Love is, Love Ain't

In the spirit of Independence Day and just the recent reminder that we all need to be free no mater what our relationship status, I thought I would celebrate my independence as a single woman.  I don’t celebrate it just for me, but for every woman or man – single, booed-up, or married – who may be bound by the idea that being single means being insignificant.  Two things recently collided to make me want live an even more empowered, celebrated life of singleness.  One – I joined Twitter and was introduced to the fantastic tweets of The Single Woman.  Two – My really good friend called me discussing the same ol’ deadbeat boyfriend of hers whom she shared wants to “take a break.”  For her, every time he wants to take a break it’s devastating.  For me, I’m happy, because I hope she will stop changing herself – physically (I mean physically if you follow) and mentally – for a guy who’s been working on the same Bachelor’s degree for the past 12 years, has no car or house, and is very selfish.  I called her randomly as I always do last week, and she answers the phone to share that she had just been sitting on the floor in her closet crying and how grateful she was that I called.  I’ve learned to tread lightly with her because she’s not like me – I’m a give-it-to-me-straight type of girl.  I listen as she goes on about how he wants to “take a break” for the millionth time.  Then she goes on about how they are meant to be and he will need to figure all of this out – with a lot of crowding from her and interfering from her mother.

All I could think is she can’t be free with all of that.  I need her to know that she is “significant without a significant other,” as The Single Woman tweeted one day.  I can’t say it to her though.  Every time I try, she interjects with several excuses as to why he hasn’t graduated, why he doesn’t have a car, and why the “breaks” might be good – continually strengthening the chains that hold her in the position that she is in.  And as she does that, she ridicules my “solo glow,” and sometimes politely reminds me of my patriarchal duty as a woman to be married to a man that I can cook for everyday.  So I’ve decided that maybe if I walk my talk and practice what I preach, she will see the freedom that I have as a beautiful, smart, silly, loving single woman.  And I won’t be single always, but I will make sure that I am always empowered, strong, happy, and significant – with or without the significant other.  And yes, I will fall from time to time and call and whine about how my ex just won’t give up and be judged because I keep answering the phone for him, but I won’t let him or any other person control my happiness, joy, or freedom.

I hope that all of my men and women who are significant whether with a significant other or not will join me in celebrating the love that we have for our Creator, ourselves, our families, our friends, our husbands/wives, girlfriends/boyfriends, and enemies.  And within these loves let’s pledge to be honest that singlehood does not automatically mean insignificance and relationship-hood/marriage does not automatically secure our significance.  Happy Independence Day!

And my number is 28. And I just found out that I have the potential to be a big pimpin’ cougar. Don’t laugh out loud because this is a burden and a blessing. Let’s start from the top. I work/study at a university with about 25,000 students. I meet a lot of them through the classes that I teach and the jobs that I work at, but when I find myself in places where a large body of undergraduate students gather, I become Waldo. I’m serious – try to find me – the 28-year-old grown woman with 2 degrees, 2 years of serious career related experience – and you won’t be able to find me. And this is my blessing. I look nothing like what I have been through.

But recently I realized I have to start asking for identification from the young men who ask me out. I laughed when the young guy at the grocery store ran to catch up with me and ask to take me out. He was a cutie pie – tall, caramel skin, short hair cut with the line to match – but when our eyes met, I knew he could not be any more than 17. “How old are you?” I asked. He flashed me those beautiful, straight teeth and said, “16.” As I walked away, I smiled ‘cause I will look like I’m 30 when I’m 70, but I realized I have got to be like the liquor store cashiers and start asking to see some ID.

I began to wonder if I was going to ask for ID so that I can keep things legal at all times or if I was just interested in dating only guys in a certain age range. Well, the other day as I sat at my office desk, a handsome young man came to the door and said, “How you doing?” I reacted like the police and said, “Can I see some ID?” He laughed and explained that he just wanted to get to know me. I asked if he played football, and when he said yes, I named my little boo boos on the team. He said he knew them. I told him to ask them why we don’t really need to get to know each other. He insisted that I tell him instead. “I’m 28.” His jaw (and his friend’s) dropped to the floor, and he screamed, “You look like a baby!” I thanked him, and he gave me his billion-dollar smile (I mean he had a gorgeous smile!). He paused for a moment and said, “We can’t be Facebook friends?” I laughed.

My colleague that witnessed the whole thing thought it was hilarious. But she said, “What’s wrong with maybe grabbing lunch or hanging out with him one day?” I said, “If he knows my boos, then he’s no more than 19.” “So,” she replied. That “so” has stayed with me. And no, Sistaoutsider (who I can hear saying “I’mma need you to stop”), I’m not interested in 19 year-olds no matter how handsome they are, but I do discriminate on the younger men a whole lot. Instead of revealing my standards, I reveal my age first. I’m 27 and you’re 23, we’ll never work. I’m 28 and you’re 19, we’ll never work. I need to practice more on making my standards show the maturity because age sure doesn’t. I’m interested in my career, and you haven’t chosen a major yet, we might not work. I could get married right now if the person designed for me asks me, you can’t even decide which young lady you want to kick it with tonight, we’re not gonna happen.

