The concept of being aromantic or “aro” is not something I had heard of until recently.
Aromantic is defined as having little or no romantic attraction to others. Rather, people who identify as aromantic are content with friendships and non-romantic relationships. Like any other member of the LGBT+ spectrum, aromantics are told that they are going through a phase, which will end when they meet the right person and fall in love. If being aromantic is a phase then, boy, have I been going through mine for a very long time.
An important concept to understand when it comes to being LGBT+, and aromantic in this case, is that all of these sexual and romantic identifications exist on a spectrum. How one feels and relates can fluctuate.
Unfortunately for me, this added a lot of confusion to my life starting from a young age. When I was younger, I would have crushes, but they never really meant anything to me, whereas when most people have a crush, they want it to become something more. I always equated it to the fact that I was too young to be in a romantic relationship. Later on in life, when I wasn’t attracted to anybody around me, I would joke that I was waiting to marry a famous, rich, Hollywood man. I knew that I was on the aromantic spectrum the day I looked up at my poster of Jared Leto and thought, “You would just make the greatest friend!”
It feels like I always talked myself out of being aromantic. Obviously, this is because I had no idea that aromanticism could even exist. This isn’t a concept most people know about or accept because it deviates so far from the norm. It has been said for years that there needs to be better education in schools to teach kids about the ways they can identify. But how truly awful is the situation we are in when there are people out there like me who didn’t know an integral part of who we are because it wasn’t in the mainstream?
While there is still prejudice against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual, at least they still show physical and romantic attraction. Being aromantic (or asexual, for that matter) in any of these communities can bring about a feeling of alienation because we are the only ones who aren’t there to find “the one.”
This is amplified in college, when the books, movies, TV shows, and everyone around you is intent on pairing off (scratch that–even TV shows targeted to middle school age kids always have storylines putting 11-year-olds in love triangles). It seems that everyone around you has a significant other, and if they don’t, then they are in your ear complaining about how badly they want one. Meanwhile the aros in this situation are patting their friends’ heads to comfort them, but unable to relate.
I think this lack of ability to relate is the biggest isolating factor. Being aromantic can make somebody feel flawed or broken because they do not want the one thing that everyone around them does. I always have to remind myself that, at this point in my life, I am not alone in this, and I am not damaged goods because of it. One cannot force herself to want something that she is incapable of wanting.