What Does It Feel Like to Be in Love?
I’ve come to accept I may never know.
Posted October 17, 2021 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
Do I regret having never been married? What I regret more is never having the experience of being in love.
One of the most famous quotes about love is by Alfred Lloyd Tennyson:
'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
I love my brother, other family members, and my close friends; but what eludes me is romantic love. In my last several years of working with my psychiatrist, Dr. Lev, I came to the conclusion that I’m asexual. As defined by AVEN, the Asexuality Visibility & Education Network, “An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” Nowhere does it say asexual people are incapable of love. The site goes on to explain “Asexual people have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships.”
I grew up frightened of men, my first exposure to a man being my father. Drunk much of the time, he used his intelligence to throw acerbic barbs at me while I was growing up, terrorizing me into a subdued silence. I cowered in his presence, afraid of invoking his wrath and his sarcastic comments, which I can recall to this day. He never laid a hand on me or my brother, but words do run deep.
I was acutely aware I was different from the friends I’d had since childhood, who started pairing off with boys in high school. I withdrew into sports and as many of my teammates and several of my close friends were gay, I remained confused about my sexuality. I had no one to talk to about my feelings. We didn’t speak about feelings in my family; I’m not sure I even knew what a feeling was. My father had stopped drinking by the time I entered high school but had retreated into a deep depression and withdrew from the world. My mother was busy working and financially supporting our family.
I started smoking pot in high school and was getting high nearly every day after practice. I numbed my confusion and feelings of inadequacy, though at the time I wasn’t aware that was what I was doing. I just knew I liked the high. When I walked in the door of my apartment around dinnertime, eyes red and stoned, no one noticed. In one respect, I was relieved, but on another level, I thought if anyone cared.
In college, I was acutely aware I was still a virgin. It was the late seventies into the early eighties. Losing my virginity should have been as easy as finding a chicken wing in Buffalo because that’s where I was, SUNY Buffalo. Again, I withdrew into sports and questioned my sexuality. I used pot to escape. At that time, we could still smoke in the dorms and those in charge looked the other way.
After college, I fell into a job at an advertising agency. It’s funny how one repeats patterns. The New York City advertising industry had a robust softball scene in The New York Advertising Co-Ed Softball League, a well-organized league of about 30 or so teams from many of the top advertising agencies in Manhattan. Having played in high school and college, I stood out among the women for my skills. We went to a bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to party after the games. The league spawned many couples and even a few marriages. I remained self-conscious of my inability to flirt and be at ease around the plethora of available men. I was ashamed of still being a virgin and kept that fact a well-hidden secret.
I was introduced to cocaine and loved it. I quickly became hooked. Coke imbued me with powers I lacked, such as the ability to flit among the men and flirt. I soon went from only snorting coke at the bar during the summer to doing larger quantities at home, alone in my apartment throughout the year.
My coke addiction was rudely interrupted by anorexia when I was hospitalized at 27, though it was not the cause of it. I wasn’t doing enough coke to lose that much weight in that short of a time. In quick succession, I was diagnosed with anorexia, major depressive disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Severe and persistent mental illness consumed my life for decades and it wasn’t until I was well into transference-focused psychotherapy, an evidence-based treatment for BPD with Dr. Lev that I felt safe enough to begin to deeply explore sex and my sexuality.
My sexual coming of age began in my late forties and I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 51. But it was on a first date and I was not in love with him. We had several more dates and decided we’d be better off as friends and have remained so.
When with Dr. Lev’s assistance I came to the conclusion I was asexual. It felt right and I didn’t feel the need to continue to try to date. Dr. Lev urged me to pursue a non-sexual relationship, but I resisted. I enjoy my solitude too much. I have the best brother in the world who is my greatest cheerleader and staunchest supporter and has always been there for me unconditionally. I am grateful and I do realize how fortunate I am to have him by my side. I have good friends and value their support and our relationships. I value my alone time immensely and would resent what I perceived as demands and or an intrusion.
Thanks for reading, Andrea