Body image, etc

When I was 15 or so I got my first tattoo. My mom was understandably annoyed. Over the years I got more. I don’t care that she doesn’t like tattoos, it’s the idea that she doesn’t understand the way I feel about my physical self, or something, or why I would want them. I want tattoos because I like how they look and because some of the remind me of certain times or events.

My mom thinks it’s a horrible thing. I would agree that, since it’s permanent, you should think tattoos over very carefully. But in the end, it’s my body. The most perplexing thing was when my mom (many years ago) said “A guy will never find that attractive!” I was quite confused. I wasn’t even considering what a guy would think, the idea meant nothing at all to me. Who cares what a guy would find attractive? I never planned to marry or anything. My body is my own. Some tattoos I’ve never even shown to anyone.

It got me to thinking about when I got Norplant (birth control) at 17. I had to sign something about the scar, I think, or the nurse talked about it. The incision was minuscule! The scar can barely be seen. But some people freak out about scars. I understand being afraid of getting disfiguring scars, that would be life changing and people may treat you differently. But a 1 cm little thing on the inside of my upper arm? Who cares. Apparently, some people do. Is this the same thing, the idea that a potential partner might freak out if you have an “imperfection?” That amazes me. I’m proud of my scars from doing sports and crazy stuff as a kid.

What I mean is that it amazes me when people think so much of what other people think of their bodies. I can understand being fit and caring about yourself like that, but not much like the commercials for weight loss products telling you that you have to do it or no one will want to look at you. And people who routinely say awful things about ugly, fat, or old people. Why is their ugliness or whatever offensive? I can understand having aesthetic preferences for one’s own partner, but so often people also want to spend a lot of time criticising the appearance of others. That’s something I can’t understand at all, except to just conclude that people are both mean and shallow.

Anyway, it just sort of takes me aback when people tell me I should care deeply about whether or not others find me attractive. I don’t. My mom think tattoos ruin a person’s appearance. I disagree, but if they did, so what? Some tattoos on my legs aren’t ever really going to interfere with my life, I don’t think.

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Why I hate FaceBook

There are many reasons I consider FaceBook to be rather sinister and annoying. At first, it seemed ok. Some friends told me in 2006 or so to sign up so we could share photos. It was only open to college students at the time, and fairly private-seeming. I only used it to share photos. Later, it was opened to everyone. I didn’t the Social Network movie,but I read something about it saying FB started off as basically being a ratings website, or similar, so people would look at photos of their classmates to determine if they were “hot” or not. You could really say the same about Myspace, too, I suppose. People posting photos of themselves in hopes others will find those photos attractive. Another thing people have said it’s a place where people go to find out who is or not getting laid. Anyway, the site was eventually open to everyone. Even your grandma. Madness ensued. People forgot what the word “friend” meant.

I have this vision of me walking down the street, and people I haven’t talked to or seen in ten years just keep coming out from behind dumpsters with photos of their dogs or their kids or their husbands. They’re shoving them in my face. They’re pulling me into their homes to make me watch boring home movies. They’re shouting song lyrics that mean nothing to anyone but themselves at the top of their lungs. I want to kill them all.

FaceBook encourages people to do things that are really annoying. In the past, it was a rare and unfortunate event when a relative stranger forced you to look at their home movies or photo albums. Now it’s commonplace, even normal.

But more than that, it makes me feel disgust for humanity. More disgust than even I really want to feel. It makes me sad that so many people place so much value on things I find stupid, and that they care so much about the opinions of others. I try not to be elitist, but I get a weird feeling when people seem to place their entire self-worth on either (1) their looks or (2) their family. Nothing against people with a family, but I always think of that line from Trainspotting, something about “spawning bastards to replace yourself.” When all a person does is post photos of their kids doing uninteresting things, I worry whether or not the person’s life is really worth living. I know some people do put their everything into raising kids, but the idea horrifies me on some level. Same with romantic love. People always posting about their SOs, and posting photos of them kissing, which nauseates me. I’ve read that romantic feelings are something that happens when your body dumps chemicals into the bloodstream, making you feel all mushy and attached to someone, but I don’t experience that and I almost feel embarrassed for the people who do, since it so often makes them behave in such silly ways. I also don’t envy all the emotional crap and drama in most people’s lives. And the competitiveness and meanness you often see.

