Cracking Open the Closet Door: Being Aro-Ace and Muslim

I am not entirely sure how to start this. Introductions are high on my list of horrors, finding themselves ranked above my pesky pigeon plight and just under the frankly fearsome fate of failing if I try to publish, again.

Forgive me. I resort to humor when I am uncomfortable. Allow me to turn off my taciturnity toward this tediously troublesome topic and return readily to my rattling rhetoric.

Okay. That was my last one. Promise. I’ll just get right to it.

This is my personal tell-all on how I pretended not to be aromantic and gray-asexual for the entirety of my life, displayed on the internet for all who do not know me to see.

Because no one I know goes on my website. Ever. This is our little secret, internet.

Just a little background on what aromantic and gray-asexual mean–at least in my case. As an aromantic, I have no desire to be in a romantic relationship. As a gray-asexual, I have no sexual attraction to people, regardless of gender. I can be sexually aroused, but not by someone else. People who are gray-asexual are considered to be on the asexuality spectrum.

I was raised by Muslim, Middle Eastern parents. My entire life, I was told that my future consisted primarily of three things: going to school, making something of myself, and starting a family of my own–kids, husband, the works. That last one was not an afterthought. It was important both culturally and religiously, and I never doubted that.

I still do not.

On a trip down memory lane, one could see little me growing up completely different than literally everyone else. I was weird. People commented on it openly. They said it to me; They said it to my parents; They said it to almost everyone who knew me. It was never a positive thing.

My parents were very loving and supportive. I was their daughter and that was me, and they loved me. I have always been absolutely terrified of disappointing them, because everything I have, they gave me without a second thought.

Growing up, I had a ton of friends, but I felt extremely isolated. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t get the things other girls liked and they didn’t get the things that I liked. I was weird, and everyone knew it. I couldn’t control that, and it was hard. You try being one of those kids who know that they are complete deviations from the norm, all by their lonesome, not really sure what to do about it. So, I clung to at least one thing that would make me the same as everyone else: crushes.

I had crushes on the most random boys; I had nothing in common with them at all, but all I needed was to fit in, so anyone fit the bill. I had to start faking it since elementary school, and I got very, very good at it as I grew older. I even had myself convinced:

“This is normal. This is what I am supposed to want, so this is what I want.”

It became a sort of mantra. I stopped wanting to fit in very early on, but I now understood that it was extremely important in my most basic belief system. I had to get over it. I had to get over not wanting to be with someone at all, because I had to do it eventually.

Then, I hit college, and I “fell for” my best friend at school. We hung out all the time, and I thought, “Okay. This is good. This is okay. I can deal with this.” I completely convinced myself that I had fallen for him, but the second it was about to get real, I couldn’t take it. I ran. I screwed up and did some idiotic things. I remained attached to him because I was still obsessing about my screw ups. In my head, I figured, “This is obviously love, right? It has to be.”

It wasn’t. It was me, once again trying to convince myself that I was just like everyone else. I wanted this. I wanted him, so clearly I did not have an aversion to having a relationship. I even had my friends convinced that I was truly into him, and the lie got so out of control that I had to tell even more lies to cover up that lie. I couldn’t admit it, but I was too terrified to even contemplate the possibility of the truth, let alone tell someone else.

After that, I went through guy after guy. It became a cycle. I’ll give him the time of day, I’ll have “won” him, and then I’ll come up with any reason to high-tail it out of the relationship as if my feet were on fire.

I had–and still have–everyone completely convinced that it isn’t that I don’t want a romantic relationship of some kind, but rather, I have too tangled a mess of commitment issues to stick to one guy. I welcomed that label. It was served to me on a silver platter. I was not aromantic or gray-asexual. I was afraid of commitment. It was perfect.

I have lied so many times to so many people, because I couldn’t let one soul know that I was this much of an anomaly. I have always known that stepping out from under my fairly comfortable invisibility cloak would go one of three ways: people would think I’m either lying, completely screwed up beyond human comprehension or that I still haven’t met “the right person.”

Not one of those possibilities was appealing in any way.

And I was right. I told someone very close to me, and I regret it whole-heartedly. I am positive that she thinks I am confused or lying.

It might not seem like a big deal, but I struggled with this for the vast majority of my life.Being aromantic and Muslim is several degrees of hard, because even though there is nothing that mandates that I must get married or “I’m going to get it,” marriage is too fundamental to just ignore.

I am a girl who will get married because she has to get married, not because she wants to.

I will stay in my tiny little closet, making no noise and pretending I don’t exist.

That is my burden to bear.

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