Asexual Representation: Lets Talk About Love

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann is a YA novel featuring a Black, Bi “Gray” Asexual woman as the main character. It is a MUCH needed breath of fresh air in a sea of white Ace Rep. Here's our (spoiler!) discussion about it! I also forgot we live in a modern world where I can look up how to pronounce an author's name via The Internet prior to recording, so....I pronounced it wrong and I am ever so sorry :( Her last name should have been pronounced Kann with an open wide and go “ah” sound, not Kann as in a “Can” of soda.

Since neither of us are Black, we encourage you to please actively seek out book reviews by Black Aces, as our voices should under no circumstances be the only ones you listen to concerning Black Ace Representation. Tin Minute Book Reviews - Let's Talk About Love Book Review-- Asexuals and Romance.

Buy the book on Bookshop, IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

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Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney, I’m here with my spouse Royce. And today, we are coming at you with another episode of Asexual representation. We’ve talked about a variety of Ace media already; we’ve talked about TV shows, video games, even a book here and there. But today, I think this is the first time we’re going to be discussing a fairly modern YA novel. It is called Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann. And I’m going to say right off the bat this was my absolute favorite YA book about Asexuality that I have read to date. I’m not going to pretend like I have read all of them, but I loved this book for a number of reasons.

Courtney: Royce has not read it. So Royce, I’m about to tell you all about this book and we can talk about some of my takeaways. And I do kind of want to say right off the bat that YA has never really been my favorite genre of book, but I still had a really good time reading this. I really did have a good time. There were moments when I was actually laughing out loud. There were moments where I had, like, a visceral feeling of, like, a gut punch from just how relatable some of these passages were. But we’ll get all into that.

Courtney: I want to actually talk about how phenomenal this cover is. It looks so good. It looks so clean. It is the perfect cover for a book that is centering Asexuality, because it’s this very clean white background, and the protagonist of our book is named Alice and she is a young Black woman, she is featured on the cover with big beautiful, natural hair and this gorgeous, gorgeous smile. And then you have this perfectly asexual purple text that says, “Let’s talk about love,” with a little blurb that says, “Alice is about to Ace this whole dating thing.” Because we love a good pun. So right off the bat, the very first page I was like, “Oh, okay. We’re getting right into it, aren’t we?” Because it opens with Alice’s girlfriend Margo just outright saying “I want to break up.” And when Alice says why, Margo counters with, “Because you won’t have sex with me.” And I was like, “Ah, yes. We’re getting right into the meat of this, aren’t we?” But then Alice turns around and says, “We actually did have sex this morning, actually twice. By the way, you were screaming out. It seems like you actually liked it. So what’s the issue here?” And this, this Margo essentially comes back and says, “Well, that’s just because you know what I like and you spend this time touching me and making me feel good, but I want to be able to touch you and you don’t really like anything. And that’s weird for me.” And– and I thought the reaction to that was actually very darling because then Alice says, “Well, I do like being touched. You know me, I need cuddles or I will die.” That was very cute. It’s a very cute line. It’s very sad that it’s coming out in the midst of this monumental breakup. And throughout this breakup conversation you get a bit of Alice’s internal monolog. And I underlined this passage in particular because I thought it was spot on: [reading] “The words ‘I’m Asexual’ knocked around inside Alice’s head. She knew she was. Had known for some time. She had also hoped she could wiggle her life around that truth like it didn’t matter or would never come up.” And my God, how relatable is that? I think there are so many Asexual people who feel like that at one point or another.

Courtney: You get a little more of their backstory as well. They were apparently just college dorm-mates before they became a couple. And this Margo is apparently a very sexual person, because they mention needing to do a scarf on the doorknob kind of arrangement. So that Alex, or Alice would stop walking in on all of her sexcapades, which that’s a trope I’ve heard about. But Royce, you went to college, did people actually do that? Is the sock on the door an actual thing? It sounds terrible.

Royce: I was not aware of this. I also didn’t roam around the dorms looking for hangings on peoples’ door handles.

Courtney: You weren’t the sex police.

Royce: Correct. They were called RAs.

Courtney: O-hoh. [laughs]

Royce: That’s an exaggeration. I think it was mostly just don’t cause a ruckus.

Courtney: Don’t cause a ruckus. But that never ended up being like an issue with– with your roommate or anything?

Royce: No.

Courtney: Yeah, I wonder how common that actually is in real life. So you’re getting a bit of this backstory, a little more detail. You’re getting more of Alice’s internal monolog and she kind of explains that she’s almost completely comfortable with being Asexual, she’s coming to terms with this a long time ago. She doesn’t feel like she has any internal shame about it. But she does admit that she isn’t comfortable saying the word Asexual or coming out to people in particular. So instead, she said she danced with the definition. But then we get, not only the nuances of Asexuality in this book, but you start to get little micro-aggressions that Black women have to deal with all the time. And I love seeing that because there is not enough Black Asexual representation.

Courtney: So I was really thrilled to see a Black protagonist. But when Alice outright says, “I just don’t see the point of sex. I don’t need it. I don’t really think about it.” Her girlfriend, who is in the midst of breaking up with her, actually laughs out loud and says, “But you’re Black.” Oh, there it is. Black people are very much hyper-sexualized and even though I am not a Black individual, so I haven’t had the hyper-sexualization in exactly the same way, there’s definitely a fetishization of race that I have encountered as a mixed individual, who has what I like to call racially ambiguous look and color. I’ve definitely had so, so many people come to me and be like, “What are you? You are exotic.” And oww.. That wigs me out so much. So to hear her very girlfriend be like, “You don’t think about sex? But you’re Black.” Like, of course, you should talk about sex and think about it and want it because of all of these things. Really just hurts.

Courtney: And then after they push past that and after she realizes like, “Oh shit, that was– that was racist of me, wasn’t it?” Like they brush on past that. And then you get all the things that people are concerned about when you come out as Asexual. You get, “Have you gone to a doctor?” I don’t need to. “Were you abused, is that it?” Nope, not that either. “Are you saving yourself for marriage?” And she’s like, “I hope that’s a joke. We literally have sex. What are you talking about?” So you can, you can just– maybe it’s just me because I am actually also Asexual so I’ve had people say these things to me also, but I hope that even an allosexual person who picks up this book can just for a second wonder what that feels like. The frustration, and the sheer absurdity of it. But they end up having a clean break with Margo saying something that again, just really stabbed me in the heart: “I can’t be with someone who doesn’t desire me. You could never love me as much as I would love you.” So… I think I think every Asexual person has known an allosexual person who conflates love with sex to that extreme.

Royce: The opposite of that, that’s usually mentioned is: “Oh, you’re Asexual, so friendship is as deep as your relationships go.”

Courtney: Yeah… yeah. Because, I mean, even you and I who are married, I have explained to people before that we are married and we are in love and we are Asexual, they’re like, “Oh, you’re Asexual so you’re like, roommates.” No… if we were just roommates, we’d be just roommates. What are you talking about? So, of course, as you can well imagine, Alice is really bummed about the break-up. Through talking to some other minor characters and going about her next couple of days you just get to learn a little more about her and the fact that she is Bi, minus the sexual. The fact that she has met some casual friends at a Pride rally at school, but also that most of them snubbed her for being Bi. She didn’t even come out as Asexual, but she kind of latched onto and befriended the one person who was cool with her being Bi. So there’s definitely just a nod to Bi erasure and gatekeeping that happens to bisexual people, but it also kind of highlights how it might even be a little more complicated for her to come out as Asexual because, at her school at this Pride festival at this specific LGBT event, people weren’t even accepting the bi part of her. So of course, how is she going to feel comfortable coming out as Asexual on top of that? A couple things about Alice: she’s adorable, I loved reading about her, she loves TV and she loves movies, so she has quite a few references. Which, even though I personally am not the biggest movie or TV fan in the world, the way she gets to talking about it when she’s really in the zone and getting excited about something, you can just perfectly envision her just lighting up as she talks about these things she’s really happy about. And of course, she really loves food too, which is, I mean, what, what can I say? All of the best Ace characters love food.

