Comments on survey design

Because this survey (on “sexual and asexual relationship dynamics” from Ball State University) did not have any option to leave comments on the design of the survey and what the questions were supposed to mean at the end, I’m going to just leave my comments here. I started copying and pasting questions into Notepad somewhere in the middle of the survey, so these are only some of the issues I had with this survey. I surely have forgotten others. At the end, I will mention the way the survey handled consent, but I’m mostly not focusing on that.

I want to preface this by saying that I am really annoyed by MOST surveys, I just don’t typically have the time to comment on them like this, and when there is an option to share comments about the survey within the survey itself, there is usually no need to share those comments publicly. This survey is not even remotely exceptional or surprising. More discussion of asexuals’ responses to academic surveys can be found in a fairly recent Asexual Agenda question of the week. I hope that people who research asexuality consider these problems when designing surveys in the future. Honestly, these are mostly problems that testing with a focus group could have helped iron out. It is very frustrating that these issues don’t ever seem to be corrected before the surveys are sent out.

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Updating the Map: Romantic Attraction and Friendship vs. Romance

This post is for the October 2015 Carnival of Aces. The theme is aromanticism and the aromantic spectrum. Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

Until relatively recently, I never considered whether I might be on the aromantic spectrum. It was patently obvious to me that I’ve experienced whatever feeling it is that people refer to as “romantic attraction.” It didn’t really matter that I’ve only had that happen (with complete certainty) once—if it happened once, then surely it could happen again. The potential was all that mattered. Except as the years went on, and I tried very unsuccessfully to find someone (else—I’ve been polyamorously partnered for the past seven years) to date, it’s started to seem less and less like that potential feeling is accessible. So after much consideration, I’ve started identifying as greyromantic. Continue reading

Guest Post: Interview with C on Aromanticism and Relationships

Back in 2012, I had my partner C* do an interview with me, because I had been getting requests from non-asexual partners of asexual people for advice and I thought her perspective would be helpful. Since then, we’ve been through a lot, including becoming totally celibate and far less romantic. In the past year, she’s started to identify as aromantic. So I thought it was worth revisiting.

For context, she is bisexual and trans. We’ve been together for seven years, minus a short breakup, and have been polyamorous from the start. Right now we’re sort-of viewing our relationship as basically a queerplatonic type of thing. These questions were mostly submitted to me by readers, although I tacked on an extra question at the end today based on an interesting comment C made last night.

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted questions! There was one she really had no idea how to answer at all, so that one has been taken out. Sorry! But she really tried her best with all of the rest, and I hope you enjoy her perspective. If you have further questions for her, she’s open to answering them in the comments. :)

(* C stands for “Cupcake” which is her original chosen pseudonym on this blog. She may comment here using that name, or she may choose something else again. She doesn’t tend to stick with the same pseudonym, but generally they all start with C.) Continue reading

New Adventures in Polyamory

Yesterday, I got to meet my fiancée’s new girlfriend.

Since we’ve been together, C has dated several different people, but up until now she’s only done long-distance relationships with people other than me. Those relationships never made me jealous, but because they were LD, I never thought that would be an issue. I always kind of wondered whether or not I’d start to feel jealous if she managed to find someone who was local, but so far, I’m pleased to report that it hasn’t been an issue at all. It’s been about 3 weeks now, so it could certainly still come up, but I don’t think that it will.

In fact, it’s kind of interesting. There are a lot of similarities between my first dates with C and her first dates with her new girlfriend, including (in part) the location. This is another girl that she can spend hours talking to without wanting to go home. She also seems to have a lot of similar interests as me.

But what’s really interesting is how we’re different. For all that I used to wonder whether I really counted as asexual or not, in comparison to her, it’s pretty clear that I don’t experience sexual attraction. C, for her part, says it’s really weird because she’s not used to dating sexual people, and forgot what they were like. Now she’s in the position of trying to decide what she’s ready for. Despite saying that before she met me, she didn’t know if she could date an asexual person, she’s been telling me lately that she’s glad that I’m asexual!

