Hi everyone! Today we have Tessa from Tessellated Tales discussing her experience with romance in YA, and her own life. I really enjoyed this post and I hope you do as well! If you liked the post, leave a comment and connect with Tessa through her Twitter, GoodReads, or Tumblr!
Tessa is a full-time geek and spare time biologist with a penchant for fairy tales, photography, and cats. When she is not busy thinking of how vampires can look just like humans and yet have a completely different digestive system, she writes maniacally whilst belting out Irish folk tunes – unless she’s sobbing over a Broadway musical she just discovered or the death of her favourite characters. Refusing to believe fairies do not exist, she hopes to one day become a published author whilst studying the mammals’ genes of cuteness, or even help discover life outside of Earth.
The romances we’re told to have: a guest post
My answer was a no – or I think it was a no. When something big happens, it often has a way of getting muddled in your head. Regardless of the exact events and words, the result was the same: no kiss, no dating, and an absurd difficulty in staying friends. You see, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t wash off the guilt.
All stories I knew held the same messages: if you’re a girl, you’ll fall in love; if a guy does something romantic, you’ll date; when you find love, life starts making sense; you’ll never have known beauty until you stare into your beloved’s eyes; your life will only be fulfilled when you find your “other half”; if you never fall in love, you’re the villain of the story or you are broken beyond repair; if you think you’ll never fall in love, you’re wrong – look, here comes the guy who will show it to you; and on and on and on.
Yet, there I was. Nineteen years old and never having crushed on anyone. I had longed and dreaded a confession ever since I could remember. All girls had them in books. What’s more I had lived a perfect YA one: rain, a canopy, chocolate and, most of all, a smart, understanding boy who cared.
The word I had spoken was ‘no’. Why had I done that? Why would I not follow the lead of my book role models as before? What was wrong with me?
Just like that, the crippling suspicion that I was truly and irrevocably broken returned. I had struggled to keep at bay ever since my peers discovered hormones and acted in ways I could barely understand.
Thankfully, a few months later I stumbled upon two little words that changed my life: aromantic asexual. Out there breathed others who, like me, rarely or did not feel romantic or sexual attraction. They were not villains, or horrible, or sad, or broken. They did not hate themselves. They were happy and so very alive and real. They didn’t need a “significant other” to live. Despite society, despite all the stories, I was not alone or a freak.
But the damage had been done. For years I pretended to understand what it was all about. For years I tried to mould myself into an image of your average teenage girl, who dreamt of boys and true love’s kiss. In reality, all I wanted was to hang out with my friends, do art and learn science. Sometimes, the lies ran so deep I believe in them myself. But most often, only they or nobody at all believed them.
Try as I might, though, there were times where I needed to know if everyone meant it when they said they thought this or that guy was “hot”, if this wasn’t all just some game of make believe, of “play pretend we’re all adults”. Their answers never failed to make me feel more alienated. They even came accompanied by mockery. “You’re going to be a nun.” “You’re going to have ten kids and every time you’ll be like ‘I don’t know how this happened! it was an accident!'” “Don’t tell me that the first time you see a guy’s junk will be on your wedding night. You’ll be scared to death! It’s going to be so awkward!” Micro aggressions that piled up across my teenage years. Micro aggressions that only made me feel odder, more like a puzzle piece that won’t fit whatever way you turned it around.
Sometimes teenage me wondered if I shouldn’t just give it a try. Walk up to a guy, ask him if he wanted to date, and see if that was how it all started. But books said you had to love a guy beforehand, that doing it just for the sake of it was meaningless. So what was I to do? Be more like my peers, like the heroines I loved, and become someone’s girlfriend? But then I would be lying, and books had taught me time and again that route brought nothing but misery. What then? How would I ever get my happily ever after?
I wonder what teenage me would have been like if she had read books featuring females who knew two guys pining after her, said “no” to both, and kept living her single life happily. With no change of mind or doubts.
I wonder what teenage me would have been like if she had devoured stories where the girl would only melt at the sight of kittens and her passions, oblivious to anyone who wanted to kiss her. With no mockery.
I wonder what teenage me would have been like if she had been surrounded by tales of heroines who took down governments, no thoughts of whether this or that dress would make her love interest swoon. With no trace of guilt.
I wonder what teenage me would have been like if she had perused novels where the protagonist openly shuddered at romance or just didn’t care for it from start to finish. With no feeling of brokenness.
I wonder if teenage me would have been happier. If she would have understood the world and herself a little better. I wonder what repercussions it would have had for the rest of my life. I wonder.
Obviously, that is something I will never find out. But that doesn’t mean that today’s teens should go through what I and many others did. And that is why we need more books with aromantic and/or asexual main or very important characters. Not just side characters who are mentioned a couple of times. After all, what better medium to remind people of everyone’s uniqueness than books?
If we do this, we’ll have children, teenagers, adults who know that it’s okay to be single, that it’s okay not to want a relationship, that your sexuality, your wishes are nothing to be ashamed of. We’ll have people that when their friend admits in a small voice that they don’t understand what the big deal about romance is, they’ll hug their friend and say “hey, that’s okay, you’re not alone. You don’t need to date them just to fit in. I love you anyway”. Then, we can wash away the feelings of brokenness before they begin.
All we need is a little more visibility. And everyone will find their happily ever after.