Courtney: We learn, also, that Margo was not Alice’s first relationship. She actually did date a guy before her, who also broke up with her for sex-compatibility issues. But back in high school, she apparently was awarded the horrible mean nickname of The Corpse. Because apparently, she just laid there like a corpse when her boyfriend was having sex with her in high school. And he, being a jerk, just told everyone about that. So everyone just called her the corpse and… oh that kills me. Why are people so awful in high school? So Alice does end up going to her best friend, named Feenie. And Feenie is actually in a relationship with her other best friend, Ryan. And three of them have been apparently just inseparable for years. So they’re, they’re all very good friends. And so Alice is just kind of lamenting to Feenie, you know, “Why can’t I find someone who loves being with me romantically, and why can’t that be enough? What is wrong with me? Am I asking for too much, etc, etc.” And her friend Feenie is like, “I say this very cautiously, but maybe find another Ace person to date?” And we learn at this point that Feenie and Ryan are the only two people on this Earth who know that she is Asexual. But to this Alice scoffs, because and I quote, “Long-distance relationships are not my jam.” Which, I feel a little called out for that, because we technically started long-distance.

Royce: Also, where does this take place at? Do you know the set? Or is it, is it explicit?

Courtney: Do you know where Bowen College is? Bowen University? I don’t think they say a place specifically, but that’s the college they’re at. If this is even a real University at all.

Royce: I guess that depends, is this intended to be set in Nigeria?

Courtney: No. Margo, her now ex-girlfriend, is from the middle of nowhere, Iowa. They’re somewhere with a beach. They go to a beach at some point. So it’s definitely a coast.

Royce: No idea. The closest thing I found was a college in Maine that was spelled differently.

Courtney: Mmm. Okay. Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know. I didn’t think to look up where this took place but it very much seems US, because of the, the Iowa mentions.

Royce: Right. I was just trying to think of population statistics. And I know that the 1% of all people are Asexual number is the only statistic I’ve heard of, and I take that with a grain of salt due to the methodology and the scope of the study…

Courtney: Right.

Royce: And then there’s also just how many people probably are Asexual, and don’t know it…

Courtney: Right.

Royce: But at any major area, particularly in a– in any sizable College, you would expect more than one person.

Courtney: Probably the issue is finding those people.

Royce: Exactly.

Courtney: Which, I mean, as we pointed out even Bisexual people have issue at the school’s LGBT events. So I wouldn’t suspect there to be, like, an Ace meet up at every sizable college. She does have this one really cute quirk, because she does experience aesthetic attraction, in a way that I can’t really relate to, but I know some Aces do. She calls it her cutie code. Where, when she sees a cutie she has like a scale of color, and the scale goes from green to red. And I thought that was funny for you, who is red-green colorblind and also Ace. [laughs]

Royce: I was gonna say, I wouldn’t be able to see that scale. There would be this big blur in the middle.

Courtney: But yeah, apparently the closer you get to red, the more ‘cutie’ that person is. So I think if someone was a green on the scale, that would be very lukewarm cutie. But if you’re like red-hot you’re about as cute as it gets. With most people falling into, like, “You’re an orangish.” But we’ve kind of talked a bit about the performative nature of being a younger Asexual who just thinks that you’re supposed to do things. Because we have, here now, Ella saying in Elementary School when all of her friends talked about boys they liked, she kept quiet. In Middle School, she had pretended to have a crush on a boy so that she would have someone to talk about when those conversations came up. This, she notes, was where she had begun to perfect the art of playing along.

Courtney: So you kind of also see the progression from just utter confusion and not playing along, to the more socially awkward years of Middle School where you’re like, “Oh, I’m not really like everyone else. I guess I’m gonna try to blend in.” Because I’ve talked before, like, I have absolutely just picked crushes because that was such a common topic, not because of any real desire for a person, whether it be someone in our class or a celebrity, depending on the scope of the conversation. It’s just like, “Pick someone you can tolerate and that’s my story, I’m sticking to it.” But she really upped her game in High School and says, “Alice had gone all out pretending to be hopelessly in love with a boy named Sam, but, fatal flaw in her plan, Sam actually liked her.” So when Sam asked her out everyone who talked to her knew that she was supposedly hopelessly in love with him, so she was like, “Well, I guess I can’t say no.” And that’s when, six months later, he dumped her with the new nickname of the corpse, so that’s a very sad ending to that story. But also a cautionary tale for why Asexual people should not pretend to have crushes at young ages.

Royce: Unless they’re really good at detecting someone who is not going to be attracted to them.

Courtney: I think I perfected the art of having crushes on gay boys.

Royce: I don’t think you can say that you perfected it, because I don’t think you were aware of it.

Courtney: [laughs] Subconsciously… subconsciously in there somewhere. Which actually kind of makes sense, because I’m not completely touch averse. Like, I’m normally fine with hugs, but I do become really uncomfortable and touch averse, like, the moment I detect that someone might be sexually attracted to me. Then I’m just like, no, don’t touch me. Which my filter for that isn’t the best. Sometimes it really takes something very over-the-top for me to get what’s going on, but as soon as I catch a whiff of that, it’s like “Mm-mmh, no. Mm-mmh. I’m very uncomfortable now.” So maybe that all had something to do with that.

Courtney: But as a result of that, this was actually how she came to find the term Asexual. Because she told her friend, Feenie, that she thought that there was something wrong with her but at the end of a health class one day, they went to talk to the health class teacher in private and that teacher was the one who said the word Asexual, and then everything made sense to her. She didn’t reject the word personally. She was like, “Yeah, that is exactly what I am.” Which does make me so curious about other health classes, because my health class was so trash. Every health class I ever took was so trash, but here’s a health teacher who knows the word Asexual, and is able to help a student with their orientation when they come to them in private. What I want to know is why that wasn’t part of the curriculum to begin with.

Royce: I don’t actually remember where I first heard the term Asexual. I knew that there was a point in time when I was thinking it was a possibility, but I didn’t have a moment of just discovering this new phenomenon. And part of it may have just been, well clearly, if there’s a straight and a gay, there’s also a neither. Just like how there’s an atheist to every religion or, you know, there’s always a “none of the above” option.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: I can’t remember if it was discussed in other terms. I clearly would have been aware of it through biology course, even though the word has different meaning in that context.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: I do remember in my high school sex education the teachers were talking about– It wasn’t a ton of information, but I think it was definitely more than yours. But then, it got dumbed down because of an angry parent seeing a worksheet that listed anal sex on the worksheet. And then the teachers were just obviously frustrated and just kind of gave up.

Courtney: That has got to be, like, the universal Midwestern experience. Because that happened in our Middle School health class. I didn’t even have a High School health class. But yeah, our Middle School one, there were definitely angry parents, things changing, and it can’t have been that robust to begin with.

Royce: In my case the sort of worksheet, textbook stuff was all pretty basic. There were a couple of classes that were just like, “Okay Q&A time.” Just ask some questions and we’ll try to answer them. And I’m pretty sure the teachers knew that at least some of the students were sexually active at that time. And just tried to answer.

Courtney: What grade were you in when you had that? Because we had that in fifth grade.

Royce: Oh, this was probably freshman year. Yeah, this would have been freshman year.

