Coming up Aces

Photo Credit: Chili Print

2011, middle school, I find myself receiving the obligational invite to a class slumber party. I went to a small school, only 20 or so kids in my grade, and had the misfortune of sharing exactly zero interests with the other girls in my class. And, as I was about to find out, I had one more dissimilarity to add to the pile.

“Aidan,” starts one of the girls. Simmy. She points across the small circle at me, light from the flashlight illuminating her face. “Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” I answer. Always a safe choice for someone with nothing to hide.

“Who’s your crush?”

I grin. This one’s easy. “Nobody!”

To my surprise, the other girls give me a flat look. “Is it Devon?” Simmy presses. Why? Do they not believe me? Not everyone has a crush, right? That’s high school stuff. I frown and shake my head, insisting that no, really, I don’t have a crush on anyone. I don’t get picked again that night.

Asexuality is one of those extra A’s hanging off the end of the LGBTQIAA+ alphabet soup, and it’s a funny one. Instead of being attracted to men or women or any of the above, asexuals (or “aces”) find themselves attracted to nothing and nobody. Crazy, I know. And yet, current estimates claim that asexuals make up over 1% of the human population (for reference, roughly the same number of humans are redheaded— though not all asexuals are redheads. That would be silly.)

2013, high school, I’m in the first half of my sophomore year. Crushes aren’t high school stuff either, apparently. Well, I had one “boyfriend,” a few weeks during freshman year: a friend of mine who had asked me out. I’d said yes— that’s what you do, right? But the gooey, romantic feelings I’d expected had never happened. I still don’t know the word “asexual” yet, and so I’m convinced that I’m an abnormality. A lifetime of Disney and well-meaning tv shows have taught me that the difference between ‘good and heroic’ and ‘evil and monstrous’ is the ability to love.

So what does that make me?

I fear I have an answer, and when the time comes to set a new password for the year on the school’s computers, I choose something that I know no one will guess, but that I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Choose a prompt: “What are you?”

Password: 0Heartless0

In my defense, I was raised by a drama teacher.

Turns out, feelings of isolation and brokenness are pretty standard fare for asexuals. Almost every person has a “before” story— before they knew that “asexual” was even a word, and the relief at finding out that there were other people like them. The first thing that one asexual will say to another who is struggling is “you are valid,” and I think that says a lot.

2017, college, my roommate (a completely fabulous woman whom I adore) has brought over a classmate to study for their music exam the next day. When they leave for class, I send a text to my roommate’s phone:

“Your friend is cute. You should bring her over more!”

I later learn that she showed the text to her friend, who asked if I was flirting with her.

“No,” said my roommate. “Well, yeah, she is. But she’s also ace, so don’t worry about it.”

I sometimes call myself a “bad asexual” for my habit of flirting with just about everyone I meet, but my self image has never been better. I’ve been out and proud for a couple of years now, ever since I found the word “asexual” while skimming an internet article and coming to the stuttering realisation that hey, that kind of sounds like me. My parents worried when I told them— was I sure it wasn’t just a phase? Surely I might just be a late-bloomer.

Since coming to college, my Completely Fabulous Roommate, along with an increasing number of friends in-the-know, sometimes act as my “anti-wingman” so I can live out my “bad asexual” dreams without fear of letting someone down. Everywhere I go, I’ve taken to wearing a black ring on the middle finger of my right hand— a symbol of asexual pride, and a birthday gift from my father.

By: Aidan Peterson

My Easiest Decision

Photo Credit: Mama Holz (Bennett Holz)

My parents were kind enough to include me in most major life decisions, even at a young age. Or they kept me informed, at the very least. I was always warned before a big move, which happened most every year back then, and only towards the end of a given school semester, so I could say goodbye to all my friends. They talked to me about the political choices they made, decisions to put down family pets, and asked where we should vacation each summer. I can’t remember if I was truly involved in these decisions. I don’t know if what I said really made a difference in their choices, or if their plans for the family were set in stone. But I was always asked, and I was usually happy with the results. Whether I had a say or not, I was given the illusion of choice.

One year, when I was nine, my parents presented me with a big choice. Would I like to go on vacations, or would I rather have a little sister? My parents had asked me to make either/or decisions before: karate classes or book-orders, pancakes or waffles, roller-skates or roller-blades? Those were trivial choices, but this was the easiest one I had ever made.

F*ck yeah, I want a baby sister.

Turns out, adoption is a big pain and takes a long time, especially when you’re trying to navigate the corrupt adoption systems of pre-reform Guatemala. Kidnappings and child trafficking were very real occurrences, and many foster shelters didn’t provide proper care for the children they housed. The process took nearly a year, with my parents working hard to know the agency, my sister’s birth mother, and the foster mother who was raising her at the time. All to ensure that we were adopting from a safe and honest agency. There were video calls and pictures. Piles of documents and forms to fill out. We each had blood draws: my father, mother, little brother, and me. And I remember a phone call that drove my mother to tears. I still don’t know if those tears were happy or sad.

