming to have feelings I don’t have than to claim otherwise and later be forced to realize that I was lying to myself.
And yet, I remain ambivalent.
I continue to feel unsure about whether I know what a crush feels like, how to identify one, and which of my experiences count, a task that seems increasingly complex the more I look.
So I have to consider whether I’m using an insufficient method. What are some ways around this, some other approaches for thinking about this?
I used to think that my crush-like experiences toward girls were distinctly different from my crush-like experiences towards dudes, with my same-gender feelings presumed to be permanently and solidly nonromantic in nature. It’s widely recognized in the ace and aro communities that nonromantic emotional attraction can occur,* so upon learning the word “squish”, I found it fairly easy recognize some of my same-gender attractions as fitting the definition.
*(I have also heard recognition of nonromantic emotional attraction from plenty of allos/non-aros, such as represented in the repulsively heteronormative terms “bromance” and “girl crush”)
However, now that I think about it and what I remember, what if some of those experiences, too, were also crushes? How much actual difference is there between what I previously categorized as “nonromantic” and “potentially romantic”, besides similarity and difference of gender? Has it simply been my own internalized heteronormativity that’s been guiding me? Is it that I do experience crushes, but crushes of a lesser caliber than most? In what way do my conundrums resemble the issues facing other gray-aromantic and wtfromantic people?
…I think I’m developing a bad habit of initially not understanding certain labels and then realizing how much I fit the definitions of them.
It should be just a simple matter of laying out all the potential instances on the table and sorting them one by one, but the more I dig for certainties, the more fuzzy and questionable instances occur to me, and the whole thing just becomes a frustrating experience of muttering to myself “I don’t feel like that counts” and then doubling back to ask myself why wouldn’t it?
Even if I presume that I have more heteroromantic leanings, I cannot determine, just by looking at the data, which of it makes that so.
I’m not sure what I expected to get from writing this, except to put my thoughts on record for what it’s worth. Since I can’t seem to interpret or classify my experiences retroactively, my new policy is to just start from scratch and see if any unamiguously-romantic attraction appears in the future. Until then, the data is inconclusive.