Another Conversation with an Allosexual

I’m scared to try again. Our last conversation didn’t go so well.  You got angry, accused me of clinging to stubborn hopelessness.  You said, “I just can’t go there with you.” I didn’t see how speaking the truth made me hopeless.  Strange how mad it made you, not seeing hope in my truth.

All I was saying was that the world is set up to exclude people like me.

I understand why it might be hard for you to see it.  It was invisible to me for thirty-seven years, because for that long the world just was.  Discovering I was asexual and aromantic, that asexuality is a thing, that there is a word for what has made me different all my life—the discovery was like developing the ability to see oxygen molecules in the air.  I tell you, they’re everywhere.

Even if to everyone else, the air just is.

Sexual attraction, romantic attraction, it is as ubiquitous as oxygen. Not just the attraction itself, but the ways in which romantic love is privileged over everything else, it is so there, so present, it is as invisible as air.

I wish you’d try to see it, to go there with me.  Try an experiment.  Sit in a coffee shop for five minutes, not really noticing anything in particular, just sitting.  Just experiencing what is.  This is how I used to sit too.

Then sit in a coffee shop for five minutes with an awareness of asexuality and aromanticism, that it exists. Maybe try to imagine that it’s you who is this, this identity that puts you outside of a world built for two. Notice what you can see now, what is instantly visible, all the billions of microscopic ways that you are different and outside.  Notice the molecules colliding against your skin, rushing into your lungs, a subtle irritation of the throat.

Take notice of the song playing on the sound system.  It’s Sia. You’ve always liked Sia, though you don’t listen to her lyrics.  You like the quality of her voice. But this time really listen to the words:

We had love so strong my heart couldn’t take it/You took it in your hands and resuscitated/You said, me and you against the world/You said, you and me forever girl

(and realize: This is why you don’t listen to song lyrics, why you appreciate music as sounds–because it hurts to be reminded that you will always be a loose fragment in the world, while the others pair up against you, leaving you outside.)

Listen to the conversations. This one plans her wedding, that one orders a tea for his wife. That one’s child is getting divorced, so tragic, and Scarlett Johansson is hotter than Jessica Biel. You’ve always lacked the sense that detects hotness.

And notice how still, in 2017, you can find someone reading a tattered copy of Fifty Shades of Gray. When that book first came out you didn’t have the language to explain why it held no appeal whatsoever.  Remember how you felt vaguely ashamed over failing to read it, like you’d not done your homework. Again.

(and reflect: All your life, these invisible molecules rubbed rubbed rubbed against your skin, a gentle agitation, so subtle.  Is there any wonder you wrapped yourself in callus?)

Back on the topic of books, you browse the shelf by the window, the one with the sign that says Take a Book, Give a Book.  Today you don’t find any titles that interest you, it appears the patrons here favor romances or high fantasy, genres you never could appreciate.

(and chuckle, sheepish:  Before you knew what you were, you used to explain this difference by claiming superior taste.  You prefer literary fiction.  You’re a bit embarrassed to admit to this arrogance now.)

See that couple over there in the corner, waiting for their order? He’s seated in a chair and she’s standing close, her leg brushing his.  They’re holding fingers, loosely connected, she’s swaying back and forth in time to the music.  They’re merging. They’re merging, in public, and no one but you takes notice. They are what is.

I watched you slip, slip away, no explanation/ You on your phone, your laptop and your Playstation/ I stared at the diamond on my finger and I waited

(and speculate:  You’ve never been able to understand jealousy, what it’s about.  Back when you were married, that disastrous experiment, you wished your husband would find some other woman to sleep with, so maybe you wouldn’t feel so bad about being unwilling yourself. You used to wonder: What is about you, that maybe you don’t know how to love enough to be jealous?)

These details in the coffee shop are not the kinds of things you noticed before, before you had the words, before you got your new vision.  It’s all isness, like so many molecules of air.  And yet, now you can sense it, you felt something inside, some nonverbal resistance, an unaware awareness: There’s something wrong about me. A sensitivity to the air that rubs against your skin. An allergy, maybe. It feels like shame.

Because there were no words for it, you might have needed to emphasize some other thing that was also different about you, something that did have words to explain it. You might have been desperate to magnify the named difference until it was large enough to cover all of you.  You might, for example, have developed an eating disorder and clung to it for twenty-five years.

Just as a purely hypothetical example.

I’m merely suggesting you might have needed a way to explain things to yourself, a story for why you lacked the drives and impulses of the others.  Otherwise, you might have been terrified–though you wouldn’t have realized it.

Having finished the experiment in the coffee shop, you’ll want to use the restroom before heading back out on the road. It’s a long trip home. While washing your hands, the end of that Sia song is playing. You hold your hands under the tap, and you listen.

