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Author Topic: I'm......something?
Abcedarien
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Hi all. I'm Amanda, sixteen and confused.
So, I've been having an identity crisis (which is kinda a hyperbolic term but whatever) for the past year or so. Basically, I never hit the "guy-crazy" phase all my female friends and acquaintances did. Then I realized I wanted to kiss a girl in my choir. Then I stared at her across the room until she graduated and tried really hard not to be creepy. During this time a guy I'd been hanging out with asked me out. I said yes mostly because I hadn't been expecting it and my brain short-circuited. We went on three dates, I kissed him (first kiss for me ever) and it was just weird, and then I broke it off.
At this point I've been on-and-off stressing about this for at least six months. I should clarify, I would have no problems with being gay, straight, bi, asexual, whatever. Neither would my friends and family, so far as I'm aware. My problem here is I like labels: I'm a girl, I'm a nerd/geek, I'm a choir girl, I'm a writer. And for sexuality, I can't find one. I'm not even sure what being "attracted" to someone feels like. I notice boobs, I think girls are beautiful, I kind of want to touch (sometimes nibble), given a choice between talking to a guy or a girl who are both interested in things I am I'll go with the girl. But....I notice guys in a lot of the same ways, mostly faces and build and brains. For both I've had people who I want to think I'm smart and pretty and competent and cute and who I think are ditto. But I'm a really tactile person. I'll cuddle and pet and kiss/peck anything from inanimate objects to people so I'm not sure if what I feel about any given person is "sexual" or "romantic". Not being able to say or think "I am this specific thing" makes me uncomfortable and a little twitchy. Help?

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Heather
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Welcome to the boards, Abcedarien. [Smile]

You know, some people, when it comes to these things, very much seem to experience them and themselves as being very much within the "lines." In other words, with what broad classifications or terms we have for all this stuff, they feel well within whatever given big box or overarching term they have available to use.

I would say that for more people than not, though, especially as life goes on over time, we are either more blurry, or seem to fit or half-fit in more boxes. Or, we evern find the words, lines or boxes there are, or the systems they can be part of, fit us so poorly we find we need to make new ones.

Same goes for cliches like having a "boy crazy" phase as some given part of being an adolescent girl. Sure, may happen for some, but it wont for many, many others.

Know what I mean?

For sure, some people feel sure of where they fit in this regard, but many people really don't, either at given times or life, or for all of life. Either way, it really is okay.

To get started, what do you feel like you need to feel better about this uncertainty right now, so you can just give all this time to reveal itself, and have that more likely be a process of adventure that you feel good about rather than scared or twitchy?

[ 11-28-2013, 09:55 AM: Message edited by: Robin Lee ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Abcedarien
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You'd think for someone who claims to be a writer I'd be better at phrasing things. [Smile] By "boy crazy" phase, I mostly meant a recognizable change in the way I saw guys. I mean, at some point I guess I started recognizing some males as beautiful, but I'm not sure if that ever started translating to more than an aesthetic appreciation, if that makes sense. Girls are a little easier. I've been following around girls I thought were "cool" in some way since pretty much ever, and the way I think about these girls has changed at least a little.

Mostly what I'd really like at this point is any kind of straight answer as to what sexual or romantic attraction feels like, as opposed to liking someone and thinking they're generally awesome in a platonic way. Kind of a tricky question, I know, especially since that's one of the really very NOT universal things. But I'm not really comfortable with "you just know" or otherwise nebulous answers. I like to at least be able to articulate in my head why a given answer is wrong in my case, because that means that I at least have a clue what the right one should be.

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Robin Lee
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Hmmm...it's really pretty difficult to say what sexual or romantic attraction feels like, both because (like most feelings) there aren't always words to describe it fully and because it's going to feel different for everyone.

I know that does seem nebulous, but it really is as individual as that. Plus, it can change over time.

I hear you describing the ways you're attracted to people right now, and that you don't know exactly how to define those attractions. Can you maybe talk a little bit about why that's not okay, about what makes you want to have the "right" answers right now? What are you afraid of feeling or of happening if you don't have the "right" answers?


One thing to keep in mind is that sexuality, including sexual attraction, isn't static. We're born with a sexuality, yes, but that sexuality changes dramatically over time both in what it feels like and how we express it. I think we often expect that once we go through puberty we will have this fully formed sexuality that just springs out at us and is really clear and strong.

In reality, our sexual development is still happening and will continue to unfold over our entire lives. It could very well be that your aesthetic appreciation of people of any gender, and the way that aesthetic appreciation makes you feel, is where your sexual and romantic attractions are right now. Sex and sexual attraction isn't just about who we want to be with or what we want to do with our bodies, but about how we think, feel, perceive others and how those perceptions feel in our minds and bodies. Does that make sense?

I'm giving you a couple of articles to read that I think will give you more to consider as you work towards making sense of all of this.