But back to FB: for me, it seems to cheapen communication. No one seems to reply to emails anymore, it’s all meaningless FB messages. I’ve bitched about people switching from letter writing to emails in the past, because I think people thought about what they were saying more if they had to hand write it. The same thing sort of applies. With an email, you at least are focusing on the person you are writing to. With FB, a lot of people are writing messages to ten people at once, one sentence apiece, no thought put into any of it. Nevermind the privacy concerns, but they also scare me.

I also hate that people post all their photos there. Before digital cameras, only a handful of people would see your photos. Most people got double prints, and put them all in a shoebox. Now everyone has a digital camera and takes photos all the time, and doesn’t think twice before posting every photo onto FB. I HATE it when people post photos of me on the internet without asking permission. Even if it’s a totally normal photo, a good photo, it makes me feel extremely violated. I also hate when people try to talk to me in the status or wall comments (I don’t post status updates myself). If you want to have a conversation with me, send me an email or at least a private message. I don’t like having public conversations that anyone on the internet can read. People even post things that relate to things I don’t want to be made public. I’m not even secretive, I don’t have deep dark secrets, but I mean I don’t broadcast things like financial issues or every doctor visit to everyone I know, and I prefer anything like that be in a private conversation. It’s as if privacy is ceasing to exist, as well as respect for privacy. It is really maddening for me. I know I’m neurotic and overreacting to a lot of this, but if it’s stuff about me, I like to think I have a right to overreact.

It’s also shocking in a way, if it reflects how people really are. People value completely different things than I do, apparently.

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I’m ok!

I’m okay! No, really, this is a new thought for me. I’m going to ignore all the speculation on asexuality being linked with whatever, because I think there is a wide spectrum in all things, sexuality, gender, personality. But for one thing or another, people have been telling me for thirty years that I am not ok. And with my 30th birthday coming up, I’ve had a great “aha!” moment: I am ok.

The main thing that has irked me forever was the problem of interpersonal relationships. I have had many friends, and friendships that lasted decades. In college, people invited me to parties and I socialized and interacted as well as everyone else. At family gatherings, I socialize just like the rest. Even so, there are those who pity me or talk about me in whispers, saying things about me being “socially inept,” or, my least favorite term: “backwards.” That’s my mother, mostly, I hear her saying “yeah but Amy is a bit.. backwards.” Apparently, she means I am not extroverted and I really don’t much give a damn about social things.

What I’ve realized is this: I function as well socially as anyone else, I just don’t value socialization as much as some. It’s like a person who can cook well, but doesn’t like cleaning up so they only cook nice meals on rare occasions. That’s my social life: I only participate in social functions occasionally, and I really don’t miss it at all the rest of the time. I’m ok with that, I’m happy.

People have been telling me something is horribly wrong with me my whole life. They’ve been telling me that I am unhappy. Finally, I realize I am not. The problem is that they are projecting the way they’d feel if they were me. My mother seems to base her entire life on social things, so she’d be miserable if she were me. However, she’s not me. I’m happy being me.

Of course, gender and sexuality are part of the same. I haven’t dated in over then years. People assume there is something horribly wrong with me; that I’m, miserable. They assume I have mental problems or am horribly socially inept, or damaged in some way, and “can’t get a boyfriend.” Some assume I’m gay. They laugh at me behind my back, whisper about me, pity me. And that’s why  I have stopped talking to these people, by and large. I can’t get it through to them that, for me, being “single” IS the ideal. I put “single” in quotes because I don’t like describing myself that way. It is usually a term used with a negative connotation, like something that needs corrected. I was watching TV last night, and someone talked about a guy as “still single” with the implications that (1) this is something that has to change, and (2) the feeling that she meant he was somehow immature or incomplete because he wasn’t in a relationship. For some, that may be the case, but not for me. I feel complete as I am, and being in a relationship always felt intrusive for me. For me, two is a crowd.

