This post is for the August 2013 Carnival of Aces.
When I first saw the topic for this month I wasn’t sure what to write as I’ve been out of high school for almost 5 years now and didn’t discover asexuality until last year. Interestingly this month my school has been asking alumni if anyone could give a speech on their early high school years and my first thought was that anything I could say would be viewed through my new views of which my teenage years contain a lot of ace and aro moments. As such I’ve decided that this post will be a bit of reminiscing (a post I’ve been wanting to do anyway) and advice for people still in their teens and particularly high school.
Feel free to ignore the rambling if you wish and skip to the last paragraph, I won’t be offended, as the key points are at the end.
Much of my teenage years can be looked at as both having to comply with a set of expectations of teenagers and being completely oblivious. I went into high school with the expectation that I should be crushing on people, most of the the time. This lead to what I could call (and at the time did) “crushes.” These tended to be on people I admired or had some sort of respect for, my first girlfriend came from one of these situations (thankfully I was rejected the only other time I asked a girl out). That lead to an awkward date (mostly me not picking up on cues when I look back) and only lasted 3 weeks, I also had no issue afterwards which apparently wasn’t normal.
This obliviousness got more exaggerated once things started becoming more sexual. This took two forms, my own belief in how I reacted to my “crushes” (which will be referred to as squishes from now on), and in my ability to understand and interact with friends and peers. On a personal level it was confusing especially in how I felt about my squishes and thinking I needed to feel sexual attraction for them and mentally forcing arousal to convince myself I felt what I thought I should. This was further complicated by my inability to understand how some of my friends and peers were acting and not getting the jokes and some of the cruder discussion that went on. This could be particularly awkward when judging how my other friends were reacting.
I was fortunate though that during this time I feel into the group that could arguably be referred to as the misfits, so there was less pressure to conform to the general expectations. However it is worth mentioning that I’ve always had a tendency to be able to ignore peer pressure, I was one of the few people that would keep their shirt tucked in right through primary school and preferred to do so during high school. This meant that despite not knowing how I was different I was usually acting how I wanted to act and pursing what I wanted. I’d ignore friends when I carried my sports uniform in a bag that embarrassed them, did drama (for a short time anyway) and was one of the few males (ie. two) that performed in one of the dance performances that the school entered into. So while I missed queues from friends, squishes and peers, at times didn’t understand or gave the wrong impression. Ultimately I’d learnt a while ago not to care (though a severe case of bullying had probably helped). The advantages though were that I could walk out of a number of situations that could have resulted in a lot of drama (and people expected to) as I didn’t have the feelings to worry about and didn’t want the drama to develop.
I will admit though that there were time I felt lonely or out of place however these didn’t effect me too much and I mostly was able to move on.These moments probably came from questions that I didn’t even know I needed answers to and a feeling like I should be chasing stuff that in reality I wasn’t interested in. I’ve only kept one friend from my teens that is within my school group, but that is more due to not having common interests beyond school.
So what advice would I have from my experiences during my teens with the benefit of hindsight and knowledge of asexuality. Ultimately I don’t even know if knowing I was asexual (I doubt I would even have been able to determine my aromanticism at the time) would have helped. Mostly I found that I got through my teens by being true to myself and acting on my feelings, how I could interpret them at the time, this may have been confused by my impressions from outside influences on how and what I should be feelings but it did provide some learning experiences, and lessons in how others think. Ultimately my teens were a chance for me to discover a lot about myself but also about others and how they think. I would recommend any teens out there questioning remain true to their feelings and if they feel that adopting a label would suit them then do so, if not then there is no need to. It is a time when you are going to be learning a lot about yourself and the people around you (though really this process never stops, you just have more to compare to) and many things may change but how you identify is up to you and that is regardless of outside influence, other opinions, peer pressure and your age.