Professional Neophyte

I tend to consider myself to be a fairly empathetic person. In fact, it’s something upon which I pride myself. I’m probably pretty unremarkable generally speaking, but being able to see things from the perspective of others, trying to understand and respect how they feel (even if it’s not how I’d feel) is an important skill to me. Being empathetic is practically a given in my little world, so when I feel like others are failing to see my point of view, or are unable to truly empathize with me, it hurts.

You’d have to dig a ways back. Back to before I had the self-awareness that I do today. Buried in the shadowy archives are posts about a young man who had never had sex with anyone. Never kissed anyone. Never been in a relationship with anyone and only dated on the most minimal of levels. That young man has changed a lot since then. He stopped lying and hiding and allowed himself to be a more authentic person. He pulled the mask away to reveal the her underneath. The her that had always been there, hiding.

Even though I am her, and I’ve changed enormously over the past 10+ months, I’ve still never had sex with anyone, never kissed anyone, never been in a relationship with anyone and only dated on the most minimal of levels. I might be more confident in self now, but I’m still the same basic person.

It’s hard to convey the feeling of being in this position. On the verge of my 28th birthday, a professional neophyte in the experience of romance and love. On the best days, it’s a dull hurt that can be masked with a smile and a funny story shared with coworkers. On the worst days it’s tears that won’t even be dissuaded by “please don’t cry and mess me up!”-mascara.

It’s almost not even worth discussing with people. I’ve met precious few who’ve been able to even understand, much less empathize, with how I feel. At best they offer platitudes of “you’ll find someone someday” or “everyone finds someone.” These words are too often spoken from a relative position of incredible (and I apologize for using this word) privilege. The privilege of being wanted by someone, either at present or at times in the past. Trust me, as someone who’s never known what that’s like, it’s absolutely a privilege.

There are of course some people who themselves were late, late, late to the game, but eventually arrived. I’ll never understand why those people aren’t more empathetic themselves. It’s as though once they arrive, they’re struck with amnesia about what it was like before then. This lack of empathy is particularly painful. These are people who could truly make a difference for someone. They could reach a hand back and let someone know that they’re not defective, they’re not unwanted, they’re not unlovable.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever find someone. It’s difficult to make peace with that, but it’s something I have to do. I have to redouble my efforts at pulling away all the masks I’ve worn. I have to make sure that I’m never again living an inauthentic life. I have to show myself that I care enough to take a shot. Take a shot on at least being the authentic me. I may always be alone. I may always have to struggle with feelings of being unwanted, being defective, being unlovable, being undatable, being in a dwindling percentage of the population. I may have to deal with all of those things, but I owe it to myself to at least do it as the real me. Ultimately that’s the only thing I can do. The pain of everything else will hopefully dull with time, but if I can be myself, I think it’ll be at least ok.

Future Version of Me

I don’t know if there’s any truth to it or not, but I think antidepressant medication causes strange dreams. I used to have recurring dreams where my car got stolen or just moved somewhere other than where I left it. Another recurring dream I sometimes still have basically revolves around the world ending in some way. It was always different, but always disturbing and upsetting.

I try not to put too much weight in dreams. To me, if they’re good, fine. If they’re not good then all they’re doing is ruining a good night’s sleep for me. That said, occasionally “interesting” dreams come along that I feel are worth remembering. Before I forget it, I want to write about one of those here.

There was a lot of stuff going on that was relatively unimportant and random. I think I was helping people move a bunch of stuff and load it onto a trailer. There were a number of people about, most of whom I didn’t know. A few seemed to have names of people I know in real life, but weren’t actually those people. I think it was when we were done loading the trailer with stuff I was walking back to some house with a few other people. There was one girl in the group who I was talking to. She seemed really familiar, but was not anyone I know in real life.

Anyway, we were talking and getting along quite well. She was very nice. Ok, I can’t believe I’m going to write this so candidly here, but it’s critical to the story, so I can’t leave it out or allude to what I’m talking about. We somehow began talking about transgender people and transitioning. I mentioned that I was starting to work on just that. She stopped, and said that it was a big deal, and that I should know that it was what I really wanted. I replied that it was, and that it was very important to me. Seemingly satisfied, we continued walking to the house and continued chatting. I remember she was so nice. She seemed so familiar.

When we arrived at the house I realized that I hadn’t gotten her name. I asked her and she replied that her name was “Scotty” which is about as feminine a version of my given name as you can get. Then she walked into the house. I remember feeling stunned, like I had just witnessed the twist at the end of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Then I woke up.

Was that girl me? Was that why she seemed so familiar? The dream left me feeling so good. Like some potential future version of myself met up with me in a dream as if to tell me that “yes, I am you. Things are going to be ok.”

Station Thirty Transfer

There’s a certain long-helf belief that I’ve had about myself. It definitely solidified as I progressed through high school (ages 13-17) but I kind of suspect it was kicking around in more subconscious levels for years before that. I’m not the kind of person who believes in fate, or being able to tell the future, or anything like that, but this belief was always kind of strange.

In high school among friends, I remember that I started to verbally articulate this belief. It was kind of morbid, so I talked about it the only way I could…with humor. I would always tell friends, “yeah, I don’t really expect to live past 30.” I’d laugh, and they’d laugh, I was just being silly. Live fast, die young, right? That was hardly the image I portrayed. I was a bland, never rock the boat, milquetoast kind of person. It was funny that I’d describe this future where I essentially chose not to bother living past 30.

