The scene: a monthly happy hour at a bar after work with a few other coworkers, including one who has just joined the company a couple weeks ago, and all of whom were hired after me (and who thus may never have seen all the “asexual” bits all over my resume).
After around twenty minutes of chit-chat, we hit a lull in the conversation. Then one of my coworkers has a great idea:
“I know, let’s trade bad date stories! Everyone has one of those!”
…Except for me, apparently. So when the conversation worked it’s way back around the table to me a few bad date stories later, I got to be the buzzkill who just sort of had to mumble, “Actually, I don’t date…” and get completely frozen out of that chance for social connection-building.
While extremes like this are fortunately a rare occurrence (as most of my coworkers are also nerds who can usually be swayed into other, safer, topics), it’s things like these that can kind of serve as a jarring reminder that yeah, sexual-/amato-normativity still goes strong and that I will continue to be the odd one out. And it’s been a painful reminder that while lack of dating and sexual experience as a college student isn’t particularly noteworthy, that becomes less and less true for me every year that I grow older.
It’s also a reminder of the awkwardness of the perpetual coming out cycle. When I first got hired, I was sort of out by default since my volunteer work with asexual groups was one of the few work experiences I could list on my resume, which was passed around to everyone currently in my department at the time, so I never had to worry about coming out. But over the course of several years and new hires, there’s a lot of people who may not have figured it out yet, and I’m never sure how ready I am to bring it up for the first time.
On the one hand, I don’t mind being open about it to strangers all the time, and it’s not even like I expect a very bad reaction – one of the other things that happened at that happy hour was another person being loudly out as polyamorous and everyone seemed to take it totally in stride, so I don’t think being ace would necessarily phase them that much either.
But at the same time, I’ve had enough experiences with dropping the ace-bomb and completely derailing otherwise lighthearted conversations or social connections that I’ve become wary of coming out in any setting that seems too sensitive, especially ones linked to the workplace. (So, thanks be for communicating via social media and the internet, and their nice safe layers of time delays and geographic distance to water down the awkwardness). But that means that when I get blindsided by things like this, I still freeze up like a deer in headlights and just mumble whatever evasive answer pops into mind first. Even if I know that it’s just going to prolong the do-they-or-don’t-they-know agony.
(Also, From another angle, I feel like it’s also just further contributed to my overall wariness of all-women spaces – these things rarely seem to happen to me in mixed company. Possibly because the presence of other genders preserves a level of social restraint and prevents the kind of “female bonding” intimacy that inevitably lead to expectations of shared experiences that I just can’t fulfill, whether it’s because of the aro-ace thing or the genderfeels are complicated thing.)