Don’t be like me and laugh in every baby face. They might be 28, 30, 33 – you just need to see some ID.

 

Today one of my friends called me to talk about her boyfriend, other guys who are tripping over themselves to take her boyfriend’s spot, and her favorite topic – my singleness and lack of desire to marry just anybody. So she calls to talk about next weekend’s wedding (her cousin’s – and also my really good friend’s – wedding). She then names like five other people who are recently engaged, and I get excited with each announcement because I love me some love and really love when people find their calling of marriage. I then try to have a really serious conversation with her about marriage – I share that I’m sure I’m not ready for it, and it’s a possibility that it is not my calling (I’m really serious about my belief that marriage is a spiritual gift and calling). So as always she interjects and says, “You’re just going to be all alone with your 15 cats.” Yes, roll your eyes here if you would like – I won’t judge you. I took a deep breath and reminded her that I’m not responsible enough for animals and that I needed to go.

I thought that we had at least punched the patriarchy hard enough that people had stopped saying and insinuating such archaic ideas. But it didn’t bother me as much because I’ve realized that my journey to the union God has designed for me is a really private one. I can’t expect all of my friends to understand that for me marriage won’t work if I am not complete by myself. I don’t need someone to complete me – I need someone to help me get tax breaks. Just kidding – kinda. ☺

So I did state earlier that I want the journey to my union to be really private, but I’m willing to share so that other single ladies who may be placed in really awkward conversations and experiences (especially during this wedding season) will know that they are not alone. I want to share the really corny thing I do to stay realistic about my marriage ideas: I write letters to my future permanent boo in my journal. It was originally designed to be a gift to him when I realized that he is my permanent boo, but two very wise ladies encouraged me to just keep it to myself and use it as a reflection and guide to what I want. I haven’t had time to write in it lately, but I decided to read it and found one that I will share with you.

Dear honey pot,

I’m waiting for you – and it’s much easier now than when I first started writing you. No, I don’t know who you are, but I still love you. I thought that the first dance at our wedding reception would be “International Players Anthem” by UGK & Outkast, but it will be “The Makings of You” by Curtis Mayfield. You’re affecting me already, and we aren’t even engaged! I love you!!!

Laugh at it, analyze it, or be inspired by my silly, corny letters, but ladies, this wedding season when you are assaulted with sexist comments and questions or are played like you’re desperate to get married, just do something corny like me – imagine your future permanent boo – if marriage is your thing – and pretend you are sharing your encounter with the wedding and baby police to remind yourself that you don’t have to be married with kids by 30. And if marriage is not your thing, remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you and continue to stick it to the patriarchy! ☺

Back in January I grieved the engagement of the one guy I consistently wanted to share my life with. And whenever I grieve anyone or anything, I have to find a theme song. As I thought about how egregious it was that he chose someone without at least trying it with me first, my emotions welled up deep inside of me and as I waited for the tears to roll uncontrollably down my face (and they didn’t), I turned to Jay-Z and decided to let his “Song Cry.” Because all I could hear was Jay saying, “I was gone get right back…”

So after I zoned out with Jay and his story about a relationship that diverged in his transformation into a star, I realized that I had been bamboozled by the “Get Right Back” play. That though I should have never emotionally tangled myself up with someone who always had something else – he had a girlfriend when I first met him, he was too hurt by her betrayal when we were both single and living in the same city, he wanted to build his career and travel the world – he was gone get right back.

Well he did get right back. He sent me an e-mail back in October, and I was ecstatic!! Yes, he got back – maybe this would be the beginning of our perfecting timing. I e-mailed him back – he e-mailed me – and we had a tennis match over e-mail. Finally, I decided I would act like a grown woman and say how about you give me a call sometime. He never e-mailed again or called, so I figured – he was gone get right back. Fast forward to January and he announces he is engaged. Well, no getting back on that. One of my best friends still thinks we’re meant to be and has concocted a plan for us to crash his wedding with an unsolicited objection. It would be fun in a motion-picture sort of way, but I’m single (by choice), not desperate.