So all in all, being polyamorous has been working out just fine for us. I have actually gotten more enjoyment and amusement from hearing stories about her other partners than jealousy.

One of my absolute favorite things about being poly, though, is that I get to read all the really bad OKCupid messages that C gets. Seriously, they’re fantastic. She’s been compiling a list of the particularly bad ones. Here’s an example:

hi
Oct. 20, 2010 – 8:49pm
How was your day? One of our medics used me as an example demonstrating the efficiency of 14 gauge needles, it looks like a juice box straw if you do not know, it was crazy the blood flow. Got to go talk to you later.

That was sent to her by a complete stranger, whom she had never talked to before. Another person she had never talked to before asked her this:

Hey
Apr. 25, 2010 – 12:42am
Hey how are you? How many times a day you like sex?

Or how about this one?

YOU
Nov. 15, 2010 – 11:38am
Hi… I am Marc… [Name of City we live in]… Interested?

Or this:

hi
Aug. 15, 2010 – 2:30pm
Hi Im dave a 38 yr old married 6’2 240 i saw ur pic and thought u were very attractive ;) msg me if u want to chat ;)

I don’t know what’s with describing his appearance, but this other guy felt the need to do it too:

hey
May 13, 2010 – 9:08pm
hi it roger 29 5’9 140 brown hair hair and eyes very outgoing down to earth very fun guy to be with i have 7 brother and 2 sister well i love to travel i love to party well i have a good job well i own my house in [misspelled place name] well i love my job on Base well i am a very open person well want to know anything just ask

Roger

And perhaps the most pointless message of them all:

Hey
Aug. 22, 2010 – 3:25pm
I haven’t heard of any of those bands. Maybe I should check them out.

Guest Post: Traveling Together, You May Find What You Seek Close to Home

The following is a guest post for the Carnival of Aces by Olivier, who has been a very insightful and eloquent poster at AVEN for the past five years. I personally have found his and his wife’s story quite inspiring, as I find my own attitude/tendencies to be somewhat similar to his wife’s, and had I not discovered asexuality so early in life, I suspect my own story would might have ended up sounding a lot like theirs. Here is how he describes himself:

I’m a heterosexual in a 22-year relationship with an asexual. Like many longer term sexual/asexual relationships, my wife and I had not heard of asexuality until relatively recently (2007), and for many years struggled with the failures of other theories, such as sex-aversion or libido-mismatch, to adequately describe the dynamics of our relationship. I’m incredibly indebted to AVEN for helping us put a name to something that we’d known about – lived – for decades, but had always misunderstood by looking at it through weird normative lenses instead of just seeing it for what it is.

The post is pretty much as he sent it in, but I chose the title.

______


So. Sexual exploration. I’d been banging around, looking for an analogy (‘cos I like analogies!) when the one I wanted sort of slapped me in the face: exploration! Or in a less 19th-century-pith-helmet way, finding somewhere nice to go on holidays together.

First, a bit of personal background. I’ve always got the impression in asexual spaces that sexual exploration is seen as something natural for sexuals to do lots of, and very much an optional thing for asexuals. I don’t necessarily disagree, but that’s not really been my personal experience. I have pretty vanilla tastes, and so in some senses I’m pretty easy to please sexually – not much exploration required. Just pack me off to the nearest beach, or city full of theatres and museums, or rainforest with waterfalls, and I’m happy. My wife on the other hand, knows that these sorts of things are generally regarded as good holiday experiences, but they do nothing much for her. Some people might decide that they’re basically a homebody and leave it at that. But not my wife, her natural reaction is to go exploring.

