Romantic Orientation: N/A

Several parts of Queenie’s recent post on greyromanticism (and the comment section beneath it) were highly relateable and helpful to me in putting words to my own experience.  So then why is it, then, that I don’t identify as greyromantic?

In this post, I navel gaze, discuss semantics, get distracted, ramble, talk in circles, and contrast having a sexual orientation of gray-ace with having a romantic orientation of divide by zero.

Y’all who have been following a long time might remember my ineffectual struggles to apply the concept of romantic orientation to myself in the past, and that continues to be more or less the case now.  This is something I can contrast with my sexual orientation of gray-asexuality; I strongly identify with asexual experiences and mentally group myself in with asexual people, despite choosing to amend a gray prefix to the label when it comes to myself.  I “could” identify as asexual alone, in that it would fit me and I’d be comfortable with it, but gray-asexuality simply fits more, better, cozier.  I like the fuzziness of it.

That’s my situation.  It’s not clear-cut, but I’ve been able to make sense of it for the time being.  At the very least, I know what sexual attraction is — or can extrapolate based on a loose understanding of what sex is.

Romantic attraction, by contrast, is not so easy to pin down.

In the past, I’ve puzzled over a pool of instances of might’ve-been-romantic-attraction, trying to sort them and determine a pattern among them, and only succeeded in frustrating and confusing myself, because I still can’t quite grasp what it means for an emotion to feel “romantic.”  So I concluded that experiment on an inconclusive note.

Lately (as in, within the past couple of weeks or so), I’ve shifted from thinking “I don’t know what my romantic orientation is” to “I don’t think I have one.”

The idea of a romantic orientation is, after all, only an abstract concept to describe a set of experiences, and while that model works for many people, it doesn’t seem to work for me.  I’ve got a set of experiences, sure, but I don’t know how I would translate them into a romantic orientation.

What I do know about myself is this: sometimes I like people, sometimes I’m drawn to some people more than others, and these feelings do not have a discernible rating on the romantic scale.  Because I don’t know what romantic attraction is, it doesn’t make the cut for my list of prerequisites for dating someone, if I were going to do something like that.  Because I don’t know what romance is, it doesn’t make the cut for my list of prerequisites for getting engaged to someone, if that were on the table.  I’m not averse to romance, but that only seems to be a byproduct of the fact that, aside from the optional cultural trappings, romance doesn’t register to me as something Separate from intimate friendship, even if I understand that it is for others.  It’s different, sure, but I don’t understand how.

Sounds pretty aro, huh?

And yet I feel like my regular flickers of maybe-romantic attraction place me far more on the allorom side of things.  Out of uncertainty with this state of affairs, I once dubbed myself “quasiromantic” to express the idea of “almost romantic” or “a crude replica of romantic” or “looks romantic, but there’s a chunk missing here.”  The illegitimate, malformed associations of the prefix seem… fitting.

I’ve also happily applied the label of quoiromantic to myself, which Cor coined to express “applying romantic orientation doesn’t make sense here” and “actively disidentifying with [romantic attraction] as sensible/applicable categories for you.”

Mmmmmm.

Greyromanticism, on the other hand, has never grabbed me as much, though lately I’ve been getting more comfortable recognizing it as a label that works for me.

Why the reluctance?

I think it’s in part because I already identify as gray-ace, and (even putting aside the internalized “nooo you can’t be gray on both counts, that’s too much gray”) I experience these two types of gray as different enough that I want to make a stronger distinction between them than would be intuitive with matching prefixes, if that makes sense.  Mirroring labels seem like they should go with mirroring experiences.  I don’t want to imply any parallels.

Granted, my quasiromanticism and my gray-asexuality are both confusing… but the former far more so, more inexplicable, more… unwieldy.

And I think that comes down to…

1) the tangibility of definitions of “sexual” versus “romantic.”  There’s vague boundaries and room for debate with both, but it’s still easier for me to have a clear idea of what “sex” is than what “romance” is.