Courtney: Interesting. Wow, we could talk about this for ages. We’re gonna call it a break there pretty soon, because I want to talk about the book, but I think we need an upcoming episode that’s just about health classes. Health class and sex-ed because I could go on.

Royce: About what they should be? I don’t have much more information about how– what mine was.

Courtney: Well, I’ve got stories. I mean, we can talk about what we received, what we did not receive, what we should have gotten, and just, you know, our opinions on the matter.

Royce: And how they– how the conservative answer of “this should be taught in the home” is not acceptable or appropriate, because one, many parents don’t do that, and two, many parents don’t know themselves.

Courtney: Well, there’s yeah…

Royce: But back to the book.

Courtney: You’re touching on a lot of big topics here, Royce. Yes, we’re going to do a health class sex education episode, because oh man, I’m all riled up now, I’ve got feelings. But then we do also get a little sort of flashback, glimpse of Alice, even though that word resonated with her right off the bat, a little while later she starts to again have this bit of self-doubt. And I think that that can happen with anybody who just sort of keeps a part of them private like that, because then you have the opportunity, if you’re someone who’s predisposed, to spiraling thoughts like this. If you aren’t actively engaging with people who really get you or people identifying the same way, then some people are predisposed to, like, start over-analyzing and second-guessing things. And she too had this moment of, “Did I just have sex too early? Do I need to try it again? Was there just something wrong?” And so she has this experimental phase. Like, “Ah, maybe I need to try it again. Just to be sure.” And so she just picks a guy at random who is willing to sleep with her.

Royce: So a guy at random? …over your head. I was making a joke.

Courtney: What was the joke?

Royce: In our culture, the average man is much more willing to have sex with a woman who just wants to, then the other way around.

Courtney: Yes. She literally picks a guy randomly.

Royce: Yes, and I was saying that the “who wants to have sex with her” is reduntant.

Courtney: Oh! I get the joke. Wow, keep up, Courtney, my goodness.

Royce: It’s late.

Courtney: It’s late, but we’re having a good time. So, yes, she picks a guy at random, period. And she’s like– “Yeah, no.” Which I like this too because she says he seemed nice enough and they fumbled around for about 30 minutes. He even managed to give her an orgasm, but that was it. And it was at that point where in her mind she decides, “Well, sex is like jogging. All the people in the world can say that it’s really good for you and you’ll feel good doing it. And if you’re just a person who doesn’t care about jogging, then you’re just not a person who cares about jogging.

Royce: That’s interesting to hear that listed out in the book, because that is probably the most relatable scenario to my own, but still not quite the same. Because I still feel like from what she was saying there she had to try it twice, but she’s still got confirmation of, “Okay. This is the answer.” Whereas mine was much more vague. Definitely the first time I was like, “Oh, okay, that was– that was it? I guess.” But then I kind of–

Courtney: “I guess.”

Royce: I kind of wrote it off as– well, I’ve been told consistently for a long time now, like, oh this is going to be the best part of your life. This is going to be so important. Everything from graduation to prom to getting into college. All of that.

Courtney: Nothing is ever what it’s cracked up to be, is what you’re saying.

Royce: Right.

Courtney: The world is a disappointment.

Royce: Yes, and everything is overhyped. And then there’s also the: maybe I was nervous, maybe I was anxious, maybe, maybe partner incompatibility, maybe I haven’t learned something about myself yet. There’s– there are so many questions. And I think I didn’t have as clear cut of an answer as she got through the experimentation process.

Courtney: Did you ever have a moment of just thinking that you might not be straight? Was that ever a part of your self-exploration?

Royce: No. I remember having, like, crushes on girls for as long as I have memories, and I’ve never experienced that towards a guy.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Royce: That part was clear cut.

Courtney: And you think there was something behind it and that it wasn’t just a sort of societal default thing to that.

Royce: What do you mean?

Courtney: Well, because for me, there was a time when I thought I was a hetero-romantic Asexuals. And there was a time even longer ago than that, that I just thought I was straight, but I didn’t really have the attraction to men that I should, if I actually was those things. And I mean, I hadn’t really had a relationship with a girl, but I had kissed a number of girls, and in those moments kissing those girls, I was like, “I guess I’m just not into girls. I guess I’m just straight.” But I also never liked kissing guys. And yet, there must be something just, hetero-normativity, that’s still somehow leached into me for a while. Because–

Royce: That you explained it away.

Courtney: Even though I still didn’t like kissing guys, there was still like, I guess I didn’t know nothing was an option.

Royce: Yeah. So for me the attraction that I feel towards women is very basal or very core. It’s something that I don’t see as influenced by the world around me. It’s just, I can look back and see evidence of it too early and too consistently.

Courtney: Mm-hmm, cool. We’re gonna, we’re gonna have to like really flash out our Asexual histories for an upcoming episode. Oh, I’m sure there are some great story nuggets in there if we go back far enough. But yeah, I liked that because even comparing it to exercise, I’ve absolutely heard people be like, “Sex is so good for you, not only emotionally, but it’s good exercise. It gets your heart rate going.” Like, I’ve literally heard people say that that’s a reason why you should have sex is because it’s good exercise.

Royce: It’s a form of exercise.

Courtney: It’s a form of exercise, yes.

Royce: It’s not going to be as good as, like, targeted strength training or a specific type of goal.

Courtney: Well, I don’t know.

Royce: Plus, plus, I’m pretty sure I’ve read that the average session is about five minutes.

Courtney: It is probably very five minutes. Why does that feel so short? [laughs] Really!

Royce: And I think that’s right. I would have to look it up again, I’m pulling that number off the top of my head. But if you want, I mean, most good exercise routines are pushing 20.

Courtney: Wow 5… We’re gonna just have to look up a bunch of fun sex-tistics. Se– I tried to say statistics with sex and didn’t work very well. Sex-tistics… Because, oh, that, that baffles me. But all right. I mean, what do I know? [laughs] But yeah, and not everyone’s going to like every kind of exercise. Some people go for their jog every single day. Some people are like, you couldn’t pay me enough to come for a jog. And as Alice points out, you’d rather spend your time with a Netflix queue and a box of donuts. Relatable. But yes, and she did experience an orgasm there too. She also had her own little analogy for that, saying that orgasms were like stretching after the exercise. It felt amazing in the moment, but who really thought about that one perfect stretch two hours later. She certainly didn’t. Which I also think is great, because the way people talk about orgasms, or the fact that like orgasmic is like, the most melodramatic way to say that something was especially good–

Royce: Like food.

Courtney: Like food. [laughs] And yeah, there, there are definitely people who might be surprised to hear that Aces can or have orgasmed and still just don’t care that much. But there are those people out there. They still just– not life-changing, nothing to write home about, that’s for sure. So, anyway, the most amazing thing happens. A new man appears who smashes her cutie code to smithereens. Yes, he is not just red, he is off the charts. She decides he is black, the only black-coated cutie that ever there has been. So this new man is named Takumi, and he is her new co-worker. But since he was like you decode off the charts, she was saying, “What, what is this feeling? What is wrong with me? Is? Is this something that might contradict my Asexuality perhaps?”

Courtney: And she has this moment of not even really wanting to explore what this could mean, because she says that she doesn’t want to go back to feeling nothing and thinking that she’s broken. She said I finally feel balanced and I don’t want to lose that. Just also something that I think is a very common Asexual concern, and I don’t know what it is. Because I have not seen, to the same extent, people who are comfortable and have adopted other orientations and labels for themselves, like, worrying that they might not be that thing after all. At least not to the same extent. And I don’t know if it is just all of the rampant gatekeeping and the fact that there is a lot of, like, really Ace unfriendly media out there. And when you’re just kind of constantly bombarded with it, then I suppose there are a certain percentage of people that are just going to really overthink it. And that’s sad, but it’s relatable.

