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Author Topic: Asexual? Phobic? Both? Help!
mizchastain
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I first heard about asexuality in a magazine article when I was fifteen, and it sounded about right to me. I sort of figured I was too young and short on personal time to worry about it and mentally shelved it at the time. I started thinking about it again more recently when a male friend of mine asked me out. I was until that point completely indifferent to the idea of dating, but when he asked me I became horribly confused. I did get a rush from it, but I think it was more because I was pleased someone liked me than anything to do with him personally. I eventually turned him down, saying I wasn't ready and didn't want to potentially damage the friendship, which was true, but not the only reason. I do like him, but I don't want a relationship. People we know have told me I should date him, but I don't want to. I have no idea how he's dealing with this - he doesn't seem to act differently around me at all, but I don't know if that's how he really feels.

I have no problem at all with sex in the context of other people's experiences, but I am actively disgusted and frightened by the concept of having sex myself. I think it's partly fear of pain (unsuccessful attempts to use tampons and so on have led me to believe I may have undiagnosed vaginismus), partly dislike of body contact (Asperger's-related in my case). I don't even like the idea of kissing. I still think I count as asexual and not merely genophobic (have I spelled that right?) because I have no desire to be "cured" and am quite happy without the whole idea in my life. It just sounds like a waste of time to me. I did have a crush on an internet friend, but I think in that case it was precisely because I had no chance of ever having to bring it into real life.

I was perfectly happy simply not dealing with this, as the need never really came up. This incident with my friend has thrown my perception of myself into a complete mess. I like him, I could possibly date him without sleeping with him at some future point when I feel more comfortable with people, but I doubt he'd want to go without ever having any sex at all, I don't think I would want to, and I won't try it just to test it because that would make things much worse. I can't really picture having sex with him specifically anyway. I don't know if that's because of the aforementioned issues or if I just don't specifically have chemistry with him. I guess it doesn't matter.

I have tried to talk to my counsellor about this, but I find it nearly impossible to get the words out face-to-face, and she's not really a specialist in this topic. I don't know if there's anything I can or should do. I'm just frightened and confused and I wish it had never come up.

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Heather
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While there isn't yet a clinical defintion for asexuality, it is usually about disinterest, not aversion. In other words, most people who ID as asexual, and when we talk about asexuality in sexuality, are doing so because either a) they have sexual desires, but feel no interest in pursuing them with other people or by themselves or b) they don't feel sexual desires.

What you are describing sounds, instead, like sexual aversion, not sexual disinterest.

Now, in my book, if anyone feels good about whatever their sexuality is and however it's manifesting isn't hurting anyone else, I don't think a person needs treatment from something they don't want.

With this guy, am I understanding that you have romantic interest in this person -- in other words, you are or think you could be, in love with him -- but not sexual feelings?

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mizchastain
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I don't think so. He's a good friend and I think I could have romantic feelings for him if I let them develop that way, but I don't think I do now. I don't want to, though, because I need a friend much more now, and as I said, I think it wouldn't work longterm.

I sort of thought I had both disinterest and aversion, is that possible or do they cancel each other out or something? To use a probably-oversimplified metaphor, if I was afraid of heights I wouldn't want to go mountain climbing but it wouldn't matter if I had no interest in trying to climb a mountain in the first place ... am I making sense?

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Heather
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Okay, gotcha. So, it sounds like you may not even need to identify WHY you don't want to date this person, because the fact is that you don't want to, which is really all one needs to know. Does that make sense?

To explain the difference between disinterest and aversion with your mountain-climbing scenario, disinterest wouldn't mean there was fear. It'd mean more like you just didn't get what the big deal about mountains was because they seemed totally boring to you. Get what I mean?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Yeah, I see what you mean. I find the concept of sex interesting and harmless from a fairly clinical point of view (no problem with it in fictional material and I've not been disgusted when my friends have mentioned their sex lives, though they didn't go into much detail), but when I try to mentally insert myself into the picture it falls apart, and if I think on it too hard I find it actively scary and unpleasant.

I do masturbate, but it's more to relieve discomfort than for the process itself - it helps with insomnia and muscle cramps. I know that's not the same as an interest or lack of same in partnered sex, but it might help build the picture. I don't DISlike doing it or I wouldn't do it, but ... I don't know, it's hard to explain. When I first started I was horribly ashamed because I thought of it as a lack of self-control, but I'm over that now.

