Not a Priority

Back in the summer of 2014, Queenie wrote a post titled “Prioritizing identity” in response to a pervasive pattern of divvying up the ace community by romantic orientation. This was specifically in the context of the “are aces queer” debate, and so it involved both 1) splitting off the gay/lesbian and bi aces from the rest (the focus here was overwhelmingly on cis people) and 2) dictating that in order to be let into LGBT communities, it’s not just enough for cis aces to be L, G, or B — they specifically need to deprioritize their ace identity, putting other identities first. To date, this remains one of the main associations I have with any kind of pressure on aces to prioritize their romantic orientations.

This post, too, is about priorities, but to be more specific, it’s largely a post about deprioritizing. It’s post about my decision to deprioritize the romantic orientation model, and it’s a post about quoiromantic aces like me being deprioritized by a community that likes to claim us, and it’s a post about why getting hitched (as in married) is a logistical priority for me in way that has nothing to do with what gets prioritized in aro community discourse. It’s about politics and it’s about financial insecurity and it’s about the thought of dying. It’s about saying, and being, not a priority.

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image by Morten F, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.]

Romantic Orientation = Not A Priority

For me, identifying as a quoiromantic ace is an act of deprioritization, deliberately complicating the categorization systems that split aces up by romantic orientation. Before settling into that outlook, the question of what I “count as” had been stressing me out, and no amount of introspection (“Was this a crush? Was that a crush?”) was letting me resolve anything, so I settled the matter a different way: by giving myself permission not to bother, not to “figure it out,” not to use a model that doesn’t work for me. I don’t have to make it a priority.

Aces Like Me = Not A Priority

I’ve already written at length about my experiences with the aro community, but I am still so deeply struck by the unrepentant hypocrisy.

No point in rehashing all that again. The people at fault don’t care.

Getting Married = A Priority?

“You’re not getting any younger” I keep telling myself, looking gloomily into the mirror, because I feel like I’m running out of time to get married — but no, not like that. Not because of family telling me to, not because I feel beholden to expectations, not because of the movies. None of those narratives sync with mine.

I feel like I need to get married because I’ve lost my family — deliberately cut them out of my life, by necessity, like a trapped animal gnawing off its own leg to escape — and I wish I could marry into another one. I want so badly to have a family again. A good one, this time. Or at least one that doesn’t hurt so much.

“There’s other ways to build a family.” I know. But what are the chances? I can’t count on something like that, not when I’m not good at initiating offline friendships anyway. I need a backup plan, but I don’t have a lot going for me, and as I get older, it feels like the odds are increasingly stacked against me.

It’s not something I actively pursue, mind you — just something that weighs on me, especially that latest year I was between jobs as I was watching my savings account dwindle and kept thinking to myself… if I had a family I could fall back on, if I had the kind of web of offline relationships that could directly provide safety net, maybe this wouldn’t feel so much like staring down the barrel of a gun.

For me, marriage is a priority because I am not a priority to my country, to my city, to the members of my race who would commit atrocities in the name of blood and soil but would balk at the idea of paying for my healthcare. I’m lucky in that they’re not actively trying to kill me too, but it takes a lot to keep a person alive, bare minimum, and it’s a harrowing thing to feel like you’re on your own.

As person who is both unmarried and unfamilied, holistically single, I have an awkwardly inordinate need for social support systems, spilling over and outside of what is normally absorbed by families. For the time being that’s something I’ve been able to partially address through work relationships, but realistically speaking, coworkers are no substitute for a family, and I worry. I worry that I’m not going to be able to live like this forever.

So is this a submission to the October Carnival of Aros? You tell me. It’s less a signed-and-addressed letter in the mailbox than it is a tangent stuck to a dusty back door, where most likely few people will see it. And while the call for submissions was an inspiration, I won’t pretend this post is on topic for it really.

In any case, the call also specified that “if you don’t have a tumblr, put the link to your post in the comments of the call for submissions article on the carnival of aros blog [link pending].” So instead of just providing a direct contact method for all other bloggers, they’re redirecting us and, so far, have yet to actually add the link, which itself has left me with a pretty distinct impression about priorities.

10 responses to “Not a Priority

  • Sara K.

    To the extent that the idea of marriage has ever appealed to me, it has been as a way to join another family. It would be more about the family as a whole than the individual I would be marrying. I am ‘familied’ with my family of origin, and the safety net my family offers me is giving me huge advantages in life, no question about it, but no family is infalible, and having more family would make me more secure. I can only imagine how much greater the pressure is for people who are unfamilied.

  • aceadmiral

    I really appreciate you framing this post in terms of social support, because it’s such a real concern, and yet it seems like people don’t really want to grapple with it when they could just Girl Bossing being single. Lean In singilism’s failure to address the practical concerns and expecting people Make It On Their Own… hard pass. I don’t really have any solutions, but a cogent articulation of the problem is important to getting anywhere, so… thanks.

    • Coyote

      I’m reminded of that article on singlism which claimed “being single means to have agency over your life,” because I’ve been single all my life and you know what? No. No it does not. Not in my experience.

      • Sennkestra

        It can if you’re rich!

        Anyway, glibness aside, one of the main reasons I’ve been able to make a single lifestyle (with limited casual “we agree to live together until the1-year lease expires” arrangements with friends as the closest I have to a committed relationship) work well is basically….because I came from a well-off family that helped me get through college without debt and to start building up savings early, and have friends in similar financial situations who can more easily afford to help me out with things in an emergency even if I might not be at the top of their priorities. Money means that I can make up for any holes in my more informal social safety net with the financial safety net called “having an ample savings account”.

        The problem is that on a social level that’s a terrible solution, because “have you tried not being poor” is not actionable advice, and “you can have all the same rights in nontraditional relationships as long you shell out a few thousands dollars in cash” is not a fair or equitable system.

  • Julie Dick

    I can’t imagine trying to live completely, utterly on my own. That’s something easily overlooked by single-and-happy things.

  • Coyote

    Figured I should try sending Jay an ask message to give them a heads up about the missing link. Turns out their askbox is closed exclusively to people who log in with a tumblr account. I give up.

  • luvtheheaven

    I really appreciate this perspective.

    I come at all this from the perspective of someone who wants to parent. The thought of moving forward as a single parent by choice feels like you need to have had so many things fall into place with a support network of people and a safety net related to money so that you’re not at all in the same place as some other single people on order for that to at all be a feasible plan. I just. I have been thinking about this a lot as I long for finding a partner to co-parent with.

  • Christmas is my Valentine’s | The Ace Theist

    […] There’s another connection to be made here to Valentine’s Day, too, in that Christmas effectively puts pressure on me to think about dating. Since my social circle all has their own families and partners to go home to, I feel like the only way to avoid this seasonal abandonment would be to go and build a domestic unit of my own. And so we’re back to the problem of making marriage a priority. […]

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