A Turning Point

Is the world better because I existed?

I think it will never be possible to answer that question in an objective way.

However, I feel that, for most of my life, that I have taken more than I have given. My lifestyle consumes more of the earth’s resources than can be replenished in a reasonable amount of time. My parents have put great effort into rearing me, and I have come nowhere close to expending such effort on another being. And aside from my parents, there is a whole legion of people who have taken care of me.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t given back anything. My parents chose to have me, and rearing me has given them some satisfaction (whether they think they are better off because I exist than if I didn’t exist is a question I can’t really ask them). I’ve had friendships, which I think have been pretty mutual in terms of give-and-take. And I have had many opportunities to help in small ways.

However, since I graduated from college, I’ve felt things shift away from me taking and more toward me giving. For one thing, I stopped living off of my family and now live on my own earned income. Last year I got a job in which I help people. The customers apparently think my help is worth their money.

This year, I started blogging on a regular basis, both here and at other sites. I am … actually a little surprised by how many people have said that my blogging is in one way or another useful to them. Blogging has changed my life more than I expected when I started this almost a year ago.

2013 will be the last year I have to myself.

Though I have started shifting from taking towards giving, I still feel like I am a net taker. 2013 will be my last year of that. Come 2014, I expect to take a lot more responsibility, not just for myself, but for other people as well. Part of me dreads that … but part of me is ready to step up and give back.

I feel selfish, designating yet another year to myself. But I remember, one of the rules of being a caregiver is to take care of yourself. If I took on too much responsibility too early, I think I might blame others for wasting my youth. If I get one more year to myself, I think I will then be able to take on greater responsibility with minimal regret, and take it on feeling that have I received a fair share of my young years.

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Alone at Home

I remember, the first night that I slept in my current dwelling, it dawned on me that this was the first time in my entire life that I was living alone. I was not temporarily alone because everybody else was out. There really was nobody else living there.

I cried for a long time that night. I had signed a one-year lease. I didn’t know how I would be able so manage three hundred and sixty five days of being so alone.

Fortunately, I got used to it really quickly, and it doesn’t really bother me now. As it so happens, it’s been more than a year, and I’m still here.

It’s not so much that I need lots of social contact at home. People who I had lived with before observed that I tended to just go to my room and stay there, sometimes spending days without saying much more than ‘hello’ to the other people there. But when I feel a sudden, urgent need for human contact, I like knowing the option is there. And I still don’t like that I don’t ready access to that type of human contact in my current situation.

That said, there are some really nice things about living alone. I get my own bathroom (though I also had that in a previous situation). I don’t have to negotiate with other people about privacy, cleaning, etc.

I feel I needed to do this at least once in my life. I needed to prove to myself that I could run my own household, even if it’s just a household of one. I especially needed to demonstrate this because I plan to eventually move back in with my parents – when I do live with my parents again, it will definitely not be because I lack the maturity to live away from them (on a different continent, no less). And, as said above, there are some really nice points.

I also know that I never want to do this again.

Sure, living with other people means negotiation, conflict, or most likely both (preferably more negotiation and less conflict, of course). But even though I’m not the most social person in the world, I still like the presence of other people in my living space, and I think that is, in the long term, my preferred mode of living.

It’s harder for me to figure out my romantic orientation…

I think I’ve known on some level that I am asexual and aromantic from a very young age (let’s say 10 years old), though it’s taken more than a decade to actually start identifying that way.

Identifying as aromantic happened later than identifying as asexual. In fact, I think I’ve only started labelling myself as ‘aromantic’ this year (last year I was still in the questioning phase).

I think it’s because there more discourse around sexual orientation than romantic orientation. There are simply a lot more clearly articulated ideas about sexual orientation that are readily accessible. This makes it much easier to frame my own thoughts and compare with other people’s experiences. The later is quite important – I think having an understanding of people with both different and similar experiences is necessary because orientation is relevant primarily because it affects our interactions with other people.

It’s much easier to find examples of people describing their asexual experiences than their aromantic experiences. So it was harder for me to figure out that I could, for example, enjoy tales of fictional romance and be aromantic.

And now I think my aromantic orientation has a greater impact on my life than my asexual orientation.

Non-romantic sex, as least for white middle-class female adults, is not expected, so the discovery that I don’t have non-romantic-sex doesn’t change the way people behave towards me. However, such adults are expected to pursue romance, so the discovery that I am *not* pursuing romance definitely changes the way most people react to me.

Perhaps if I had been engaging in romance, my asexuality would have affected my relationships to a greater degree, since sex is expected of romantic relationships. But I haven’t gone there.

And I definitely haven’t finished defining myself. Sometimes I think I am more asexual than I am aromantic, sometimes I feel I am more aromantic than asexual (today, for example, I am definitely leaning towards ‘aromantic’). This might because my ratio of fundamental aromanticism vs. fundamental asexuality does change, or maybe it is only my understanding of it which changes.

This post less coherent and more wandering that most posts here. This is a reflection of the fact that I still haven’t come to a conclusion. The lack of discourse around romantic orientation means it takes me more time to arrive at conclusions.

Aromanticism is harder for me to figure out than asexuality.

“Going to College” and the Old Neighborhood

I spent almost all of my childhood in the same neighborhood, and there were a set of other kids in my age range who lived within walking distance of my home. We also (mostly) went to the same elementary, middle, and high schools.

It boggles my mind that a huge swath of Americans my age, perhaps even a majority, did not grow up with this.

Then it came time to go to college. Hardly any of us went to the same college. Hardly any of us went to college in the same city.