How to Understand, Identify and Make Choices About Desire


The Rainbow Connection: Orientation for Everyone

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Robin

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Abcedarien
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Yes, I've read both of those. And it's not so much that I'm afraid of anything happening in particular. Mostly, I'm just a worrier, and I like to have the answers to things. When I hit puberty I read everything I could get my hands on about it, before I go to college I'll probably read everything I can find about that, I like to know where everyone in my family is going to be at any given time. Also, I just last year finished a good few years of being really uncomfortable in my skin and with reality in general, which I don't want to go back to. I felt really disconnected from everything, my body included, and sometimes I still do. Being able to put names to things is one of the ways I kind of....anchor myself I guess? And it helps with the little buzz of worry worry worry in the back of my head to have concrete explanations for things. "I get jumpy when I walk around my neighborhood alone because I'm scared of dogs and people let their dogs roam around loose sometimes. It is a phobia." "I like dressing more formally and in a more feminine way when doing things that frighten me slightly because it makes me feel more adult and confident. It is a defense mechanism." Things like that. And it's not that I feel like I need to peg myself as one thing and that will be The Thing That I Am for Ever and Ever. But I feel like I need a starting point to shift FROM, at least.
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Redskies
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Some people find it very helpful and comforting to define the uncertain or discovery stage they're in, like an "I'm still figuring all of this out" stage or an "I'm open-minded and learning" stage. Would it help you? Q is for Questioning talks about being in this kind of space, with a name that a lot of people - but not everyone - uses for it.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Abcedarien
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That's probably what I'd use to describe it to someone else, but it doesn't really do me much good. I kind of need concrete labels for myself. For some reason I'm willing to let other people be as fluid and exploratory and undefined as they like, but not myself. Actually, fluid would be fine if I could figure out what a crush or attraction or whatever even feels like. I guess I just live with this on my worry circuit every week or so when I'm feeling twitchy and hope it resolves itself... It's not like I'm not fine 75 percent of the time. Being a teenager is supposed to suck and involve lovely chunks of angst, right? This can be mine. [Smile]
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Robin Lee
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Would it work for you, do you think, to make up your own label to describe yourself right now or is it important to you to have a label that is used and recognized by other people? What do you think is so important to you about having a concrete label, and what does concrete mean for you?


You know, a crush or attraction really isn't going to feel the same for everyone. There's no one answer to: "What does attraction feel like?"

Hearing you express this twitchiness, I'm wondering if you find it difficult to trust your own feelings and perceptions. There's no wrong way to have a crush or feel an attraction (an attraction of any kind, it doesn't have to be overtly sexual) and I'm wondering if you are feeling like there might be a wrong way.

Feeling angst is part of the human experience, not just the teen experience. [Smile] So is feeling comfort and happiness. So is the ability to soothe and reduce feelings of angst. [Smile]

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Robin

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Heather
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Also, if it helps, if and when we experience sexual feelings of some kind - an interest in being sexual in some way with themselves or alone, feeling sexually excited or aroused - with or around someone, that is generally how we get the hint we are probably attracted to them in that way.

Wanting to touch them might be part of that, but like you said, all of our desire for touch is not about sex. Some of us are just very tactile or physical, so we like to touch lots of things or people or beings often. But the diff here is that we have a desire to touch, when we do, in a way that feels like it is expressly sexual in some way.

I would also add that if and when we want something to be very concrete about, human sexuality is often, if not always, especially over a lifetime, going to be a very poor choice. It simply is a very fluid thing that is also very personal, where few people are really going to feel a great fit in the limited number of tiny boxes we generally have to work with per broad categorizations of sexuality. So, I would personally vote for working to accept that, and going for more concrete things to attach yourself too that really are more clear and tangible.

[ 12-01-2013, 09:53 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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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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Abcedarien
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Part of the reason I feel like I would be more comfortable with a label right now, is that I've just started hitting a point where I want to date and have some kind of romantic relationship, but I can't quite figure out who with. And yes, I do probably have problems with my own perceptions of things. I maybe mentioned this, but I just in the last year or two finished a period of about three or four years where I was having what I call trouble with reality. I hit a big growth spurt and suddenly I couldn't figure out where I ended and the floor and walls and trees and other people began. This led to a lot of bruises I didn't remember getting. Also I got boobs sometime when I wasn't paying attention. At the same time, I was trying to figure out how to interact with people without my mom or sister or one of my five or six best friends since forever there as a buffer. And also trying to convince myself I wasn't supposed to have cat ears or a tail or claws and that I wasn't hallucinating my entire reality. When asked, I said I had a crush on my friend's brother, mostly because he read and listened to some of the same music as I did and and was objectively kind of cute, but it wasn't really something I was concerned about. I've had maybe...three people that I'm at least halfway certain are actually people I'm attracted to and not just me agreeing with someone else who suggested I might like the person. Exactly one of them was even peripherally aware I exist on this planet, and no one I've ever even SAID I maybe liked that way was actually going to even consider dating me. So I think at least some of them were just....I don't know...safe crushes? It was never going to happen so I could tell my friends I liked someone and be normal and not have to really think about it? But I'm not sure who I actually liked and who I convinced myself to like. And now I actually want to have a romantic relationship and I'm kind of still in that mindset only now I'm over-thinking everything too so even if I wasn't in that mindset I don't know I'd actually be able to tell? And also other people are starting to think about me that way. I hang out with mostly college kids so up until now I've kind of been kind of a novelty, you know? That kid who hangs out with us and is smart so she can keep up. Only now I'm less of a kid and more of an actual person of that makes sense? So now it's okay to make jokes and maybe flirt only I wouldn't really recognize flirting if it bit me so I don't really know? Which I'm okay with only I can't tell if maybe I want it to go a bit further in some cases so I'm just kind of confused. And I'm babbling now so I'm going to stop talking.
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Heather
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I wonder if it might help to talk a little about what it is like to figure out who to date when you're queer, and queer in a way where it really could be anyone as far as gender is concerned.

