Asexuality in YA Series: Day #3
Previous Posts: What’s So Important About Ace Representation? by Kazul Wolf | Navigating the In-Between: Demisexuality in YA Lit by Dill Werner | Introduction: Asexuality in YA Series by Vee S.
by Kelly Murashige
I thought there was something wrong with me. Some sort of genetic, chemical, or otherwise biological malfunction that made me so much different from every other girl in my grade. While my third grade classmates whispered about the boys they kissed in the girls’ bathroom stalls, I stayed silent. When my friend said she was in love, I didn’t know what to say. Even my best friends wondered why, by the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh grade, I had never fallen head over heels for a guy.
“Are you gay?” my parents asked me one day after sitting me down. “It’s okay if you are. We accept you no matter what.”
“I’m not,” I told them. “I just don’t have crushes.”
I don’t know if they believed me. I don’t know if I believed me, either. After all, it seemed like no one else was like me. All my favorite TV shows had at least a dozen different possible “pairings.” The movies I watched on Netflix used “who slept with whom” as a constant source of drama. My favorite series in middle school, The Hunger Games, featured one of the most iconic love triangles in young adult literature. And yet, I found myself unable to gush about a boy the way everyone else could.
Even once I had my first crush, an innocent and unrequited one on a boy four years my senior, I never imagined us kissing. I couldn’t even picture us holding hands. All I wanted was to talk to him.
I thought, by the time I was eighteen, my love woes would be over. But when I kissed my first boyfriend, it was quick. We didn’t open our mouths. We didn’t even breathe. And that’s exactly the way I wanted it to be. When we kissed for the third time and he started going farther, I didn’t move closer. I didn’t put my hands around his neck or lightly scratch my fingernails against the material of his T-shirt. I didn’t even feel a flutter in my chest, a warm feeling I should have been craving.
No, I stepped away. I pretended I didn’t understand. I pretended the very idea of something besides kissing didn’t make my throat close so much that I couldn’t breathe. I excused myself, saying I had to get home, but the whole ride up the elevator to my apartment floor, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About what was supposed to be such a natural thing, another step in a relationship, but made me feel like bursting into tears.
Something was wrong with me. After years without crushes and a truly anxiety-inducing fear of anything past closed-lip kissing, it had to be the only choice: I wasn’t normal.
It took me days to finally confess to my best friend.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I texted her.
“maybe ur asexual,” she replied. And time seemed to stop.
I’d heard of the word before, of course. It’s impossible to get through high school without hearing it. But I’d always thought asexual meant no feelings of romance at all, something I eliminated during the summer where I fell for the older boy.
“But I’ve had crushes,” I told my best friend.
“look it up.”
I remember prying open my laptop, curiosity sending ripples down my spine. Could I finally have a reason for my abnormality?
Asexuality. I typed it into the search bar. And there, I found that asexuality doesn’t always mean a complete lack of romantic feelings. Asexuality, just like heterosexuality, homosexuality, and everything in between, has a spectrum. There are people who don’t feel attraction at all, and there are people like me: Though I like kisses and surprise gifts from boys, I don’t want anything more.
And that’s normal.
When I told my parents, they didn’t seem to understand.
“Those feelings will come in time,” they told me. “When you find the right person.”
I waited for my need for normalcy to take over, to reply with a meek “You’re probably right.” But that time, I didn’t. I said, “No, it’s how I feel, and there’s no changing it.”
For once in my life, I accepted who I was. I accepted how I felt. It didn’t matter if I didn’t want to sleep with someone, no matter how much I loved him. That’s my kind of normal.
Only days after my realization, I came across an article about an upcoming YA release: Tash Heart Tolstoy. Written by Kathryn Ormsbee and featuring an asexual protagonist, it made my heart race. Here, finally, was a story about a girl like me. A girl who knew who she was, even if she was still coming to terms with it.
I only wish the book could’ve been released when I needed it most. When I sat quietly on the side as my classmates argued over which jock was “hotter.” When I read about Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne and wondered why I didn’t ever find myself craving physical contact.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret discovering my asexuality, no matter how twisted its path. I just hope someday, people like me will be able to pick up a book without sex, without making out in the hallways or in a car, and say, “There. See? That’s my kind of normal.”