At 2:00 a.m. on any given night, my cell phone can be found vibrating off the nightstand. I'll usually catch it just before it falls off the edge and pick it up.
"Hello?" I'll ask warily.
I'll hear sniffles, sobs and a lot of blubbering. This is not a good sign. Then, "It's me."
It may not be the same friend calling, but the stories never seem to vary. "We broke up. I don't know how it happened. It was just so fast. Another argument. I don't know."
They always call me, and always with a remarkably similar set of relationship woes. One friend once told me that if all else failed, I should become a relationship counselor. I was an excellent listener, she explained, and I possessed an objectivity which the vast majority of people out there lacked.
Why? Because I identify as asexual, meaning I'm not interested in sex or being in a relationship. At all.
By definition, an asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction in any form. In his famous report on sexuality, Alfred Kinsey estimated that a little more than 1 percent of the population could be classified "asexual," and more recent studies put the number in that neighborhood but suggest there are more who can't, won't or don't identify as such.
I first realized that I was asexual a few years ago, when a friend noted that I never showed interest in men or women. "You're indifferent to most of the relationships you have been in," she'd said. "Is it possible that you're asexual?" I'd never really given a name to it, but I knew she was right. I've honestly never been interested in any member of the same or opposite sex in a way that is even close to romantic.
I'm Asexual, but I'm Not a Robot
This is not to say that I have no appreciation at all for what is physically beautiful or aesthetically appealing in others. In the past, I have often tried to imagine myself with the people that I have shown some kind of interest in, but I realized in retrospect that this "attraction" was never more than friendly or purely appreciative. I can certainly admire the looks of an attractive person, but I feel no sexual or romantic desire for them.
It gets thrown into sharp focus sometimes. On a recent trip to the beach, my friends put on their bikinis, slathered themselves in oil and worried about angling themselves in the most flattering positions for passing dudes. Clothes don't make me feel sexy (uh, nothing does) so I dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, equally indifferent to the bodies around me, whether it's was men with washboard abs and surfboards or girls doing acrobatic things to get their attention. My friends don't understand -- but I just laugh and roll my eyes. It's almost kind of a good feeling to know that I have a life that doesn't involve the constant pursuit of sex.
I May Be the Only One, but I'm OK With It
I know that it shocks people, but I don't consider being asexual anything remotely controversial or upsetting. If anything, I feel like it's prevented a lot of unnecessary drama in my life. I could never imagine myself in the same state that my friends are in when they call me up crying at two in the morning. I know that there are people who have struggled with their sexuality, and been tormented by it, but it means so little to me that I didn't even think about it until my friend mentioned it.
In many ways, I believe it has actually benefited me. By being indifferent to romantic relationships, I'm able to spend my 20s channeling that energy into other activities, like writing. That being said, I don't think that being asexual requires any awareness or even personal pride. I am perfectly comfortable with my lack of sexual inclination, but I'm not losing any rights because of it or struggling for any kind of social equality. So, while I don't expect everybody to understand what it's like to be asexual, it also helps that I don't care if they do or not.
Katherine Chen is a student and writer who blogs for several professional Web sites and online magazines.