Well, I’m noticing something interesting.
My best friend and I have a close bond and recently agreed to consider ourselves found family. They’re one of the most important people in my life, and the first one I think of when I want to share exciting news, or talk about something serious, or just see something funny and want to send it to someone. I adore them, I truly do. Their friendship - now siblinghood - is incredibly meaningful to me.
It’s not a substitute for anything in my life. It’s not romance in denial. It’s friendship, and we are both completely satisfied with that.
But when I tell people about it, I’ve found that I present it differently - or at least I feel the urge to. I explain that I don’t have a romantic partner, but I have my best friend. We’re not dating, but it’s almost like we are. I may be aroace, but I still have a close and committed relationship. What’s more, I’m realising that I’ve done this before. When I was fifteen, I convinced myself that my then-best friend was practically my boyfriend. When I was ten and pressured to have a crush, I declared that if my then-best friend was a boy, I would be in love with her.
It turns out that I have a very hard time conceptualising a meaningful bond between two people that isn’t romantic. So that others recognise its validity and the depth of the feelings involved, I’ve been resorting to calling it romance - insisting it would be and could be romantic, even though, for various reasons, it isn’t and won’t be. And, to be honest, it would be a lie to say some part of me doesn’t want it to be romantic. It would be so much easier. It would be so simple and straightforward to say “this is the most important person in my life, my romantic partner”. To answer “are you in a relationship?” simply with “yes".
But I can’t. Because I’m aroace. Because I don’t enjoy romance in practise (nor even, when I really think about it, in theory). Because my friendships, for all their closeness, are still friendships. And that makes things complicated, because it throws me out of the amatonormative mould into a position where I constantly have to justify myself. It’s so hard to stand up against society for what makes me most comfortable - to explain that no, I really don’t want nor need a partner, and my friendships don’t have to be a discount version of romance to be valid.
I have to choose between words that reflect how I feel, but that others will judge or misunderstand, and words that make it seem like I fit in. And all this time, though I hate to admit it, I’ve been choosing the latter.
I’m working on it. But damn, overcoming amatonormative beliefs is hard.