I’d rather walk alone, I’d rather walk alone/I’d rather walk alone than let them throw dirty confetti.

And you dry your hands, and you have to admit, Sia’s got a lovely voice. But these words are not convincing, they are lies, they don’t make an honest effort at truth (she’s too angry, like a child threatenening to hold her breath for revenge.).  Because you can see it now, see it as I see it:  That the world is set up so that either you walk with a romantic partner, or you walk alone.  And when you walk alone in this world built for two, you are very, very alone.

And you might, maybe, have a moment of hopelessness about that.  I wouldn’t call that stubborn, though.  I’d call it seeing the truth.

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On Asking for Love

Lunch was 100 calories too much. The therapists are right, it’s not about the weight. It’s about: The core of me is wrong.

There’s been an accident, melt-down.  An exposure, a leak. I have revealed and

Oh God, someone may have seen.

Spilled outside the boundaries. Exposed the bottomless depth of need, evidence I am too wrong to love.

In the break room at the office, some asshole brought cookies

to take me to the point of no need, none at all, in fact I have too much, far too much, I have the opposite of need, I need to get this whole mess—the longing, the greed, the cookies—out of my body.  Destroyed, wiped clean. Flushed, reset.

It is a capital offense, this asking for more than I deserve. I do it again and again and again.

Nineteen

On my twentieth birthday, I declared war on my body and the appetites that drove it. The regime that moved in had one simple law: If I ate one bite more than the rules allowed, I would throw it up.

Suffering from a subclinical restrictive eating disorder since age eleven, I had not yet adopted self-induced vomiting as a weight-management strategy.  Not for lack of trying, though– I had failed at vomiting on countless occasions. I used laxatives sporadically, usually when self-hatred had risen to intolerable levels, but it was more of a self-punishment tool than an effective way to get calories from my body.  Puking was the answer, I just knew it, but I hadn’t been able to pull it off.

Now, at twenty years old, I had figured it out. Finally, I had a way to undo my mistakes, a way to escape from the relentless torment of self-hatred. I almost wept with gratitude for my good fortune.

If I had known then that I would still be bulimic nineteen years later, would I have been quite so ecstatic?

I didn’t intend to become bulimic, of course. No one aspires to such behavior. My ambition was always to become better at starving. I assumed that the experience of vomiting after meals would be so unpleasant that I’d avoid the kitchen altogether.  I did not expect to become hooked on purging–the fast release of tension and stress, the instant relief from violently expelling fear, anger, and pain from the body.

And I certainly didn’t anticipate being swept into the horrific cycle of binging that follows purging. I had intended to control myself, to stay clean and contained, to remain safely on the shore, even while dipping my toe in the water. But within weeks, I was pulled into desperate compulsion, binging and throwing up multiple times each day.  After a month, I was caught in the riptide of the disease and being pulled far, far out.

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Some years ago, I shared a few journal entries with the therapist I was seeing at the time. She suggested that one day my journals might serve as material for a book.  “But you have to recover, first,”  she said. “It’s the only way for the suffering to have any real meaning.”

I turned thirty-nine today. On this day nineteen years ago,  I declared war against myself.  Today, I long for peace. Please, may this past year be the last one I throw away to this disease. I vow that my eating disorder will not celebrate a twentieth birthday–when I turn forty next year, I will be free.

A Couple of Good Problems to Have

I woke this morning aching with craving: I want to lose fifty pounds, exercise to exhaustion, binge on all the food at Kroger then throw it up, and also get really, really drunk.

Experience tells me the relapse urges mean I’m feeling deprived. And I am. I spend most Sundays lamenting the shortness of weekends, resenting my job and how it takes time away from my writing—nevermind that it’s my job that inspires much of it. The blog post I worked on all weekend accidently turned into a publishable short story, so now I need another blog post, but I have too many ideas and not enough time and I will die before I can write everything I need to write.

While I was doing my morning contemplation on Step 3, I found myself unwilling to commit to sobriety, unwilling to turn my will and life over to Love.  This tends to mean I’m having a Step 2 problem, that I’ve lost my faith that Love can actually restore me to sanity.  I’ve lost my faith that Love is enough, that I have enough Love, that I have a capacity to feel Love.

I ask myself, is there anything in the world that would feel better than getting wasted?  Well, sure, lots of things.  Writing, snuggling with the cats, seeing my therapist, holding my niece, taking a hike through the woods, going to church, reading Heat and Light, watching the sunset.  All of this is better.  I want all of this at once.

