Age thirteen. I am sitting snuggled closely with my four best friends on one of their beds. In that cool, dusty basement bedroom, we are reading passages of a romance novel aloud, passing the book to the next girl when the reader collapses into giggles. I giggle, not understanding. It’s funny, I suppose, though it seems kind of gross. I suppose I will understand when I am older.
Age fifteen. I am sitting at my kitchen table, reading Dear Abby in the newspaper, a break from school before I begin my homework. A girl my age has written in, saying she feels left behind by her friends, by their incomprehensible interest in boyfriends and sex. I read ahead eagerly to Abby’s response – perhaps she has the answer to what’s different about me. Abby says not to worry, that we are only “late bloomers.” I am disappointed. I suppose I will understand when I am older.
Age seventeen. I am sitting on the couch in my family room with my three closest friends. It is the last summer of us; we all leave for college in the fall. I am listening to all their stories about the boys they’ve dated, the boys they’ve fooled around with, the boys they’ve slept with. I am the only virgin left in the group. They reassure me, telling me my time will come. I do not tell them that I never want it to come, because that feeling bothers me. I am beginning to seriously worry now that something has gone terribly wrong with me; that I am somehow broken inside. Suppose I do not understand when I am older?
Age nineteen. I am sitting on my bed in my college dorm room, left alone by my now ex-boyfriend. Although the break-up itself went better than I expected, I am still deeply disturbed, worried for myself. It was the idea of sex that killed this short-lived relationship. My hatred of his touch had seeped into every interaction I had with him. Something must be seriously wrong with me. How can it be that something that comes so naturally to everyone else is so repulsive to me, only to me? Suppose I still do not understand, though now I am older?
Age nineteen. I am sitting on the worn couch in the common room, on the phone with my friend who transferred, trying to explain to her why I had to break up with the boy she was so eager for me to date. She asks if I have ever considered that I might be asexual. I tell her, I’ve joked with that word for ages, it doesn’t mean anything. She tells me, it does. She tells me, Google it. I hang up, and I do just that. Suppose I may never have to understand when I am older?
Age nineteen. I am sitting on the common room couch still, hungrily reading the entire content of a website called AVEN: Asexuality Visibility and Education Network. I suddenly suppose that I will never understand, no matter how old I get.
Age nineteen. I am sitting tall, resting a new confidence on a new identity. Asexuality. I suppose I understand myself, now that I am older.