Friends occasionally joined in on it and it became kind of a running gag. There were even wild predictions about my demise, usually revolving around taking too much acid and having a brain aneurism after listening to too much Pink Floyd. Though I was very into psychedelic rock at the time (still am) I never did drugs or anything like that. I’m sure no one ever really thought anything of it. It was a “gag” because it couldn’t possibly be true, or so it seemed.

Little did anyone else know, and little did even I realize, it was more than just a running gag. Something deep inside kept telling me that 30 was like this wall beyond which was nothing. It was like if my life continued on the path it was already on, there would be no point going beyond that. It was like everything was focusing down narrower and narrower until hitting some kind of singularity.

Fast forward to college and beyond, and no longer did I have friends with whom to “joke” about this belief, but it was still there. Only now it had morphed into something different, and more malicious. It was as though the path had already begun to narrow, and like a turbocharger forcing air into an engine, depression surged and started to push everything to redline. All the while I never forgot. 30. It would manifest in different ways when combined with depression, “If I can’t turn things around by then…that’s it, game over. I can’t live like that.” The once amorphous event horizon appeared to be more and more clearly an endpoint.

Everything about my life felt wrong. Even the most incompetent people I’d ever met seemed to be shoved inexorably forward by some invisible force. Sure it wasn’t a straight path forward, but they were slowly getting there. I wasn’t. I looked around desperately to find others like me, and found no one. It started to become easy to convince myself I didn’t belong at all, and I wasn’t meant for the world (or maybe it wasn’t meant for me?). I was genuinely resentful of my parents for bringing me into it. No matter how much they insist that I’m fine, and I’m not that different, it’s not true. I know something’s not right. I’ve always known something’s not right. I can feel it all around me. It honestly got to the point where even I was willing to help make it the end. I’m nearly 27 now, so time is getting short. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.

–Present Day–

So it’s with that lens that I look upon the events occurring in my life right now. Events no psychic could’ve predicted. Events I would never have believed if I myself time travelled back to 15 year old me and told me these things. Nevertheless, it appears I had been right for all those years; 30 was an endpoint. What I hadn’t been right about, and what I couldn’t have possibly foreseen, was that this wasn’t a total endpoint. It was the end of an era. That train’s line ended, yes, but I could get off and get onto a new train, a better train, a train that would let me actualize myself to my full potential and happiness. Maybe I had to get close enough to see another train waiting at the upcoming station.

All I know for sure is that train is there. It’s waiting for me. All I have to do is get on it. This train I’m on? It does end at that station. That’s all there is to it. There’s a barricade, the tracks end…it can’t go any farther.

I don’t believe that little coincidences are all that significant, but when I see something like this in my life…this long-held belief of mine intersecting so elegantly with present day events, well, I have to take notice. Things that line up like this on such a grand scale can’t be ignored. They shouldn’t be ignored. I won’t ignore them. I’m ready to transfer.


My parents don’t read or know about this blog, but if I could tell them something about all this, it would be to please just believe me. Please believe me that I’ve always known the train I was on wasn’t right. I’ve tried to tell you for years but couldn’t articulate it well enough. It always came out as “I’m not right.” I understand there wasn’t much you could do about that. When your kid says they “aren’t right” what are you supposed to do? Pretty much what you did. Consoled me. Told me I was fine. Told me I was different, but would somehow become the same as others one day.

All the social anxiety that has never gone away. The self-mutilation that still occurs to this day, and that you never cease to chide me about. The utter relationship ineptitude that I know you’ll say is fine, but I know it’s not fine. The inexplicable anger and frustrated outbursts as a child. All those things are manifestations of my inner disharmony. My “not being right.”

I’d love it if I could tell you that I know now what my disharmony is. That I’ve seen a future beyond the upcoming station and just imagining it has made me happier than I’ve ever been. I wish I could tell you those things and you’d just believe me. Believe me and tell me that you trust and love me. I wish you could understand that your son can’t continue past that station, but your daughter can.

 

Hadley

I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost six months now, but I couldn’t think of a good way to talk about it. Heck, even talking about it directly at all seemed completely impossible. Well, I’m sensing a convergence of several things on my relatively near horizon, and that gave me a fun idea about how to write this post. Here goes…


Hi! My name is Hadley. I was born in Massachusetts in 1988. I was always really excited to be in the world. Everything was new. Everything was great. I started school in 1993 and quickly learned that I was different. I couldn’t tell how, I just was. By the time my second year of school rolled around, things were just too much to handle. There was some kind of misalignment. I couldn’t understand what it was. There were no options I was aware of. I often lamented out loud how it seemed like I was just irreconcilably different. Eventually I faded away. Life kept going on, but I wasn’t really that present.

I started building things and dumping as much creativity into the world as I could. I still tried to fit in. In middle school, I played baseball. I was terrible at it. I didn’t like doing it, but it seemed to make my dad happy when I had a few good moments. The most fun I ever had was my second to last year playing. The team I was on was awful and we lost every game. At least then there was no pressure. Even then though, I could tell I just didn’t fit on the team.