Courtney: Her friend Feenie talking her through this even at one point says, “Well, that doesn’t mean you are not Ace. Maybe you’re a Gray-ace instead of just straight up Ace, period.” And that brings her a lot of comfort to say, “Yeah, graysexual. In spite of everything, even if this does end up being what I am, I’m still on the spectrum.” And they described it as the spectrum where she felt most at home. So I think that’s very key, because yes, once you sort of find the Asexuality spectrum and you learn this about yourself and you identify this way, it sort of can open up the floodgates of self-exploration even further. I’ve seen so many people say, you know, “I found Asexuality before realizing what my gender actually is.” Or “I found Asexuality before realizing that I’m also on the Aromantic spectrum.” Because once you start immersing yourself in the language of Asexuality and learning about concepts like the Split Attraction Model, and just learning more about yourself, and about all the different ways of person can be, you might find that you start to slide and shift around on that spectrum. And you won’t always be in exactly the same place, but that’s a combination of learning about more identities and experiences and the fact that sexuality is also just fluid and can change over time. And that is not a bad or a wrong thing.

Courtney: But, even though speaking with her friend had her feeling a little bit better, she decides that it is time to enroll in therapy. And I did find this detail very interesting. Since she is a college student and she’s still on her family’s Healthcare, she did not want her family to know that she was seeing a therapist because they would want to know why, and she was not ready to come out to them as being Asexual. So she enlisted the help of a different friend, to try to help get her into a clinic that wouldn’t use her family’s health insurance. And, of course, all of the concerns of “I haven’t met this therapist yet. What if he is racist? What if he’s homophobic? What if he’s secretly a religious fanatic, who’s going to try to, you know, break me down and convert me to his ideals.” But he ends up being a pretty level guy, ends up helping her through a couple of different things.

Courtney: And her biggest concern in that first session was that she is happy identifying as Asexual, but with this new guy who is off the cutie code charts, she thinks that maybe she felt what she would consider to be arousal, and that’s kind of calling some things into question and she’s not super comfortable about that. And I found this line so interesting, I had to underline it so we can talk about it. The doctor says, “A common misconception is the difference between arousal and attraction. Arousal is a physiological response, whereas attraction is an experience, and they are not mutually exclusive.” And I liked that, because we have specifically talked about the difference between attraction versus action, your orientation versus your sexual behaviors being two things that are not mutually exclusive. But we haven’t gotten into the actual physical state of arousal as another wrench that can be thrown into this to just make everything a little more complicated for people who might be trying to figure out their own identity.

Royce: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m not really sure if I’m surprised or not to hear that being brought up. I guess, I think that I’m so used to arousal being a physiological phenomenon just due to my experience in my own body. I don’t know how frequently people actually talk about penises. But yeah, arousal, as a hormonal thing, just happens all the time for no explainable reason.

Courtney: It sounds really unfortunate.

Royce: It’s not that big of a deal, because it’s just something you live with. But I guess our protagonist is a woman, and I don’t know enough about how common that is or how different it is.

Courtney: See now, we’re just getting back into Health Class. [laughs]

Royce: That’s what I was going to say. This is why I wanted to prompt that, but I think that is maybe a health class discussion.

Courtney: It is a health class discussion. Because yeah, the one thing– Like, arousal never crossed lips of anyone at any school I ever went to, in my presence. But when we had the very first, like, “Your bodies are changing” conversation where, you know, they split up the boys and the girls, the word that they kept saying like, “And you girls will start to experience vaginal discharge.”

Royce: This was your Elementary School sex-ed?

Courtney: Yeah. It was like the school nurse who came in for one day in fifth grade.

Royce: Okay. See, I had that too, and I don’t remember any of it. But then I had actual sex-ed later.

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah. I remember that day vividly because fifth grade Courtney was trying to figure some shit out. The other kids in class took notice. That wasn’t an excellent day. But this– this has to be a whole other episode. We’re not even halfway through the book.

Royce: You’re getting distracted.

Courtney: You! You’re distracting me. This is your fault once again. But yes, so he mentions that arousal is physiological, it does not necessarily have anything to do with attraction. I did have a moment of remembering, because I have not lived with a penis at any point in my life, but I did have a moment of thinking about that scene from BoJack Horseman when he’s staying with a family, his old friend and her husband and kids, and they have a teenage son–

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: –who gets an erection at the breakfast table, and his family’s like awful to him, and they’re like, “What could possibly be arousing you right now?” He’s like, “I don’t know.”

Royce: I don’t know how this thing works.

Courtney: So yeah, reading that I was like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, I guess that makes sense.” But yeah, and he even goes so far as to say, like, even if you are sexually attracted to this one person in particular that isn’t necessarily weird or unusual, and that also doesn’t mean that you’re not Asexual, which I think was a nice little thing to throw in. I think before the last 20 years or so when there has started to be an actual Ace Community online, where we are discussing language more and agreeing on terms and trying to define them as best we can, I think there were a lot of Asexual people pre-internet era who kind of just gave themselves a word that worked for them, even if they haven’t known anyone else to use it. I definitely have a friend who used the word unisexual for herself because she does have one partner in a monogamous relationship, and talking about Asexuality absolutely resonated with her. And she was like, “Yeah, the word I’ve been using is unisexual.” And I thought that was very interesting because I’m sure there are a lot of people who haven’t engaged in the online community who are just using whatever word works. And that kind of goes back a little bit to you not really knowing where you first picked up that word as an orientation. Because I definitely know in my head, I considered the word Asexual before I did any research about it or before I heard it on TV. So I think I just magically made that word for myself even before I had confirmation that other people also feel this way.

Courtney: But yeah, when the doctor starts to go down this path of, you know, validity, “You’re valid.” Which is very good to hear an actual psychiatrist saying this because we know the issues, we know there are some medical professionals who think that Asexuality is not an orientation, that it’s in fact a medical condition that can or should be fixed. And that sucks that so many people have to deal with that. So it is good to hear this coming from a doctor, but I’ve also just been a little salty about the whole validity thing lately, because ten years ago online I would see people be like, “Asexuality is valid,” and now a decade later, I’m seeing “Asexuality is valid.” It’s like, I want more than validity… I want widespread acceptance and respect.

Courtney: But she, even at this point says like– Cuts him off, says, “Look, I know all of this. I have read the books. I read the articles. I’ve been to the websites. I know what Asexuality is. I know what it isn’t.” And she says, “But what I don’t get is why this is happening to me now. I figured all this out years ago and now all of a sudden I’m changing. How am I ever going to explain this to anyone?” And I’m gonna call that Ace Imposter Syndrome. I think a lot of people feel that way at one point or another. And it’s horrible because you can go to all those websites, you can get all of those definitions, you can believe in your heart of hearts that this is real, and it is valid and that you fit there, but there can still be something in the back of your brain that says, “But what if?” Because knowing something logically and really internalizing it are two vastly different things.

Courtney: But she goes on to elaborate even further that it’s really the explaining it to someone that concerns her. She does not think that anyone would get it or get her, which is a valid concern. She even says, for example, “If I go to my parents and say I’m a lesbian, they would know what that meant. If I went to my siblings and said I’m bisexual, they would know what I meant. If I tell anyone I’m Asexual, they’re going to look at me like there’s something wrong. They’re going to tell me to go to a doctor. They’re going to tell me I’m too young to know what I am, what I want, or I’m still developing. Or they’ll tell me how important sex is to finding a good man, or they’ll think they can fix me that I’m lying because I don’t want to sleep with them.”