Some of my neighbors thought this was a good thing – heck, even I thought it was a good thing at the time. One of my neighbors said that we had been too close growing up, and that it was time to get some distance from each other. I myself had ‘cabin fever’, which is one of the reasons I was so resistant to going to college in the Bay Area. Eventually, this was one of the reasons I ended up moving to a different continent.

However, before I got to move to a different continent, I ended up going to college in *gasp* San Francisco. Almost everybody else managed to escape this fate, which in a way meant I was a loser. Much as I wanted to leave San Francisco for cabin-fever reasons, I was okay with being a loser, since it felt badass, rebellious, and more liberating than being a ‘winner’.

One of the results was that I was one of the only people in my age range left in the neighborhood.

That’s not true – there actually still were quite a few people, if not my age, then only a few years older than me. But they had moved into to San Francisco to get a job or … ha … go to college, so they don’t count. They didn’t grow up with me.

However, the older generation … the parents of the kids I grew up with … were still around. It was weird, constantly seeing the parents of the kids I grew up with without seeing the kids.

Heck, even I, the holdout, got out of the neighborhood eventually.

One of my closest childhood friends went to college out of state. Eventually, her parents followed her, and left the neighborhood. Maybe other parents have also followed their kids (since I moved to Taiwan, contact has been extremely minimal).

Looking back on this, I wonder … what if we had all gone to San Francisco City College, or San Francisco State University, just as we had gone to the same set of public schools? We probably would not have liked the idea, but then again, our community would have stayed more intact.

I, at least, plan to return to the neighborhood, and settle down there for the long-haul. I don’t know if the kids I grew up with have the same plan.

Finding That Co-Parent…

When I found out that the theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces is “Dating and Significant Others”, at first I thought “but I have no experience whatsoever with dating, and I have little interest in dating or getting a romantic partner” (at most, I would be interested in spontaneous non-sexual romantic one-night stands).

Then I realized … I have written about this before.

If ‘significant other’ means ‘someone with whom I have a committed, intimate, romantic relationship’ then I am not too interested. But I am interested in ‘partnership’. Which is how my parents define their own relationship.

I like the idea of partnership more than the idea of having a ‘significant other’ because it seems a lot more flexible, which makes me think this kind of relationship would do a much better job of satisfying my social needs.

In fact, I want different kinds of partners. However, the partner that I want which I think I’ll have the hardest time finding is a ‘co-parent’.

In spite of everything, I would still like to have a child (in the future, not right now). And I would like my child to have a close relationship with hir biological father. What I want in this co-parent is, at a minimum:

– someone who would actually be a good parent (willing to actually take responsibility for the child, minimal competence in dealing with children, etc.)
– someone who would not require me to be a reliable romantic or sexual partner (I am open to compromise on this to some degree, but I think expecting me to satisfy all of the romantic or sexual needs of a sexual and/or romantic person would be unrealistic – this is why I think poly is an option to consider)
– someone who respects me (love is not required, respect is)
– someone who I like (again, I don’t think I need to ‘love’ this person, but since we would have to spend a lot of time together, I think I need to like this person)
– someone who actually wants to be a parent

The above criteria (well, mostly #2) go against the social norms of every society I have lived within. On the one hand, having to build such a relationship from scratch will make things harder than if I followed conventional formulas. On the other hand, I think I am much more likely to build a good relationship by making such an investment.

I don’t expect to find an asexual/aromantic co-parent because the population is so small. At the same time, I am daunted by the prospect of working this out with a sexual/romantic person because I would almost certainly have to teach asex 101, and since most people who make sperm are cis-male, I’d also have to deal with a lot of sexist/patriarchal baggage to boot.

This would be a lot of work. But probably still less work than raising a child.

At least I have a clear idea of what I’m looking for, which means I’ve already taken the first step.

Why We Blame the Parents

My mother tried to raise me bilingual.

I only started talking when I was 4-5 years old (my father jokes that I learned how to read before I learned how to speak, which might be true if by ‘read’ you mean ‘recognizes the 26 letters of the alphabet’).

My mother blamed herself, thinking that by trying to raise me bilingual she ‘confused’ me.

Many years later, I actually researched the matter. It turns out there is no evidence of a correlation, let alone a causal relationship between a bilingual upbringing and speech delay. It was just a coincidence.

Now, some people – very subtly – blame my mother for not raising me bilingual. Because if a child can’t do something, or has any kind of problem, it’s obviously the mother’s fault.

First of all, it’s worth noting that mothers get more blame than fathers in these matters. Mothers are supposed to single-handedly bring up perfect kids, whereas fathers are only expected to provide material needs and play with their kids once in a while. Well, my anecdotal evidence indicates that my father was much more involved in my upbringing than the majority of fathers in the United States, so if someone wants to criticize my upbringing, they ought to put as much blame on him as my mother (then again, I think it’s also fair to criticize fathers who choose to take less responsibility for their children, since they are, you know, choosing to take less responsibility).

But I think one reason why people blame parents so much for the outcomes for their children is that the idea that parents have near-absolute control over the outcomes of their children is less scary than the alternative. The alternative, of course, is that much of life is subjected to random chance, and that there might be no to stop the horrible things that bad luck might send one’s way.

I think, even to my mother, it might have been more comforting for her to believe that it was her fault that I had a speech delay than that to believe there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. While self-blame hurts, it still lets one believe one actually has power and agency.

(Actually, the situation with my speech delay was more complicated than I’m making it out to be … but I’m trying to make a point about blaming parents, not give the most accurate impression of what happened with my speech delay).

Sure, parents sometimes really are to blame – in cases of neglect and abuse. But without evidence of neglect or abuse, I don’t think people should assume that it’s the parents’ fault if something ‘wrong’ happens with a child. And the evidence indicates that parents have less power over how their children turn out than most people think they do.