Today after my birthday lunch with my family, I need to clean the house, do laundry, prep food, bathe the cat, hurry to bed.  Tomorrow, I will wake up at 4am to drive to Athens for a bullshit work conference, I resent it, and I won’t have time to exercise or go to my AA meeting, or read in Heat and Light. It’s all too much!  I love this life, want to feel it all, want to taste it all.  What in the world is better than getting wasted? Everything, and that’s the problem, I will die before I can have everything. My hunger for life is far too much.

October 11, 1999

The other day I was thinking about what a relief it is that all of my old wants have faded away.  It’s been about 9 months since my finances fell apart and I first went broke. I guess that happened when I quit my job at Bennigan’s.  Before that, I still worried constantly about money, but the worry was of a different quality.  It was worry about the future, fear that I wasn’t saving enough or preparing well enough.  However, all my basic needs were met.  I paid my rent, bought my bus pass, paid my therapy bills, paid my credit card bills, bought groceries, went to Waffle House with Krista for fun. 

Looking back, it seems like I was in control, though I certainly didn’t enjoy any sense of settledness at the time. I wanted so much it hurt.  I wanted clothes, shoes, CDs, furniture, health insurance, money to see a movie, money to drink with Stacy and Krista and drop acid with Nick. Other things too, I just don’t remember.  Oh year, I wanted to see Dr. B more too. 

But when I lost control and went broke, my wants simplified.  Now all I wanted was to be able to pay my rent and for therapy, a bus pass and food. Then all I wanted was to be able to afford therapy, a bus pass, and food. Then simply bus fare to work and food. Then it was just food.  Ever since I got home in the summer I’ve been running desparately after enough food, thinking if only I could have that, I’d be okay.  The hungrier I get, the more important food is and theless anything else matters. 

And I know I should look at this and think, oh how sad and pathetic, but I don’t.  I’m glad all my wants have centralized and converged into one little ball—because food is something I can get.  Maybe not today, since I need my last dollar for gas to get to work, but tomorrow.  Tomorrow I’m going to eat the world and I can’t wait. 

Maybe the reason I keep getting hungrier and hungrier every day is because now hunger has to support the heavy burden of all my old wants.  All of the little wants that once tortured me have merged into a single, relentless, painful hunger.  But it’s still far better this way.

Which is why the extra credit assignment I have to complete for speech infuriates me.  3 lists.  100 things you want.  100 things you want to do.  100 things you want to be.  I’ve been working on these lists for a little bit most days.  It’s not too difficult to come up with things I want to do.  And Things I Want to Be is simple because I’m just compliling a page of traits that are the opposite of what I am.  Things I want is too hard.  After writing about 15 binge foods I realized I would be too ashamed to turn my paper in to Dr. L.  But I can’t really think of anything I honestly want.  Mostly I’ve been listing lies. Wherever I happen to be sitting while I’m working, I look around me and let something hit me:  sure, I could go for some sandals, that would be fine.  But I don’t want anything but food.

What I want is something that will ALWAYS be there.  ALWAYS.

September 15, 1999

I couldn’t sleep.  I’m too cold, too bored, and I slept too much during the day, and my mother had to come in to yell at me as I was settling into bed.  Some shit about how I need “serious help” and she’s “cleaned her last bathroom.”  Today after school I found a note taped to the computer monitor which said the same thing.  Her pet phrase “serious help,” makes me cringe.  She asked if I was still seeing Dr. B, and I said yes, not that it’s any of your business.  “It is my business if you aren’t going to therapy.” Laughable.  My therapist kicked me out. God, who ever heard of that? I can just imagine the field day my mother would have with that one.  

My dad hates me.  He won’t even look at me.  My mother hates me because she said I brought roaches to the house, but I’ve only seen one.  I killed it with hair spray and left it on the floor in my room; it was floating dead in the toilet a day later.  I also saw one in my car a few minutes ago.  Food crumbs everywhere, I hate myself.  I quit Applebee’s.  I called Dr. B today to hear her voice on her answering machine.  I tried to picture her face, but I couldn’t.  Everyone hates me.  

I need to brush my teeth but there’s not toothpaste and I don’t want to go in my parents’ bathroom because I don’t want to see my dad.  I wish I had school tomorrow.

Waiting with a client before the arrest

You know why you’re here–the girl spoke, the mother told. You also know why your probation officer stepped out (she can’t frisk the males, she’ll  return with her partner). We pretend we don’t know.

“Don’t mind me,”  I say, turning away.  “I’m just typing up some notes.” I’m not as good as you, at the pretending.

I can’t shake the urge to comfort and soothe. Like how a body keeps twitching after the head is severed.

I invested in you, looked past your crimes, through the rubble of your addiction, seeking the human within.  I told you about the worth I saw there. “Yes, yes, yes,”  you said.  “I see it too.” But I didn’t see this coming. You left here to do despicable things.

It turns out, we didn’t see shit.