I also don't think I want or could handle the emotional side of a relationship at the moment, and have no idea whether or when that'll change. I'm extremely withdrawn and find it hard to make conversation, probably because of the AS as I mentioned above. I never dated in school, partly from lack of interest and partly because I was unpopular at my school and the workload and travel time left me with no time to meet anyone outside it. I actually cope better with small groups of people rather than one-on-one, because that way I feel like the focus isn't all on me. Before this guy asked me out officially we did go alone together to a coffee shop and I spent most of the time feeling awkward - we didn't know each other well then, and I was starting to pick up vibes of "is he going to ask me out?", which was uncomfortable.

As I said, he seems fine with me now, but I still feel weird. I wish I could handle a relationship with him, just because I hate to hurt my friend.

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Heather
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So, might it be that you're disinterested in sex, but feeling aversion (validly) to any pressure -- internal or external -- to HAVE that interest?

What you say about masturbation is interesting, because it illustrates how much gray area there is when we only define sex as being about what is physically done, but not about motives. Infants and children (I am not suggesting you are either) masturbate, from what we can tell, primarily or almost primarily for comfort. At the same time, comfort can be part of what we seek out in sex. So, I don't doubt what you're saying about your masturbation or find it at all strange.

With your friend, I think it's important you recognize that in our lives, most of us will put ourselves out there to someone or something -- a person, a relationship, a job, what have you -- and not get back what we want. You've been around the boards a while, and I feel pretty confident that however you have said no to what he asked for, you likely did it in a way that was sensitive and caring. So long as you did that, it is all good. We can't protect anyone we care about -- or anyone at all -- from feeling disappointed they didn't get what they wanted. The best we can do when they're asking us for something we can't give or don't want to is to decline with care and consideration.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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By the way, feeling like I wasn't going to do this as well as I could if I understood it experientally, I asked a few people in my network who do ID as asexual to share the way they expplain the diff between aversion and disinterest.

Got a couple of responses I thought were good:

1) "The idea of me doing stuff that people call "sex" is ridiculous rather than upsetting.

2) "Aversion: You wouldn't eat chocolate if you were starving and it was the last food on earth. Disinterest: chocolate is okay but sometimes you'd just as soon eat strawberries, or skip dessert."

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Sounds about right. I am uncomfortable with the concept in itself as well, though, and not entirely sure why. I was sexually bullied on at least two occasions (two girls in the school changing rooms made threatening sexual comments to me when I was fourteen, and when I was sixteen some boys dared each other to grab my breasts when I fell asleep on the school bus) but I don't think those incidents in themselves would make me this uncomfortable with it. I don't really think it's one single thing, really. I'm uncomfortable with the potential mess and exchange of germs (I have a thing about that), I'm frightened of possible pain, I dislike skin-to-skin contact of any type in the first place, I'm frankly horrified by the thought of getting pregnant (fear of discomfort and pain again, I don't think I'd be a good parent, and both AS and depression run in both sides of my family and I don't want to pass that on to a kid - no offence meant to people who have either, since I have had problems with both throughout my life). None of this was ever a problem until recently, though, because I just never really bothered to think about it much, which is why I think I'm asexual as well as possibly phobic - does what I've described sound like a phobia or something else? I'm unsure of the clinical distinctions.

Actually I used to masturbate when I was really little and didn't know what it was, stopped for a long time (before I found out what it was, so more out of lack of interest than shame at that point), then started again in my late teens, so I know that's not unusual.

Yeah, I'm normally pretty clumsy with conversation but in this case I planned what I was going to say and I was careful to let him down gently. I ended up telling him I just wasn't ready, and he seemed fine with that. I should probably find some way of telling him some of all this, as I don't want him to be hanging on waiting. I don't want to use him as a placeholder in case I change my mind.

I tried to talk to my counsellor about this, but it's nearly impossible to get the words out. It's easier to type than to say.

[ 08-03-2010, 05:01 PM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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Heather
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Again, we don't have a clinical definition for asexuality: it's not in that lexicon yet, so I can't give you one. The best I can do is share how people who ID with it tend to define it like I did above.

But I hear you describing lots of fears and aversions. Mind, that doesn't mean you don't get to ID however you want. If asexual feels right for you, then you get to use that.

And again, if these fears are not currently bothering you and don't feel like they interfere with your life, you certainly don't have to seek out treatment. But if you do feel like any of these things are doing either of those things, it's also okay to seek out treatment and you could probably get some help with them that would make them less pervasive.

And see? I'm sure you did just fine with your friend, really.

