Editor’s Note: This month, that is December 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Modern Love and Relationships, where we invite various articles to highlight how love has been fundamental in our lifeworlds and how these experiences and perceptions around love are shaped by our identities in a modern Indian context. If you’d like to share your article, email us at email@example.com.
It was a bright, sunny winter afternoon when I first saw him. Falling in love at first sight was not on my agenda for the day—heck, it wasn’t even something I believed in—but that is exactly what happened. The moment we met, I was immediately drawn to him, in an intense hard-to-explain kind of way. There were no sparks or fireworks, but there was magic. No racing heartbeats, but a calm sense of belonging. A sense of peace, warmth, and reassurance. He smiled at me, and we started talking, as if we had always known each other. It was a profound, instant connection unlike any I had ever experienced, and in the ensuing years, my belief that he is “one of the major loves of my life” only intensified.
I’m aware this experience would have been considered “cute,” “sweet,” and “romantic” had I been a heterosexual woman. But I am not. Here is the thing: I am aromantic (“aro”) and asexual (“ace”). And yes, I fall in love, just like many others do. It is just that my kind of love is strictly platonic, without any element of romance or sexual desire. In a society that is obsessed with romance and sex, it is hard for most people to comprehend a kind of love that is devoid of these elements. However, if I can acknowledge the fact that romantic love and sexual desire exist despite not having experienced these feelings myself, why can’t others accept that aroaces can and do fall in platonic love?
From a young age, I was conditioned to believe in narrow ideas of what love and relationships should be like. As a girl, I grew up listening to fairy tales where beautiful but hapless princesses were rescued by brave and handsome princes. I watched movies that showed girls and boys falling in love and getting married. To my young mind, that was how things were supposed to be. I had a difficult childhood, just like the princesses in fairy tales, and I lived in the belief that one day a prince would come and rescue me. I couldn’t wait to grow up and fall in love with a boy who’d be my Prince Charming!
By the time I was 14, my friends had started “falling in love,” as they put it, and would constantly talk about the objects of their affection. The girls wanted to sit next to the boys they “liked” and spend all their time with them. But weirdly enough, I never felt this way about anyone. When friends asked me who I liked, I didn’t know what to say because I “liked” no one the way they did. Sure, there was this guy I thought was “cute,” but I didn’t want to talk to him or about him all the time. I couldn’t understand why my friends were behaving the way they did! However, I also badly wanted to fall in love. It was happening to everyone around me and everyone in the movies, books, music videos, and TV shows. Everyone except me.
After graduating from high school, I promised myself that I would fall in love when I went to college. And I did. Only, it wasn’t the way I had imagined all this while. I fell in love with a girl! We started as friends, growing increasingly closer as the months flew by. One day, I finally realised I was in love with her. She loved me too, deeply, intensely. Our mutual friends wondered if we were lesbians in a romantic relationship. In the mid-2000s, the idea that any kind of love other than heterosexual romantic love between a guy and a girl could exist was very slowly gaining acceptance in smaller Indian cities like my hometown.
But I wasn’t a lesbian, and neither was she. Our relationship was intense and purely platonic; it was different from any friendships I had ever been in. Even though I was yet to learn about terms like “asexuality” and “aromanticism,” I already knew deep in my heart that I had no romantic or sexual interest in anyone. The only kind of love I knew was a deep, platonic one. Looking back, I realise that the relationship between my “best friend” and me bordered on what is called a “Queer Platonic Relationship” in aroace parlance. But at that time, “best friend” was all we could call each other for the lack of a better term.
Also read: Self Love Even When It Seems Impossible
Years later, it happened again. And this time, the object of my platonic affection was a guy. Once again, I had to stick to calling him my “best friend” even though he was my platonic love. People asked me if I loved him. Yes. Was I dating him? No! If previously people had found it hard to believe two girls could be in platonic love, now they were even more perplexed. How could a woman be in platonic love with a guy?
In a society that has been brainwashed by Karan Johar to think a man and a woman can’t even be best friends, the idea of platonic love is hard to comprehend. I only wish society could see beyond the heteronormative definitions of love and relationships we have been fed on and adopt a broader view.
Love is love, and it comes in many forms.