Let's Talk About Let's Talk About Love
I have a confession to make. I’m gay.
Well, not really. Eh, actually I am. Kinda. It’s complicated.
This is something you hear a lot from people like me, people who aren’t strictly “homosexual” but are still a member of the larger LGBT+ community. The invisible minority communities inside a minority community. The kind of sexuality that requires a 50 page PowerPoint to come out, because nobody talks about it outside of the LGBT+ community, and people don’t often talk about it inside the community either. The kind of identity that isolates you for years, feeling alone and different from everybody else until you suddenly realize there’s a word for that.
And I’m writing from the heart here, because I’m a member of one of those minority communities. I’m a panromantic asexual.
What does that mean? Well, asexual or “ace” people don’t experience sexual attraction. If you've never heard the term before, it can be a little confusing. Being asexual doesn't mean being celibate, or abstaining from sexual acts. It's the lack of sexual attraction. Asexuality is a spectrum, and some asexual people may still choose to have sex for individual reasons. In
my case, I think of sex like broccoli. I don't like broccoli, and I don't want to eat. But I'm not alergic to it. I could eat it if I chose to; I just don't like it. But once in a while, if someone cooks up an awesome stir fry and they make a delicious ginger sauce and also happen to put broccoli in it, well, I'm going to try the broccoli. Maybe I'll even like it in that specific dish. But it still doesn't mean I'll like any broccoli that is presented to me in the future.
But why would I even try that broccoli stir fry if I know I don't like broccoli? Well, for the simple reason that I still want to have a romantic relationship. I don't want being asexual to mean I'm undateable, so if someone I'm dating isn't asexual, I'm willing to compromise occasionally on the broccoli stir fry, even if I still don't want to eat regular broccoli. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the split attraction model, some ace people (like me) do experience romantic attraction and want romantic relationships regardless of sex. That’s where the pan part comes in: I’m not pansexual, but I am panromantic. Not everyone is willing to eat the broccoli like I am, and that's okay, there's no right or wrong way to be asexual.
People don’t realize how sexual our society is until you view it through the lens of someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. I knew this, as an asexual person, and yet I didn’t quite grasp it for a long time. I was so used to having my perspective excluded from media that I didn’t even notice that I’d never been able to relate to the protagonist of a story until I was actually able to relate to one and it blew my mind.
That was my first interaction with Alice, the main character of Let’s Talk About Love by Clare Kahn.
She’s a biromantic asexual black girl in college, the same age as me when I first read this book. On the surface, we are very different people: she’s black; I’m not. Her parents are pushy about her getting a “proper” degree and subsequent job; mine weren’t. We don’t have the same hobbies, personality, or outlook on life, and yet, she was the first character I could ever relate to because we were both asexual.
And that’s a damn shame, because Let’s Talk about Love is a little…
So let’s get into it.
Alice is your typical college student at the end of her sophomore year: she’s stressed about finals and the fact that her lawyer parents want her to go to law school and she very much does not, she’s already missing her friends who are going away for summer vacation, and she’s excited to move into a house with her other friends to prove to her overbearing parents that she can take care of herself. Except Alice has a secret that sets her apart from other college students: she’s asexual, and when her girlfriend breaks up with her right before finals, both her heart and her summer plans are shattered.
Now all Alice wants to do is spend her summer in peace: working at the library, watching endless amounts of Netflix and eating junk food with her best friends to quell her broken heart. But that all changes when she meets the new employee at her workplace. Takeshi is unfairly cute and temporarily makes Alice’s brain stop working. She resolves to ignore him, but he proves persistent and Alice finds herself in an unlikely friendship. When she gets into a fight with her other friends, she leans on Takeshi for more and more support until their friendship turns into romance.
Except Alice still hasn’t told Takeshi that she’s asexual, and when that discussion finally happens, they compromise and officially enter a relationship, and that’s the end of the book.
In order to discuss this book, we first have to define the genre. This is pure New Adult romance. It’s a campy, overdramatic romp, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t need this book to be anything more than what it intended to be, and I don’t intend to analyze it outside of its genre. (For example, I won’t be mad at the lack of political intrigue in what is the equivalent of popcorn lit).
However, I still intend to hold it to the standards of that genre, and this book is indeed lacking in two major areas: its diversity representation and its unhealthy portrayal of relationships, both friendships and romantic relationships.
So let’s make it ugly.
Stay Tuned for pt 2