With your counselor, if it's easier to type, maybe you could print out this thread for her to share it that way?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I'll try printing it out, yeah. I've been considering seeking a more in-depth psychiatrist at some point, but I don't know if that's a good idea.

I've had another attack of depression recently, and have been feeling horribly lonely. Don't know why it's getting to me now. Normally I hate spending time with other people.

[ 08-04-2010, 08:54 AM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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Heather
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Well, bear in mind that throughout life, our needs and our nature also don't always stay the same. That's perhaps one of the most obvious statements I could make, but because we don't like something at one time of life doesn't mean it'll always be that way. We grow, we change, we shift.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I did find myself slightly physically "turned on" a bit when he first asked me out and I was thinking it over, but going by my thought processes at the time I think it was more the idea of anyone at all liking me enough to ask me out than actual interest in him that caused it. It didn't last long and stopped when I tried to actually imagine doing anything with him.

It would have been less awkward if not for the fact that my old flatmate used to keep making comments about when was I going to go out with him, and just when I thought I was getting over the whole business one of the girls at the club we're both members of made a comment along those lines and I didn't know how to respond. I know they didn't know why I didn't want to and I know they didn't mean to upset me, but I felt completely humiliated and awkward. They seemed to think it was sort of a joke, but it's not funny to me.

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Heather
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For sure, some of what often is arousing or exciting to people in sexual interchanges is someone else's interest in/arousal with us. So, that's a pretty typical part of the picture. I'd also agree that sometimes it may be ALL of what's going on per how we're feeling. While now and then that may be enough for a given person to have incentive to be sexual with someone else, I'd say it's far more common for people to want and need more going on that just that kind of one-way-attraction.

Ongoing comments or questions about when someone will go out with someone else that are unwanted most certainly can be upsetting and not at all funny. And if they know you didn't want to, they may well have continued to upset or harass you.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I wouldn't really say it felt like they were harassing me. I was fairly noncommittal in my replies to them, as at the time I was very confused. I just wanted to drop the subject.

I also find I hate the idea of dating on an emotional level, it just makes me feel awkward. However, I found myself wishing I did want to. I don't know why. I know "everyone else seems to be doing it" isn't a good reason, and nor is the "everyone" bit true, but ... I don't know. I wonder if I should try it to see if it works, but if it doesn't it'd only make things worse.

Also miserable now because I just realised I screwed up applying for optional modules for my upcoming university year. It's nothing that can't be fixed, but it was a stupid thing to do and I'm annoyed. I'm also bored out of my mind - mother told me to stop spending all day in my room, but we live in the middle of nowhere, I have no friends in the area, can't drive, and can't afford regular transport to anywhere with anything else to do. I loathe living here, but I was unable to find a job this summer, and while I do have a place to move into, I can't afford to move there until term starts.

[ 08-04-2010, 03:36 PM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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mizchastain
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Sorry about the off-topic rambling there, I was very distressed when I wrote it. I have a doctor's appointment soon, and I'll be fine.

The problem is I think I may like this guy on a mental level, but I hate the idea of actually trying to date him. As I said, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be compatible long-term, I don't really feel attracted to him physically (he's not ugly, just something about his mannerisms is a bit offputting sometimes), and anyway I'm not sure if I do like him or just the idea that someone likes me after spending so long being so unpopular. Also, the only times I've been alone with him have just felt horribly awkward. It's just frustrating.

[ 08-05-2010, 08:43 AM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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Heather
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No need to be sorry: y'all can talk as you need to here.

Unless I'm missing something, it's sounding to me like you're describing platonic feelings for this person. The way we like our friends is usually like this: we either don't feel attracted or don't want to pursue that, we don't want sex with them, we don't have romantic feelings and don't want to date them.

It sounds like friendships have been infrequent for you and not so easy to figure out either, yes? If so, you no doubt don't need me to tell you that that's a pretty common issue a lot of people with Asperger's have.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I don't really know. I think I could develop emotionally-romantic if not sexual feelings towards him, though I think that would be a bad idea because I don't think he'd be able to handle a complete lack of any sexual contact. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of a relationship with anyone, though, even an entirely non-sexual one. I don't think I could handle the emotional effort.

quote:
It sounds like friendships have been infrequent for you and not so easy to figure out either, yes?
Yes, that's exactly it. I had almost no real friends throughout my schooldays, and didn't get on well with my family in my teens, so it got to the point where I was almost literally only happy when I was alone. I developed something of an addiction to the internet, which I still have problems with, because it was about the only positive contact I had. At one point I had a pretty bad crush on my male longterm e-pal, whom I've known for nearly five years and who is still my most emotionally-close friend, but if I'd told him and he'd said okay I wouldn't have had a clue what to do. I think I only had that because there was no risk of having to bring it into real life.

