Editor’s Note: FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth for February, 2022 is Redefining Love. We invite submissions on the many layers of love, throughout the month. If you’d like to contribute, kindly email your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org
“If girls could marry girls, then I’d marry you!” quipped my childhood best friend as we made our way to the school bus, holding hands. We were two little girls who adored each other, laughing and giggling as we imagined spending the rest of our lives together. We were eight or nine years old at that time.
I struggled with a negligent father and an abusive mother at home, and my best friend was the only one I felt safe with. She was my sanctuary, and the idea of being with her forever gave me hope. But that wasn’t meant to be, and her family moved to another city soon after, putting an end to our budding relationship. I spent months crying and pining for her. Meanwhile, my family life went from bad to worse once I hit puberty.
My teenage years were difficult. While my weight gain and skin breakouts provoked my mother to taunt me for my “hideous” appearance, my irregular menstrual cycle had her worried about future infertility. In a society that values women only for their perceived beauty and ability to bear children, I was a “fat, ugly, and useless burden” on my family who no man would want to marry.
It was also in my mid-teens that I began to realise I was different from the other girls in my age group. Around this time, the other girls in my friend circle started talking about the boys they “liked” and wanted to “date.” I couldn’t understand what was going on, but whatever they talked about seemed to be a common phenomenon. Even movies and novels depicted the same—boys and girls “liking” each other and wanting to be together.
However, I didn’t “like” any boy and had no interest in whatever they called “dating.” Was I abnormal? Why couldn’t I find a boy to date? Was it because I was “fat, ugly, and useless” as my mother said? I convinced myself I was. Still, deep in my heart, I hoped to experience “love” one day.
Something magical happened when I joined college. I finally fell in love with the most wonderful person. But it wasn’t like the movies; it wasn’t a boy I fell for. I fell in love with a kind, warm-hearted girl whose very presence felt like sunshine. Our love was purely platonic and intense; it was a kind of love I had felt only once before, with my childhood best friend.
For the first time in many years, I found myself feeling safe and happy. Once again, I started dreaming of marriage. How beautiful it would be if I could have a platonic marriage with this lovely young woman! We could adopt a child and build a family together. However, as much as she loved me, she was heterosexual and didn’t fancy a platonic marriage with another woman.
Once I reached my mid-20s, my family started pressurising me for marriage, but I just wasn’t interested. In the next couple of years, my mother’s abusive behavior intensified along with the increasing pressure to get married. Despite not having any romantic or sexual interest in men, I forced myself to get into the dating arena to find a man to marry. Or else, I knew my mother would get me forcibly married to a man of her choice—a fate I was desperate to escape.
I tried dating a few guys who showed interest in me, joined a dating app, and even registered myself on an online matrimonial platform. However, nothing worked out.
By the time I hit 30 as a single woman, my confidence level was at an all-time low. And then, something unexpected happened. I fell in love with a sweet young man who felt like “home.” It was a kind of love I never knew existed; it was warm, peaceful, nurturing, and healing. It wasn’t “romantic” or “sexually charged” like what is projected in popular narratives —our connection was purely platonic.
Even though I had found “my kind” of love, I still felt pressurized by society to get into a “normal” relationship that would lead to marriage. Despite being in deep platonic love with someone, I continued trying to date others, even putting up with emotionally abusive and manipulative men in my desperate quest to find someone to marry.
My “unmarried” status seemed to have become the major topic of discussion in my extended family circle. My relationship with my mother worsened. On the verge of a mental breakdown, I consulted a therapist but left his office feeling even more broken and confused than when I entered.
It was during the lockdown in 2020 that things finally started making sense. I had ample time to introspect, and it hit me I am what they called “aroace” (aromantic/asexual) in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. As a long-time “straight” ally of the queer community, I was aware of this term but somehow never realised it described me.
The more I educated myself, the more confidence I gained. I am fine the way I am; there is nothing “wrong” with me for not wanting romantic or sexual involvement with men. I am pan-oriented; I fall in platonic love with both men and women—and that is perfectly fine too. Any kind of love that brings me joy and nourishes my soul is valid irrespective of whether the society acknowledges it or not.
Also read: Self Love Even When It Seems Impossible
Figuring out my sexuality and romantic orientation has been liberating. This has also paved the way for the most important kind of love that was missing in my life so far: self-love born out of radical self-acceptance. Today, I have minimum contact with my emotionally abusive mother, and I no longer feel the need to follow social norms just to fit in.
I am still fascinated with the idea of being in a platonic marriage with someone my soul belongs to, but there is no hurry. I am happier and more confident than I have ever been. When you begin to love yourself deeply, life does start looking more hopeful!