Monday, May 23, 2016

What is love?

I wore this shirt for one of my videos about asexuality once.

And someone in the comments said--among other ignorant statements--that it was "ironic" for me to be wearing a shirt that says "LOVE" in a video about asexuality.

This actually made me really angry. And when I told the person how ignorant that was, he doubled down, insisting that everyone knows "love" is primarily only associated with the kind of love that requires sexual attraction to really count, and that it was therefore "irony" for me to wear a shirt with a generic "LOVE" message on it in such a video.

Like, wow.

People do tend to concede that it's possible to love your family without being sexually attracted to them (uh, yeah, I hope so), so I'm not sure why they are so resistant to the idea that other forms of love exist. Are familial love and romantic love the only possibilities? (And, as we've discussed, is romantic love only "real" if it's coupled with sexual attraction? Some assholes say yes.)

I'm aromantic as well as asexual, so the kinds of love I experience toward others don't fall into sexual or romantic categories. This frequently causes people to claim my love cannot be as deep, as enduring, as intense, or as fulfilling as the love that develops between people who are romantically attracted to each other.

The fact that some of my non-sexual, non-romantic relationships have lasted longer than the romantic/sexual relationships of some of these naysayers does not seem to strike THEM as "ironic."

I'm thinking about this today because it's my friend Jeaux's birthday.

Jeaux's great and I love him. We don't have a romantic relationship. We've never wanted to live together, we don't cuddle, we don't kiss, and he's never viewed me as a potential girlfriend even though he's straight--probably partly because he knew I was asexual since the day he met me, and kind of suggested later that when I told him that I basically went in a category with his sisters as far as romantic availability went.

People in our lives have assumed that because we're close, spend a lot of time together, are a man and a woman, and clearly treat each other like an expected, enduring partner in life, we are probably dating. We have even been confronted by others in our lives who are convinced we're hiding the romantic relationship we must have, because I guess in our society relationships like ours just don't develop between people who aren't romantically attracted to each other. Those who believe we're not romantically involved often necessarily "rank" our relationship as inferior to romantic relationships, though, and I don't feel that's appropriate either.

I trust Jeaux as much as I would trust a life partner, and there are certain lines of intimacy (not of the physical sort) that are open to him that are not open to most of my other friends. We have done things with and for each other that "partners" would do. For instance:

  • I let him sleep at my house.
  • I'm always invited to his family's Thanksgiving.
  • I turn my air conditioning down when I know he's coming over, and he turns his air conditioning up for me.
  • We keep each other's favorite sodas around for when we're hanging out.
  • I ironed his shirt before we went to his mother's funeral.
  • He drove me to eye doctor appointments when I needed help.
  • We take turns buying dinner for each other every week.
  • We text each other a lot these days, about everything from social commentary and personal issues to silly jokes and theories about cartoons.
  • He'll come over at the drop of a hat and help me with my computer if I'm having problems.
  • I let him get a loan partially in my name because my credit was better.
  • We get each other really good presents because we know what each other likes.
  • He moved to Tampa when I moved to Tampa--not just to be near me, but because he could be anywhere, and this is nicer.
  • We know what each other's talents and interests are. On the things where we're talented in different things, we lend our expertise to each other. On the things where we have different interests, we still support each other's passions.
  • We say the same thing at the same time a lot.
  • Arguing doesn't happen very often, but sometimes if we disagree on something, we can have a difference of opinion in a bubble without it making us resent each other.
  • We borrow crap from each other whenever we want.
A lot of what I'd consider intimacy and trust with Jeaux is built on mutual understanding of boundaries. He knows what's okay to do at my house and what I'd rather he ask about. There are certain non-verbal things we do that communicate messages unique to us. Neither of us is jealous of or intrusive with each other's relationships outside of ours (and he's actually told me that if he got a girlfriend who wanted him to change or limit his contact with me, he would dump her first). And we can vent to each other and expect it to land on a sympathetic ear.

And yet, some people would still categorize our relationship as incomplete, lesser, or on its way to "something more" because it is a friendship and not a romance. Or, as mentioned, they say ours is necessarily a romance even though that is not the flavor of our feelings. The idea that our relationship hasn't matured because it isn't a romance is especially galling to me. I mean, if you define something as a romantic relationship early on, does that mean it's reached its pinnacle? Of course not. It continues to grow within that relationship category. I don't know if it's accurate to say romantic partners get closer and closer, because I don't think it's a question of closeness--it just changes over the years and adjusts to who you become. My relationship can do that too. Even though it isn't a romance. I want people to understand that there's not a thermometer out there measuring feelings which only allows relationships to be classified as important, enduring, or fulfilling once they become "enough" to be romantic. It's not just one channel of emotions that becomes the realest after it grows past a certain point. My relationship with a friend does not have to become romantic before it's one of the most important, satisfying, lovely things in my life.

So when people either say I don't love because it's not romance or say any kind of non-familial love makes it romance, I have to shake my head. It's them who doesn't understand love, not me, even though they're the ones telling me they feel sorry for me because I'm missing out.

Sorry, people. I more than deserve to wear this shirt in a completely unironic way.

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