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When I learned about marital sex, I was afraid. A lifetime of partnership hindered by moments of discomfort and disgust. I knew it was expected of both individuals. I knew I would be expected to submit. I figured if I could survive the wedding night, the rest of the years would go by faster. I could deflect and evade. I could side step or be too busy. I could find a way to a void it for the entirety of the marriage. In my mind, this would work. I would have a best friend for my entire life, and all it came with was a few nights of fear and revulsion. I never thought there was another option.

I grew up believing in a connection between a man and a woman, a belief that also pushed me into the role of a wife. What that meant could vary, but ultimately, I was expected to marry. I was expected to have children. These were the facts of my life, and my road to this unavoidable destination was up to me, but the location of its end was determined from the moment I was born. A ring would be placed on my finger. A second half would be sent out into the world. It was my job to find him.

Speaking of myself in this way makes my stomach churn and nausea to boil up into my throat. Much like a child would, sitting inside my womb, eventually bubble up and be expelled through the mouth in a horrible choking mass, suffocating me while I struggle to breathe and as it cries. A nightmarish horror that awaits in marriage, one that I no long relive each night in my dreams, but fear the return of, lest it wish to remind me of what could be.

So as I grew, I found myself choosing people. I chose a crush in elementary school based on the idea that his features should endear him to me. But I heard him speak harshness to another, and I dropped him as my crush instantly, and did not find another.

I chose looks like I found appealing, picked out of a hat and meshed together from preferences of friends to form a semblance of a human man. Black hair, blue eyes. Muscular, a single tattoo. A laugh. A smile. He should probably have a nose, too. When asked, I would repeat a list of attributes I had memorized and said almost the same way each time. It made me all feel so odd, so strange to boil someone down to specific wants in their appearance. Personality traits would be secondary, asked only if the interrogator was about to explain their own wants and desires ten times the length of my own list. They were being polite before they bored me with a speech of the perfect man.

Once, a friend created a character made entirely off of the choices I picked, the words spilled out in flippant reference to what I longed for. She made him to my exact specifications, wrote him to the personality I said I liked, and we were both alarmed to find I had no interest in him. Not in how his body looked, not in how he acted. I was not in the slightest attracted. I chalked it up to disinterest due to a writing style by my friend. But I quickly found that no one I saw in passing sparked an interest in me. No one fitting my description made me look twice.

A boy from my college class asked me out one day after class. I took my jitters to mean I was nervous, but after I gave him my number I realized that wasn’t the case. I was shaking. My stomach grew sick, threatening to spill my breakfast onto the pavement. He had meant well, found me appealing to look at, and the idea of someone looking at me in such a way struck me as horrifying.

But I went on the date with him to a Mexican restaurant. I ate a massive meal, nervously chowing down as feeling myself shake as he and I talked. The place was much too loud to have any definite conversation, and when we walked outside, he asked if I liked dancing. I knew he was asking me on another date. But dancing sounded too intimate. He would touch me. He might even feel inclined to kiss me. So I told him no.

I wanted a friend. I want someone who I could relax with and be comfortable around during what was supposed to be my entire life: marriage. Yet the thought of someone’s hands touching me, of someone’s lips pressed against my skin, of parts of them entering me in what was supposed to be an ultimate culmination of companionship made me wish for my stomach to spill itself on the pavement. I wanted to be able to watch movies with someone. To lean my head on their shoulder. To fall asleep next to them. To wake up to the smell of toast and brewing tea. I wanted no kisses. I wanted no sex. I wanted no man.

It was a few months after the date that a friend send me a comic. It depicted a woman being confused when someone pointed at a stranger and lamented on how hot they were. I thought it was relatable, and searched into it more. I followed some of the tags, and discovered one called “asexual.” That was when I first discovered the word. I learned the difference between attraction and action, between asexual and allosexual. I realized that I was different. And I discovered that was okay.

A few months ago I visited a friend. We watched a movie on the couch. I leaned over and rested my head on her shoulder, and she rested her head atop mine. I smiled. Friendship was all I ever wanted.

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