But everything came through eventually. My parents were able to schedule a trip to Guatemala, to finally meet my sister in person, and to finally bring her home. My grandmother came to to stay with my brother and I for that week, cooking us meals and making sure I got to school on time. I rode my bike to and from school every day while living there, and I could barely contain myself in class for that entire week. I was already an overactive kid, and I was excited to meet the little sister that I had only seen through a computer screen. Friday came around, and my parents brought her to meet me at school. I got out of class that final day and met them waiting for me just outside the building. I smiled, and she smiled back because she recognized me from pictures. She’s never been anything but my baby sister ever since.

I love my siblings. They’re the two most important people in the world to me, and they’re what I miss most about home. I’m in a bizarre period of my life right now. My family moved from my hometown two years ago, and I don’t spend enough time at the new house to consider it a home. I’ve left all my friends behind in Arizona and Montana, and I don’t know where my life will lead from here. But my brother and sister are constant anchors in my life. They are the people that I will always have and who I will always be there for. Because even when everything else in life passes, I have them and they have me.

By: Parker Holz

The Problem of Plaster

Darcy in England

Image Credit: Darcy Christoffersen

 

It was my first day in England and I was already bleeding.

I had just endured a 24-hour travel day that consisted of two six-hour flights, a three-hour layover in-between, a two-hour bus ride to York, and all with about four hours of sleep. I was exhausted, hungry, and I was feeling overwhelmed at being outside of the country for the first time.

And now I was bleeding. I am not entirely sure how I’d managed to injure myself after only a few hours in the country, but it had happened—most likely from me getting a papercut or hitting my finger on the edge of a door (that’s a common one). Regardless, I was bleeding and I couldn’t find a Band-Aid.

I walked up to one of the York St. John Global Guide, students at the school whose job was to help international students adjust to their time at York, and asked, “Excuse me, do you have a Band-Aid?”

She gave me a blank stare and replied, “What’s a Band-Aid?”

In my sleep-deprived brain, I stupidly replied with, “You know a Band-Aid. Like that thing that goes on your cut when you bleed to stop the bleeding.”

She and I stared at each other for a moment. Neither one of us entirely sure what the other was thinking. I literally had no idea how to describe a Band-Aid, as I had never tried before. Everyone I had ever talked to knew what it was. I turned to my best friend who was there with me to ask her how she would describe what a Band-Aid was, but before I could, the Global Guide stated, “Oh! I know what you’re talking about. But, uh-I don’t remember what it’s called.”

She then turned to another Global Guide and tried to describe to him what I wanted. He appeared confused and shook his head, so I said, “A Band-Aid?

He also stared at me, as if trying to figure out the answer from my blank stare. After our stare-down, he shrugged his shoulders and turned to another Global Guide. This time though, she knew what I was talking about.

When I said that I was looking for a Band-Aid, she said, “Oh a Plaster?”

Plaster.

What a freaking weird name to me. When I think of “plaster,” I think of an art supply, or something that is used in a DIY house project. Not something that you used to stop the blood rushing from my finger.

But that was just the beginning.

Throughout my time studying abroad, I would see many more differences between America and the United Kingdom.

For example, there was an event hosted by the Global Guides that celebrated different countries around the world. The American table hosted the game: British English vs. American English. From “trash can” to “rubbish bin,” “fries” to “chips,” or “cotton candy” to “candy floss,” it was kind of amazing to see how, although both countries speak English, some simple words could differ so much. I remember there were many times that I asked for “fries,” and the British person taking my order would automatically reply, “chips?”

I distinctly remember another time where I struggled with the differences in language. I was at a restaurant in my early days at York, and I was unsuccessfully looking, like my life depended on it, for the bathroom. I was embarrassed to ask anyone where the bathroom was (because I didn’t want to seem like a dumb American), and I figured that that it would be easy to find. I was wrong. I spent a solid five minutes walking around the restaurant, searching for the stupid bathroom.

Eventually, my need to go pee outweighed the embarrassment I felt about searching so hard to find the stupid bathroom, so I asked the waitress. She stared at me, almost like I was a puzzle that she didn’t understand, and then pointed at a door that said “WC.” At that point, I didn’t care what the words meant, I just wanted to go to the bathroom. But, I would later find out that the WC meant “Water Closet,” aka the bathroom. This proved to be another of many instances, in which I struggled to overcome the language differences between British English and American English.

And it all began with me asking for a Band-Aid and them giving me a plaster.

 

By: Darcy Christoffersen