And so it was for us at the start. We’d do sexual stuff that I found really quite fabulous, and that my wife was putting a lot of effort into. As people who’d never heard of asexuality, and who saw both ourselves and each other as heterosexual, this seemed to me to be a perfectly normal way to approach sex and relationships. But then it would stop. And when it started again it would be something different, approached with gusto. Until it stopped. In hindsight it’s easy to see this for what it was – an asexual who thought she was sexual trying to find the thing that would do it for her. At the time however, it just seemed like the girl I was crazy about was just way more sexually adventurous than I was. Now, that’s not a bad thing, at all, but it is really, really, really, the wrong expectation to take into a long-term sexual/asexual relationship. Drama and confusion, of course, ensued.

While I was wondering what was wrong with that nice beach town with cool places to hang out, my wife would be planning a few weeks in Afghanistan to see if an element of danger made travel more fun, or a month in a place where nobody spoke a word of English, just for a challenge. And some of these places I enjoyed, and others not so much, but being with her certainly broadened my horizons. Problem was, and is, that even places that ticked all the boxes for her in theory, she didn’t much enjoy in practice. For all that drive to explore, there turned out not to be anywhere she particularly enjoyed going. And while she liked some of them well enough once she was there, she still thought that none of them were worth what you had to do to get there – airports and expense and lots of boring standing in queues.

So what’s a guy to do? My first tactic was to deal with all that boring stuff for her. Spend weeks planning. Get all the details sorted. Have things she liked – good books, tasty food – on hand for every step of the way to make all the transit fun. But when you’ve planned the perfect holiday in your head, there’s only one possible outcome: disappointment. And so with our sex life, until we finally admitted what we knew all along – all that exploration and adventure is basically not going to work for us.

So what to do?

Firstly, take a deep breath and get some perspective. For all the fact that sex is not what either of us hoped or planned, we’re ridiculously well matched and happy in every other department. In travel terms, we may not to get to travel much, but we’ve made sure our home is a great place to be, too.

Secondly, our compromise is to do stuff sexually that’s quick and not very adventurous, but is still something. Ironically, this is what works best for my adventurous wife, and leaves less adventurous me wanting more. Not at all what we would have predicted, but it works well enough for us. So it’s like taking a short drive to a beach we both like instead of spending a week in a resort, which would be torture if one of us didn’t want to be there.

And, you know, that’s not the worst, or most uncomfortable way to live. Sometimes I still get the travel bug, and sometimes even a drive to the beach is too much for my wife, but on the whole, it works, and it works well – simply because it’s shaped by the sort of people we both are. Sometimes all that exploring just makes you want to stay close to home.

Sex With Friends: An Asexual Perspective

I planned to write my post for the Carnival of Aces quite a while ago, but something came up this month that made me reconsider what I had planned to write about. I’ve decided to go with the original idea, but make it more generalized than I had originally planned. My blog is receiving a lot more attention lately (by several orders of magnitude!) than it normally does, so I’m being more cautious about what I talk about here.

Today, I want to talk about having sex with friends, and how while it may not seem intuitive, it might be a choice that some asexual people do want to make, and they can come out of it just fine. But the language we use to describe relationships like that tends to exclude asexuals, so it can be an even more difficult minefield to navigate than engaging in sexual activity while in a romantic relationship.

Back when this blog post by Snowdrop Explodes* about the phrases “friends with benefits” vs. “fuck buddies” was written, I stuck a link to it in a draft and decided to come back to it later, but then forgot about it until now. In it, Snowdrop says that he prefers the term “fuck buddies” because it is more honest than the euphemistically named “benefits” that also imply that friendships don’t normally come with benefits. In his words:

So how come the only “benefits” that are worth mentioning, or making special mention of, are sexual favours? Why is the rest of it considered not to be benefits of friendship, such that the only friends who come with benefits are the ones who’ll let you fuck them? Do you think that it is too literal-minded of me to suggest that “friends with benefits” means that all other friends are “friends without benefits”?

I don’t think it’s too literal-minded at all. At the very least, it shows that everything else in a friendship is being taken for granted. I think it’s very much worth considering the implications of the language we use to describe relationships like this on a literal level, because it says something about how we value certain things and devalue others. If on a cultural level we truly valued friendships as highly as sexual relationships, the phrase “friends with benefits” wouldn’t sit right with most people, and it would fall out of use.