By that time, puberty had kicked in like an unwelcome party guest. It was a confusing time. It was a frustrating time. Leading up to it, I was so scared I’d be one of the first people to go through it. I’d long understood the changes, at least in an academic sense, but going through them firsthand was entirely different. Some things were gradual enough that I never even noticed. My voice changing was one of those. I honestly don’t even think it changed that much. Growing taller too. I never did get that tall, so I guess it just seemed like a continuation of getting taller as a child. Facial hair I absolutely could’ve done without. I was ashamed of it and scared to ask my parents what to do. I guess in a way, having mostly checked out earlier, I was disconnected from all those changes. They happened, but I pretended not to notice. I just checked out even further.

There were times when I noticed others were becoming different. They seemed to embrace the changes with open arms. My best friend I remember really came into his own. By the end of high school, he became really popular. Confident. Very much into girls in a way I just didn’t understand. Most of my friends ended up being like that. Even the ones who were clumsy about it.

Eventually I made my way into college naively expecting things would improve and be different there. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My freshman year there was probably the worst year of my life. If I hadn’t already clamped down, I certainly did after that. Subsequent years weren’t nearly as bad, but I absolutely felt damaged beyond all repair. The only hope that kept me going was that I would be able to get a good-paying job when I graduated.

By my senior year though, even my hopes about getting a good job were fading. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect to get a job. I worked hard to get one and did get one, but all the closing off had finally taken hold of my talent and interest in the field I was studying. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. All my passion was gone. Graduating, moving out on my own, and starting a “career” was like a shot of adrenaline to a dying heart. It boosted me for around 6 months, but then I was back to the same old track to nowhere.

By this time, I had all but forgotten about who I used to be. That person was long gone. After bouncing around on the bottom for a while, I could tell this was just no way forward. The closing off had taken everything. I was just existing for the sake of it. A shell going through the motions.

 

But that brings me to now. That was the past. Painful as it was, what’s done is done. I can no more change those things than I can turn off gravity. I’m not sure how I found her, but I found her, or maybe she found me. Sitting quietly on the bottom, waiting for the end, she found me. Maybe she knew I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t push her away this time. She was me. I was her. I am her.

Suddenly as if by magic, things began to seem real again. A future that wasn’t there suddenly was. A shell has no future. It’s just a shell. People have futures. She’s a person. She has a future. I have a future.

Let me tell you about my future. My hair is longer. Longer than it’s ever been before. Sometimes I put a bow barrette in it to keep it in place. Most of the time I just have a nice headband. When I look at myself in the mirror, I smile instead of looking away. It almost brings me to tears imagining all the years I wasted hating myself. I wear brightly colored clothes. A fun t-shirt with a reference to one of my favorite movies. Maybe a skirt or sun dress if the weather is nice. Instead of bland shoes, I have colorful but simple shoes. I replaced the laces on them to be blue instead of white.

I have a classic car that I love; a first generation Toyota MR2. I feel great driving it around. Sometimes people talk to me about it when I park to go to the coffee shop. Some people are surprised to see a young woman who knows so much about such an interesting car. I love talking to them about it. I love how it makes me feel when I’m driving it. My hair blowing in the wind from the t-top. Cute sunglasses and pride knowing I’m exactly who I want to be. I’m excited to be in the world again.

Even though things might not always be great (I still have many of the same real-world problems as before), I have a far more positive attitude and feel well-equipped to tackle problems. I even feel like getting into a relationship and having that in my life is something I’d welcome. Unlike before where it felt like a necessary addition, the lack of which caused me to feel inferior, it now feels like a bonus. It’s ok if that’s not part of my life, because I’m happy as myself. I’m the real me. I’m not really sure to whom I’m attracted. I think I’m still rather asexual, but it doesn’t provide as much definition for me as it once did. My new confidence makes me far more attractive to potential partners and I’m far more ready to be in that role. I’m not squicked out by it as much. Imagining myself with a partner in a sexual situation makes me feel happy instead of gross.

That’s the future I want. That’s the future I need. That’s the future that’s possible for me. Hadley didn’t find me. I didn’t find her. I am her. I am Hadley.

Plan

It’s no secret (well, it should be no secret) that I’m struggling. Struggling to get myself moving on a life path that’s suited to me. Struggling to understand who and what I am. Struggling to just figure out a reason to continue living past 30 on some days. This isn’t really a new concept for me. I’ve known that I’ve been struggling for a while. What’s new is that I feel like I may have the opportunity to actually do something about it. Unfortunately, it may require some bold actions. I thought of a plan today to get the ball rolling towards this end.

The best plans are simple. That’s good, because this one is pretty darn simple. It’s got two basic parts. Phase one is to stop talking about it, stop thinking about it and just go out and find myself a 1986 Toyota MR2. Red would be nice, even if it does anger police. Why this car? I’m not entirely sure. It speaks to me. It’s impractical. It’s mid-engine. It’s a Toyota. Other favorites I had in mind were convertibles, because they’re just so darn fun, like an early 1990s Alfa Romeo Spider. Beautiful car. Unique car. But it just doesn’t speak to me in the same way the Toyota does. I can get a convertible any time. The mid-engine sports car isn’t something you see every day.

It was always some car. Really, the car itself doesn’t even matter. It’s a symbol. A symbol of me breaking free from the life I found myself stuck in. I didn’t ask to be in this position, it just sort of happened. That’s no way to live your life. It’s symbolic of me saying that I don’t need to do what’s “prescribed” to me. I don’t need to live the life my parents did, or my siblings do, or my friends do. That’s convenient because I wasn’t doing a very good job of living it anyway. It’s symbolic of me saying that I’m not going to continue sitting on my hands waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow that never seems to come. I’ve stagnated horribly. I’ve done everything I was supposed to do, everything I should’ve done, everything I could’ve done. I’ve worked harder in the past 8 years than anyone should ever have to, and what do I have to show for it? An apartment. A car. A job I hate. No friends. No relationships. No hope of any of that changing. Should I just keep dying that slow death? No, I’m sorry, but I’ve held up more than my fair share of the societal bargain, and I haven’t seen anywhere near enough reciprocation to really continue bothering anymore.

