You will never be enough, you say, and I feel the truth of it like an ache in my bones. Perhaps this is why I feel such kinship with you. Is it possible we, two people who are each lacking so much, could together make a whole of true value? Of course not, and your mocking smile cuts through my hope like a fine blade. Yet I can almost feel your hand at the back of my neck like a benediction, can almost believe that this shared inability to be even just adequate stirs at least some fondness or attachment in you. Almost. But if we cannot be enough for those we love then certainly we cannot be enough for each other, or even ourselves. You get used to being a disappointment, you say. But when?
Stay, you beg. Stay, you plead. Stay. Stay. Stay. Just this one word over and over like a prayer, like a spell, like a compulsion. Stay. Stay. But he never will. He never can. No matter how many times you ask, no matter if you implore or cajole or demand or threaten, it will not happen – and you know that, yet still you say it. Stay. These rooms are haunted by your pleading. Stay. I cannot think for all I hear is your desperate voice. Stay. I cannot speak for only one word would come out my lips. Stay. Stay. Stay. Each time with more futility than the last. Stay. But you never cease.
Put me in a sideshow, it’s where I belong. All the people who have heard about freaks like me can come pay fifty cents to stare at me through the bars of my cage. They’ll ooh and ah, gasp and point. When I try to explain myself they’ll snicker behind their hands, Look, it thinks it’s people! You’re wrong, though. I don’t. You’ve finally forced it through my thick skull that I’m not one of you. But at least here you’re all laughing at my face and not my back, right? And maybe someone will throw peanuts to me out of pity.
The only time you deign to admit we share anything in common is when you’re trying to plant in me the worst seeds of yourself. I can almost feel your hand on my shoulder and your breath against my ear as you whisper, You and I, we can never give them everything they want and they will always resent us for it. It’s better to be alone than to live in the shadow of their constant disappointment. Trust me, they’ll die or leave you either way. And your seeds find rich earth ready for the planting in me because you and I are no better than compost heaps inside, full of rot and mold and festering emotions. Something might take root, who knows; in the meantime I’m just grateful for your attention.
i’m sorry i said those things, i swear i didn’t mean them, i was just afraid and angry, i’d lost you and i thought they’d bring you back, but i’m not mad anymore, i promise, you can come home now, i won’t ask where you were or what you were doing or why you left, i won’t say anything at all, look i’ll close my eyes and count to ten and if you’re here when i open them again then everything will be fine, we’ll just go back to how it was before, no hard feelings, no lingering resentment, we’ll wipe the slate clean, just come home, just come home, just come home, i’m begging now, will you come back if i beg
I know you wonder whether I miss how things were before, whether I would go back to the time when you were merely a concept, a theory, an idle wish during long, lonely nights. You think it must have been better when my imagination shaped you into whatever, whoever, I needed in the moment, when you were so abstract I could hang no real expectations or desires on your shoulders. But darling, that makes no sense. Can I hold a concept during thunderstorms? Can I nap on the couch next to a theory? Can I laugh or cry or sing with a wish? No, no; nor do those things have freckles and favorite foods and a Harry Potter obsession. They didn’t write letters to their own concept, theory, lonely late-night wish and they didn’t reach across the gulf of cyberspace to take a chance on a stranger. Those years of longing shaped me, yes, and I would not trade them away easily – but neither would I forsake you to return to them, not when you are where they were leading me. I would not trade our present or future for anything in the world.
Open Relationships, Or: That Time I Told My Girlfriend to “Go Pro”
[ If you’re a family member or friend and don’t want to know anything about our sexual activities, I suggest not reading this post. ]
Have you ever interacted with something – a song, a painting, any piece of media really – and recognized that you can’t fully appreciate it because you’re not familiar enough with the skill and effort necessary for its creation? Meaning, have you ever looked at something and thought, “That’s really cool, but it’s probably way more amazing to someone who actually knows how hard it was to create”?