Courtney: So she’s just listing all these things that we actually do get in real life. This actually does happen. These are not unfounded concerns by any means. And in fact, we already saw her get half of those already with the go to “Have you seen a doctor?” from her ex. But therein lies her concern. She says, “How in the hell am I going to explain that I am Biromantic Asexual. They’re really going to think I am making this shit up.” Because yeah, we get acephobes on Twitter all the time saying you’re making this up, you are trying to be special, this is not a real thing. So yeah, she, who has clearly been online… she mentions Tumblr specifically as a great place where she’s learned a lot of stuff, of course she’s also seen the acephobia on top of all that too. So even if you haven’t seen it in your real personal life, if you see it online like, but of course, that’s going to be a concern. And the doctor gives her some advice that I’m a little torn on, because he says, “My advice to you is to be prepared to educate. It may feel unfair that the onus of that responsibility will fall on you, but when most people think the A stands for Ally, you will have to speak louder with bravery and dignity to be heard. You will have to be willing to inform and to educate. And you will have to know when it is time to remove yourself from situations and disconnect from those who either do not understand or are unwilling to.” I’m torn on that because I don’t think he’s wrong, but I’m mad that it has to be that way. Because so many Aces have to kind of become an activist by necessity, and in fact just marginalized or minority identities in general often.

Royce: The A stands for activists.

Courtney: The A stands for activists! I identify as an activist and you know something, Royce? That is hella fucking valid. And although it doesn’t explicitly state it, I mean they don’t hand hold you through all of this information, but having to be that activist by necessity, first of all, not everyone wants to be that, and also just with her intersectional identities, she’s also a Black woman. And we’ve already seen her white ex from Iowa make racist micro-agressions toward her. So, how often in her life you can only imagine she has had to educate the friends around her, who don’t understand the Black experience about things like racism, micro-agressions. You either have to educate about it or grin and bear it, and neither are fair that that onus has to be on anyone.

Courtney: And they even do parallel that a bit with her hair, because over the course of perhaps another couple of chapters they mention some things like maintenance with her natural hair, and one passage in particular is: the more stressed out she got, the more likely it would be that she would forget to take proper care of her hair; so until she sorted through all this emotional crap, a protective style would be her best friend. And Takumi made a comment about her hair at one point, I wish I took note or remembered what it was because I don’t remember it being explicitly racist or anything, I think is fairly off-handed, but her guard was clearly up about someone who is not Black commenting on her hair. And she apologized to him later for being rude when he complimented her hair, and kind of explained that “the reason why I reacted that way is because I get questions about it and I hate feeling like I’m forced to explain every little detail about braiding and my hair.” And yeah, that natural hair is a real, real concern that a lot of non-Black people do not understand. So that’s again, just showing all the different ways people can be forced to educate others about things they really shouldn’t have to if they don’t want to.

Courtney: I will use that to give a quick plug for a couple of causes that mean a lot to me. Because as many of you know, my business– in my, in my, in my working life separate from this podcast, is about the history of hair and very specifically Victorian hair art and hair jewelry. But to that extent also just the general sentimental and cultural value of hair. And hair discrimination has been a big thing in history and it is still present. So, I can’t speak for other countries, but if you are in the US, I highly recommend you check out The Crown Act, because that is a bill that we are trying to get past hopefully in all 50 states, it is only in a handful of them right now, and that is going to extend the definition of race to include natural hair and protective styles, to make sure that nobody can be discriminated against because of the natural texture of their hair. Which disproportionately affects Black people and Black women. There is an online petition you can sign, you should be able to find it pretty easily if you Google it. And heck, even if you’re not in the US, you can still sign that petition. Just use straight zeros as your ZIP code, to indicate that you’re not from the US. But you’ll be able to find a great little map of all the states that have and have not passed The Crown Act. And if it is not passed in your state, then maybe– maybe shoot a little letter over to your lawmakers, and see if you can change that.

Courtney: Another cause along those lines that is really important, if you look up Braiding Freedom, there are multiple states in the US where it is illegal for African style hair braiders to braid hair. Some states require a full cosmetology license, which takes schooling, it takes money, it takes licensing, even though they do not use the same potentially harmful chemicals that standard hairdressers, people dying hair, bleaching, etc., would use. And cosmetology schools also just don’t teach that type of braiding. So it’s really an unfair system. So Braiding Freedom helps to defend people who are being prosecuted for braiding hair, because no one should be.

Courtney: So on top of these budding sexuality concerns and this new person Takumi, whom she’s getting to know, she starts to have some issues with her two best friends, because Ryan and Feenie are engaged, they’ve been a couple for quite some time. And even though the three of them are still friends, she doesn’t feel like it’s exactly the same way it was before they were a couple. And she’s starting to feel a little bit boxed out. In fact, she and Feenie were going to be roommates together in college, until Feenie and Ryan found an apartment that they could rent on their own instead, and kind of left Alice high and dry. And that’s how she ended up getting Margo as a roommate who is now her ex.

Courtney: So, now that she and Margo have broken up, the semester’s over, they encouraged her to move in with them because they have like an extra half a bedroom. It seems very small and very cramped, but she takes them up on this. So she’s just overall feeling pretty down. She even says, you know, they would joke all day when it came to marrying Alice too, but it wasn’t like she had access to the bank account. It wasn’t like Ryan had given her an engagement ring too. She never thought the day would come when their trio would genuinely become a duo, but lately all signs pointed to that future as inevitable. So she’s feeling very lonely.

Courtney: And this is compounded when they go to a costume party together, and they always try to have a family night, the three of them, which I think is very sweet when it actually works out. But they end up going to this party together and the couple, Feenie and Ryan, like– this is something I’ve never understood, ever once, they leave to go find a room in this house, that is not theirs, to have sex in. I don’t think I’ve actually genuinely ever been to a party where people are having sex in the rooms, but I see that on TV all the time. But yeah, and it’s really unfortunate when she’s left alone because she’s dressed up as Velma from Scooby-Doo, and it’s a party and there are a lot of jerks at parties, and she gets in a very unsafe situation when a man comes up to her and starts talking to her, stepping a little too close to her, kind of boxing her into a corner. He does a series of horrible microaggressions, like, “Oh, you’re pretty cute for a Black girl.” And then as she tries to, like, step away, he says, you know, “Don’t be like that, you know exactly how you look.” Very… victim-blame-y.

Courtney: And that’s when her internal monolog says, “Maybe her Velma costume wasn’t the best choice for this night. She wasn’t trying to be sexy. She loved the costume. The best kind of balance between smart, feminine, and cute.” And that’s something I can relate to as an Ace woman. I have never just dressed myself being, like, “I want to be sexy today.” And yet people will find things sexy, if they want to find them sexy. And she thought of herself as not especially attractive, but there is this moment where it says: “Puberty forced her to come to terms with the fact that her self-coding assessment may have been low. Parts of her were desirable to the opposite sex, to her own sex, to the guy who liked to yell about the size of her ass when she walked from the bus stop to her house, to the people who called her cute while only staring at her breasts. It all made her uncomfortable as hell.” Which, I guess all I can say to that is yep. Yep. Yep. Yep.

Courtney: Then I guess I underline this line not because it’s relevant to Asexuality, but just because I thought it was the perfect little sentence to capture just the character of this book and the quirks of Alice. Because Takumi ends up meeting her at this party. She gets out of that unsafe situation, and he’s like, “Where are your friends?” And she’s like, “They’re upstairs in a room somewhere.” And he’s like, “Okay. Well they ditched. Let’s get out of here then.” Like, let’s go get milkshakes. Which I think is the perfect response. And you tell me right now, Royce, if you are the third wheel, you’re with two very good friends who happen to be a couple and you’re at a party, and they ditch you to go hook up in a room. Do you think it’s fair game to just leave the party?

