“I haven’t seen you in ages!” an aunt exclaims, even though I saw her not even a month prior at a barbecue.
Another praises me: “You’ve grown into such a beautiful young woman… you look just like your mother.”
“How long until you bring a boy over?”
My grandmother asks the same question every time I visit her house.
This is what any gathering of my family is to me, even if visits are close together, the fact that I have never brought a boyfriend to these types of functions sends unease through those related to me. They may not be as out in the open about their suspicions like my mother, who makes homophobic comments at the dinner table and places bets on my sexuality, but I know they whisper about me. I know they talk about me over the phone, muttering things about sin and going to Hell. I pretend not to hear, for their sake and mine, because being silent is easier than trying to explain my lack of interest in anything, romantic or sexual, to people who believe things that I’m not willing to put into words.
There’s no easy way to explain the frustration I felt in elementary school when my parents would tease me about my best friend, a boy, who I did everything with. We saved seats on the bus, pushed each other on the swing set, and even wrote letters because we didn’t have cell phones. Every time I spoke of him at home, a mention of his name brought verse after verse of the K-I-S-S-I-N-G song upon me. I’d get angry at their accusations because they never believed my assertions of us just being friends. They never listened, waving me off with a laugh and an offhand comment about how my defensiveness equaled embarrassment at being attracted to someone. I didn’t understand dating back then because to me everyone was just a possible friend. I thought people who dated were weird because all they did was break up after a day or two and then hate each other. I never had a crush in elementary school.
Middle school was strange. Sixth grade was me trying to be friends with people who didn’t care about me. It was me wearing clothes I didn’t like, making snack runs during basketball games, and traveling to the bathroom in packs. I never dated then either and came to resent the vicious cycle that came with it. The cooing of preteens, the sloppy kisses and fumbling hands, the constant texting, nonstop chatter about how so-and-so is just perfect, the questions that came with me never having a boyfriend, the crying and the yelling when relationships crumbled to hate. It always ended with me listening to how other girls wished they were like me, a complete 360 from when they were in a relationship. I got so tired of it that by the seventh grade I just stopped hanging out with them. I was reunited with my childhood friend that year after being separated from him for a long time after switching schools and suddenly everyone talked about us. They, much like my parents before, whispered about how we shared earbuds, always partnered up, and sat next to each other. It was another year of deflecting rumors and questions and other people asking me out. I always felt bad about declining them because I never really gave clear answers when they asked me why. I couldn’t just tell them that I didn’t know, that I just didn’t feel that way towards anyone.
Eight and ninth grades were a blur. More me rejecting various boys in my class, more rumors about me except now everyone thought that I was a lesbian. More pressure from family to bring home a boyfriend.
Sophomore year I caved in. I just wanted people to leave me alone so when a boy who I’d turned down in middle school tried again, this time I said yes. He was kind and enjoyed the same movies and music I did so if I were to be romantically involved with anyone I thought it would be with someone like him. It was alright for the most part, he was sweet, holding doors and calling me cutie. We held hands while we walked to class and leaned our heads on each other’s shoulders on the bus. Everything was okay until a month passed and he told me he loved me. It was abrupt and in my surprise and confusion I stuttered out the same. I went home that day puzzled and a bit alarmed. I didn’t know what that kind of love was. I valued him as a person and appreciated his feelings but did I want to spend the rest of my life with him? I pondered over that thought for four whole months. I hated saying that I loved him back and kissing him on the cheek after. I hated the way he looked at me with adoration. I hated me. So, one day at the door to my pre-calculus class during my first semester of junior year, I broke up with him. I asked if we could just be friends but I never got an answer… or a chance to explain anything. He sort of froze up and didn’t say anything for a moment before walking off. He never talked to me again and avoided me by having a friend drive him home so he didn’t have to ride the bus. I never got to tell him that he deserved someone who could love him back. Someone who could look at him the way he looked at me. Instead, I got told rumors passed around after we separated that I was heartless. I didn’t deny it because I kind of was. I used that poor boy to quell the accusations of both my family and my peers but only made them worse in the end.
How could I possibly let someone so good-looking and intelligent go?
Everyone had their opinions solidified, and I don’t even need to explain what those were.
The second semester of my junior year I finally figured it out, or at least part of it, because who really knows every single thing about themselves? I learned about the aromantic and asexual spectrums and things started to make sense. I talked to people like me on forums and on Twitter, people who shared stories and insight, and helped me realize who I am. I found the courage to tell my friends and add it to my profiles on social media. Everyone who knows supports me, but not everyone knows. My family is still uninformed, still grasping onto their false ideas and whispered conversations, but I know who I am.
I am Kylie, senior in high school who worships pizza, ramen noodles, and slushies. I am Kylie, a girl who loves writing and coding. I am Kylie, a future computer animation major. I am Kylie, a proud AroAce.