With Halloween approaching, I find myself reflecting not just on the traditional horrors of the season but also that of amatonormativity.
As a teenager, my best friend and I loved watching horror movies and, perhaps even more, we loved writing horror movie spoofs. We would spend hours in front of a computer, bouncing ideas off each other and typing dialogue. We ended up writing an entire trilogy starring ourselves as we wished we could be—brave, witty, and popular.
Obviously, part of this wish fulfillment had to include a love interest. How could someone create an idealized version of themselves without a romantic partner?
It seemed so easy for her to write characters based on her current crushes and include scenes where they comfort each other—an excuse to exchange lovey-dovey words and make out.
When it was time to write similar scenes for my character, it didn’t feel right. I wouldn’t mind having another buddy adventuring with us. I wouldn’t want to kiss him, though, or be in love. I couldn’t admit that to my best friend, however. After all, protagonists have to have a romantic interest; that’s what proves they’re worth love and, by extension, admiration.
So I created Zombie Max, based off the ghost character in Pet Semetary. He satisfied my friend’s need for both of us to pair off, as Zombie Max would be my special friend. He satisfied my need to keep things platonic because who would get romantic or sexual with a zombie? It fit the goofy tone of our writing, and it was the off-beat sort of idea people had come to expect from me anyway.
Looking back, a part of me is impressed at how I was able to thread that needle between being true to myself while still conforming to the societal mold of teenage fantasizing. Another part of me, however, is angry at how strongly I had internalized amatonormativity. I turned my vision of an ideal relationship into a joke so that others would think I was quirky, not broken. Yet that same attempt to appear normal only reinforced my feelings of isolation and abnormality.
I’m so grateful to now know that I’m not a joke, or quirky, or broken, or weird. I’m an agender, aromantic asexual. That’s just as worthy of celebration as romantic love, no matter the season.