Mangoes

Do you like mangoes? I sure do. I don’t think I’d ever want to live in the tropics, but if I could somehow have my very own mango tree to provide me with mangoes whenever I wanted, that would be pretty great. They’re an interesting fruit. The first time I had one, I didn’t know there was a pit inside. At least, not one so big. Unlike other stone fruits I was familiar with like peaches, plums or even avocados, the mango pit was really hard to distinguish from the meat of the fruit. It went from skin to delicious flesh to fibrous flesh to pit so gradually. In my desire for more things mango, I’d often just gnaw or suck on the fibrous parts even if I couldn’t cut them off. It still had juice in it after all.

So where is this going? A post about mangoes? I wish. They’re a really delicious fruit, but in this case, the mango is a metaphor. I’m a lot like the mango. I bet most people are like mangoes as well, but I’m not most people. I’m just me, and that’s all I can speak for. This is a story about me. A story about how I was finally able to pull apart the skin, the soft fleshy meat, and finally tirelessly work through the tangled fibrous web to isolate it from the pit. No easy task. This story has been a decade in the making. Some highs. Plenty of lows. Second guessing, depression, frustration and learning galore. My hope is that by writing this, I might be able to save someone else even just a few weeks or months of struggle.

This story starts like many stories do. I was a kid. See, you were once a kid too. This is already so relatable! I could start this at any point in my kid-hood, but I might as well start when things got interesting, or rather, when things got awkward: adolescence. I don’t really recall exactly how old I was when I got hit with the freight train called puberty. I remember watching “The Video” when I was 11 in 5th grade, but I’m pretty sure at that point it was just an omen of things to come. I suppose things started happening when I was around 12 or 13. You know…things. Pretty standard fare I should think, like The Simpsons’ sex-ed spoof video, Fuzzy Bunny: “Voice changing, fur where there was no fur before” etc. Yes it was awkward. It was for everyone. It was like your body was saying, “hey, everybody, I’ve picked up a shit ton of this new drug called hormones from a dude at a liquor store, let’s go on a 4 year bender!!!” That’s pretty much what happened.

Now though, my story and the stories of so many of you will likely start to diverge. My body’s 4 year hormone bender was just that and nothing more. I was 12, stuff started kicking in and changing like it was supposed to, then I was 16, but I wasn’t really any different (aside from my physical body which the hormone bender had ravaged horribly!). I did pretty much all the same things I did before: Built things, played baseball, hung out with friends…things just weren’t that different. I definitely started noticing *ahem* myself, but in a very “oh, this feels pretty awesome” kind of way. Like getting a new toy and trying all the buttons and seeing what everything did. It felt good, so I did it. I certainly didn’t really notice girls any more than I had before. Oh sure, I noticed (rather matter-of-factly) that friends and other people seemed to be interested in them, and the hormone bender had left me with a major dose of curiosity about the *ahem* physical differences, but it was just curiosity. A curiosity that could be (and was) satisfied by books, or talking to a friend, or even the burgeoning internet (the mythical non-porn part). It wasn’t that I had thoughts of “oh, I’ll probably be interested in girls in that way later on.” Honestly I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t interested in the same way others were. My radar screen had nothing on it. Dating? Isn’t that just like being friends? Kissing? Why would I want to do that?

I can say with complete honesty that I went through all of middle school without once being interested in a girl in any meaningful way. I remember in 6th grade hanging out with my two friends, and these two girls from class working on a project. I liked one of the girls because I thought she was cool (I remember her being really excited that she was going to start a chocolate business), but I didn’t like her anywhere near as much as I liked my friends. Why would I? One thing I remember doing a lot (purely because my friends were so amused by it) was going up to groups of girls and “asking one out”. I actually continued to do this up until probably my sophomore year in high school. My friends thought it was hilarious, or bold, or whatever, but I genuinely didn’t care. To me, it was easy, and my friends got laughs out of it, like I was completing some insanely difficult dare. Truthfully, girls were like stealth fighters on my radar screen. They were opaque, and despite the fact that I was most definitely going through puberty, all “urges” were completely without direction. In my head, those things were NOT linked together. Dating, being interested in girls (in any way)? Those were things my friends did. Those were things other people did.

