Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In Which I Talk about Romance. Again.

(I would have posted earlier, but, you know. Life. My grandfather died, colleges began accepting me, and I've gotten really snarled up inside, emotionally speaking. It happens, time to time.)

This is not the first time I've talked about romance. Or should I capitalize Romance? Everyone else seems to capitalize on it.

I'm one of those people who sets their book off to the side, on their bed, after they've finished reading. I have a dozen books sitting, scattered, across the side of my bed. 5 are romance. 3 are nonfiction. The rest are MG.

Now, what do I mean by romance? There are different types. There are romance novels and romantic subplots and there are those (horrible) books where romance plays a pretty central role, but for some reason isn't even mentioned in the back-cover summary. This post, I'm talking about all of them.

And, of course, if you visit this blog, I'm sure you read, write, or at least have heard of YA. My favorite age group of books. And more than likely, you have heard how swamped with romance it is. Maybe you've debated about the role of sex in YA Lit. Maybe you've even written a few romantic scenes yourself, if you're a writer.

Don't get me wrong. I am happy that people like writing romance, that women can find even a minimally decent pay writing romance, and that people will read it. But when I say "people" want to read it, I have never been included in it.

Because, of course, I am asexual. And romance is not really my strong suit.

Let me define that term for you (in my own words):

asexual (adj.): to not be interested in sex; to be sexually attracted to neither sex.

That does not mean I am "anti-love" or "innocent-minded;" it does not mean you can tell me that this is just "a phase everyone goes through" and that "I'll find someone someday." And it does not mean that I will be happy reading sex scenes in books, or even mildly romantic scenes.

Unfortunately, I come across it too often. The first kiss. The first relationship. The first sex. They are common themes, in YA Lit. And they are probably common firsts for many teenagers. But I never feel more alone than when I think the phrase, "normal teenagers," because I have never considered myself as part of that category, and for good reason.

To me, YA is not just first love. YA is the exploration of possibilities and the world for the first time. It is first adventures, first griefs, first chance to change the world and not merely observe it. There are many firsts in the world, and I love those much more, connect more with those ideas, than I do with "the feel of his lips on my skin" or "his kiss" or whatever else it is. You don't even have to include an asexual character in your book. I'm just begging you, to just not put romance in it, or put it far to the side in favor of other things.

There is only one book series I've read that features an asexual character: the Emily the Strange series, by Rob Reger. Emily Strange is a role model for me; not only is she asexual, but a genius, a prankster, a skateboarder, and a cat person. Members of her family are "Dark Girls," also called the "Dark Aunts," because they have magical ability and never marry or have children. I have all four books on my greater-favorites bookshelf. You can probably find them in the YA section at your local B&N. It's written in diary form, and can at times look more MG than YA, but still. An asexual character! A main character who actually sticks by her statement that she will never have children!*

As much as I hate to add the disclaimer: yes, I know there are books out there that are not romance, and YA is not "swamped" with romance, there are others out there about family and friendships. But in my local B&N, in my local library, there sure are many books with romance in them. There are those books, like I mentioned above, who do not bother to tell me of the romance that is a central part of the book in the summary.

Haughty Owl wants you to think of ALL sexualities.
The truth is, I walk into my local B&N, and I want to cry. My eyes desperately search the shelves -- those crisp, clean shelves with new, pristine books -- and my heart sinks when I pull down a book. Just wondering whether or not there will be romance in it; picking over the summary, and making assumptions based on that, assuming there will be romance if I don't know.

Perhaps normal people, I think, just pick a book off the shelves, like the summary, the premise, and just purchase it and go. It is entirely lonely, to realize that other people aren't bothered by the romance, because they're normal people who don't mind -- even love -- the heterosexual love in all of these books. And that because I'm just a freak, I have trouble doing the one thing I've done my entire life -- reading.

But luckily, I have a blog. And hopefully, I have a talent for writing, and I will use both of them to ask that more books with more asexual characters are put into my hands. That while you advocate for LGBT romance, remember that little unknown "A" for Asexual, and advocate for some no-romance books, as well.

Because there are other readers out there, like me, who are asexual and feeling just a little lonely not for being underrepresented -- but for not being represented at all. So, if you think yourself an ally to gays and bisexuals, then remember to educate on asexuals, too, because while most everyone has an opinion on LGBTQ, almost no one has heard of asexuality. In fact, when I tell someone I am asexual, I have to explain to the person what it means, and then they just shrug and say, "well, I don't know where that leaves you, then. I'm sure you'll grow into it. Everybody else does."

I know I will be a writer, and most of my main characters will be asexual. I know the themes I'd like to expound on in my works. I know, if I become famous, what it will be for -- a look into diversity, for that little asexual, bookish teenager who bites her lip in the library as her hands hover the shelves and shelves of first kisses and first crushes.

Have a blessed day.

Scabby Zazu says to watch what you read -- there's plenty of romance, when you look!

*Yes, I was ticked off by that in The Hunger Games. And in several other works I've read. Why is it somewhat common to have your narrator say she will never have children/fall in love/fall in love with that man, and then have her turn around and do exactly that?! Is this just a trend in the books I pick up?

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