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

Finding a Home Across the Pacific: My Experience in Hawaii

bridge

Photo Credit: Jordan Helton

Thin-strapped sandals and water shoes were piled haphazardly to the side of the welcome mat adorned with bright flowers.  Tables were set up in a long line in a garage lit by string lights, an array of food displayed as a banquet.  The six of us carried hot trays of chicken katsu and sticky rice covered in saran wrap up the walkway like a procession.

I was an honorary member of this newly introduced family of five for the beginning of the summer after my freshman year of college.  I’d met and befriended many different people over the course of two semesters, but my roommate Shawny had quickly become my best friend. She had invited me to stay as a guest at her family’s home on Oahu, and our day so far had consisted of body boarding at Lanikai beach and visiting a Buddhist temple. Shawny’s family is Japanese, and over the course of my first week on the island, I had tried more new foods and visited more places than I ever had before. As I entered her family’s potluck to celebrate her second cousin’s graduation from the University of Hawaii, I was immediately pulled into a hospitable hug followed by a kiss on the cheek by her elderly grandpa.

This ritual continued as I was introduced to her entire extended family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and family friends.  I was accustomed to my reserved and detached family members, who rarely even greet each other with polite and awkward hugs.  We held hands in a circle extending to each corner of the room to pray over her cousin’s accomplishments and each shared something we felt thankful for on that particular night.  Mine was simply being there.

I learned that her whole extended family lived in the Honolulu area, which made me think of my own family spread all over the country in far away states, like Utah, Nevada, and Florida.  We only see each other during big holidays or weddings, sometimes not even once every few years.  To live together on one island, congregating for every occasion and accomplishment felt beyond my comprehension.  We only focused on being thankful together on one day of the year, forgetting to concentrate on our many privileges on every other day that passed us by.

Shawny’s family sat around me and inquired about my family and upbringing in Montana, a place as unfamiliar to them as their home was to me.  They tested my pronunciation of vowels in the Hawaiian alphabet and my opinion on the gelatinous poi offered on the side, and laughed when I had to ask for a fork—my talent with chop sticks is severely limited.  Shawny and I recalled our shared experiences during our first year going to school in Oregon, and they listened in earnest. As we ate and conversed, I never felt like an outsider tagging along to someone else’s family event.  There existed a sense of belonging and unity I seldom felt even in my own family gatherings.

As we said our goodbyes, we were sent away with plates of leftovers that would last for days—chicken long rice soup, edamame rice, kalua pig, and butterfish.  Parting was the same as greeting—a strong hug and a kiss, maybe two, on the cheek, for which Shawny apologized embarrassedly.  I didn’t mind—to me, the opportunity to be welcomed into her family’s home and witness their love for one another, and their values of togetherness and inclusion taught me more about them than she could ever describe to me in words.

By: Mikelyn Rochford