Once You Get What You Want…

One reason I have taken an active role in the asexual community is because I want asexuality to “go mainstream.” That is, not only would asexuality have the same visibility as other orientations but also letting people of all orientations enjoy the liberating effects of our concepts, particularly the dismantling of amatonormativity. Yet a recent episode of a popular podcast made me question if I’m emotionally ready for asexuality to go mainstream.

Friendshipping is an advice–giving show focused on navigating the often overlooked but still complex world of friendships. On the June 28thepisode “Being an Open Window,” a letter writer mentions when she wants to be friends with someone, she develops a friendship crush. ‘That’s a squish,’ I thought. Because the hosts are considerate of movements in the LGBQIA community, I hoped the term would arise.

Indeed, one host paused reading the letter to share, “I have a word for that…squish!” I was elated that a word with so much importance to me as an aromantic had been said, out loud, in a real world, public context by someone who does not identify as a member of the ace spectrum.

My emotions immediately grew more complicated when the host continued, “It’s a Tumblr word.”

On the one hand, fair enough. Tumblr houses a sizeable ace community and many people are being introduced to asexuality and aromanticism—and our specialized vocabulary—on Tumblr. It’s great there are so many places for people to learn about our community. As a visibility activist, that’s one of my goals.

On the other hand, for me, “squish” is so much more than a Tumblr word. I experienced a world before the creation of squish. I would feel intense desire to be around particular classmates, wanting to spend all my free time with them, to connect with them over deep conversations about important topics, and I would hope to share a mutual love we could declare openly. My peers would call this a “crush,” so I did as well, even though that didn’t seem quite right. “Crush” seemed to indicate some degree of physical attraction, perhaps even leading to sexual activity (which I wasn’t even sure was a real thing, but that’s a post for another day). Ideally, crushes would lead to having a boy/girlfriend. I desperately wanted a boyfriend so I could have my close relationships validated, but again—“boyfriend” carried the implication of engaging in activities beside the emotional components that interested me. Knowing “crush” and “boyfriend” entailed experiences I neither felt nor desired and having no way to accurately describe my own reality contributed to my isolating feelings of “brokenness.”

Years later, 2007 to be exact, posters on AVEN began discussing the need for a word to describe precisely the type of attraction I felt in order to a) validate that experience and b) explain that experience to others. I remember reading the thread, simply titled “SQUISH!,” in which dozens of people confirmed they too had “friend crushes,” “mushy friendships,” or other idiosyncratic ways of describing their crushes-sans-physical-attraction. It meant so much to me that others had these same feelings, and that we had the power to legitimate ourselves by adding squish, as deliberate wordplay on crush, to our vocabulary.

In a sense, the episode of Friendshippingis meeting my goal of normalizing asexual concepts. “Squish” is gaining traction in non-ace communities, which is an important step in fighting against amatonormativity. But also, I feel a sense of resentment that squish is already being detached from its origins in the ace community. To so casually label “squish” as a “Tumblr word” erases the years of struggle so many of us had to understand and then validate our feelings. It divorces “squish” from the context of members in a marginalized community taking ownership of our identity by coming together to make the invisible visible. And the association with Tumblr implies an ephemeral element, as if this decade-old word has no history and thus can be erased as easily as a post falling off a Dashboard.

Perhaps I’m desiring us to, at least in these still early days, receive “credit” for the work we’ve been doing.

I recognize these feelings to be ungracious and even contradictory to my goals of normalizing ace concepts. Now that these goals are being accomplished, I’m feeling a sense of loss regarding the uniqueness of our community. I hope, however, to have more opportunities to wrestle with these conflicting emotions because I still believe in the importance of sharing our ideas with a wider world.

About triplealens

Triple-A-Lens is a thirty-something aromantic, agender, asexual who has been active in the ace community for more than a decade. She’s a writing teacher, with advanced degrees in composition and literature. When not teaching or penning thoughts about her various a-identities, she tap dances and takes care of her neurotic goldfish.
This entry was posted in aromanticism, Articles, History, Relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Once You Get What You Want…

  1. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    I probably would’ve been a bit disappointed, too. Because it is not a tumblr word. Anyhow, the explanation given sounds like: “Oh, it’s a tumblr word, not a real word.” Which I find more galling than the incorrect attribution, to be honest.
    And yeah, I want asexuality to become mainstream, too.
    In the long run, people will probably forget that someone did have that thought first, as it seems to be the way of the world — we all stand on the shoulders of figurative giants whose names we rarely know. I consider it a privilege to have been present for a lot of idea-building in this community, even if I only watched/read it and rarely contributed. And I get to watch as it becomes mainstream. Which is kinda cool. Hopefully, I’ll keep the sentiment alive even if someone someday will consider me an old hag who always goes on about “back in my day when we were kinda amazed that we’d managed to keep the German association for asexual visibilty alive for six whole years and counting … “

    • Coyote says:

      “Anyhow, the explanation given sounds like: ‘Oh, it’s a tumblr word, not a real word.'”
      ^ I had the same thought. Calling something a “tumblr word” is usually intended to be disparaging. I know anti-tumblr prejudice is usually for all the wrong reasons, but I really wish it and the ace community weren’t so closely associated.

  2. DasTenna says:

    A word used in real contexts by more than one person is a real word. Point.
    I quoted you in a discussion going on in the german AVEN-Forum, because you managed perfectly to express the need for own words. One of the forum users wonders about how some asexuals distinguish between sexual and non-sexual physical intimacy and about how they talk about sexual physical intimacy in a way that´s rather technical and not emotionally attached to this kind of intimacy. To me, this is not surprising since I feel a need for physical intimacy like cuddling, stroking and kissing, but I cannot connect these things to sexual intimacy. To me, these two are neither logically nor emotionally connected. And to express that, I need my own words, because the usual words are incorrect.
    As you said.
    It will take a while but I´m sure that one day, our searching for words, our struggling, will be recognized. There will be a time when our words are as common and usual as the words that didn´t fit to describe OUR experiences and feelings. 🙂

  3. Talia says:

    Embracing squish but forgetting the context seems to me like assimilating ace-ness into discrete bits the allo culture can use, which is obviously problematic. That is very different from accepting asexuality in all of its similarities and differences until it is no longer Other.

    I first saw the word squish used in fanfiction posted on Archive of our Own in a non-ace and non-aro story. It was really interesting to me to follow the word back to learn about its importance in the ace community. I’m glad that it was so easy to find the history of squish and that it hadn’t been lost yet.

    I don’t think wanting the ace community to receive credit for the work we have been doing is contradictory to normalizing ace concepts. I think it honors the work many people had to do to find words to describe their experiences when there weren’t any, to decide on these words together, discuss them, critique them, and share them with others. It shows how cultural language is – that what gets to count as a named experience is more about privilege and who gets to count rather than the nature of reality. I wouldn’t want to forget about that history for a very very long time.

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