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: Yes. Thank you.

Royce: My one question is what were travel arrangements? Like if you drove then that’s kind of a dick move, but.

Courtney: She does not have a car, no.

Royce: There we go, perfectly fine. Particularly if– or if there was a case where you’re within walking distance or you know that they can Uber home or something. The only way that that’d be shitty is if you were like the designated driver and you just ditch them.

Courtney: Yeah, I do not think that was the case. I do not think so. But yeah, so Takumi and Alice leave, as I think they have had every right to do. And you know, that this is a budding love story, so there are some little romancing moments here, and when he turned to her and made eye contact while they’re in a restaurant waiting on food, she’s– Her internal monolog said, “God had someone turned the air off? Wasn’t that illegal in restaurants?” I just thought that was the cutest line. It should be illegal to turn the air off in restaurants. How dare they. But yeah. All in all things are starting to go pretty well with Takumi. At one point she says, “I think I might have a serious squish on him.” Which is a very online-Ace-culture term. It’s not a crush. It’s a squish. And yeah, she even says, “You know, I don’t even know if I’d want to kiss him.” Which her friend finds odd because she’s like, “You’ve always liked kissing so that can’t be good.” And she’s like, “Yeah, you know, I haven’t even wanted to hug him yet.” And her friend’s interpreting this as a bad sign, but she’s like, “No, it’s still good. I’m still enjoying this.” Which… I love pointing out those little details because even within your orientation, your place on the spectrum, different relationships can feel different and you can want a different set of things with different people.

Courtney: And I don’t think that gets talked about enough either. Because, I mean you and I, Royce, we cuddle quite a bit, but I have absolutely had past relationships where I did not like cuddling, did not want any part of it with that person. And I suppose, the same could be said for aesthetic attraction. This is clearly a person who has enough aesthetic attraction to a wide enough variety of people that she has a whole internal code system. Until I met you Royce, I did not think I had an aesthetic attraction at all. Like, all people were the same level of just aesthetic attractiveness to me. So yeah, which is bonkers to me because as we shared in our episode about how we met and our Asexual love story, I saw your profile picture and I clicked on it because of your magnificent hair and your just radiating beauty. Which, I have just cannot think of another single person I’ve ever actually experienced that, so that was just– that was some kind of fate or something interfering. Nudging me toward you. And I can’t even really say there’s any sort of Demi component to that aesthetic attraction because I didn’t know you yet. That was my first impression of you and it’s the impression I still have of you. So that’s sort of, I guess, what the psychologist in here was saying, where, you know, even if as a general rule of thumb you feel this way, there might be a person here or there who might break that mold. And I guess that’s how aesthetic attraction is with me. But how lucky am I, that the one person I’m aesthetically attracted to was also Asexual and ended up becoming the love of my life. I am a very lucky Courtney indeed.

Courtney: But anyway, Royce, the reason why I asked if you thought her leaving that party was fair game is because that ended up being a huge fight with her best friend. Because Alice at one point is like, “You guys ditched me, so are you going to apologize?” And her friends “Are you going to apologize?” And Alice’s like, “What did I do wrong?” He said, “You left us at the party.” And Alice’s like, “But you left me first…” And to that, her friend Feenie gets really upset and is like, “I am not going to apologize for having sex with my boyfriend when you fucking jumped ship the first chance you got because you couldn’t stand being alone for 30 minutes. So miss me with that bullshit.” And I read that and I was like, whoa, like if this was an r/AmItheAsshole like, Feenie’s the asshole here, right? It definitely ends up being more than just that one night at that party, but it’s clear right out of the gate that there’s something bigger you guys need to communicate about here.

Courtney: So, things go pretty cutely with Takumi for a while. She helps him babysit his nieces, the twins. This has nothing to do with anything except that I laughed out loud a lot. So I had to call it out. He leaves to go grocery shopping while she’s babysitting the twins, and she’s like, “You guys have too much energy, I’m gonna put on some television.” She pulls up Netflix and she’s like, “How about Winnie the Pooh?” And the kids go, “What is that? We like Bubble Guppies.” And it says, “Alice didn’t know what unholy underwater hell a bubble guppy came from, but this was not the day she planned to find out. So she turned on Winnie the Pooh, but also, do kids not know what Winnie the Pooh is these days?”

Courtney: I did think it was especially interesting, and I do not know if this was 100% the author’s intention or not, but I did think it was interesting that she decided to put a couple together who was a Black woman and an Asian man, and make the Black woman Asexual and the Asian man allosexual. Because as much as these stereotypes should not be a thing, that is a direct subversion of the stereotype, because, they are all racist in nature, but the fact that Black women are hyper-sexualized and Asian men are very often desexualized. She’s very much flipping the script in a very blatant way. And that thought occurred to me because the next passage that I bookmarked here was another flashback to a bunch of girls in a dorm, who all decided that they’re gonna make profiles on dating apps and they can play a really fun game, they’re going to see who gets the most message. I don’t know people actually play that game, but it sounds miserable. No, thank you.

Royce: Yeah, I would be surprised. Well, maybe laughing at it as a group would take the sting out of all of, “Hey, what’s up?” Or random pictures.

Courtney: Yeah… Yeah. But yeah, so in the context of setting up this game, one of the girls looks at Alice and says, “You’re super cute Alice, but you’re probably going to lose, so don’t be too disappointed.” And when someone else asks, “Why would she lose?” The answer? “Well, because she’s Black. Black girls and Asian guys are always ranked the lowest on dating sites. I saw it in an interview with the guy who owns a dating app.” And eww… Even if you saw someone who owned a dating app saying that why, why would you bring it up in this situation? Oh, it’s awful! So, yeah, just a lot of moments of just me making grumbling, frustrated noises alone as I’m reading this book. Which– The very frequent desexualization of East Asian men is not something that they discussed in this book, nor do they have to, but they did touch on from Takumi’s standpoint the fact that there is also a fetishization, which I think any minority race has a certain percentage of people who are going to fetishize them. It’s gross, but that is how it is. For example, he mentions at one point that there was a girl who just cut him off and stopped talking to him when he asked her to stop calling him oppa because he is not Korean and that is a Korean term. Which yeah, ew, gross. Not only the like, that’s not even where he or his family comes from, but it’s so heavily implying, like, this girl is not Asian herself. And so if we assume it’s a white girl, would it really be any better if she got a Japanese boyfriend and started calling him senpai? Like that would not be better. There are layers there, but there’s a bit of camaraderie there because Alice, like, winces and she’s like, “Yeah, but I’ve gotten the Black girl version of that before.”

Courtney: Also, you can’t have an Ace girl who loves food without a cake reference. So here it is. It’s a very cute one. Get ready for it. Takumi wants to spontaneously go for a walk, to which she says, “Ew” and “Exercise isn’t compatible with my lifestyle. But after a bit more whining, Alice, and negotiating, Takumi, they settled on a deal. He would make her a chocolate mug cake when they got back. He was a fast learner. Bribe her with good food, and she’d do just about anything.” And now, I want the chocolate mug cake.

Courtney: And we’ll fast forward a little bit to her next therapy session, where she elaborates further and says, it’s like, “My problem is everyone else. I’m not ashamed or uncertain or whatever. I’m Ace, it’s cool. I just don’t want to be anybody’s poster child. I’m not made for the front lines. I’ll wither and cry under pressure, so it’s better if I keep to myself for now.” Which again just goes back to the activists by default if you’re the only, of X demographic of people, that someone knows you are the poster child for that now, whether you want to be or not. But he asks if she has considered, you know, joining some clubs on the college campus, building a support system for yourself to achieve– It says: “Alice resisted the urge to snort. ’Nah, I think those are great for some people especially if you’re the right color, not Bi and certainly not Ace, so.” Ah yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. There it is.