I had previously written this post and didn’t post it because I didn’t have an optimistic type of life lesson to add to it, but I thought it would fun to add as I will try to pay homage to wedding season 2011. A single girl has got to have fun while people continue to ask her why she’s not married yet or what’s wrong with her  – doesn’t she? ☺

So in just a few minutes, I was scheduled to get on a plane for a nice little trip to a corner of the Midwest. However, I’m going to miss that flight, because the trip on which I was to embark has been postponed, indefinitely.  Ok, it was cancelled.  A few months ago I mentioned that I was interested in a lovely young woman, and we seemed to be getting along quite nicely.  Rather abruptly, though, she decided that she “wasn’t the one” and didn’t think that “she could be the girlfriend I deserved” and just as quickly as it started, it was over.

While I’m not angry at her, I am a bit disappointed in her delivery of this message. It was by text. There is no doubt that we didn’t see eye-to-eye on a couple of issues, but I was still a little perturbed by what I see as the ultimate act of cowardice in this type of situation.  The failure to communicate in person or at least by phone, your need to end a budding relationship, is just as powerful as a slap in the face. It sends the message that you are unworthy of direct communication.  While I do not believe that about myself at all, I have to admit that it took a great deal of self-control not to call her up and demand an explanation. Why didn’t I call her, you ask? Because she’s right. She’s not the one for me. And although we had a wonderful time together and got along really well, our relationship expectations were completely different. Needless to say, we couldn’t work it out.

So in the spirit of catharsis and a keen desire to prevent my dear readers from making a similar snafu, here are a few ways that you can surmise whether or not your current honey is “The One” for you: (Not all of these are issues that we dealt with, but  some are things I’ve thought about since we’ve parted ways.)

  • You don’t communicate often or well.  If you like to talk a lot and your honey would rather not, you may want to reconsider how you plan to move forward in your relationship when you really don’t have much to talk about.  There is no doubt that sometimes life gets in the way: added responsibilities at work, family crises, or just plain exhaustion. But if you are really interested in maintaining a relationship, you’ve got to communicate often, and well.
  • Related to the previous point is the method by which you communicate.  Each time the Bunny and I had a disagreement, (if I recall correctly) it seemed to start with a text message.  There should be guidelines on the types of communication that can be had by text.  Tone, emotion, and intent are sometimes lost in those 140 character bytes, and once you hit the send button, you can’t take it back. So my advice to you is if it’s important, just wait for her to call you.
  • If you are in a long distance situation, consistent communication is paramount to the success of the relationship.  At the end of the day, it’s all you really have to stay connected to each other until you meet again.  Now, folks have varying opinions on how that should happen, but I have friends who Skype every night, or spend an hour on the phone catching up. Some even plan phone dates. The important thing is that you stay connected to each other and that you do it often.
  • Is your potential date really interested in a serious relationship, or is she looking for a girlfriend of the “add and stir” variety? By add and stir I mean is she ready to make you a part of her life, or does she just want to find a place for you on her oh so busy schedule? I’m being a little flip, but I think this is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and the Bunny.  And as a matter of fact, about a month before we called it quits, I asked her if she really had time for girlfriend. She got pretty upset and we almost ended it then. In retrospect, I believe I hit a nerve. I NEVER expect to be placed before faith or family, but years ago, there was a point at which I realized that I do not want to be fifth or sixth down somebody’s priority list.
  • Related tangentially to that is the notion that at some point, you have to decide how to integrate the disparate parts of your life together in order to make time and space for all of the things that are important to you.  If baby girl gets pissed if you text or call her when she’s with her friends, then she may not be ready to tie the knot.  Or she’s got something to hide. Either way, she may not be ready to give up living the single life for the sake of the relationship. And if you are, then she is not the one for you.
  • Finally, if she is in the closet and you are not, it will probably become a problem at some point.  Now don’t get your panties in a bunch, I realize that coming out is a process and not everyone is able to do it. HOWEVER, if you are out and proud, or just out, this may become an issue down the road. One thing about this that bothers me (and I’m sure I’ll get some heat for saying it), is the notion that by living a double life (if that is what one is doing), then one has learned the art of deception.  And by that I mean that you’ve had to create smoke and mirrors for your family or whomever you aren’t out to in order to keep your secret safe. And to be honest, if you are able to do this, then how can I really know how you feel about me?  No doubt this does NOT hold true for everyone, but I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way.  For some, it’s easier to live the lie than to confront the truth.
  • And in the words of my girl M-Boogie, you don’t have to lie to kick it.  If all you want to do is have a good time, or just want a girl as an accessory, then just say so. There are lots of women out there that are cool with that. However, if you are really interested in having a serious, meaningful relationship, then you will actually have to put some work in. That may mean more than a date once a month or a phone call every few days.  You may actually have to make a few adjustments in your life. If you aren’t ready to or can’t do that, then not only are you not the one for me, you may not be the one for anyone.

If you are trapped between your feelings and what other people think is right, always go for whatever makes you happy.

Unless you want everyone to be happy except you.

*I read this on another blog but thought it worth repeating here.

