Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 3)

Most people would have just figured I was stuck with the bad math teacher and the bad French teacher. My mother did not make this assumption, and she thought I had no business being a class which was neither useful nor enjoyable.

Given that switching to another teacher was not an option because a) no other math teacher taught a class which fit my schedule and b) there was only one French teacher in the school, my mother asked the question: do I really need to take these classes?

It turns out I could test out of these classes. I took the final exam for the math class, got a C, and thus got into the next level of math class … which landed me with the same bad math teacher again. However, it was an improvement, since I was with a different student group who managed to make the class mildly entertaining with their sense of humor.

I actually didn’t mind the first year of French so much, since I started not knowing French at all, and through my own efforts to study on my own (at first with the textbook, and later with resources such as French in Action. The teacher mostly let me ignore the class and do my own studying in a corner, as long as was studying French. However, by the second year, I was tired of this.

Well, it turns out that I only needed to take 1 year of a foreign language to get a high school diploma, and I already had that. The school only told us we should study a foreign language for 2-3 years because universities required that for admission (at my high school it was assumed most students would go to university after high school graduation). But there was a way around this – I could take the SAT Subject Test in a language such as French instead, and if I got a high score, the universities wouldn’t mind that I only took one year of French in high school. And the SAT French test I took only tests reading – and it’s multiple choice.

Thus I got out of second year French, and since I didn’t put any other class in that slot in the schedule, I got to come to school at 9:20 AM instead of 8 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sleeping in for the win!

All of these experiences no doubt contributed to my cynicism towards formal education. At the same time, I also appreciate that my high school was set up in such as way – partially by accident, partially by design – to push students to shape their own education to some degree, rather than acting like passive receptacles of knowledge.

Storytime is over. In the next post, I’ll get back to the topic of compulsory sexuality.

What Surprised Me about Blogging about Asexuality

This is for the March Carnival of Aces, which is themed as ‘Writing About Asexuality’.

I decided to name this blog ‘the notes which do not fit’ so it could be a place where I could put writing which I want to be public, but which I can’t place somewhere else. At the time I started this blog, asexuality was the topic which I most wanted to write about publicly for which I didn’t have some other forum, but this blog is first a Whatever Sara Wants to Write About Blog, and only an ‘asexuality’ blog in a secondary sense. That is why there is no ‘aseuxality’ or ‘ace’ or any reference to such in the title.

One reason there is such a high concentration of writing about asexuality (and aromanticism) on this blog is that, when I want to write a lot about something else, I tend to find another place to do it. For example, I wrote the ‘It Came from the Sinosphere’ column at Manga Bookshelf, and right now I have my own blog about travelling in South Korea (and if I ever decide to do a significant bit of writing about my travels elsewhere in East Asia I will probably not do it here at ‘the notes which do not fit’).

All of this implies that asexuality/aromanticism is something I care about which is harder to fit in elsewhere.

Now, once I started blogging on a regular basis, I assumed that the ‘notes’ I wrote would only get a few readers, but I still wanted to write it. For example, I expected ‘”Going to College” and the Old Neighborhood’ to get very few readers – a prediction which so far is totally true, by the way. And I assumed that asexuality-themed posts would be likewise not-very-much-read.

Probably my most-read blog post ever “A language learner’s guide to reading comics in Chinese”, and my other guest posts at Hacking Chinese are pretty widely read relative to most things I’ve written. This is partially because Hacking Chinese is an excellent blog which has a large readership, and deserves even more.

My second-most read blog posts on the internet? My asexuality/aromanticism blogging, particularly if I am also talking about fiction, though “Why Are Sex-Indifferent Aces Assumed to be Open to Sex” also seems to have touched a nerve.

I’m surprised by this result. Something which I expected to be read by about, say, three strangers on the internet, is being read by a lot more than three people. And it’s asexuality of all things.

I think it’s because there is a rather large group of people who really really want to read about asexuality and easiest place to find in-depth writing about asexuality is ace blogs. I remember back in late 2009/early 2010 reading and reading and reading ace blogs (and you can probably guess which blogs those were, since there weren’t so many ace blogs back then). Even though only a small fraction of those people on ace-blog reading binges ever find their way here, apparently some of them do.

All of this means I’m doing the right thing by writing about asexuality and aromanticism. We need more of it.


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Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 2)

I started telling this story in Part 1.