Phase two is somewhat more difficult, but likely far more important. Once I have the car, I’ll get it all fixed up if necessary to make it 100% roadworthy. I’ll detail it myself. Make it as close to showroom new as possible. If there’s one thing I’ve always taken pride in, it’s keeping my cars super clean. Harder to do with a daily driver, but still, there’s nothing quite like the look and feel of a freshly Armour-All-ed dashboard and steering wheel. I haven’t mentioned much about it here, because it’s still a pretty scary notion to me, but I am going through a pretty deep phase of self discovery. One I arguably should’ve had the opportunity to go through far sooner in life, but at least it’s happening at all.

With my newly acquired MR2 in hand, my plan is to take as much time off work as I possibly can. Hopefully sometime this summer (obviously pending getting my hands on an MR2 first thing in the spring). I then throw a minimal number of things into the car and drive to Provincetown, MA. I don’t know what I expect to find there. Hopefully myself. Hopefully some acceptance. Hopefully some understanding. Hopefully some hope that a future worth living is possible for me perhaps in a manner that I didn’t even know was possible.

This plan is about as far “out of character” for me as I can get. I’ve done my best to save money feverishly over the past few years with the expectation of…well, I’m not sure. All that saving hasn’t even led to that much money anyway. Buying a house? Why? So I can continue to live a life in debt to others? So I can continue to have no friends and no relationships? So I can do what’s “fiscally responsible” to prepare for my retirement? Fuck. That. I genuinely never expect to retire anyway. Like I said, even in high school I told people I didn’t expect to live past 30. No, I’m afraid I’ve put off living my life for far longer than I should have. I see other people living. My friends, my siblings, extended family. I’m not living. I’m in a perpetual state of dying. I can accept that my life might not contain things that so many others do. A house. A partner. A family. Respectable job. What I can’t accept is continuing to half-assedly attempt to acquire those things.

I don’t think I could ever lead that successful life. I think I might have a sliver of a chance at leading my successful life, but at this point in time, bold action is required. I want to be ready to take that action.

Bringing Back Color

Yikes. Aside from my web server meltdown a week or so ago, updates around here have been pretty scarce. Fortunately, there’s a justifiable and good reason for that. I’m not sure I want to write about it directly yet, but it’s worth making some kind of note about what’s been happening here.

I suppose it should go without saying that when you discover something about yourself that’s as deep and far reaching as your own sexuality (or in my case, asexuality), it kind of shakes things up. If you can think of an emotion or thought, chances are good that I had it when I was in the process of figuring all that stuff out this past August. Ultimately, it ended up being relieving, and helped to quell an extremely turbulent and unsettled aspect of my life. What it also did was activate a kind of reset switch.

When you spend so long (in my case two decades) in one track, trying again and again to make things work, and failing repeatedly, you start to become very narrowly focused. You’re in a tunnel, and the light at the end gets smaller and smaller as the walls close in. There’s less and less room to maneuver around. It’s constricting and suffocating. It feels like things will only get worse, and there doesn’t seem to really be any point. I was down to basically nothing when that reset switch activated.

Suddenly there were choices. There were options. The tunnel was gone. Remember that feeling from way back when? You didn’t need to bury that! Remember those few times when there seemed to be a really happy you who just did what made you happy? You can be that person all the time! You’re the same person now that in kindergarten insisted to your parents that you wanted those shoes. Never mind that they weren’t meant for me. I would wear them, I did wear them, I loved them. You’ve spent so long hiding, and perfecting your hiding skills, that the real you became but a distant memory, almost unreal.

Outside of the tunnel, life feels like it’s worth living. Like I can make decisions that are best for me. I don’t have to hide anymore. The best analogy I can come up with (both literally and figuratively actually) is that where my life was once filled with color, it slowly became drained until it was nothing but greyscale. Colors are bright, noticeable. Greyscale is subdued, quiet and safe. I can bring all those colors back. I want to bring them back.

I understand now that so many of my thoughts were really aimed at wishing that I was someone that I’m not. Someone that my limited understanding led me to believe I could never be. If I couldn’t be that person, then I guess I’ll just be no one. Because I was no one, I didn’t have any intrinsic value. I had to create value at all times. I ran myself ragged trying to push harder and harder to create value. If I’m not valuable, then I’m not worthy of being here. I have to create value! I needed to invent. I needed to write. I needed to constantly learn new, complex and widely varying skills and not only be proficient, but masterful of them. I needed to create, build and design, and I needed to do it nonstop. I lasted longer doing that than anyone should have to because I felt I had no choice. It was either create that value, or drive off into oblivion like in the movie, Vanishing Point.

To be perfectly honest, I think I did arrive at somewhat of a crossroads. I was simply too exhausted to create value anymore. If I couldn’t walk that path anymore, I had to walk the other one. That scared me. It scared me enough to admit I needed help. That help led to asexuality and my reset.