I disagree with Snowdrop’s use of the term “fuck buddies” as basically a synonym for FWB, since I think (and he does note that this is how he sees others using the terms) they do indeed refer to different kinds of relationships, or at least, the same relationship viewed with very different emphases. If you say you have a “fuck buddy,” then you are saying that the primary activity that you do with that person is fuck them, just like if you say you have a “drinking buddy” or a “knitting buddy,” you’re saying you primarily drink or knit with that person, respectively. The activity is the focus, not the friendship itself. If anyone describes a friend as a “_____ buddy” to me, I will assume that they do hardly anything else but [fill in the blank] together. With the phrase “friend with benefits,” however, you indicate that the friendship comes first, and the “benefits” are an added bonus, although the fact that this particular thing is the only thing that gets to be called a “benefit” still devalues friendship.

The other term that I think really needs mentioning is “casual sex,” which wikipedia informs me has no set, commonly agreed-upon meaning. The way I tend to view it is as a wide umbrella term for different kinds of sex outside the context of a romantic relationship, including both one-time encounters with strangers and, on the other side of the spectrum, habitual encounters with friends. So both fuck buddies and FWBs are engaging in a type of casual sex, and while the relationships may be similar, the two phrases have a different emotional tenor.

To demonstrate… if I were in a relationship that I considered basically a FWB-type arrangement (for lack of a better term), I would be hurt if I found out I was being described as a “fuck buddy” to others by my FWB. Because to me, that means they consider the rest of our friendship to be shallow, nearly meaningless. It strongly implies to me that should the sex ever stop, so would our friendship.

I personally can’t imagine a situation in which I would be okay with having a relationship that focuses solely on sex. I always want to be friends first and foremost, and that includes in romantic relationships. I’m not the type of person who would be comfortable having sex with strangers, since there are so many considerations that I need my sexual partners to keep in mind about me in order to have a truly positive sexual encounter.

But with a friend? Maybe that’s possible.

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Q&A IV: Advice for DrkChief

DrkChief on Formspring asks:

I hope im not out of bounds but im in a relationship and we both think that im asexual and I am at a loss as of what to do and just wonder if you know anything that could help?

He clarifies:

Hi again, okay well we are monogamous, and as of now she’s responded positively but would I guess rather it not be this way if it didn’t have to be and with sexual activities we have been dating for just over a year and it’s been the first relationship where either of us has done anything sexual with a person in a relationship and so Neither of us knew what to expect I guess but as we started trying to do more (I’m at college and she just finished her senior year so finding alone time was hard) it was like she wanted the sexual attentions more then I did and at first I didn’t know but she thought I just didn’t find her attractive and so then I started doing stuff just to try and make up for that and there were times where I think I genuinely wanted to do it but I’m the type of person who has always done what other people wanted or even didn’t want me to do to make them happy and I think I might just enjoy being able to experience some of these thing because of what I’ve been told that it’s supposed to be the the best thing ever (I have two older brothers who have been preaching this to me). One of the big things is I’ve never started any of the sexual things we have done it’s always been her and I have been anxious/scared to be alone with her in case she wants to do something and I’m not up to it or I’ll be able to please her but her not me and she takes it as being her fault. Sorry for rambling but just another piece of information is that about two years ago I was trying to find out if I was gay or bi or really anything and this was before I knew her but that was because I originally felt that the lack of sexual attraction I felt was equally low for both female and male I wanted to know If I was that, and about a year after I has started thinking about this I had my gay brother (drunk) holding down and telling me basically that I should not be gay (this was around when I told her for the first time that I had thought I was bi or gay and at that time (a bad choice) I had gotten myself to believe that I had figured out that I was straight) and this just made me think about it more and more. And sorry it is so long I’m just glad for any advice at all.

To summarize briefly, the basic situation as I understand it is this: you’re in the process of figuring yourself out, while in a monogamous relationship, and you and your girlfriend have both started to think that you’re asexual. Now, you don’t know what to do.