If so, that has certainly been the case for me throughout my life. There have only been tiny windows of time where people's gender gave me any cues whatsoever about if they were someone I wanted to date or not.

So, for me? A label for my orientation really doesn't do squat, save letting someone know if they ask, when I identify as queer, that that's how I identify.

Personally, I hear you second-guessing your own feelings and instincts in some of this, and I don't think you need to. After all, so much of dating is about trying things out and feeling out what (who) fits and doesn't as we go. We really can only know so much in advance before we start, and keep, interacting with someone. even knowing we feel drawn or attracted to them from the start is only a very small piece of information, the piece that is a player in, "Well, if they feel that way too, let's see if they want to try getting to know each other more and see where this feels like we want to take it." 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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Abcedarien
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No, you're right, a label's not that helpful. But I'm not good at people. I don't understand how they work, or how they think. Also, I tend to assume people find me slightly annoying or immature. Unless I know someone already, I won't talk to them without a clear reason. And if I do know them, I tend to stick to interactions I kind of know work. If I was absolutely certain I liked someone in a romantic way I MIGHT bring it up, but probably not otherwise. And I can't figure out if someone likes me without being hit over the head with it. I've literally had someone try to ask me out and me shut them down completely without having a clue what was going on. My friend and sister who were with me at the time had to clue me in after he had left.
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Heather
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Well, a lot of this is just about a learning curve. It's not like anyone is born with these skills: we learn them over time.

That said, you know, I am in my 40s, and have had a very active dating life, and I have to tell you, very often I have found that I don't pick up on flirtations either. Really, I think a lot of people won't because they are so variable among people. But the good news is, we don't have to: we certainly all have far clearer ways of communicating with each other!

Are you saying that, right now, you don't feel able to handle rejection or putting your interest in someone out there unless you knew for sure they were interested in you? If so, then honestly, it might just be that right now isn't the time for dating for you, because we all need to be able to deal with those situations if we are pursuing dating or relationships. It might be that, if you are feeling that way, your time and energy might be better spent working on upping your self-esteem and resilience first.

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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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Abcedarien
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I think it's more hold-over from when I was deathly shy. I'm far better about it now, and I can actually talk to people now, but I never actually developed a lot of social skills. I'm better at it than I think I am, but I have a habit of trying to be invisible and randomly dropping out of conversations. So I'd probably be fairly ok with rejection and such, but I A) don't have the faintest idea how I'd go about telling someone I liked them, and B) tend to stick to holding patterns without realizing I'm doing it. And then there's the problem of not always being able to tell if I am attracted to someone or just think they're generally awesome.
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Heather
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I really think you are looking for some definitive answers in a place where there are few, and where experience is also going to be the biggest player.

In other words, over time, you likely will be able to identify when you feel attracted and when you don't. Truly. Your own patterns and experiences -- for instance, kissing someone you are not attracted to often feels like kissing a relative: it's kind of amazing how easily that works in giving us that information -- are going to inform this.

It sounds to me like you may just want more information walking in than you -- or most folks, most of the time -- can actually have.

But it also sounds like you'd feel more confident and more comfortable trying things out if you felt better about your social skills. what do you think? If so, have you ever sought out any pro help with that, or even read some basic books about social skills?

P.S. The way to tell someone we like them or are interested in them often is as simple as, "Hey, I like you," or "Hey, do you want to hang out sometime? I'd like to get to know you better." Seriously.

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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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Abcedarien
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Yeah, for me "enough information" isn't a thing. [Smile] Thanks for trying, anyways. And I think the social skills thing will fix itself now that the shyness is mostly gone and I'm actually talking to a wider range of people.
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Heather
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So, sounds like too, you will also just need, over time, to get used to the fact that when it comes to any kind of interaction with people, especially someone or something new, you are just going to be flying blind to some degree.

That certainly can be something it takes some folks more than others time to get okay with.

If it helps, it may help to think of this as being an adventure. In other words, there are surprises and unknowns, but a big part of the fun and interest in any relationship or potential relationship is exploring those things over time, as well as kind of finding an excitement in the things we cannot know, or don't know yet.

[ 12-01-2013, 03:23 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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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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