My mother reasoned that these Untouchable Bureaucrats are in fact mortal, and that they have offices somewhere which she can physically visit. Having once worked as a journalist, she has practical experience with getting interviews with people who are hard to find.

She did in fact find these bureaucrats, and she even got them to make a decision favorable to my grandmother, which everyone told her would be impossible. It was a horrible process – I think my mother said she broke down in tears once (note: I have never, ever seen my mother break down in tears, which demonstrates just how rare that is) but she did it.

So what does this story have to do with the concept of ‘compulsory’? Mainly, I needed to establish my mother as a character for my next story…



High schools, in California and much of the world, have ‘compulsory subjects’ – classes you must pass in order to get a high school diploma.

I went to a small high school. This could cause scheduling problems. For example, when I took Physics in my junior year, that was the only physics class offered the entire year. Yep, just one physics class. The class had sophomores, juniors, and seniors because … well, to make a long story short, this was practically the last chance we had to take a high school physics class, even for the sophomores.

Of course, that was nothing compared to the drama around Physical Education (P.E.) credits. I think, starting my sophomore or junior year, my high school actually started offering two P.E. classes for 30 students each. Considering that California law requires 2 years of P.E. for a high school diploma, this was a bit of a problem. About 30% of the students (myself included) didn’t need to worry about P.E. credits (we were automatically enrolled in dance classes which counted as P.E. classes), but the rest of the students were scrambling to get recognized P.E. credits.

The advantage of this system is that, because the school administrators knew this was a problem, they were much more open input and creative solutions offered by students, which encouraged us to actively shape our education rather than be passive recipients. One student (who, like myself, didn’t need to worry about P.E. credit, but I think he just loved bikes) started a bike-to-school club and made arrangements with the school administration to allow students to get P.E. credit for bicycling to/from school.

One of the biggest disadvantages was, if you got a bad teacher … you could get pretty stuck, since that might be the only teacher teaching that particular class, and even if there was a second teacher, you might not be able to arrange your schedule to get that teacher (especially since everyone else probably wants that better teacher too).

This is how I ended up with a terrible math teacher and a terrible French teacher. Which forced me and my mother to explore just how ‘compulsory’ these classes actually are…



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Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 1)

You don’t need a reason to climb up a tree at 1:00 AM. It’s simply part of being primates that we all climb up trees at 1 AM on a regular basis. It’s an expression of our monkey urges. That’s also why I’m eating an apple right now – primates eat fruit. That’s why we have color vision – to identify the ripe fruit by moonlight in those trees we climb up at 1 AM.

Oh, so you don’t climb up trees at 1 AM

WHY NOT????!!!!!

Do you have some kind of health problem which forces you to to sleep at 1 AM? Do you have a mobility impairment which stops you? Are you afraid of heights? C’mon, there has to be a ~reason~.

You mean you never THOUGHT about it before? Like, you never asked yourself even once ‘Why am I not climbing trees at 1 AM in the morning?’


One of the most quoted lines in this post is “under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place.” I’ve realized this line deserves its own post.

This post about compulsory sexuality is becoming really long, so I’m turning it into a series.

My default is ~not having sex~. It’s not a conscious decision I made. I never had a long hard thinking session, and concluded ‘I am not going to have sex’. Not having sex is simply the path of least resistance for me.

Deviating from that path – in other words, consenting to sex – would require changing my default setting, a conscious decision, and most importantly, I would need a reason.

I think many of you can see where I am going with this ‘What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM?’ analogy.

But first, an exploration of what it means for something to be ‘compulsory’.

*** TRUE STORY ***

A few years ago, my grandmother was in a real fix. The short version was that she was going to lose the care (medical, physical, psychological) that she needs to have a decent life, which was ultimately going to make her die sooner, and put her through lots of needless suffering before she got there.

How could my grandmother keep the care she needed? Approval from certain bureaucrats.

However, these weren’t any bureaucrats, they were Untouchable Bureaucrats. My aunt said she tried, but that nobody ever manages to even contact these bureaucrats, let alone get them to make a favorable decision within a reasonable time (and time was important – we were months away from losing the care my grandmother needs, and once gone it was not going to come back). To hear my aunt tell it, these bureaucrats were practically living on Mt. Olympus with the Greek gods, and no mere mortal could dream to ever enter their mysterious presence.

My mom had a different understanding of the situation…



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the person who associated CC0
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