‘Gayatri! How is it possible that you have never been on a date?’ asked my very perplexed boss in the middle of our lunch hour. I had struck a rather unusual “best friend” kind of relationship with her. We spoke about everything and took a trip down to many personal tales. My answer to her was, “because I am waiting for the perfect prince charming!” In reality, I couldn’t care less about the answer as the question was inconsequential for me. I never gave any thought to my dating life (or the lack of it!).
She was not the first one to ask me that question. As I graduated from college, I got the question on a few occasions by a few people. But in the first three years of my ‘adult life’, the world decided to dial up the frequency and I found myself facing an avalanche. One I neither saw coming nor was prepared to storm through.
I dreaded meeting new people and striking up conversations. The question would make its grand entry and I never had an answer. I also started to receive unsolicited advice on why I should put myself out there! ‘To experience the emotional high.’ ‘It’s good to have options.’ And my favourite, ‘how will you find someone for marriage otherwise?’. But being a person who can deflect societal expectations and pressures, I did not to delve much into it.
Yet, a year back, tucked into my bed scrolling aimlessly through a myriad of apps, I typed into Google “Is it normal to not have any romantic relationship by the age of 23 years?”.
Google could not crawl out an answer, so I decided to define what romantic relationships mean to me.
All our romantic desires and actions stem from Maslow’s third level of need – love and belonging and the primary innate motivation to procreate. Civilizations are built on them. We all have grown up reading and watching romanticized stories of two people. Love conquering it all and making you complete. And to be honest, I am the poster girl of romanticism who swooned for Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and watched every Shah Rukh Khan movie 100 times!
But, that girl was pragmatic! My ideas or dreams of love were not formed based on books and movies. My strong mother brought me up in a household that believed in stating things without any sugar coating. So I was privy to the efforts relationships take and understood that love was not the only pillar to stand upon. All connections are important, from friendships to family. I did not want to put all my thought behind finding that one person to love and be loved back. Instead, I grew up to be a girl who loved herself foremost and had around her many great friends.
Yet, I took the old school romance of gradually getting to know someone and exchanging letters very seriously, and I could never muster up the will to swipe left or right on a bunch of pictures on a screen. Fortunately for me when my body went down the path of adulthood, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin decided to stay behind in the abyss. Those happy hormones were not prevalent for me and I never felt the butterflies or fuzziness for anyone. So I had my teenage years without any heartbreak or drama.
The lack of sexual attraction towards anyone led me to explore the spectrum of my sexuality. And I examined myself to be asexual. Yes, my swooning for Mr Darcy and Shah Rukh was completely platonic! Then came my 22nd birthday, and I experienced hormones gushing through every cell in my body. The reaction was to someone I met and connected in an instant. With him, I had some of my most enlightening conversations and formed a bond like I never had with anyone. Around him, butterflies erupted in my stomach, my heart beat faster and I got consumed in an all-encompassing sense of happiness. So I discovered my small place on the sexuality spectrum as a demisexual- an individual who only feels sexually attracted to someone when they have an emotional bond with the person.
Now, you must be wondering, why did I not pursue the man in question!
Well, my new discovery of hormones and sexuality also bought me my first heartbreak. The first man eliciting the emotions of love in me was happily committed! With great strength, I calmed down my emotions and decided to make an effort to be friends with him. And I would say, it is one of my most beautiful and nurturing friendships ever.
This last year being confined in my room and experiencing an unprecedented pandemic has been extremely difficult. I had professional conundrums, disturbed sleep cycles, and several bouts of sadness. But I was able to handle them all because of my family and a small group of friends. Each individual gave me strength in a different way. I was able to love myself more and never felt that my life was lacking in any aspect.
And through this all, I have learned a truth about myself- I value human connections and emotions as precious but I cannot make them based on society’s defined frameworks. Never having had a romantic encounter is not an area of concern for me. I have built a life that fulfils me and I feel happy and complete in my current relationships. And even in the future, I prefer not to burden all my expectations and desires on only one relationship.