Eventually, it did make it onto my radar screen independently. I was 16. I remember exactly where I was when it hit me. I was walking down the main hallway in high school between classes, past the library and my biology class. Out of nowhere the thought popped into my head that hey, dating, being with a girl, kissing, those things could happen to me. It really happened just like that. It didn’t last more than a few seconds though, because I immediately started extrapolating wildly as I was (and still am) wont to do. Being with a girl in that way? Crap! That’s going to require holding hands probably. I don’t think I want to do that. Kissing? Not interested! As quickly as the thought had arisen, it was quashed back into the depths. That was my first experience thinking about girls in a way where I myself was part of the equation. Not exactly promising, and at 16 (almost 17) I was already quite a bit behind my peers in this regard, although I didn’t recognize the extent of it at the time. I never stopped to consider that this wasn’t a normal reaction for an adolescent to have. Most tragically of all, I never stopped to think that not wanting those things was valid, and something I could have (and probably should have) embraced. This was the moment. This was my moment. I didn’t have the self confidence, the language or the understanding at the time to do anything about it.

Around that time, I also made my first half-hearted attempt at showing interest in a girl. What reason I had in mind at the time god only knows. She was new to the school, and chatted with me in the lunch line. I was supposed to like her, right? Asking her out, that’s what I was supposed to do, right? It was a sense that basically everyone else I knew was heading in that direction. Maybe you had to get a girlfriend first and then everything would snap together. It didn’t end up working out, and important lessons were learned. Unfortunately, the most important lesson was completely lost on me. So I kept at it without much introspective thought. Stumbling along, often painfully.

By the time I was a senior in high school, all of my friends had solidly made the foray into the dating realm. This was a really hard time for me, because these were all people I assumed were like me. I trusted them. I looked to them for advice. But they were diverging from me at an accelerating rate. They all (including my best friend with the abrasive—but somehow lovable—personality, and the momma’s boy nerd) seemed to just get it, and be successful with it. I remember hearing about how one friend in particular was actually rather aggressive with certain physical aspects of his relationship. That was inconceivable to me. He seemed so much like me. To this day I have difficulty accepting that. The possibility that they might be receiving some subtle information, or pull, internally or externally related to connecting to and being attracted to girls that I was not receiving was not something that crossed my mind. Feeling left out and defective, I panicked.

I’ve always been a problem solver. So that’s the approach I took. There weren’t really any girls I had interest in at school. I had reasons I’d give for my lack of interest, such as seeing most girls my age as sisters, since we’d been in school so long. In the end, I kind of just picked one who I saw somewhat regularly (felt important to me), seemed like I could get along with, was reasonably good looking and outside of my primary social circle. I waged a months long campaign of information gathering, testing and internal agonizing basically over how to make her my girlfriend. It got thick. Really thick. By the end, I had even convinced myself I actually did like-like her and that she would be able to correct my “defects.” The years in between now and then let me see the truth though; I was woefully indifferent about her. What I really wanted was for her to be my girlfriend. That was it. That was the endgame. There was nothing after that. Nothing I wanted. Nothing I planned for. No thoughts of wanting to kiss her. No thoughts of hugs or anything physical. I was very much taken by surprise when she wanted to hold my hand when we were hanging out once. I went along because I thought I was supposed to, but it felt very uncomfortable. After all that, I did get what I wanted. A girl, who if you asked her, would’ve said she was my girlfriend. We were anything but. The whole thing lasted barely a month.

After that episode, college came around. Having enough trouble just making friends, I reverted back to my default (and arguably most true) self. With no one around to constantly remind me I didn’t have a girlfriend, I had nothing to prove. And prove nothing I did, for 4 years. Sure I suppose there were “cute” girls around, and if pressed, I probably would have even pointed to a few, but that’s where it ended. That’s where it had always ended for me. Again, the notion that for most people it didn’t end there was just not something I considered.

Now yes, during my time in college, there were 2-3 girls who I felt an actual interest in. I never really took the time to sit and really analyze that interest though. I should have. It would’ve revealed a lot. Nothing came out of any of them. Without the direct reminder of friends that I was girlfriend-less, the level of motivation I had conjured in high school was simply not there. To put it bluntly, I had other shit to do. What motivation was left internally within myself wasn’t anywhere near enough to make anything happen. These were hard times. I remember at the time writing in a rare moment of true self honesty how much things a, b, c, d, e, f…and so on meant more to me than having a girlfriend, and how I could barely imagine a girl who would supersede those interests. Aside from emotional closeness (which I longed for then, and still do today), what could she possibly offer to take my interest? There wasn’t any naivety here. I knew what people were doing with their guy/lady friends all around me (I heard it on more than one occasion). This was genuinely my thought process. It seemed infallible.

Of the few girls I felt interested in during this time, one was certifiably insane. We hung out a number of times, but the interest just wasn’t there. Plus her truly bizarre behavior made me want to get away as fast as possible. I remember one time hanging out with her, and the conversation somehow got around to her telling me how she was bisexual and was really more interested in a FWB kind of thing (although I think she used the more colloquial, “fuck buddies”). Not only did I, just like the other times, have no future plans or ideas, but to throw that wrench into the mix…way more than I could handle. Another girl just didn’t work out, and I ended up inadvertently attracting the attention of her roommate. Attention that I did not want, and was frustratingly difficult to make go away. The last one, well, I was about to graduate and just didn’t care anymore. I fixed her computer, recovered important data, got a hug in appreciation and went back to my room. I still blamed myself and the shortcomings I thought I had for all of it.