Those aren’t the only two paths I have to choose from. I may not be that someone I wished to be, but that person has value because they exist. They exist because they are me. What I’ve learned is that, while far from easy, it actually is possible to become that person. No matter how difficult that may be, I have to believe that it’s a better choice than choosing between being no one, and driving off into oblivion.

 

Depression

I wrote this post some time ago. I held off publishing it because it was deeply personal, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. After thinking about it, I’ve decided that it’s worth putting out there because these kinds of things need to be allowed in the open air without judgement or shame.


Admitting to myself and others that I am asexual has been a really big boost in my life. For the first time ever, I feel ok about things that have historically caused so much internal pain. Even though I first considered it in December of 2013, I shelved it immediately for one reason: depression. Six months ago, when I first went back to my doctor (for the second time in 3 years), I told her everything I was feeling, and how much I wanted help, but insisted it wasn’t depression. She disagreed. That was what I got help for the last time, and this was it all over again. In fact, in her estimation, things I was saying this time were much worse. It all seemed the same to me.

The only reason I even went in was because I felt like I was out of options. I felt like I was just one minor piece of bad news, one tiny hiccup, one bad thought away from god only knows what. I’ve never really had any problems with hurting myself, or planning to. Not physically anyway. Scorched-earthing everything else though? Oh you had better believe that was all on the table. That was the real problem; I didn’t know what I was going to do. Hurting myself? Pfft, that would’ve been easy and dumb. That would just hurt the handful of people who cared about me, and depressed or not, I didn’t want that. I knew I was capable of much worse. I just didn’t know what that would be.  I did do almost daily self-diagnostics asking, “hrm, does killing myself sound like a good idea today? No? Ok, that’s good.” That might seem morbid, but that’s what I did. I still run that test sometimes.

Now, six frustrating months of antidepressants and therapy later, I’m just barely seeing some light through the haze. I can see now that for the past 4, or possibly even 8 years, depression has been a major part of my life. Sure it’s waxed and waned, but it’s always been there. Let me tell you something about depression; It’s a voice that tells you shit that sounds absolutely real. You do not question those things. They are truth. Anyone who suggests to you that those things might not be real must be lying. Depression will convince you completely that you are fucked, that nothing and no one can help you, and you will believe it. I did. Sometimes I still do.

While I consider myself at present to be mostly out of depression (though it’s a fucking thin line), I’m hyper-aware of any change in mood or thoughts. That’s the thing about depression. It got you once, it knows it can get you again. So it just sits there, waiting for you. Waiting for you to start to panic at one negative thought. Waiting for just one tiny slip up. Then it’s in. Like an abusive partner, it tells you it will care for you, it won’t hurt you. But that’s all it does. Once it’s in, it just starts feeding you bullshit, and you will believe it. The more you believe it, the more bullshit it can get away with feeding you. And on and on and on.

I’m at least fortunate enough to know its game, but I have to say, that doesn’t make it any easier to stop it. It’s unreal how convincing it can be. I still have a limited tool set to make some space between its bullshit and myself. I’m working really hard on that. Medication is like an EMP blast that just comes in and forces that space open. I hate the idea of taking medication, but when you’re in the position I was in, you need that EMP blast to make that initial space. But it’s up to me to keep that space open, and to not let those electrical conduits to reform. I can feel them trying to reform all the time.

I don’t know how my story with this ends. It could go any way at this point. I don’t know why I’m writing this either. I don’t think depressed me would’ve believed the things I’m saying here. I don’t know if I can say anything that will help others going through the same thing. I could say, “Get help! Blast that space open! Do whatever it takes!” but I know that’s not good enough. In fact, if you’re going through this, I don’t think there’s anything I can say. I bottomed out and became so afraid of myself that it’s honestly like I went to the doctor to get help for someone else. I can’t even tell you you’re not alone.

I guess all I can say is talk to someone. Someone you trust, or someone you don’t even know (like a completely new doctor, like I did). Talk to someone and just explain how you’re feeling. You don’t have to call it depression. You don’t even have to believe the things you’re saying. You don’t have to explain all your feelings either. If there are some that you want to keep buried, that’s fine. God knows I did. Just talk to someone about how you’re feeling. This puts at least some information into the hands of someone who isn’t listening to depression’s bullshit. Either they will be able to help you directly or find someone who can.

Good luck. To all of us.

Unicorn Farts

I don’t exactly remember when I first knew someone who had come out as non-heterosexual. I suppose there could’ve been someone I knew in middle school, but in racking my memory, I can’t really recall anyone. That’s not to say there weren’t. In fact, I’m sure there probably were, but this was middle school and the height of puberty for me. Suffice it to say my memory of that time is less than clear.

I definitely knew people in high school though. I’d say likely as far back as freshman year, but certainly after that. Naturally the high school had a gay-straight alliance group, which I was aware of, but mostly ignored out of pure indifference. All things considered, I’d call it a pretty tolerant high school. Yes kids that age will be kids, and there were totally unfounded rumors to be had about a handful of openly gay teachers, but really, no one cared. Homophobia? I just can’t recall anything like that existing. Certainly none that I witnessed first hand.

Before I continue let me just say that I certainly never had any negative or homophobic views towards any gay or otherwise non-heterosexual people I knew personally, or otherwise. Honestly, my opinion then (and now) was that their existence affects me exactly not at all. A unicorn farting in sound proof room on the bottom of the ocean would affect me more than knowing some kid who was gay in high school. I just did not care. I was simply aware of their existence and went on with my life.