Well, first of all, I have to ask: you’re at a loss as of what to do about what, exactly? Presumably, this has to do with the sexual parts of your relationship. But what about it? I want you to really ask yourself what your goals are here, and be specific about it. Some people, upon realizing they are asexual, start to think that maybe they don’t want to be in a relationship at all, or only want to be in a relationship with either another asexual, or someone who is comfortable forgoing sex. From what I can glean, you seem to be looking for a way to maintain your current relationship while staying true to yourself. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean not having sex at all? Having sex at a certain frequency, or in a certain way? It’s certainly possible for sexual/asexual couplings to work out well, though it depends on a number of factors. I’ll talk a little bit more about that in a moment.

But first of all, since you are just recently coming to identify as asexual, I want to talk about that. When I first realized I was asexual, having gone through a similar phase as you where I thought I was bisexual (and later pansexual), it was a comforting realization. It was like, “Oh, wow, this is a real thing. I’m not the only one.” I never really thought anything was wrong with me, so it wasn’t really anything like feeling that “I’m not broken after all!” like some asexuals describe. Other people describe their realization that they’re asexual as being to some degree upsetting, either because it’s a huge change in their world view or because they feel like nobody would ever want to date an asexual, and so on. So how do you feel about it?

This can’t just be about placating your girlfriend. Whatever solution you decide on, make sure it is what you genuinely want. It worries me that you say, “there were times where I think I genuinely wanted to do it but…” If you’re having sex you don’t want, that is not okay. It’s not your duty to have sex with your girlfriend. It should be a choice that you make, not because you feel you have to or because you’re pressured into it, but because you want to make it. There are plenty of reasons why you might want to do it that don’t have to do with sexual attraction. But here’s the thing: if you’re only trying to maintain the relationship, if you’re only trying to somehow “make up” for your lack of sexual attraction to your partner by having sex, you’re not going to fool her. It’s hard to feign interest, much less to feign interest for an extended period of time. If you don’t actually want to have sex at all, that will become obvious over time, and it will leave both of you unsatisfied. It could erode the relationship to the point that it would be much worse than where just not having sex would leave you. Even if she decides to break up with you because you don’t want to have sex, isn’t it better that to just have that out in the open and consider it now, rather than drawing it out doing something you don’t want to do, leaving you both unsatisfied and resentful?

Essentially, this is a compatibility issue. Nobody is ever perfectly compatible, and if they think they are, they’re deluding themselves. What the two of you need to determine is how great the incompatibility is, and whether you are compatible enough in other areas to make up for it. Where are your limits, with regard to sexual activities? Keep in mind that intercourse is not the only option when it comes to sex; some women, for example, are very happy to just have their nipples played with, and can orgasm easily that way. If you’re uncomfortable with having intercourse but you’re okay with doing that, and she likes it, that can be a way for you both to enjoy sexual activities together. You should have an open, honest discussion about what each of you wants, doesn’t want, and so on. You mentioned that you’ve never initiated anything sexual, and while I myself am not sure exactly how to go about initiating sex so I can’t help you on that one, what you can do is initiate a conversation about it, to show her that you care about this, that you care about her and want to find a solution that both of you can work with. In a way, you’ve already shown that; by writing to me, you’re already looking for a solution.

If she understands that you’re asexual, she should also understand that your lack of attraction to her is nothing personal. It’s not a rejection, and it’s not her fault if you don’t enjoy sex in the way that she does. It’s just your personal preference. Explain to her that you feel scared that she is taking it personally, and that she does think it’s her fault. Talk about whatever your anxieties are about sex, and how that’s making you feel scared to be alone with her. Explain to her the reasons why you’re scared of rejecting her, and listen to her point of view. Once you have had a good discussion (or more likely, multiple discussions) about this, you’ll be able to better assess the situation to find a possible solution.