2) the amount of distance I feel from the normative forms of either.  Even though my orientation is gray, I feel a certain sense of apartness from the idea of Sexuality, whereas even though I’m confused and alienated by Traditional Romance, I don’t feel that same sense of apartness from it.  Behaviorally, I could take it or leave it; intellectually, I don’t understand it, but how aro I might be doesn’t feel near as clear as being ace.  If the room were being split up between alloroms and aros, I’d feel obligated (with some discomfort) to side with the former.  If a third space were designated for greyromantics, though…

…in past months, I might still have been overcome by indecision.

The difference is that now, I’ve changed both how I see myself and how I see greyromanticism.  I’m still hesitant toward it, to be sure, but I’ve found other comfortable ways to describe myself (having no romantic orientation, quasiromantic, quoiro), and I’m alright with mentally categorizing those concepts as sharing space under a “greyromantic umbrella.”

I’m more than 900 words through this post and I’m kicking myself for just now realizing I could have made a pun about romantic disorientation before now.

In conclusion, this ace makes things too complicated for imself, but ey’s getting better about it.

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7 responses to “Romantic Orientation: N/A

  • Captain Heartless

    For what little it’s worth, right now I’m thinking my inability to understand romantic attraction may be because I think the concept of romantic attraction contains some kind of assumptions that don’t work for me, possibly related to being polyamorous/rejecting conventional norms regarding what makes relationships valuable. But I can’t quite pinpoint what the assumption is- maybe it’s one of “monogamy” (whatever that means?), maybe it’s one of being able to rank or sort relationships in a way that doesn’t work for me, maybe it’s assumptions of attraction or distributions of new relationship energy that I seem to feel towards basically everyone with whom I have a developing relationship (good or bad, friend or foe, I mean relationship broadly). Regardless, it just never seems to make sense, and when people try to explain it to me I just end up feeling like I’m from another planet.

  • elainexe

    I find it interesting to read your perspective on the relationship between romantic and sexual orientation. People tend to treat them as identical models, one sexual and one romantic. But I guess it makes sense since romance and sexuality are two different things, the sum totals of all the different romantic orientations and how people relate to them, and all the different sexual orientations, would each be different. Um, if that makes sense. I don’t know if I can think of better wording here ^^;

    I feel similar to what you wrote about all that behavior stuff as a greyromantic person. Sure, I might do romantic things. Or I might not. It’s not entirely important to distinguish, especially considering the amount of (probably wasted) mental effort.

  • epochryphal

    Aahhh Coyote, saaaame braaaaiiin. All of this yes yep yeah.

    Thanks for putting words to the whole, not parallel enough to use the same prefix/word, and not as strong an experience to align on the aro side as confidently as the ace side (bah! sides!).

    A lot of what I’ve written about “greyness” I’ve left intentionally vague because idk maybe it is also applicable to greyro / arospec experiences, and it does kinda mush into/under grey-aceness for me in that I just have no spoons left to wonder/differentiate after grappling with all the ace-spectrum stuff.

    Also obligatory note that I originally came up with quoi just as a differently-accessible word for wtf (specifically wtfromantic, and specifically as I’d seen used by Sciatrix and my friends). It has since taken off in a Huge way so I’ve tried to add my opinions about what it should mean (rather than the goddamn “can’t tell romantic from platonic” simplified and popular version). Internet…

  • Linkspam: March 27th, 2015 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] been some more discussion of romantic orientation and greyromanticism.  Coy wrote about romantic orientation.  Cinderace wrote about romance, romantic attraction, and romantic orientation […]

  • Grey Wanders

    Romantic disorientation. I cannot believe nobody’s come up with that before. Well played.

  • Quoiro Info (draft) | The Ace Theist

    […] Alloromantics vs. aromantics: the great divide, Teeny tiny linkspam on greyness, #quoi bloggin, Romantic Orientation: N/A, My “wtfromantic” identity label has become very significant to […]

  • Quoiro Infographic | The Ace Theist

    […] Alloromantics vs. aromantics: the great divide, Teeny tiny linkspam on greyness, #quoi bloggin, Romantic Orientation: N/A, My “wtfromantic” identity label has become very significant to me, Rethinking Romantic […]

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