I think this was also a contributing factor to the intrusive sexual thoughts I suffered throughout my late teens. Since I had so little genuine attraction to anyone else to compare them to, I had difficulty telling for sure whether they actually meant anything.

I don't even know why I'm worrying so much over this. I don't believe I should have to justify why I don't want to do something, even to myself. I think I just want to know what's going on in my own head.

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Heather
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I'm so sorry so much of socialization has been so hard for you.

I totally get wanting to figure out what makes us tick and what's driving the way we feel and think and interact. I don't think, at all, that that is a useless endeavor, in fact, I think it's a big part of personal growth. At the same time, there's a balance to be struck, and it's also something we always want to try and pair with acceptance about things we can't change that are just part of who we are, you know?

It sounds like, no matter what, this guy just isn't someone who would be a good fit for you to date. Sounds like you two want different things, so no matter what, you thinking this probably isn't sound sounds pretty right-on to me. I also don't think either of your wants or needs are wrong or right: they're just different. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I try not to dwell on it. The important thing is I'm managing better now, I think. Still don't feel really close to many people, but I know friendships take time to build.

I'm glad to hear that I did the right thing. Maybe once I've gone over this with my counsellor I'll talk to my friend about it one day (probably a good idea to leave out the fine detail, but I can give him the gist).

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mizchastain
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Another factor is, while I'm not particularly interested in people sexually, I do kind of have some specific fetishistic interests. I'd rather not go into detail as to what they are, but it's nothing illegal, particularly socially unacceptable, or realistically impossible. (Nothing to do with the intrusive thoughts I occasionally suffer from - those are getting better now, BTW.) I have no interest in actually carrying them out with a real person, though, even though there's no real reason I couldn't. This one is not the absolutely-only thing that, er, "works" when I try to masturbate, but it is the only thing that works quickly, and I tend to just want to get the process done with as quickly as possible. I often find the sensation of physical arousal more irritating than anything else. I don't know if this is unusual, I just wondered if it factored in with everything else.
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mizchastain
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I tried talking to my counsellor about this today and I actually feel worse now. I'm more confused than ever and I just wish it would go away. Even if I am interested in anyone, which I'm not sure about, I don't want to be. I was happier when I thought I never would be. I just thought I'd be happier with the whole business of romantic and/or sexual relationships out of my life. Now I feel guilty and I'm not sure why, and I'm constantly checking myself to see whether I'm feeling any attraction to anyone and whether it means anyone, and it's like the business with my intrusive thoughts again. It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't already mentioned to some friends that I thought I was asexual and I don't want to feel like I lied to them. I also know that if I had started a relationship with this guy it would have probably crashed and burned pretty quickly but I still feel bad for not trying.

[ 08-17-2010, 04:40 PM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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mizchastain
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I've mentally processed my thoughts a bit, and I'm feeling a bit better now. I've come to the conclusion that, regardless of all this, I'm not currently in a situation emotionally or life-wise where trying to date anyone would be a good idea. I still felt a bit down about that, though. Even if I don't want to and know it's not a good idea to try, it's hard not to feel a bit left out. I got left out of a lot of things in my school days, and sometimes this just sort of feels like one more thing other people do that I can't.
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Karybu
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I'm glad you're feeling somewhat better about all this, and it sounds like you've got a good understanding about what you're comfortable with right now. I hear you on feeling left out and how painful that can be; the only thing I can say though is that it can help to focus on the activities and situations and groups where you are included, where you don't feel left out. It may also be helpful for you to talk with your counselor about strategies for dealing with those feelings.

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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mizchastain
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I know. I just feel weird. I'll be turning twenty-one soon, and I feel like I'm somehow wasting my youth by not trying. I worry that if I ever do people will think it's weird that I didn't before. I know that doesn't really make sense and it shouldn't matter, but I feel like it does.

[ 08-23-2010, 06:09 PM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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Stephanie_1
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There's no reason to feel weird about that, honestly. And you're absolutely not wasting your youth. What you're feeling makes perfect sense, but the thing to remember is something that is different may be seen as weird at first, but in the end the people that care about you come to understand it as they learn more about you.

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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