Whatever you do, remember that sex is not your duty to provide, and it is not okay for her to pressure or otherwise coerce you into doing it. Only do it if you genuinely want to, because doing it when you don’t want to isn’t worth the pain and resentment it would breed.

I wish you the best, and hope my advice helps. If you want, feel free to comment here to update us on the situation. Anyone else who wants to provide advice, feel free to comment to this post. However, keep in mind that any comments saying that sexual/asexual relationships never work out or things similar to that will be deleted.

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If you have a question of your own to ask, you can ask me here or get in touch with me by email at grasexuality [at] gmail.com.

Boquet Remix

Since we’ve been talking about marriage here lately, I thought it would be nice to make a post about my updated views on marriage. For reference, here is my original post from before I met C.

Let’s start at the beginning: I’ve realized that although I made an update mentioning my break-up with C in October, I never made any kind of post—or informed my friends—that we’ve since gotten back together. I suppose I should have done that, but at the time it was quite difficult to distinguish whether we were or wanted to consider ourselves to be friends or dating or what. We were in that weird blurry zone without labels again, basically. So to this day, I still have friends who don’t know that we’re back together, and for that matter, there are still people who never knew we broke up at all… and some people, of course, who never knew we were together in the first place!

I don’t really know why it doesn’t occur to me to tell people these things, honestly. I mean, I would tell them if they asked. But they don’t exactly invite me to hang out with them very often anymore. For some reason, if I’m not standing right in front of them or living in the same dormitory, they just don’t seem to think about me too much. And so we end up going months without talking. I suppose it is sad that I go so long without talking to every single one of my friends, but I’m not sure how to change it. I’m too timid to contact them most of the time. I guess I feel like too much of a bother and a burden if I contact them, but if they contact me it must mean they really want to hang out with me. But this is getting off-topic.

So anyway, C broke up with me basically because our living situation wasn’t working out, and she felt like she needed more space. She was freaking out thinking that there wasn’t any solution, and so she thought that we should just break up. But she still wanted to be friends and made a very big effort to stay in my life. And she has sex with her friends, and she is romantic with her friends. So there weren’t many clear boundaries. When she moved out, she began to recover and feel much more positively towards me again. After a while we were behaving exactly the same way that we would when we first got into a romantic relationship with one another again, except better because we had cleared a lot of what wasn’t working between us. So we agreed to just get back together in labels, as well.

What’s interesting is that when we first got back together, we ended up having sex a lot. This continued for like a month and a half or so, after which it dwindled and dropped down to zero for about a month. During which point we were still feeling very close and intimate, and spending lots of time together, but we were spending that time cuddling, talking, and watching movies and T.V. shows together. Lots of nonsexual intimacy.

Now we’re still not living together, and the time that we are able to spend together has been severely curtailed due to school and work. But we are back to planning what we are going to do for the future. Her plan is to eventually move to Canada because of how much better it is for trans rights there. My plans are much less solid, but I would like to live there with her. It makes sense, then, for us to get married because it would make immigration much easier. And since we are perceived as lesbians, I have no political objection to it. It’s allowed in Canada so our being married wouldn’t be a weird tip-off about her birth sex there. I’m also not worried about the possibility of divorce, because we plan to keep that possibility in mind and keep separate bank accounts. I think we both have a pretty healthy attitude about it.

It’s weird to think of myself as being engaged, although I guess I kind of am? We don’t have a date in mind or anything, we’re just sort of planning to do it eventually. Do people start calling themselves engaged when they have a date in mind, or just when they decide to eventually get married? I don’t see any reason to call her my fiance. I don’t see any reason for us to have a ceremony. (Especially not one that we have spent a lot of money on!) Besides, neither one of us is Christian, so what kind of ceremony would we even have? I do want a ring, but that is mainly to get rid of the annoyance of people hitting on me. I don’t care if she wears one. I don’t see the point of having a wedding. The important part is what comes after that. The important part is the day in, day out ebb & flow of life and relating to one another. I don’t see this as a personal accomplishment, because I was never planning on getting married in the first place, and I don’t think being married is necessarily any better or more fulfilling than not being married. For us, it just makes sense because it is much more practical to do it this way. It’s nothing to be congratulated about. I wish that people would realize that marriage (or the length of a marriage) is not a measure of the success of a relationship or the happiness of the individuals involved, and that there are so many unmarried and single people out there who are way more happy than they would be if they were married, and lots of people out there who have stayed in unhappy marriages/relationships because they think it is a measure of their success as a person.