It all comes back to conformity, I think. People go out of their way to conform, to avoid confrontation and to be accepted; but they also are freaked out by anyone who doesn’t conform (to their expected gender roles, their goals in life, etc.) to the point of being embarrassed for them. My mom seems to think I’m a moron because, otherwise, I would not be the way I am. She still thinks I’m rebelling against something, or mentally ill, and cannot just accept that I’m aromantic, have no desire for children or a husband, and I don’t perform the stereotypical feminine gender role. So that makes me an embarrassment to the family, because she is so socially conscious, and wishes I was someone who “fit in” and was “normal” that everyone could be proud of. And there are tradeoffs, of course. It’d be easier in many ways to end up a stereotypical housewife and pop out some babies, but I imagine I would be unbelievably miserable doing so, and that’s why I prefer to be the black sheep, I guess. I’m done with apologizing for it, though.

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Aesthetics and Asexiness

On AVEN, I’ve seen the idea of physical attractiveness come up many times, and people have asked if asexuals can tell a good looking person from a average/homely/unattractive person. I find this very silly, since everyone has some sense of aesthetics, though what you do with that may vary.

What I found offensive, however, was that some people said it was “pointless” to know the difference, since you aren’t going to “act on it,” that is, you aren’t going to have sex with the attractive person. Apparently, the only reason to have eyes or look at something is to see if you want to fuck it or not.

This completely ignores the fact that many people find sunsets or paintings beautiful and don’t want to fuck them. I think my pet dog is damned cute, I enjoy looking at my dog, but I would never, ever fuck my pets. I think many other people feel the same way. People think babies are cute, but they (hopefully) don’t want to fuck them.

On that note, I also have always found it silly that, when you ask some heterosexual men if a guy is good looking, they freak out and say “I dunno, I’m not gay!” I’m not saying all straight men are like that, but some are. Certainly, they can look at another man and have some opinion on his looks, but I think society dictates that it’s wrong for them to say so.

It bothers me that no one seems to distinguish between “looking good” and “looking sexy.” Another thing is commercials on tv for zit cream saying “clear skin is sexy skin!” How about “Clear skin is healthy skin!” or “Clear skin doesn’t hurt and make you miserable!”

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Asexuality as a label

I think asexuality is something that dawned on me very slowly over the years. I knew that I didn’t like the idea of relationships. I didn’t hate sex, but I hated everything that went with it, especially dating, relationships, and all the emotional stuff involved with it. I was vaguely annoyed at other people, who seemed like they made bad decisions because of being caught up in things like relationships. Other people seemed to base their whole lives around these things, and I didn’t see the appeal. The idea of having to deal with somebody, day in and day out, and tell them I loved them and put up with their crap, and maybe have kids and have to deal with them everyday, all of this sounded nightmarish to me.

I don’t much care that relationships are important to other people; I just don’t like that people seem to think they should be important to me, or that, because they aren’t, there must be something wrong with me. No, I just value different things. Seeing as there are lots of unwanted kids out there, it would be silly to expect every adult to go on having kids, even if they don’t want them. I don’t understand why anyone should feel obligated to have kids or be in a relationship. If they are in a relationship or want kids, then great, they should have kids. I don’t see a problem with the idea that folks who don’t want kids may choose not to have them, though. The expectations of family and society just don’t make a whole lot of sense to me most of the time. “When are you going to get married?” people ask me. Or, “When are you going to have kids?” The answer to both of these questions is “never.” And furthermore, it’s because I don’t want to, and would be profoundly unhappy with the situation if I ever did either. People often fail to realize that, just because they want something for themselves, doesn’t mean every other person on earth wants the exact same thing.

Labels can be problematic, but the label of asexuality has been very liberating for me. Suddenly, the way I feel about things makes sense. Other people feel that way, too. I have a libido, albeit a small one, but it’s just not directed at people. I’m not attracted to men or women physically. I can find them aesthetically pleasing, but seeing them naked does not turn me on. Likewise, I am not romantically attracted to men or to women. I don’t want anything but friendship from either. Actually, I don’t like gender binaries so I don’t even like saying that. I don’t want sex or a relationship from anybody. I always figured I was transgender but heterosexual, but heterosexual relationships annoyed me, I just wasn’t good at the emotional part. The idea of a guy best friend was great, but the idea of having to tell him I loved him was irritating to me. And I never felt “sexy.” For a time I thought this was low self-esteem, but it interfered with sex and relationships. I didn’t have low self esteem, though. I just didn’t feel “sexy” or “feminine.” The idea struck me as silly and uncomfortable.

