Kisses And Cuddles Are Not For Me, But I Belong Right Here!

Anuja cringed inwardly, the concept of romance and willingly having sex seemed alien to her; she’d never felt the bees and butterflies in her stomach!   


A tap of Anuja’s finger jostled the screen to life. The message said, “Dining deals to make you swoon!” Before she could react, the phone buzzed in quick succession.

Ding! Ding! Ding! 

“Spend a perfect day with the chosen one!”

“In the name of love — gifts too sweet to miss!”

Anuja rolled her eyes and let out a sigh. “Just another day of capitalists fleecing the love-crazy public. Not interested,” she cursed and choked the screen to turn dark.

She hastened to the bathroom. Today was an important meeting with a corporate giant at her firm. As a senior financial analyst with enviable analytical competency, degrees from an elite business school, and years of experience, she was sought after by the crème de la crème.


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The loud shrill of the doorbell diverted her to the main door. Anuja peeked through the peephole and groaned, “Dang! Not again!”

“Noni! Courier!” she yelled and flung the door open. Noni, her niece, studied business administration at a local college and temporarily stayed with her. Anuja awkwardly directed the delivery man to the vintage-style table in the foyer. She watched the man huffing and puffing, struggling under the weight of four dozen roses and candy-pink bags, but she didn’t try to help.

“February has made Akki, Noni’s boyfriend, bona fide batty. Not that he was any better before,” Anuja chuckled, hundreds of flowers, heart-shaped candy boxes, and plush teddy bears had already shown up.

“Noni,” she called again. Soon, a loud, off-key rendition of the latest Bollywood romantic number, followed by her niece’s hurried and eager footsteps, rolled into the living room.

“Whoa!” Noni gushed, leaning closer to take in the heady perfume. “Look, Masi! How sweet!” Noni pored over the tiny rainbow-coloured notes stuck on the flower’s stems.

The delivery man smiled indulgently. His smile reminded Anuja of the proud smiles the parents sported on republic day when their wards received bravery awards from the president.

“Here,” Anuja tipped the man and packed him off.

“Tell Akki to hold the roses after today. The house already smells like a flower shop.” Anuja teased Noni. She ran her eyes over the valentine fluff scattered in the living room. “Looks like this boyfriend of yours is hell-bent on blowing up his father’s coffers. I hope he is not expecting you to run the house post-marriage!”

“Ugh, Masi! Who wants marriage?” Noni gagged, scrunching her face in mock disgust. “Imagine! How good this will look on my Instagram.”

Who wants marriage?

With her lips twisted in an amused smile, Anuja watched her niece rearrange the long-stemmed roses against the gift bags to click a colour-coordinated picture. She shook her head and headed to the bathroom. The hullabaloo of Valentine’s Day with people declaring their love from rooftops was lost on her.

Noni’s words echoed in Anuja’s ears as she took off her robes and stood before the mirror. Her eyes scanned the visible veins and sunken temples; like her peers in their 40s, fine lines and wrinkles had woven their webs on Anuja’s face. She traced the deep creases as past years floated before her.

“Ugh! Who wants marriage?” were the exact words she had said to her mother two decades back.

As a young woman, Anuja struggled with romance, link-ups, and physical intimacy. Uncertainty and self-doubt had dotted her high school and college years. When all her friends, including her childhood friend Trish, experimented with crushes—kissing, cuddling, touching, and holding hands—she had played along just to feel included.

Where is the urge?

Then, suddenly, everyone had graduated to the next big thing. When they blushed, tittered, and guffawed, describing who did what with their partners in great detail, Anuja had inwardly cringed. The concept of romance and willingly having sex with someone seemed alien to her; she’d never felt the bees and butterflies in her stomach.

“Maybe there is a medical condition.”

“You haven’t found the right person!”

“You are just shy. Open yourself to adventure!” Her friends had urged.

Anuja had paid heed and tried her best, but she had hated it. It was partly to shush the jokes about her spinsterhood and lonely existence. The medical tests were clean chit too. For a long time, she had felt like a failure. She couldn’t explain her near-negligible interest in dating, sex, or romantic relationship to her mother or Trish. Both the ladies had tried umpteen times to hook her up.

But then, years passed, and she became a corporate magnet. Though she never corrected people when they assumed her promiscuity and having friends with benefits, it was far from the actual truth. In reality, she had never indulged in serious intimacy after the pathetic initial attempts in her twenties. Anuja had diligently kept up the facade for everyone except for Trish and her mother.

There was another side to her story; Anuja didn’t grudge other people for losing their collective shit over romance and sex. Instead, she enjoyed being cast in a supporting role in someone else’s love drama.

Armed with cheap vodka and buckets of ice cream, Anuja had matched steps with Trish as the latter slogged through her quota of a hundred frogs, found her prince charming, and had her daughter, Pia. Now also, Anuja savoured Akki’s theatrics more than she cared to admit.

“Proudly weird,” Anuja winked at the mirror.


As the heart-shaped raspberry ganache melted on her tongue, Anuja turned the key in the ignition. “Rush-Rush!” Paula Abdullah crooned in her sultry voice. A smile swept across Anuja’s face; she bumped the volume.

“The love-stricken lad has good taste in music, chocolate and women,” she chortled and swung the car down the street. Noni had swapped cars with Anuja; Anuja’s SUV worked best for carting hordes of dating youngsters to Valentine’s Day karaoke and concerts. The customized playlist of ‘best love songs ever’ and the luxe chocolate heart box came as freebies with the bargain. “Who said love doesn’t have its perks!” Anuja laughed and popped another praline in her mouth.

