This is my entry for the July 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the topic of “Music”.
Way back in 2010/2011, when I was both first exploring asexuality/aromanticism, and also discovering the unrelated world of youtube music covers, I came across this song (specifically this cover), that got stuck in my head as an earworm for a couple months:
Part of the appeal was that it’s just a catchy tune, but on another level, I think that “half of my heart” chorus also stuck with me as a sort of reflection of my own troubled thoughts about love and attraction and relationships – or lack thereof.
Now admittedly, if you listen at all closely, it’s not really very much of an analogue for the aromantic experience – it’s actually about someone thinking of themselves as unloving and then basically meeting the right person and getting over it, which is, well……the exact opposite of my own experience.
But with the joys of selective listening, I can and did still enjoy the snippets that did resonate (and conveniently ignore the fact that the rest of the song is about disputing them):
Oh half of my heart’s got a grip on the situation
Half of my heart takes time
Half of my heart’s got a right mind to tell youThat I can’t keep loving you (can’t keep loving you)
Oh, with half of my heartI was made to believe I’d never love somebody else
I made a plan, stay the man who can only love himself…Your faith is strong
But I can only fall short for so long
Down the road, later on
You will hate that I never gave more to you than half of my heart…And half of my heart is the part of a man
Who’s never truly loved anything…Oh, half of my heart…
One of the things that resonated with me here is the imagery conflictedness – of half of one’s heart pointing in one direction, the other, another.
Also, the imagery of lack – of half a heart, because the love you carry can’t be passed to another, of falling short of expectations, of despairing even as others assure that “you’re not loveless! it’ll change when you meet the right one” – even as you know that actually, it might not (and that maybe, you’re not even sure you want it to).
There’s the fear of disappointment, of knowing that even if someone does love you, you can’t return that love in kind, no matter how much you might care for them in other ways. The sadness of knowing that despite their hope and optimism you can only answer it with heartbreak.
And ultimately – in the end result of this specific, selective reading – it’s a heartfelt, heartbreaking song about the pain unrequited love. Only, this time it’s from the perspective of the unrequiter.
Unrequiting Love Stories as Aromantic Catharsis
When it comes to dramatic love songs, everyone knows the trope of unrequited love. However, I’ve always had a soft spot for sympathetic portrayals of the opposite side of the equation – the “unrequiters” who must turn down advances from a dear friend, whether it’s because they’re already with someone else, or the wrong gender, or just not interested for whatever reason.
I suspect that part of this is the fact that as an aromantic person, while I still appreciate romantic stories in the abstract, the unrequiter is one of the only ones I can directly relate to. I’ve never known what it’s like to be so consumed by interest in someone that i can’t stop thinking about them, or to be in pain when they don’t return the emotion – but I have known exactly what it’s like to have someone spill out their feelings to me only to know that all I can do is shatter that hope, which can be it’s own kind of heartbreaking.
Although – even then, it sometimes feels odd, because despite the dramatic wording in the preceeding paragraphs, I don’t actually have that many strongly impactful unrequiting experiences! In reality, they were very awkward, but they were also very short, and I got over them and moved on almost immediately (the people in question also all took it well and didn’t seem very surprised by my answer, which also helped a lot). On top of the whole aro/ace thing, I’ve just never been the type of person whose emotions run hot – i’ve always taken a very casual ‘what comes, comes’ approach to life that makes it easy to shrug off a lot of things. So, whatever appeal angsty tales of not being able to requite a love confession aren’t necessarily rooted in any specific experiences or traumas.
Instead, I feel like some of the appeal may be more about…an alternative way of processing the underlying anxieties that I’ve learned to mostly brush aside the rest of the time? Like, as a sort of emotional catharsis – a dramatic worst-case-scenario that processes any angst about being the unrequiter again, in order to go back to blasting forward with no regrets the rest of the time.
With all that said, however…good unrequiting love stories can be hard to find – especially in musical form. Many instances – like ‘Half of my Heart’ – require a heavy dose of willful misinterpretation. Others are centered around loving someone else instead, understandably which lessens the relatability. So I guess if anyone knows any other potential recommendations, I’d love to hear them!