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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘I am not incomplete’: living life as an aroace individual

Rachel Choi
Illustration by Rachel Choi.

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice.

I recently found out that when people say someone is “hot,” they legitimately mean that someone is sexually attractive and they would fuck them if they could. This was perhaps the most baffling discovery of my 20 years of life; I remember being less shocked when I found out that menstruation was not a one-time thing.

The thing is, as I grow older, I realize that there are more things about human attraction and sexuality that truly confound me. I’ve never had a “crush” before—I thought that I was just above the whole “dating” thing for a while, but I’ve come to understand that I’ve never found anyone attractive in the same way others do. I’ve never had the urge to have sex with anyone before—it sounded vaguely embarrassing and, quite frankly, like a waste of time.

The list goes on. When I started to compare my “love life” with others, I realized nothing about my experiences matched up with my friends. Fleeting acknowledgement of someone being attractive, half-assed musings of what an ideal relationship would look like—but nothing more than that. If I said “yo, she’s so fine,” I meant wow, she is a very attractive woman! And that surface-level observation was quite literally it: there were no connotative connections between my sexual or romantic desires with any form of compliments I aired out. 

I never felt sexually attracted to someone before. I don’t even know what sexual attraction actually entails because I’ve never experienced it—and the same goes for romantic attraction. I’ve only lived through those kinds of experiences vicariously. I’ve spent countless days scrolling through the internet in the darkest hours of the night and subtly nudging my friends to try and garner an angle in which I could maybe relate to in order to reassure myself that this was normal, that I was very normal, that nothing about me was different at all. 

Turns out, I was just hanging out somewhere on the aromantic-asexual (aroace) spectrum: there were others like me. I wasn’t an abnormality. 

For those of you who might be unfamiliar, asexuality is when one feels little to no sexual attraction to others. Aromanticism is in the same vein: you feel little to no romantic attraction to others. Being asexual does not mean you’re aromantic, and vice versa—you can not feel sexual attraction but feel romantic attraction, and the opposite as well. It’s just that some people do have that overlap, hence the term aroace.

It’s important to note here that being aroace doesn’t mean you don’t fall in love or don’t want to have sex. Celibacy, abstinence, and asexuality are completely different things: some asexual people still find pleasure in sex, but don’t feel that attraction. Some are sex repulsed. Some are sex neutral. Some have a high libido, some like to masturbate, some don’t. 

Same with aromanticism—it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be in a romantic relationship, or don’t like anything romance-related. Some still feel romantic attraction, just in specific cases or infrequently. Some might not really feel that typical romantic pull but still crave a human connection that goes beyond just friendship. It’s a case-by-case scenario. Sexuality and attraction, as many are starting to realize, are fluid and very hard to put a fine-print label on.

In my case, I just feel both sexual and romantic attraction very, very weakly and very rarely, and that rare attraction will most likely be towards a woman. The attraction, though, is rare enough that I typically will not even realize I “like” someone (very loose term here as this has happened maybe once in my life) until it’s passed and I have a random, introspective moment that reaches transcendental levels of innate truth and self-groundedness that has me questioning everything. 

Simply put, it’s just not a thing that happens to me.

I mean, I might obsess over an actor, actress, fictional character or something, but that’s neurodivergence rather than sexuality—which is something that genuinely messed me up for a while, by the way—but even then, there’s no sexual or romantic attraction. It’s mostly some form of aesthetic attraction, maybe, and a quirk or specific trait of theirs that had me latching on like a kid who saw a colorful piece of jewelry. 

When I see someone attractive, it’s like seeing a really nice sculpture or painting. Visually pleasing, intriguing, head turning. I have as much of a “type” as I do a favorite painting—I love Van Gogh’s texturing. Still, no sexual or romantic inklings. It doesn’t even cross my mind until someone else brings it up. Even then, there’s nothing to it.

To others, my sexuality might be defined by the way romance and sex are things far away from my priorities. I could live without ever dwelling on them—there is an absence of those specific needs that others might consider vital to their lives. 

However, despite the fact that I’ve never felt like I was missing something in my life, I’ve frequently felt as if I was missing out—and it was that subtle distinction that made me question myself so madly for a while. Because while I’m content with being aroace, I’ve still got a mountain to hike to get over how I grew up: wishing that I could feel the same things my peers felt.

I was always frustrated because I wished I could relate with my friends’ experiences of romance and sex—but I simply didn’t. I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me because despite wishing, I just couldn’t ever feel anything substantial. I thought maybe it was a mental barrier preventing me from feeling that attraction everyone spoke about. I thought it was my neurodivergence making me process things differently to the point of unrecognizable proportions. 

I’ve always wished I could go through that romantic, Hollywood-esque moment of meeting the perfect person who made me feel madly in love. I’ve always wanted to go on cute dates with someone I would sacrifice everything for. I still wish to be in a relationship sometimes. I still fantasize about being married to someone I love with all my heart and soul and body. I wish all of these things not because I was born seeking it, but because that’s what I thought the end goal for life was.

I thought life couldn’t be complete if I didn’t have that “other half.” I thought milestones of adulthood were romantic relationships and sexual encounters. And you know what? Maybe that’s true for some people, but I’ve come to realize it’s not for me.

For me, life is composed primarily of my love for family and friends. I feel fulfilled with that alone. Attraction is at the bottom of the hierarchy. I feel butterflies when I give my friends a gift I’ve been working on for a while, blush and laugh when they say they love it. I kick my legs and giggle when my family jokingly teases me about a stupid thing I said. I feel content when I’m watching a really nice movie with my dad. I feel giddy when I see the Christmas lights with one of my best friends. 

Despite society deeming me “lacking” in life, I am full of love. I love and am loved. The other stuff doesn’t matter to me. Isn’t that what life is for? 

For all my aroace-identifying folk out there, this one’s for you. You’re not any less queer than your queer friends because you feel attraction differently or not at all. You’re not faking it for attention. You’re not weird, not abnormal. You’re not traumatized, it’s not all in your head, there’s nothing to “fix,” nothing to change. You’re not missing anything. You’re not incomplete.

You are, by every measure of the word, wonderfully you and fully complete. Happy Ace Week.

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About the Contributor
Rachel Choi
Rachel Choi, Illustrations/Graphics Editor & Chief Copyeditor & Social Media Manager
Rachel Choi (she/her) is a WLP major with a concentration in publishing and a minor in PR. She currently serves as the multimedia managing editor and chief copyeditor for the Beacon. She also occasionally likes to write oddly specific articles.

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