The them of this month’s Carnival of Aces is “Be yourself (but stretch)”, which as I understand it, is about how ‘being yourself’ may not work and one may have to stretch oneself to at least appear to conform to norms.
I am luckier than a lot of other aces. The only person in family who I’ve had any friction with on account of my ace is my mother, and we’ve managed to work most of that out by now. On the other hand, one reason there hasn’t been much friction with my family is that … we don’t talk much about that kind of thing. When family dinners are awkward, they are awkward for entirely different reasons. I know nothing about my first cousins romantic or sexual lives, which implies that there is not much going on (for example, if they got fiancés, I would definitely hear about it, and even if they had long-term boyfriends/girlfriends, I would probably hear about it). However, my first cousins’ lack of obvious romantic and/or sexual activity is never discussed in my presence, and I suspect that my own lack of romantic and/or sexual activity is also not discussed by any of my closer relatives.
There is a similar dynamic among my friends – if they are the kind of people who are going to make things awkward for an asexual friend, I am probably not going to stay friends with them for very long. At least in this case it’s not mostly a matter of luck.
So does that mean I am totally myself as an asexual all the time to everybody? The short answer is ‘no’.
My mother is the only person in my family who I am out to as an asexual. That is an aspect of myself which other people in my family do not know about (though my father may very well suspect it at this point), and I’m not sharing that with them. It’s the same with most people I know (with the exception of people I know through the asexual community).
Sometimes, this means people will make comments, and I do not react to them the way they expect. And most of the time I mask that my reaction is different from what they expect. Also, sometimes it means that people do not understand where I am coming from.
It’s not the worst situation. Mostly, I ‘stretch’ to maintain the invisibility which is already there because most people are not aware or are only marginally aware of asexuality, and it simply takes less effort to stay invisible.