I experience this frequently with my girlfriend. Chriselle plays the guitar and writes her own music; I gave up the flute after a week in elementary school. She has a blackbelt in kung fu; I’m as graceless as a t-rex. She speaks multiple languages; I remember about 1% of my German and bailed on French after one class. She is an attentive, generous, and extremely talented lover; I’m sex-indifferent most of the time, and sometimes sex-repulsed. My point is, a lot of her skills are somewhat lost on me, as I can only appreciate them from an outsider’s perspective. And that seems like such a shame! If you master a complicated painting technique, you want someone to say, “Wow, that technique is really hard; you did a great job!” instead of, “This painting is cool :)” with no understanding of how hard you worked.
Case in point: about a year ago, after my lady had made me feel really, really good in certain physical ways, I realized her particular skills in the realm of lovemaking are basically wasted on me. Don’t get me wrong, I know she’s good – I just can’t appreciate how good the way someone else with more varied and refined tastes might. I’m just an amateur, and she deserves to do stuff with a connoisseur. So once we were done and cuddling, I looked over at her and exclaimed, “You should go pro!” with probably a little too much enthusiasm. No, I didn’t mean she should become a prostitute. But I did mean she deserved to have other sexual partners. I meant I thought we should open up our relationship.
If you’re in an asexual/allosexual relationship, just about everyone who knows will give you their uninvited opinion on whether those kinds of relationships can work or not. People who know nothing about either of you will tell you all sorts of bullshit: that romantic relationships need sex to work; that asexuals have a duty to let their allosexual partners sleep with others; that allosexual partners are selfish for wanting to have sex with other people; that monogamy will kill your relationship; that polyamory will kill your relationship; etc, etc, etc. And none of it is true, at least not for every single relationship every single moment. People change. Relationships change. Desires, turn-ons, and turn-offs change. In the beginning of our relationship, for example, we both wanted to be monogamous for personal reasons. We started dating with the understanding that sex wasn’t an option – then it became something we explored together – and then something that we had differing and sometimes conflicting feelings about. Change happens. We’re not the same people we were a year ago, and we won’t be the same people in a year that we are today.
My point is, we started out monogamous but then at some point I got to a place in our relationship where the thought of Chriselle sleeping with someone else felt… totally okay and cool. Like I would for any of my friends, I just wanted her to be happy and have experiences I couldn’t personally give her. As long as we remained loving, committed partners on the road to marriage, I didn’t see any issue with her having other folks with whom she could explore her sexuality. I wouldn’t stop her from training for a marathon just because I hate running, would I? No, I’d support her and be happy if she found other people to have that experience with. Sex honestly felt the same way – she’s good at it and wants to have it more often than I do, so why not find some other people who can fulfill that desire? I know she loves me and will always return to me. She knows I love her and encourage her to do this because I care so much, not so little.
Cut to the present. Our lives have been unbelievably hectic and in the rush of fostering kittens, planning a wedding, and dealing with work stress, our open relationship has yet to move past the theoretical phase. Chriselle has been chatting with some people on the OKCupid and Her apps, but except for one or two possible leads she’s really only making platonic connections. I think this delay is for the best, though, because it’s given both of us a chance to really get used to the idea. While a year ago I wasn’t sure how I would actually react when my suggestion became reality, now I know that I’m really very okay with it. Last night we lay in bed and I watched her swipe through matches, asking questions about what attracted, or did not attract, her to certain people. I was partly asking because it’s always hard as an asexual to grasp the concept of “sexual attraction” and how allosexual people experience it. However, I was also asking because it made me truly happy to see Chriselle putting herself out there. Even if none of those people work out as a “swim buddy”, let’s say, she’s still incredibly brave to hang out in the pool. I remember trolling dating sites for months and years for that one real, often fleeting connection, and it suuucks.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I lay in bed last night watching my soulmate and best friend look for possible sexual partners and all I felt was excitement for her. Not jealousy. Not fear. Not anger or guilt. Just the excitement you feel when you care about someone and want them to be happy. It was a weird feeling, to be honest, because society teaches us to be jealous and possessive of our romantic partners – to feel otherwise must mean our relationship is broken or weak or messed up, right? No. If you love someone, you trust them. If you love someone, you want them to be happy. If you love someone, you share their life, not own it. Polyamory isn’t for everyone, but neither is monogamy. If we learned in high school health class that relationships can come in all shapes and sizes (and that those shapes and sizes change over time), maybe we wouldn’t have to do all this unlearning and relearning as adults.