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When We Were Young #2: Marieke Nijkamp

WhenWeWereYoung

Our next story comes from YA author Marieke Nikjamp (THIS IS HOW IT ENDS, Jan 2016).

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When we were young, “asexuality” wasn’t a word yet.

Perhaps it existed in the real world, but in our bubble of high school, it didn’t. We talked about crushes instead, about girlfriends and boyfriends, about relationships, about expectations. We talked about it awkwardly, openly, in hushed tones, in questions, in exclamation marks.

When I was young, “asexuality” wasn’t a word yet. Perhaps it existed in the real world, but it did not in my vocabulary. There were only feelings of missing something of not feeling at all or not feeling enough. Of being different, of being broken.

There were only feelings of friendship. Of fierce friendship. Friendship online and friendship in real life. Friendship with other girls. Friendship with other people. Friendship with boys.

But in a hypersexualized world, friendship alone is not enough. And in a heteronormative world, friendship with boys must mean something more.

“Does he like you?”

“You spent so much time together. You must like him.”

“Are you two dating?”

“It can’t just be friendship.”

“I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”

“I’ve seen the way you look at him.”

When we were young, “asexuality” wasn’t a word yet. Despite all the books I read. Despite spending more time on the internet than most teens my age. I simply didn’t know it existed. And I didn’t know I needed it to exist. I didn’t know I was looking for it.

For a long time I thought it might just be my being queer that made those comments uncomfortable. And truth was, that was part of it. But only a small part and it didn’t change with the first girl I loved.

Part of me kept feeling different. And part of me kept feeling broken.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I first stumbled over the word “asexuality” and an explanation of the ace/aro spectrum. It was the first time I learned that sexual and romantic attraction are not necessarily linked and that it was perfectly possible for me to be romantically attracted to people, while not being sexually attracted to anyone. That it was in fact normal, if you ascribe to the idea of normality.

Not long after that was the first time I found this part of me in a book, in R.J. Anderson’s wonderful Quicksilver, which cemented it for me. Because as reader, having true representation does mean the world and having words means understanding.

Now that I’m in my late twenties, “asexuality” is a word, is an understanding, is starting to seep through in my own writing. There are still decades of expectations to set aside and to undo, but I can wave my asexual flag. Different. Normal. Queer. Proud.

****

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Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and wants to grow up to be a time traveler. Her debut young adult novel This Is Where It Ends will be published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 5, 2016.

You can read Robin Talley’s WHEN WE WERE YOUNG essay by clicking here.

WHEN WE WERE, a story of friendship, forgiveness, and first love, is available now by clicking the photo below!

-WhenWeWereFINAL2

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