Post college had even less friends and even less motivation to be interested in girls. But the culture. Damn, it’s always the culture! That gnawed at me constantly. It was always: 23, still a virgin, still never had a girlfriend, 24, still a virgin, still never had a girlfriend, 25…and so on to present. It was just a constant “there must be something wrong with me. What do I have to do to fix it?” Even though I felt basically normal. I didn’t identify with any of the stories I read by people in similar situations. They always seemed to have obvious (even to me) flaws or quirks that I definitely didn’t have. I felt so alone. By a certain point, I literally could not think of anyone I knew who was as inexperienced as I was. Even people who I thought would never date, have relationships, etc. A few years of that will make anyone depressed, and depressed I was. Depression is a real bastard. I’m still in the midst of working to get past it (writing this feels like a monstrous step forward). I felt like those age numbers would just keep going up, and nothing would change, and it would be oh so horrible even if logically, I knew there was nothing horrible about it. I pushed myself out of my introverted comfort zone over and over with nothing but stress to show for it. I beat up on myself constantly for not being able to be normal, or for not having the history I thought I should’ve had. A history even close friends drew attention to, with seemingly little regard for how I might feel about that. I let friends talk to me indiscriminately about these kinds of things, without telling them how it made me feel. I listened to the voice in my head that said people would start to notice me and my overwhelmingly solo behaviors and immediately think I was gay (which would be fine, just horribly inaccurate and an unfair assumption to make), or worse, some kind of weirdo who shouldn’t be left alone around children (what a fucking male/female double standard).

And so we arrive at the present. I’ve said an awful lot here. The fibrous bits of the mango were really entwined with the pit. Perhaps the most interesting thing about all I’ve written is what isn’t mentioned. Sex. Ctrl+F all you want. That one right there is the first instance in this whole story. Ok, I did specifically avoid using that word, but the omission is also entirely accurate. In none of my thoughts in all these situations over the past decade was sex any kind of a factor. Admittedly, in recent times, I’ve tried to force the issue in my own head (you know, for science). I have a female friend with whom I had felt very, very close. Despite looks of befuddlement on all sides, we were 100% just friends. It was a great friendship that I felt was deep and strong. I won’t go into justifying that again here, and honestly, I never really considered it strange, different, odd or anything. The nature of our association seemed totally normal to me. I once posed the hypothetical to myself supposing that we were “more than friends”, and asked myself how I would feel. The answer? Not good. Not good at all. Whereas our friendship as it was felt completely natural to me, “more than friends” felt very unnatural. Even imagining wanting it seemed unnatural.

Remember that scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton’s character realizes that he is Tyler Durden? That was basically my reaction when her own mother asked her if she had slept with me. Here I was, enjoying my time with one of my closest friends, and even tertiary parties like her mother were pondering whether we had slept together? I genuinely had not even gotten near that thought (until posing it as a hypothetical much, much later). Why would I have?

All of these little anecdotes have a very solid pit that’s unchanged in all of them. Did you see it? I sure didn’t. It’s maddeningly hard to see for all the fibrous mango bits (read: expectations of others, society, etc) wrapped around it. It’s only in the past 6 months that I’ve been able to really get it clear. The weak “interest” I seemed to have in these situations? Did you notice how it always abruptly stopped, and always at the same point? I guess maybe I thought it would come. I guess maybe I thought I was just a late bloomer and I’d “get it” eventually.

Well kids, I’m 26. If I haven’t gotten it by now, chances are I never will. I always thought my friend was just fucking with me when he’d say that so-and-so actress was so hot and he’d “bang her without hesitation” if given the opportunity. I thought he was just going along with cultural and “male” expectations when he’d comment on some woman’s “super hot rack”. I couldn’t relate at all when friends would complain that their girlfriends weren’t in the mood, or didn’t want to do things x, y and z. Surely she was willing to hold hands, wouldn’t that be enough? It would’ve been enough for me. I thought my other friend was just busting my chops when I expressed my lack of “boob interest” and she responded that I’d “call [her] after touching boob for the first time to say how awesome it was.” I felt so hurt by that response. But no. They were all being dead serious, completely genuine, and talking about things in a way that most people would find serious and genuine as well. I don’t. I know that now. Those sentiments are foreign to me.

I’m Scott. Friends call me Scooter. I’m 26. I like Subarus, building power generating systems, traveling to isolated local areas just because they’re there, and I’m asexual.