I have a really vivid memory of giggling pre-teens turning their eyes on me, awaiting my answer to the one of their gossipy questions: “so, who do you have a crush on from our class?”
I replied that I’d never had a crush. In return, there was disbelieving chatter echoing against exasperated scoffs, typical of girls on the precipice of growing up. At the time I didn’t think much of it. I was only a child and quite a studious one at that, so this was a trivial moment I moved on from.
Thinking back now, that was probably my first experience of being faced with the question of attraction in its simplest form. Later on, in my teens – as many around me began to identify and act upon that attraction – I found myself not only detached from the notion of being attracted to someone physically but quite often panicked by it, too. This remained my instinctual reaction to any interaction with an undercurrent of or potential for romantic or sexual attraction until my early twenties.
““Don’t you even find yourself slightly attracted to someone?” she would persist. A resounding “no” remained. “But why?””
I wasn’t attracted to anyone and I was happy as I was, not seeking answers for why that was the case. But growing up in India with its heteronormative and linear expectations that often see girls grow into women and quickly settle into idealistic family lives, meant that as I grew older many close friends began their line of well-intended questioning.
My best friend of several years – whose path eventually diverged from mine – was one of the first to touch upon the subject in a way that made me question myself. My preferences, or lack thereof, were weird to her. “Do you not like anyone romantically?”, she asked. The answer was always no. “Don’t you even find yourself slightly attracted to someone?” she would persist. A resounding “no” remained. “But why?”
I found myself with no answer. Why weren’t attraction and romantic love a part of my life? I didn’t know because I’d never asked myself the question.
“Sexual attraction and intimacy did not interest me. There was no shocking reason or story behind it”
Not having an answer was fine by me but it made it difficult to explain myself when faced with inevitable blind dates set up by friends who wanted me to find love. I wasn’t playing hard to get, I just felt that I wasn’t interested in love, but the “why?” continued to hang in the air.
Eventually, I decided that it was time to understand why I am who I am. I did my own research, and it didn’t take very long for me to come to the conclusion that I am asexual, possibly aromantic. Sexual attraction and intimacy did not interest me. There was no shocking reason or story behind it. I had my answer, I was an aromantic asexual and I was secure in this knowledge, until I fell in love.
“Our collective idea of love seems simple; a romance is conventionally thought to go hand-in-hand with a sexual relationship”
After years of disinterest and an inability to comprehend what butterflies in my stomach could ever feel like, I had fallen in love and the answer I had been so confident of previously lost a bit of its shine.
It was harder for me to reconcile with the fact that I had feelings for someone but that I wasn’t attracted to them. Our collective idea of love seems simple; a romance is conventionally thought to go hand-in-hand with a sexual relationship, and when I had an interest in neither it was easier to accept than when I realised I was seeking love but shirking intimacy.
I got into my first relationship, purposely keeping it long-distance which upon reflection speaks volumes of my discomfort and lack of knowledge about my own identity. When it became something serious, I tried explaining to my partner that I loved them but that I did not have an interest in pursuing a sexual relationship. He didn’t understand, that much was clear – but he tried right until our straining relationship fizzled out and for that I’m grateful.
“I don’t need official labels to explain myself to anyone, but by using them I hope to change the conventional narratives surrounding sexual orientation, identity and love”
Falling in love once and then falling out of love taught me that I wasn’t aromantic. I wanted love, I loved love. But there is far more to love than I ever knew.
After taking the time to reflect and research on myself and my concept of love, I understand that I am a panromantic asexual person. I don’t need official labels to explain myself to anyone, but by using them I hope to change the conventional narratives surrounding sexual orientation, identity and love, that confine people and make these topics much more complex than they need to be.
To me, love doesn’t culminate in passionate kisses and the heated feel of skin against skin. Rather, it’s about a lifetime of warm companionship, kisses on the cheek and comforting hugs. And it doesn’t matter who it came from. The gender identities of who evoked these feelings in me doesn’t matter to me as long as they loved me as I loved them. Simple isn’t it?
Malvika is an award-winning freelance journalist, editor and content creator, covering music, food, film, culture, food and mental health. @malvika_padin26
Aurelia Magazine is self–funded. We rely on reader support to secure our future. If you enjoyed this article, please consider becoming a member on Patreon, or donating a couple of quid to our PayPal. Thank you!