I did have what I considered even then to be strange feelings and opinions about the gay students I knew, and groups like the gay straight alliance. I remember it pretty clearly. I just could not understand how they knew they were gay at such a “young” age (we’re talking like 15-17 here). I thought you had to be way older to realize that stuff. I thought maybe some of them were saying they were gay to be special, or get attention. I felt horrible about these thoughts at the time because they totally did not jive with my attitude towards gays. I mean, I knew they didn’t choose to be gay, but somehow, they just knew they were gay? How did they know? How could they possibly know? Because I felt bad about these thoughts (was I harboring some repressed homophobia?), and truthfully just didn’t understand them, I kept them tightly under wraps hoping that eventually I’d figure it out.

Well high school has long since ended, and I never did end up figuring out those thoughts. But now, what’s this? Asexuality pops its funny little head into my life. Now those thoughts start to make a bit more sense? Ironically, if I hadn’t kept them under wraps and had talked about them, preferably with one of the students who was gay, or even the gay straight alliance, I might’ve come to learn things about myself at a much earlier age. All they would’ve had to ask me was “well, how do you know you’re straight?” That sound you’re hearing is the sound of the cabin depressurizing at 30K feet. They knew they were gay. They didn’t need to wait until they were older. Just like my friends who knew they were straight. They didn’t need to wait until they were older either. I was waiting. I’ve been waiting ever since.

I’m definitely relieved at having realized all this. Those questions and feelings I had weren’t repressed homophobia, they were accurately reflecting my experience. An experience that seemed to fall horrendously short of the experiences of heteronormative friends. An experience that left me feeling grossly inferior and defective. If only I had put one and one together. The ridiculous tragedy of it all was that I knew the term “asexual” at the time. I heard it from my dad of all people. He mentioned that he thought this kid I knew was asexual. I didn’t know what it meant (or what my dad thought it meant), but I knew that kid, so the term was basically defined for me by the his characteristics (which certainly could’ve been interpreted as asexual). Funnily enough (and mostly irrelevant), that same kid actually came out as gay a year or two ago.

I think the takeaway here is that for each of us, our experience, to us, is normal. Even if I knew exactly what asexual meant at the time, and someone told me outright, “dude, this is you!”, I wouldn’t have accepted it. I couldn’t be. I was normal (at least, I wanted to be), and “normal” was heterosexual. I am genuinely laughing out loud at how silly that train of thought seems. Oh well, that’s what I thought. In a way, it’s still what I think. It’s what gives me pause when thinking about asexuality now. To me my experience is normal (I’ve never known anything else) and society says “normal” is heterosexual, therefore…this experience is heterosexuality? I guess it worked for me because for the most part, I can and have ostensibly passed as straight. As long as you don’t start digging around anyway. It’s getting a hell of a lot harder though the older I get. A 26 year old “done nothing sexual, experienced nothing romantic” virgin? I’m starting to run out of excuses, even to myself. As I saw on another blog, “I’m heterosexual but not very good at it.”

Now though, I care a lot less, so grab your shovels and dig away, people!

Alternate Future

Back in an earlier post, I was writing about a few simple, potentially obvious (to many), but serious questions I had started asking myself. Questions like “why do I want a girlfriend?” “why do I want sex” and “do I even want sex?” When I wrote that piece, I was mostly focusing on the fact that I had thought to bother asking those questions at all. In a way, they seem like questions no one would ask. I imagine many people would have easy quick answers if they were asked. The fact that I don’t is intriguing to me, but it’s also scary.

I would definitely need to think about my answers to those questions, and some of that thinking might take a while. What I can do however is start to provide a sort of general perimeter which serves to greatly narrow down what the true answers might be. This perimeter allows me to say with absolute confidence that my answer to “do I even want sex” is NOT an immediate, unequivocal, and enthusiastic “yes!” I’m absolutely sure of that, and if I’m brutally honest, I have been for quite some time. Long before I began identifying with asexuality. As a young man in a sex-saturated culture, how could I have admitted that to myself (to say nothing of anyone else)?

You know what? That scares me quite a bit. There are potentially serious consent issues there. This is hard for me to imagine, but if some woman (let’s just say she’s “hot”) just showed up next to me, ready and willing, I would say “maybe” at best. An answer of “no” would be at least as likely, and far easier. “No” is not consent. “Maybe” is not consent. Not by a long shot. And based on my history of “doing things because I thought I was supposed to,” I can easily imagine an alternate future in which I did go through with something like sex, dubious consent and all. In fact, because I know me so well, I’d say that alternate future would have been almost inevitable. I can’t convey how scary that feels.

However, that alternate future is one that thankfully will not occur. Knowing that is tremendously relieving. Having a label like “asexual” allows me to feel totally secure in saying, “No, I don’t have to do anything. No, there’s nothing I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing. This is as valid a way to be as any other.” That’s a pretty powerful result from something that’s “just a label.” This is just one of the reasons why I choose to call myself asexual. This is why the label needs to exist.

Master Branch

I just want to say how good it felt to write my previous post. It was really hard to condense a decade’s worth of feelings, thoughts and emotions into a few thousand words, but I’m happy with how it turned out. For the first time in a long, long time (too long), I feel truly relaxed. It’s hard to describe. I can really feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. Smells seem more vibrant and pleasant. Even enjoying “myself” feels more relaxing (like, actually feeling the relaxing biological effects that makes it worth bothering at all. Crazy, right?).