The streets seemed decked in red. A group of eager children hoisting balloons and bouquets of roses descended on the vehicles like swarms of locusts on every traffic signal. Huge hoardings announcing deals and offers peppered the skyline.

The two camps: couples vs singles

Though the festive air had pervaded the office, there was a difference. The corporate world was split into distinct camps—couples vs singles. There were people dressed in fuchsias, pinks and reds.

Then there were others clad in drab greys and browns, openly declaring their disdain for the day of love. “Safely stashed in the middle!” Anuja snickered, pressing her palm on her blue pantsuit.

A busy morning, analysing current market trends, business proposals and strategizing solutions, was punctuated with periodic squeals, laughter, and giggles, as one or the other employee received surprise goodies from their respective partners.

“Repercussions of hiring young talents,” Anuja remarked to her middle-aged client, evoking peals of merry laughter.

It was late afternoon when Anuja returned to find an array of cake boxes, chocolates, and savouries arranged on her desk. “HR is trying to be inclusive this year,” Vinay, her secretary, said, placing her coffee next to the goodies.

“Bravo! St. Valentine made the stingy HR concede defeat!” Anuja commented, half-expecting Vinay to break into a burst of laughter.

Should she join the rainbow celebration?

Vinay forced a thin smile. Anuja wondered at Vinay’s cheerless disposition; he was usually chatty and chirpy. Vinay had long come out as gay; every few months, his relationship status toggled—single, in a relationship, engaged and whatnot. His crisp white shirt, patterned with black paisleys, hinted he was currently single.

“Here is the invite for the singles get-together.” he pushed an ivory card towards her. ‘Single and loving it!’ the card announced in bold lettering.

“You’re coming?” Anuja said, peering at Vinay’s face and then at his shirt.

“No, I am going to singles mingles for the gay community,” Vinay said, lowering his puffy eyes. “Yeah! The ass cheated on me.” His voice quivered, and for a minute, Anuja thought he would burst into tears.

The moment passed, and Vinay left. Anuja toyed with the invite, rolling her index finger along its edges. She didn’t want to attend the singles’ party. It invariably turned into a love-bashing, partner-bashing fiesta with people crying hoarse about other people’s relationships, how they’d die alone and never find love, and how life was unfair. Some even considered it an opportunity to play the field and a chance for casual hookups.   

“The last thing I want is to have strange men from other departments hitting on me,” Anuja mumbled. Plus, she could never empathize with the singles’ woes. As impossible as it sounded, Anuja enjoyed being single.

A part of her knew she could climb the steep corporate ladder only because she didn’t carry extra baggage. Many of her friends had settled into mediocre positions because of marriage, relationships, and kids. Unlike Vinay, she’d never worried about someone cheating on her.

“Maybe I could just go to the colony club!” she mumbled. But then she shelved the plan as she recalled the last year’s horror.

The day of love had turned the usual, serene ambience of the club on its head. The live band had taken requests; her next-door neighbours held hands, danced and snuggled in public. It was as if Valentine’s Day had legalized PDA; as a solo flyer, Anuja had felt like a voyeur and an unwelcome intruder.

Where did Anuja belong?

Where could she go? Anuja contemplated. With singles and couples’ events ruled out, she gave attending the gay bash with Vinay a serious thought. But soon realized the absurdity.

Was there no one like her? Did she not belong anywhere? In a world divided into categories, Anuja felt stuck in a crack — Valentine’s Day had highlighted that she was different and all alone. Tears pooled in her eyes.


A smile dawned on Anuja’s lips; it was a WhatsApp from Trish. She clicked the long message open.

“Hey, Anu.

Pia came out as Aro/Ace—aromantic/ asexual last summer. At first, I was confused and frustrated; I wrongly assumed it was a passing phase. But it lasted, and how! Then, we started to talk. I even attended lectures and meets with Pia.

When I heard people talking about their lack of desire for sex and distaste for romance, it suddenly made sense. Perhaps I understood it all because it reminded me of you.

I apologize, dear Anu, for assuming that you needed to be fixed. I apologize that I thought you had a choice, and if I forced you enough, I could mould you into something else. I apologize that I couldn’t understand that you could have a happy, fulfilling life without sex or a partner; I just didn’t know better.

Furthermore, I know this apology is thirty years too late, but I am glad Pia ripped apart my orthodox notions of love and sexuality, and I could see the person trapped behind the outdated tropes.

There is an Aro/Ace event next to your office—a place for like-minded people to enjoy the Valentine’s Day festivities. I’ll be there with Pia. Will you come, Anu? Perhaps you belong here.”

What is asexuality?

Tears rained down in a storm from Anuja’s eyes; her frame shook with noiseless sobs as she Googled the aromantic and asexual spectrum for the next few hours. She laughed and cried at the same time. For the first time in her life, she felt validated for who she was and how she felt.

The sound of a red heart-shaped balloon fluttering and banging against the glass steered her to the window. Bobbing with the wind, tugging at its string, the balloon struggled to break free. Anuja loosened the twine from the iron railing. She raised her face, soaking in the dwindling sunshine and the wind as her eyes traced the heart balloon gliding into the gilded clouds where it seemed to belong.

It’s time for you to belong!” Anuja whispered, checked the address on Trish’s message and headed out. She had a Solentine bash to attend.

Image source: Maxim’s Images, Intellistudies via Getty Images, free and edited on CanvaPro

Read more about the aromantic-asexual spectrum here

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About the Author

Supriya Bansal

A Radiologist by profession, Supriya Bansal, spends most of her day inhabiting a monochromatic world consisting of different shades of grey ranging from black to white. She is an active member of many online writing read more...

18 Posts | 26,151 Views

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