Thinking romance is something others do. Thinking romance is a set of socially constructed behaviours. Thinking romance is friends who agree to call themselves a couple. Thinking I will marry my best friend when I grow up, because we get along well and what more would there be to it?
Thinking romance is a fictional trope, and hating Disney movies because they’re all about it. Not relating to the other kids at school because they dream of fairytale endings and true love’s kiss. Not understanding when my friends start blushing and asking who I like. Thinking “liking boys” is a trend, the result of too much Disney, not an orientation.
Thinking romance is picking a boy I want to know better and calling it a crush. Exaggerating my feelings so I can fit in. Telling a friend how I can crush or stop crushing on people at will, and laughing when she says that’s not how it works. Wondering why she pines for months over a boy who doesn’t like her back.
Thinking romance is a game and scoring a partner is winning. Getting confused when others care about what comes after. Wondering what secret rules they know that I don’t. Telling myself I must be playing the wrong way, and restarting.
Thinking romance is the fiery devotion, the deep care I have for my best friends. Trying to explain it, and the words catching in my throat. Not wanting to call it romantic love, because somehow that feels wrong. Not knowing what else to call it, because if this isn’t romance, what is?
Thinking nobody really understands romance anyway. Reading and re-reading the description of a crush in my sex education book and coaching myself to feel that way. Assuming everyone has to teach themselves how to love. Being jealous of those to whom it comes so naturally.
Thinking romance is a compromise, words and gestures that must be given to prove I care. Trying to give them and feeling out of my depth. Convincing myself I have intimacy issues. Never questioning why love feels so wrong with my boyfriend, yet so right with my friends.
Thinking romance is a happy ending written for others. Watching all my friends pair off. Staying awake at night, terrified that this means I will never matter to anyone. Asking the darkness why my own kind of love isn’t enough.
Thinking romance is something I will be taught, one day. Writing stories about heartless, empty, broken characters who are fixed by true love. Meeting the right person and still not feeling the right way. Exploring various fears and traumas because one of them has to be causing this, right?
Thinking romance is something I have to feel, or what would I be? Convincing myself I can’t be aromantic because, because, because… Being afraid of a blank slate future with no other half to hold onto. Feeling like everything I thought I’d understood is falling apart.
Thinking romance is something others do. Allowing myself to let go of what was never a part of me. Crying when an aromantic friend tells me they love me like I do. Feeling, finally, like I belong, like I am enough.
Knowing aromanticism can mean happy endings too.