Radicalizing the Children

I’m going to take a quick break from (procrastinating on) writing final essays to pass on a link I just stumbled: Feminist books for five-year-olds.

I found this interesting particularly because of its mention of a book about a princess who doesn’t want to get married, and even intentionally turns one of her suitors into a toad in order to discourage them all from trying to woo her. There are precious few stories out there for children about people who don’t want to get married, so it’s no wonder that the kids had so much trouble accepting the idea that there are people out there who would make that choice. They really are just culturally indoctrinated to believe that getting married is wonderful, to the extent that it is the only possible option.

This attitude mirrors the beliefs of older people that there couldn’t possibly be anyone who doesn’t want to have sex. Children of this age have no idea what sexuality is in the first place, so of course we can’t really introduce them to asexuality (not that we should need to anyway, right? Aren’t children already pretty much asexual?), but to introduce them to the idea that some people don’t want to marry would provide a precedent for the idea that some people don’t want to have sex. Maybe kids who come to understand that as a possibility will, when they are introduced to the idea of asexuality later on, be more inclined to say, “Oh, of course! That makes sense, why didn’t I think of it before?”

Romantic Initiatives, Part I

So, Ily got me thinking with her comment on my last post and subsequent post about how it all started, and I think that’s a worthy topic to explore. I have been one of those people who goes, “Uhh, I don’t know, it just sort of happened,” when it comes to the question of how I started dating C. Maybe explaining the circumstances of our first meetings will help both to elucidate how a friendly outing can unexpectedly turn romantic, and to give me some much-needed perspective on what we started with, and how we ended up this way. I have a lot to say on this topic, so I won’t try to say it all in one post!

It was just over a year ago, now. The girl and I would have celebrated her birthday two days after she broke up with me, and our first anniversary the day after that (if we bothered to celebrate it, that is; she doesn’t like to celebrate arbitrary dates, but I think it might as well be an excuse to have fun–but so much for that idea!). We met on an internet dating site, but it had never been our intention to go on a date. It was supposed to have been an innocent friendly outing to see Kung Fu Panda at the dollar theater, and that was all. “I’m going to be too shy to talk to you when we meet,” she told me over IM. I didn’t quite believe it, because we had already had several fairly long and interesting conversations before, just not in person. And, sure enough, after I suggested that we go and get something to eat–since I was interested in actually getting to know her, albeit as a friend and not a date, and 90 minutes in a dark room just sitting next to one another and watching a movie didn’t really give me that opportunity–sure enough, we got to talking.

And after we had gone through a pot of tea at the local hippie New Age gay-friendly tea and trinkets shop, we didn’t want to stop. So we didn’t. I said that we could stop by my dorm and grab the moldy bread that I had been meaning to take out to the pond, and feed it to the ducks. We kept on talking and talking, and when we were done with the bread we started wandering around campus together. We wandered vaguely in the direction of her car but then never went to it. We kept circling around it, until it was more than obvious that neither one of us wanted her to leave. We kept ending up near the dumpsters, which spawned an inside joke about dumpsters being super romantic.