Courtney: There is a passage where she talks a little more about Tumblr, kind of being her little private support system. She says, “I use Tumblr, which is probably the best support system for me right now. I mean, it’s a super-garbage fire of discourse sometimes, but really, we all just hyper-love everyone and everything, and want our ships to sail, regardless of canon or what anyone else thinks. And there will be posts with literally thousands of notes that will make its round saying things like: if you’re Black and you’re Ace you’re valid and I love you, which is really nice to read when you’re not expecting it. You know, that saying love is love right? I’ve heard it thousands of times, but I learned it, internalized it, because of the blog’s I follow on Tumblr.” Which as someone who doesn’t use Tumblr, that seems like the perfect description of what Tumblr is. It’s also kind of good to hear because I was talking about how salty I am at the word valid lately. Like it gets thrown around a little too much to the point where it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. And there’s really no room for action behind the “you are valid.” And so it is good to read someone who isn’t really out publicly who is a little bit younger, who is talking about how those positive affirmations online do actually help her, and has helped her over time. Because I think I can lose sight of that a little bit, but that’s– that’s because I am a, quote, “Older Ace.” I say with all the sarcasm in the world because the internet has dubbed me that, not my actual age.

Courtney: So we learn that Takumi has recently had a really rough breakup with someone he’s been with for multiple years. But she cheated on him and he is devastated. And he has a few too many drinks one night, and calls Alice to drive him home, which is the responsible thing to do. But since he is a little drunk and he’s very emotional, he’s, you know, asking these sort of vague questions like, “Do you think you could ever cheat on someone if you loved them?” And, and she’s like, “Me personally? No.” [reading] “Cheating on someone was one of those things she was destined to never understand. Choosing to not have sex with someone else didn’t seem like that hard of a concept to grasp, and yet she had comforted more than one person who had been cheated on.” Someone has pulled that right out of my brain.

Courtney: I don’t understand. I genuinely do not understand, and I mean, I’m not even a polyamorous person, but every time someone’s cheating I was like, if you just really wanted to have sex with someone, like, you have to have a very serious probably uncomfortable conversation, but maybe you can still make this work in just a different way or reconfiguration. Why would you just cheat on someone? I don’t know. I mean, Royce, you and I have had– we have joked in the privacy of our own home that it is very easy to be monogamous when you are Asexual and you hate people. [laughs] So maybe we’re just very especially equipped to not cheat on one another. But yeah, just that, I don’t– I don’t understand it.

Courtney: And it was good to see someone else who doesn’t understand it, which actually ends up being really funny because until I just turned the page I forgot that that was pretty much exactly where her brain went also. Because she is, like, “I don’t really know how to handle this situation.” But as her brain is roaming trying to kind of fix the problem, and how she can comfort him, she’s like, “Yeah, I even talked to a few Aces who mentioned that if their partner wanted to have sex, they were allowed to do so with someone else without consequence.” To which she says like, “Hard pass and a firm no, thank you.” So she’s acknowledging this works for some people but she’s also like not for me, but she does think maybe that could work for Takumi and his ex or, man I don’t know maybe not, but if it It was an open relationship it wouldn’t be cheating. Right?

Courtney: I think that’s the kind of thing I have said before that Asexual people are some of the most sex positive people I have ever met. Whether they personally like sex or have had it or not, just the exploration of what sexuality is and the bounds of it and really opening your mind to different relationship structures. I’m sure they are out there, but I don’t– I don’t think I’ve ever personally met or talked to an Asexual person who wasn’t like completely open to all examples of polyamory, ethical non-monogamy. I’m sure they’re out there, but Aces, we think a lot about a lot of different relationships. And I think we know better than anyone else that a lot of relationships just look different and different things work for different people. So even things we recognize don’t work for us, we’re just like “Yeah, do you! If it works go for it, just make sure to communicate.”

Courtney: But yeah, so after that point, when Takumi really opens up to her, they really start spending every waking minute together, and if they aren’t together, they’re texting each other constantly, so they’re very, very much hitting it off. And they have a lot of cute moments. You can definitely feel the affection that they have for one another, but this one in particular, Royce, had me cracking up for a solid five minutes because I’m going to read this passage and then you are going to tell the good people on the other side of this microphone what you did. Tell me if this sounds familiar.

Courtney: He got sick at one point like fever, chills, all that. And she came to take care of him, give him medicine, feed him soup, and he was finally feeling good enough to go back out in the world, but had some lingering symptoms and she was like, here’s your medicine. You need to take your medicine every so many hours, etc. And when she sees him again she asks, “Have you been taking your medicine every four hours?” And he says, “Yes, nurse Alice. You could have warned me about those alarms you set. I was in a meeting when the first one went off.” And she said, “Oh, they didn’t appreciate the musical stylings of the Bob’s Burgers cast?” He’s “Not really. No.” So Royce, do you want to tell the people why I called out that passage in particular?

Royce: Okay, so here’s the thing. This was the first time Courtney was leaving the house for a few days since she had moved in. She was going back up to South Dakota to visit some family. And at one point, I downloaded a silly YouTube video, a musical video, and I cut the most like, the longest, loudest, most repetitive part of the song–

Courtney: The most melodramatic.

Royce: Yes. And then one day when she wasn’t paying attention, I grabbed her phone and I put that song on it and then I put like, I don’t even know how many alarms throughout that day.

Courtney: So many alarms…

Royce: Just scattered at random intervals. During the waking period, I didn’t put any at night.

Courtney: But the first time that went off, I lost it. I had no idea that you did that and they just– they just went off randomly! [laughs]

Royce: And the thing is you didn’t– after you turned it off the first time, or the second time, or the third time, you didn’t just go into the alarm section, see that two dozen others that were there?

Courtney: At this point I just accepted my fate. Oh my gosh, it was so funny. That was maybe one of the best things you could have possibly done, for the longest period of time we were going to be apart from each other since moving here. Because I laughed so hard that I cried. And then I had to explain this ludicrous song to my grandmother, because she was there the first time this went off and so she heard the song, saw me scramble for my phone in confusion, see me crack up laughing to the point of tears streaming down my face, and when I could get it all together and gain my composure enough to turn off this damn alarm, she was like, “What was that all about?” So then I had to explain this ridiculous song to her. But I mean that only made her love you more because she was like, “Ah, that Royce. So funny and thoughtful.” And the fact that she used the musical stylings of Bob’s Burgers too, I can only imagine what number of beautiful songs she had to pick from.

Royce: There’s a lot of material.

Courtney: There’s a lot of material there and we’ve mentioned before that that is a show that we’ve watched because I just love how much that family loves each other, and the drama doesn’t come from being awful to each other. So, yeah, I know the Bob’s Burgers songs. Of course that’s not going into a cornfield to meet Akbar level. It’s up there. So they have this kind of awkward conversation, then Takumi and Alice do– because Alice lets slip that she’s got a lot of trouble going on at home, that her friend is really mad at her, and they aren’t really talking. And that’s honestly why she’s spending a lot of time at Takumi’s house too, is because she doesn’t want to go home until everybody’s asleep. And very much like walking on eggshells around each other.

Courtney: And this is why I still think that couple is worse than Alice, because they had not set a day for their wedding, they’ve been engaged, but they weren’t expecting to get married for, like, at least another couple of years. And all of a sudden, Ryan mentions like, “Oh, yeah, the wedding’s only six months away.” And Alice is like, “Excuse me. What?” He’s like, “Yeah. Didn’t Feenie tell you? We actually got a date and it’s going to happen in six months.” No, you did not tell me that. So it’s like that’s just that’s not okay. So there’s a lot of just holding of grudges. And so when she’s explaining that her friends are really upset with her, he’s like, “Well, maybe I could meet him and I can just explain to them that we’re friends.”

