This is a submission to the Carnival of Aces, whose theme this month is “Dating and Significant Others as Ace”.
Years ago, I used to feel a lot of undue anxiety about how to ask people out. I think this gives a lot of people undue anxiety, and that anxiety plays out in countless cultural narratives: People who are too nervous to go up to an attractive stranger in the bar, because they’re afraid they’ll make a poor first impression. Guys who pine after girls, but are afraid of rejection, so they try to be friends instead. Girls who are conditioned not to initiate, so instead they merely hope their crush will notice them.
Despite the sheer number of such narratives, I couldn’t relate to any of them. They all start with a particular person, and the problem is a fear of rejection or fear of overstepping social bounds. My problem was that I didn’t have any particular person to begin with. I wasn’t attracted to anyone. But I was never able to explain this problem to my friends, so I felt I was being silly somehow and I tried not to think about it.
Identifying as asexual forced me to think about it, but it didn’t immediately solve the problem. I felt essentially aromantic, but I still wanted a romantic relationship. I had many theories and models to explain this, and I can never say whether they’re true or false. One theory is that I’ve been socially conditioned to value romantic relationships even though I have no intrinsic desire for one. But I’m partial to the idea that I’m just missing the “passion” component of love, or that I don’t experience limerence.
Given that limerence is mostly useful at the beginning of a relationship, I felt like I just needed some way to cross through. Quantum tunneling into a relationship state! If I didn’t have an object of affection, I’d just pick a person who seemed compatible and ask them out regardless. I’d engineer a relationship, replacing what comes naturally to most people with an artificial process of careful consideration and strategizing. Or something like that.
It sounds crazy when I put it into words, but maybe it’s not so crazy. Being attracted to someone isn’t always a requirement to ask them out on a date. Blind dates are an extreme example. You can also have casual or low-stakes dates, where neither party needs to be immediately “passionate” about the other in order for it to be a success. Low-stakes dating took me a while to understand, because I didn’t date very often, so dating was automatically a big deal to me.
Anyway, this strategy didn’t actually work. In practice, I didn’t ask anyone out, because that was the path of least resistance. I dated people occasionally, but only when it the opportunity fell in my lap. That’s how I got into my current relationship. And now I don’t date at all. I’m quite relieved about that.