The biggest way I feel liberated by asexuality is societal expectations. It always seemed like everyone on earth expected me to conform to a life-model that didn’t appeal to me at all. And because I had no way to describe how I felt to them, it confused and scared me a bit. Why didn’t I feel the need for romantic relationships? Why didn’t I want kids? Why did I enjoy being alone? Was I straight or gay? I knew I wasn’t attracted to women, but everyone seemed to think that, since I wasn’t adequately attracted to men, either, that I must be gay and in the closet. I questioned it, too. I now realize this was absurd. It’s very hard for most people to accept that your only choices are not “gay/straight/bi.” These are legitimate choices, but so is “none of the above.”

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No, I'm not damaged.

I’m not damaged, but I would be if I felt I had to fit the norm of being in relationships. In the past, I’ve heard strange things people had said about me to other people, mythologizing me in a way and making unfounded claims of psychological trauma. Sorry, but things are not so dramatic. I am not traumatized by sex, I just prefer not to have it anymore. I’m happier without it.

For a long time, I, too, was convinced I was damaged in some way. I didn’t think asexuality was an option unless you were an amoeba. I thought there was something wrong with me, or that I was overly critical of everyone. There were guys I thought were fairly cool, or good looking, or nice, sure. If I ended up in a relationship with one, though, I’d find myself mentally critiquing him, and “sexy” things just didn’t turn me on. I hated kissing. I hated even the idea of going on dates. There were guys I liked in a way, but when it came right down to it, I was not sexually or romantically attracted to them in the way that other people are attracted to other people.

For a while, I considered the possibility of me being gay. After all, my relatives think I am, since I’m not married and don’t have kids. But I’m not attracted to women, either, so I can’t be a lesbian. So I assumed I was heterosexual, since I thought the only choices were gay/straight/bi.

While I don’t normally like labels, I found the labels of asexual/aromantic to be very liberating for me. Suddenly, the way I felt made sense and was not pathological anymore. It’s not a problem; it’s just how I am.

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Going to the bar

In college, I had a good friend who always wanted to go to the bar. In some ways, this was fine with me. This was before the days of me having huge student loan bills, so I had the extra money. We’d have lots of drinks, play lots of pool, then maybe get a pizza afterward on the way home.

I’ve seen people lament about how terrible bars are, but really, it depends on the bar and the people you’re with. My friend was there to hang out and play pool, so it was a pretty good time for me. Hell, it made me feel normal. Drinking is something I can take or leave, but I enjoy it sometimes, especially girly fruity drinks with juice, or vodka with energy drinks.

But what about all the people who go to bars to “hook up?” The bar we went to, like many bars, differed a lot depending on the day and time of day. I sometimes went in at noon for a sandwich, and it would be quiet and empty, maybe a few older guys watching the sports channel (and yes, I feel completely comfortable going to a bar alone). At night, it would be younger people, louder music, and pretty busy. That’s when I went with my friend, usually. Lots of people on the dancefloor wearing skimpy clothes and grinding on each other. That doesn’t bother me, as long as no one is grinding on me. And as long as I mostly stayed in a booth, at the bar, or at the pool table, people usually didn’t. Sure, occasional guys would come over and flirt with us, but it wasn’t horrifying to me. Sometimes people would come over and play pool with us, and converse quite normally.

I don’t understand the bar-phobia some people have. I think it’s a matter of some people having bad experiences at bars or being uncomfortable at seeing anybody “hooking up,” flirting, getting phone numbers, and dancing. I never felt very threatened by it. Of course, we were dorks. She was a bio major; I was a languages/anthro major. We played the stupid video games on the counter for hours sometimes, and we weren’t dressing provocatively.

I guess my point is that not all bars have to be bad places for asexuals, even if a lot of people think of them as scary, oversexed places. And some are more for that, some places are almost all young, drunk, underclothed kids looking for one night stands, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I just feel like having that view of all places could make people miss out on some good places to hang with friends, to eat hot wings and play pool.

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