We talked about all sorts of things, dating being one of them. I told her I didn’t understand how dating worked, and had never really been on an actual date before. I didn’t really know what they were like; all I knew was that traditional dating seemed so structured, so overly formalized. I didn’t understand the game, the etiquette, or the point. Because, after all, from my perspective, it seemed to me like dating, at least in the mainstream world, was aimed primarily at two things: sex in the short term, and marriage in the long term. Neither of which I was even the least bit interested in, so why would I want to bother? Not knowing what the other person was after would have made me extremely uncomfortable, and not knowing what I was supposed to do would make it even more so. I’m sure my date, unless maybe he was someone like M, would have been quite uncomfortable with it too, because of the way I was acting. About three years ago, there was a boy who had a very obvious crush on me, and although he was generally pretty charismatic, always seemed rather weird when it came to me. Eventually, he asked me out on a date, and while I considered going out with him, I had to turn him down because it would have just been too awkward for me, and probably painfully so to him. But it wasn’t that I was uninterested in relationships in general, mind. Only that I would never date someone traditionally.

Then she told me about her dating experiences, which were mostly internet based, but included one case of what struck me as pretty much a romantic friendship, where the two of them were so close they really could have been thought to be dating. The only reason they weren’t, she thought, was because he was too straight to go for someone with a male body, which she still had at the time. It was almost like a more informal version of dating, it seemed. I wondered if dating wasn’t always as strict as it had seemed to me at first. I wondered if my lack of experience was just limiting my perspective on what it was like to go on a date. Maybe it isn’t always like how it is presented in the media, which was up until then my only source for understanding how the dating world worked. Meanwhile, she was telling me that she had been previously involved in a polyamorous relationship with a married couple. She described some of their sexual escapades, which I found interesting but confusing at the same time. When the topic turned to whether or not we would be a good fit for a date, she said, “You’re really not my type at all. So don’t worry, I’m not trying to date you.”

Well, likewise. She wasn’t my type either, or so I thought. But at the same time, I did enjoy her company a great deal, and on many levels she seemed to get me, and what she didn’t get right away, she had already proven through our few weeks of chatting over the internet that she was curious enough and open-minded enough to put a great deal of effort into discussing. Although she wasn’t sure about dating an asexual herself, at least she didn’t have a problem accepting it–she was even intrigued by it. She brought to the table a cutesy style backed by a lively intelligence, an intriguingly unconventional perspective, and collections of sex toys and socks. I wasn’t in the least bit infatuated with her and wouldn’t get to that point for quite a while, but I did like her. I suppose that’s how a lot of people must feel on first dates, now that I think of it.

Apparently, the secret to getting me to date you is to approach me strictly as a friend.

Tired of walking, we went off to find a secluded bench somewhere, hoping that our already hours-long conversation wouldn’t be disturbed anymore by passing people that we knew. We sat Indian-style on top of it, facing one another, and I remember feeling the coldness of the thick marble slab seeping through the seat of my jeans. I don’t remember if I was wearing a jacket; I don’t think I was. Since it had been a hot afternoon and I hadn’t planned on staying outside so late, either I hadn’t bothered to get one, or I had gotten one that was too thin. In reality, we were right near my dorm so I could’ve gone to get a nice warm sweater if I had wanted, but I didn’t want to bother going back there, and risk the awkwardness of seeing people we both knew who would want to invite us to come hang out with them. For some reason, even then we were bothered by people interrupting our private, two-person-only conversation. So I was cold, and my hands were especially so. I folded them together as if I were praying, rubbed them together a little bit to generate heat. She stilled my hands, and covered them with her own to keep them warm.

We kept on talking and talking until it was nearing midnight. She had an early class, so she really had to get home and get some sleep–I had already kept her up past her usual bedtime. Finally, we parted, but before we did, she said, “This is a date, isn’t it?”

I still hadn’t really thought of it as such, but it seemed to be true. “I guess so,” I said. I didn’t know, really. I thought maybe it could be.

We hugged each other then, and it wasn’t like a typical friendly greeting. I had friends that would give me long tight bear hugs, but this wasn’t one of those. It was long and lingering and ever so slightly awkward, but nice, too. I was kind of shocked about it, that our meeting could have run so counter to both of our expectations and intentions. I didn’t have any fuzzy feelings, I wasn’t sure if I would develop them, and I didn’t know what would come of it, but for the moment, I was okay with seeing where it would lead.

[Part II]