Growing up the mechanics of sex always grossed me out. My parents told me “that will change when you find the right guy.” I faked crushes on lots of boys, impossible boys, boys who would never give me a first or a second look. And, I was fucking awkward about it. I came across as creepy and about as subtle as an Acme anvil, because I was playing pretend. Whatever I told myself, my friends, or my family–it was only ever half the truth. Besides being unobtainable, but never anyone with a steady girlfriend, I chose boys who had a spark of kindness. They may have been popular or athletic or smart, but they also had a core of kindness to them that came out in little ways. I respected that. I respected that a great deal. I figured if I couldn’t like them the way I was supposed to, I could at least like something about them besides their looks.
At least fifteen years ago I got horribly offended when a friend and fellow teacher, TS, told me he thought I was asexual. I had no idea what he meant by the term and only a few years later I was in a place where I would’ve asked before getting offended. At that point in time though I was try so hard to be normal (and failing on all fronts) that I heard the word and assumed it meant I was broken. We are still in a culture where many people look at those of us who aren’t into sex as broken.
I inherited some wonderful qualities from both sides of my family–generosity of spirit, faith in God, inherent kindness–and I inherited some less awesome qualities from both sides of the family–migraines, panic attacks, depression, quickfire anger, and nuclear slow-burn anger. All on my own I picked up spending money and eating food to mask my pain which put me overweight and in debt. All on my own I embraced laziness which means my house is rarely as clean as I would like it and I’m perpetually behind on all projects. But, I’m still not broken.
Six or seven years ago, I stumbled across a tumblr post (yes, I was a 35+ woman who read and still reads tumblr) that talked about sexuality and sexual attraction as more of a spectrum than the Kinsey Scale and it was a revelation. A handful of times in my life I have felt a glimmer of sexual attraction to someone I know well. I never lasts, but it has happened. I’ve never been in a romantic or sexual relationship with anyone. Sometimes I wish that I had someone I could be physically affectionate with. Sometimes I wish I had someone that wanted to spend a lot of time with me. Neither of those things has happened yet which makes me doubt either of those things will happen ever.
I understand my flaws. I’m overweight and out of shape which doesn’t seem to attract people to me. I sound judgmental and sarcastic far more often than I am judgmental or sarcastic. I can be truly annoying. I sometimes just shut down and hide. I spend money irresponsibly. I’m lazy at heart. I love naps and books and my two cats. I love my students. I love being a teacher, not because there’s nothing else I can do, but because I get to shape the minds of some of the next generation and it’s awesome. I get to teach people how to decode what they read or hear, to determine the value of the information they are given and the source of the information, to communicate effectively in a variety of ways–that is just so much fun.
Sometimes I’m cranky and it’s not always because of my chronic migraines. Sometime I snap and I instantly regret it. Sometimes I give too many chances and then get metaphorically kicked in the face. Sometimes I say or do things without thinking at all and I offend people.
We all have flaws.
We all have strengths.
Appreciating someone’s kindness, appreciating someone’s aesthetic value, appreciating someone’s talent–those are all normal things. And I’m lucky I have them.
I’m also lucky I live in a time where more people are talking about depression and anxiety. I’m lucky I had parents that forced me to learn in regular classrooms despite mild dyslexia. I’m lucky to have been born middle class. I’m lucky to have been born white.
I suppose if there’s one other lesson I want to teach my students, no matter when they were my students, is that different isn’t broken. Living a non-traditional lifestyle is an okay thing to do. What we feel will change over time. What we know to be true will change as new information becomes available. We owe to ourselves and others be respectful of others and their experiences.
For a long time my classroom rules were: be smart, be safe, be kind, be true, and try to be legal. Now they are: be respectful of others and their things; get consent ahead of time and respect someone’s choice to say no or to change their mind.