That said, there are definitely aspects of the whole thing with which I struggle. This is a big deal though, so I’m trying hard to allow myself to acclimate so to speak. I realized that I feel like sometime in my late teens (likely when I tried so hard to get a girlfriend), I got sidetracked. Before that, I was relatively content with what I was doing, what I liked, how I felt. When I realized so many close friends were diverging from me though, I definitely panicked, and in trying so desperately to mimic them (what I assumed I was supposed to be like), I created an alternate path in my life. That path was not me. In realizing these things about myself, it’s like I’ve been reunited with that past me, and our paths have merged back together. I’m sorry for this, but I’m a software engineer, so it was like I was on branch master, then created a new branch, default-heterosexual. I worked on that new branch for all those years, but it just didn’t work. It wasn’t right for me. But the master branch never went anywhere, it was still there waiting for me to git checkout master.

Since writing that previous post was so helpful to me in figuring this stuff out, I thought I’d try to write a bit of a follow-up that focused a bit more on much more recent history and the present. I’ve certainly spent a huge amount of time over the last few weeks reading, and thinking, and reading and thinking. It’s enough to make anyone’s head hurt. I might read one person’s experience of things, and feel that it doesn’t apply to me, but then I’ll read another and really relate to it. This is to say nothing about trying to find anyone anywhere who’s willing or even able to describe what sexual attraction even is, or feels like. I mean, shit, describe the color blue to me.

Based on definition alone, I have to say it’s a pretty solid “nope” on my end, but it would be helpful (both in my identification, and intellectual curiosity) to have some sense of how people experienced it. On top of everything, as a virgin (and super curious person), I have to wonder if I don’t feel those things because I have no experience with it. My suspicion though, is that you don’t have to have the experience to fantasize about it, or feel an attraction based on imagined sexual actions. Hell, even I know what those are. My imagination is like a 911 on an empty autobahn—totally bad ass and totally capable. In this case, I know what all the parts look like, how they work (mostly), and what things are supposed to go down (HA!). But even knowing all that, and having the capable imagination, I know with 100% certainty that I’ve never felt that kind of sexual attraction or imagination with some “rando” on the street or anywhere in real life, but especially with friends or acquaintances. In the handful of times I’ve known someone and tried to force the imagination in that direction, it feels gross, and horrible. I’d like to just avoid it, but I’m the kind of person who runs self-diagnostics all the time. So I’m sure I’ll keep forcing it every now and then, just as verification that things haven’t changed. But that kind of attraction? Never happened. No questions. “She’s cute”, yes. “That girl is so pretty, I love that outfit and her face and hair”, less common, but yes. I might even imagine what it would be like to talk to her, or go out. “Would you look at the boobs on her? The things I’d do with her. She is so hot.”, erm, definitely not.

Now, in not really understanding all these things, and feeling like I must be the “default”, I attributed these kinds of “differences of opinion” between my friends and me as me just being a nice person. Maybe I didn’t want to look at people and feel that way. That’s a good thing, right? Without much else to go on, that’s kind of where I went with it. But now I realize that there’s a pretty clear dividing line there. That feeling of raw sexual attraction is definitely going to come up first. Your higher reasoning can kick in and squelch it at a conscious level because you “don’t want to look at people and feel that way”, but it’s too late. The thought and feeling was there. And that’s totally fine, it’s a natural feeling, but for me, that’s really not what was happening. There was no feeling to squelch. It wasn’t there to begin with.

With the handful of girls I’ve been interested in?  Things feel a bit hazier. Now, I’m pretty sure the haze is actually just “default expectations”. I’m supposed to feel those things, so I must be feeling them, right? Again, my “endgame” in most of these situations was just to get a girlfriend. If anyone had pressed me at the time about what I was planning on doing after that, I probably would’ve sounded silly: “Uh, go hiking a lot. Bring her to my parents house for some family function. Play games. Maybe hold hands”. That’s pretty much all I’d have had, and that’s if I were pressed about it.

In the few instances where I was able to move in a direction of any kind of closeness, did that change how I felt? Not really. I mean, sex as an abstract idea? Yeah, sign my ass up. Actually imagining me myself in that situation? Woah, what did that fine print say? Actually imagining myself in that situation with someone I know, or someone I felt an emotional bond with? Do you have like whiteout or something? Can I un-sign my name? Now it’s really hard for me to say if that’s driven by fear (some of it definitely is) or a lack of sexual attraction. Since my understanding of sexual attraction is…let’s say worst case, unreliable, I’m willing to mostly let this slide as an ambivalence to sex at best. And since I’m pretty sure people have sex with people they don’t find attractive all the time, not really indicative of any kind of orientation at all anyway.

I think the better way to talk about it is the scenario in which I can imagine sex working out for me. That scenario looks like being with someone who is aware of my hesitations, confusion and ambivalence about sex. Someone who respects those things enough to be extremely cautious with me. Someone who will be very aware of how I’m handling things, and will immediately cease and desist if I either start “checking out” subconsciously or directly ask to stop. Me and myself are pretty close. I’ve known me all my life. From the womb to the tomb. So I think I know enough about me to know something like sex is something with which I need to exercise extreme caution. Yes, for the usual safe sex reasons, but also because knowing me, I know I face a myriad of substantial emotional, physical and mental risks.