Courtney: And then they have the whole, like, are we friends? Or are we something else? But you know, what would fix that hard balling. But she’s like, “No, I mean, I don’t know?” And I liked this line: “Actually, I’m not 100% on the concept of vibes. But if I had to put a name on it, I’d say, vibe.” As what she was feeling toward them. She’s like, [doubtful sounds] I get that because sometimes you do feel something, but as someone who doesn’t always interpret social cues very well, and is also Asexual which doesn’t help, I definitely haven’t always known how to put vibes into words. So Alice, you’re doing great, sweetie. But she ends up using her jogging metaphor for him right there, because she decides now is the time if we’re gonna have this conversation of ‘if we’re something more’, I’m actually going to come out as Asexual.

Courtney: And she uses the jogging and she’s like, “You know, some people just don’t care about jogging.” And she’s like, take jogging and replace that with sex. So not– not the most elegant way to explain it, but you can kind of tell she has been preparing herself for what this conversation would look like for a long time, and trying to anticipate as many questions as she thought she would possibly get into trying to edge them all out right away by using a metaphor, because she didn’t trust that people would just accept it for what it is, which is again pretty valid concern. But he takes that as you don’t like sex and she’s like, “No the correct sentence is ‘I don’t care about sex’.” And in that moment she realized that she was doing this because she trusted him, and that she had only ever come out to– This is the fourth person now total, including her therapist and two friends.

Courtney: And as she realizes that this is because she trusts him, she also realizes that she disagrees with the doctor who said that it would be her job to prepare to educate and enlighten. She decides for herself that it’s not my job to do that, it is a kindness to do this. “One that I was not 100% ready to provide.” But in that moment, she does decide that she trusts him enough and doesn’t think that she’ll get the negative responses that she’s prepared for. And of course he goes, “Huh? I thought you were bisexual.” And she’s like, “Well, yeah, minus the sexual.” To which she further elaborates, which I very much like, “My sexuality is Nope.” I have also said that before. But she even says: “I have this list, I got it from Tumblr. It’s the things people say when you tell them you’re Asexual. I only sort of told my ex girlfriend, but she still said them almost verbatim, like she was reading it off a list. My ex-boyfriend before that, even worse.” It’s like yeah, it is kind of like a script. Why do all allos have this script? Who has the master copy, and can we burn it?

Courtney: Which– at first, to his credit, Takumi does respond very well. He kind of says at one point, because they were cuddling at one point, and he said “I wasn’t trying to have sex with you that time and I’m really sorry if I made you feel that way.” And she’s like “No, I didn’t feel that way. You’re cool actually.” And he gives her some affirming words, which has her feeling pretty good for a bit. And back to the roommates. They all have to kind of wrap things up, which they do. This was honestly probably, and maybe it’s just because I’m biased, but this is probably my least favorite, like, bow to tie up a plot line because they did end up talking it out and they did acknowledge that a lot of it’s coming down to communication, and that they just need to do that better. It resulted in Alice crying. She was saying that she doesn’t know how to balance relationships in her life, which I think is a very good thing to know with– that is a thing you have. I think a lot of people have that issue that they don’t know how to balance. So I’m glad that that came up, but I don’t know, as I was reading it I almost thought they were taking it away as, like, all things are equal here.

Courtney: And basically Feenie was upset that Alice is now spending a lot of time with this other guy, Takumi, and feels like he is replacing her as the best friend now. And she feels really jealous about that, but they don’t really address the fact that her jealousy about that is just lashing out at Alice, like she’s– she’s really awful to her at some point and she, like, explicitly says, “I don’t want to meet Takumi.” Even though she tries to get them to meet each other. She’s like, “I don’t want to meet him. He is not allowed to come to our wedding.” And she’s just so mean to Alice, and Alice is so non-confrontational that even though she’s not communicating well, she’s not being harsh or aggressive or mean in the way her friend is. So, I don’t like that. It kind of came out with, like, yeah, we both made a mistake. Like, maybe to a certain extent, but I definitely think Feenie was more of the asshole in this situation, but I’m glad that they made up all together. As for Takumi, well, Alice decides to ask him out and she brings him flowers, which I quite like. But his reaction was not very good.

Royce: To the flowers or to the asking out?

Courtney: The asking out. He actually liked the flowers. He did not like the asking out. It was a delightfully awkward way to ask someone out too, because that’s just kind of who this character is, but he was very much like, “You’ve made your position on sex pretty clear, and I’m not Asexual. I don’t think that’s something I would want to give up.” So, he says some wrong things. She gets really upset and leaves. But she can’t avoid them for– avoid him forever because they work together. I mean she has a good cry in the shower. She is not answering his phone calls when he’s trying to call her later. But then when he does get in front of her and starts talking, he apologizes, admits that he was too flustered to think properly, and now he’s taken some time. And after doing a lot of thinking, he says, “It’s the feeling that I care about, what sex is supposed to represent.” And at first, he felt that if she felt the same way that he felt about her, then she would want to have sex with him. He said, “You would think of me as someone worthy of your passion and desire, and you would show me how you feel physically.” Which, I’m glad that he started coming around, because if he just outright said all of this, it’s like, okay, that’s the end of that. Sad ending.

Courtney: But yeah, I’ve definitely had allo relationship prospects in my life who have been like really self-conscious about the fact that I have not sexually desired them and they’ve taken it very personally. Almost as if I was somehow lying about being Asexual and not being sexually attracted to anyone and it was just them personally that I wasn’t sexually attracted to. It’s like, it’s not the same, but he said, “This morning it finally clicked. I was thinking of sex, actually having sex as the Holy Grail.” He said it, “But I realized at the end of it, it’s the same thing whether you’re so overwhelmed you can’t keep your hands off of me, or you’re crying because you think I don’t want to– You think I don’t want you. It’s all the same thing. It comes from the same place, that is desire, that’s passion, and you’ve never held back how you feel about me.” Which I think is very self-aware.

Courtney: And is also kind of goes back to what you were saying, Royce, about just people building sex up to be this big thing. I think there even are some allosexual people who are still allosexual, but if they thought about it, like really, really thought about it, sex just might not be quite as important as they think it is. No doubt is important for some people, but even Takumi here is saying, you know, “Sex was just kind of the standard by which I measured passion. And now that I know you and we feel the way we do, it doesn’t have to be that way.” And he said, “At the end of the day I am in love with you, even if we never had sex, I would still want to be with you because you’re in my heart.” And it’s very cute. And she even says like, oh, this is like the– the moment in the rom coms and it’s finally for me and he’s giving me the romantic lines. So I was also just very happy for her. Like yes, romantically oriented Ace, you still got your cheesy love story. Because you know what? If you want a cheesy love story, you deserve it.

Courtney: So I loved it. I recommend it. A lot of good things, a lot of very Ace things. Black Ace representation in particular, which is sorely needed. Overall just a really cute, funny, relatable story. The author Claire Kann actually has another book coming out this year. Probably just a couple of months from now, I’m going to need to check when that release date is. I may have already pre-ordered. But if not, I will fix that. So definitely do look up this author. Look up this book. And yeah, what can I say? I hope we get more, more books like this, with a wider diversity of Ace experiences. Okay. Well now I can’t get that damn silly YouTube song out of my head that you set as my ringtone, so I’m gonna have to go listen to that now.

Royce: It’s been a while.

Courtney: The gift that keeps on giving. [laughs] So I’m gonna go look that up. So we’ll talk to you guys next time.