I was walking down the cold winter street with my mom. We were at some sort of winter festival thing, where people got together to celebrate the snowfall, and subsequently the runoff that would supply us with water during the summer. I had only heard about it this year.
The festival always took place on the 21st of December, the winter solstice, every year. It didn’t matter if it had actually snowed or not, apparently, because this year there wasn’t any snow yet. Well, there was a bit on the mountains, but not any down here.
The festival took up about two blocks of the city, and the roads were filled with small vendors selling all sorts of things, as well as a few street musicians. They were mostly playing Christmas songs, which I found quite irksome, but it was nice that there was music anyway. I always liked hearing acoustic musicians, but could never actually find the time to go out and listen to any. I just wish they’d choose some song other than “Let It Snow.”
I saw a cart filled to the brim with books. I stopped and looked at it, while my mom walked ahead without noticing. Picking up one of the books, I noticed it was some schlocky romance between a city girl and a country boy. I put it down and picked up another. This one was a schlocky romance between an alien woman who crash landed on earth and a farm dude. Shaking my head, I grabbed a different book. If you couldn’t bear to guess it was schlocky romance. This one was between two detective girls though. Neat to see some queer representation, I guess.
“Ash, what are you looking at?” Mom shouted at me. I guess she noticed I fell behind.
“Oh, it was just some books. I thought I might find something cool, but it was all romance,” I replied. I put the third book down and walked to catch up with Mom.
“Ah. You sure none of it would interest you?” Mom seemed to be hinting at something. I wasn’t a fan of that.
“No. I’m not really into romance. Or dating.” I picked up the pace a bit, hoping that forcing mom to move faster would distract for long enough to not ask about it.
“Yeah, but those are just stories. They aren’t real or anything.” Turns out my plan didn’t work.
“I know. That doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy them.” I pushed my mom toward a small pizza stand. The smell was rather tantalising. I also figured I should sit down for this conversation.
“I’ll have a slice of margherita,” I told the stall worker. “Anything you want, mom?”
“I’ll have what he’s having,” she replied.
“Ve. What ve’s having,” I corrected. I paid for the pizza slices, gave the worker my name, and then sat down at a small table nearby.
Mom sat down with me. “So who are you attracted to?” she asked.
“I’m not attracted to anyone,” I told her. “I don’t really experience attraction like you do. I’m asexual.”
The stall worker called my name and I grabbed our food. I was surprised my mom had let that go so fast. I was sure she was going to keep pressing for my sexual and/or romantic preferences. I don’t really think she knew what the difference between the two was, though.
“So if you were to date, would you rather date boys or girls?” She asked immediately as I handed her the pizza.
“Yup, there it is,” I said. “I’m not going to date, and the answer really doesn’t matter. So please stop asking.”
“I just want to know, that’s all,” she added trying to seem innocent.
I sighed. “Mom, I don’t feel attraction. I’ve literally never felt attracted to anyone to the point where I wanted to date or have sex with anyone. The most that I’ve ever done is conflate thinking someone was cool and maybe a little cute with feelings of attraction when I actually just wanted to be their friend. I ended up making supposedly romantic gestures to these people and pushing them away because of it. I’m not attracted to people.”
“Well, of those people you liked, were more of them boys or girls?” she retorted.
“Jesus, you were sitting on that response, weren’t you? Neither. Well, that and it’s kind of reductive to only include binary genders when I’m nonbinary. I don’t even like being called a boy in the first place. I literally changed my name to escape that kind of gendering.”
“Oh. Right.” Mom took a large bit of her slice of pizza. I think she was biding her time before she said something else. Which I guess I was the one who opened up that opportunity in the first place by buying food. Oh well. I took a bite of my own slice.
“I know you said you’d never get married a few times. I guess it makes sense that that should extend to dating,” Mom said after a few moments of quiet.
“Thanks for realising,” I said.
I was content to sit silently for a while, but Mom seemed to want to keep talking. “I guess I’m just curious.”
“Curiosity is fine,” I told her, “but that implies learning. You were really pushing for boys or girls in your questions. You should have asked a new question instead of reframing your old one.”
“I see.” After that she was okay with just eating and listening to music. A nearby group had started performing Auld Lang Syne.