Then there are things that, if I’m honest about it, are plainly unappealing to me, and I would not be comfortable doing. Generally speaking, skin-to-skin touch (outside of hand shakes, high fives, and other nonchalant things) is extremely hard for me. My instinct is to brush someone away. I used to think this was fear, or god only knows, but I am acknowledging now that it’s a very real factor for me that I need to be aware of. It is however something I want to work really hard to improve. I don’t even like to touch other people because I assume they feel the same way about it as I do. This is going to escalate quickly, so be warned now.

  1. Holding Hands – At first, this seemed like the kind of thing that I’d like. Non sexual. Non threatening. Easy, right? Yes and no. Being that it’s the only thing I’ve done, I can say from experience that while I found it moderately enjoyable at first (novelty), I quickly became uncomfortable. My hand was sweaty, and I don’t like the feeling of my hands being out of my control (if that makes sense). This is why hugs are much easier for me: lean in, embrace, release, done.
  2. Kissing – Never done it. I think I could handle simple on-the-cheek kinds of things, and maybe a mouth-to-mouth peck, but beyond that just feels weird to me. I’ve never fantasized about it, I’ve never understood the appeal, and honestly, I worry tremendously that women will expect it of me at some point. How in the world am I supposed to explain that? I think this is something that I may be open to overcoming very carefully, very slowly, and with a large amount of trust. I have no idea how long it might take with a person to get to that point.
  3. Oral Sex (on me) – No. Just hell the fuck no. No times infinity. Revoke my “man card”, say I’m insane, a loser, whatever, I don’t care. Don’t care what it feels like, don’t want to know. No. I find it baffling that so much porn consists of this too. Are people actually turned on by watching it? Hell I even remember a dream a long time ago where some girl started trying to do it to me and I pulled her up immediately for a hug instead.

Now what about in the other direction, myself to her? Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely), I think that’s pretty much the context of how this stuff will end up working for me. There’s very little I can think of that I wouldn’t be willing to do for her if she was getting pleasure out of it (and unambiguously consenting obviously—I can’t even believe this has to be said). Her feeling good would honestly be my highest priority, because that’s what’s going to make me feel good as well. If she’s not feeling good, then why the hell am I bothering? What would be the point? I probably can’t convince everyone of this, but me saying this isn’t to be corny, or chivalrous, or a “nice guy”. Her pleasure is genuinely the only thing that’s going to allow me to get into it. Myself? I can take care of myself, that’s not a problem and never has been.

When I write all these things, stuff seems so clear cut. I’m being genuine and honest here too, so why my hesitation? I guess it’s a lot of little things. Now I know many of these things obviously have no bearing on sexual orientation, and therefore are moot, but to me, they’re like wind at a ballpark. Not a big difference, but maybe the difference between a solid base hit or a standing double? For one thing, there’s porn. I know, asexuals look at porn and it’s no big thing. It doesn’t affect their asexualness. For me, I’m pretty sure it’s purely an arousal thing to speed things up. I’m a busy man, I don’t have all day (ok, sometimes I do, but that’s another story). It’s also somewhat of a curiosity thing, but honestly, I find myself doing way more “next…next…next” clicking than actually watching. Basically the only thing I’m interested in seeing, the only thing I’ve ever been interested in seeing, is women experiencing genuine pleasure. This has always appeared to me to be an extremely minor percentage of all the porn out there. If I have any sense that it’s fake it does nothing for me. I guess there’s an element of seeing someone else experience pleasure in a way I understand, so it’s ideal if they’re by themselves. If I look in “that folder”, what percentage of it contains a second person (male or female)? < 3%. And that’s being generous, a couple of those the second person wasn’t really involved themselves.

Another thing is my general predilection for self pleasure (which is kind of all over the place). Obviously in teen years it was a matter of “body keeps asking, so I’ll keep delivering”. After that, I kind of petered out. Still very regular (if sometimes infrequent). Still mostly enjoyable (lots of factors here). Still lots of things and sensations to explore. Never really been able to fantasize in a sexual context, especially if I myself am involved in the fantasy. Makes me feel gross. I remember being younger and trying to fantasize about a person because I thought you were supposed to. I couldn’t do it, and I haven’t even tried since. Most of the time, it’s focusing on what feels good and what doesn’t. More of column A, less of column B. Pretty hard to miss with a winning formula like that!

Finally, I am a virgin, and I do want to try sex. Again, within the boundaries of what I described earlier. I’m curious. I want to visit Iqaluit, Nunavut too. Why? I’m curious. I’d like to try sky diving some day. Why? I’m curious. I’d like love to drive a Tesla Roadster around the Nurburgring. Why? Are you kidding me? You leave now! With sex, I kind of imagine it’ll feel pretty awesome (the limited amount of stuff I can’t replicate on my own anyway), but like so many things that have been hyped to me over the years, I’m also expecting to be pretty let down, so my expectations aren’t too high.

I seriously can’t believe I’ve written all this. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this stuff so openly before. Maybe it feels alright now because I have a name for how all this stuff adds up for me? Maybe just feeling better about my true self and feelings means I can be more open about these kinds of things? Either way, I feel that writing all this has been so beneficial for me. When I write, I have to think clearly, and thinking clearly allows me to feel better about identifying as asexual. I’d be seriously tickled if someone else read this and it helped them figure stuff out. Remember, there is no “default” you have to divert yourself to. You don’t have to git checkout <branch>. Just stick to the master and things will turn out alright.