So, for the past few months, I’ve been rather busy with work and my studies, but I did meet a couple of ladies and I’m actually very interested in one of them. But first, let me tell you about an interesting experience with a woman I met late last year. Sometime in late December or early January, I think, I met a woman from Chi-town, let’s call her Broke Down Betty. She was attractive although she seemed a bit sad, and we struck up a conversation and exchanged numbers. We lived about two hours apart, so you would think that getting together for coffee or dinner wouldn’t be much of an issue. It was. Because I am committed to taking my time to get to know a girl before getting all googly-eyed about her, I really wanted to make sure that we had ample time to chat and hang out to see if there was a spark. Welllllll, the first time Broke Down Betty and I had an extended phone conversation, she broke down crying about two losses she had suffered in the past few years.  I immediately felt bad for her, but I also was pretty sure that this woman was in no shape to date anyone on a serious level.  She seemed to still be grieving deeply over the loss of her mother and close friend, and even though it had been two years, she still couldn’t speak about the loss without breaking down. She really needed to heal emotionally, and take some time to take care of herself. But that is not why I called her Broke Down Betty.

At some point over the next couple of weeks, Broke Down Betty actually broke her wrist while helping a little old lady. No, seriously. This is why I call her Broke Down Betty.  However, we weren’t talking much, and seemed to be only be communicating by text. Now, I’m a talker, so although we chatted a little about her wrist and recovery, we didn’t seem to have much else to say to each other, so I assumed (which is never a wise thing to do), that she just wasn’t interested, and since I knew she seemed to be in an “interesting place” emotionally, I was pretty sure this wasn’t a love connection.  We weren’t connected in any meaningful way, and eventually I met someone else.  Well, apparently Broke Down Betty didn’t get the memo, because after about three weeks of silence (and remember, we never actually went out), she started calling and talking about getting together for coffee or dinner. Quite frankly, I wasn’t interested.  I told her that because we hadn’t actually TALKED in weeks, I really didn’t think she was interested in getting to know me and that I thought it best if we just became friends.

This is when she broke down on me.

Broke Down Betty didn’t want to take no for an answer, and I honestly couldn’t figure out why.  We never actually went on a date, and didn’t talk that much on the phone.  Still, she kept trying to convince me that we should go out, that she was ready for a relationship, and at some point she started to cry. I was completely shocked and could only wait patiently until she finished. At some point she got herself together and proceeded to tell me that she had had a lot going on in the past few weeks, (her wrist, her son was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, among other things), which is why she broke down crying on me. Well, I’ve got to be honest, and I know some of you are going to think this is harsh, but I told her (very nicely) that perhaps she needed to seek grief counseling, because she kept telling me that I didn’t know how it felt to lose my mother, and she’s right, I don’t. But I am a near stranger to this woman, and I am probably not the best person to help her deal with her grief. I was relieved when she told me that she had already signed up for group counseling, although I honestly thought she might need a bit of one on one.  I did tell her that I really thought she needed a good friend, and that I’d be happy to be that.  Do you think I’ve heard from her since? Not hardly.

The moral of the story is this: The first time I talked to this woman I had a feeling that she wasn’t in a good place emotionally, and I was right. However, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, which is why I continued to communicate with her, even if only briefly.  So, go with your gut. I’ve been accused of being too hasty to jump ship with this kind of thing, but so far, my gut has served me well. The second thing I figured out is that I think this woman was being manipulative. To be honest, it seemed as if she cried on demand, because even in the conversation where she actually “broke down,” she seemed to turn it around so quickly that it was like it had never happened at all.  Although I think that if I had decided to go out with her, she would have seen her tears as a way to get what she wanted from me. That really bothered me, and although I had already decided that she probably wasn’t for me, I was a bit annoyed that she seemed to think she could “get to me” that way.  Either way, things worked out the way they were supposed to, because I’ve moved on, and trust me, I’m not looking back!

I have really been working hard to establish standards that are clear.  I haven’t met anyone new that I have had to establish standards with, but new boo still shows strong interest, and I have had to continually uphold those standards I have set with him.  I have listened to stories of other friends dating and been scolded continuously by my close friend because I’m not working hard to find (or keep) a man, and I began to question if I really knew how to compromise.  My ex likes to say I don’t know how to compromise, but I guess it all depends on who you are asking.

So I have been working on listening to the greater influence within me, and as I asked, “Do I know how to compromise?” I received almost an immediate answer.  A pretty important man in college football these days said, “Accept and tolerate only that which you want to encourage.”  This is some of the best advice I have received in a while, and I knew that it would be invaluable across the board in my relationships.  So I just had to share this on the blog.  Remember:  Accept and tolerate only that which you want to encourage.

I seriously thought my blog about What Chili Wants would be only one part, but since I watch the show regularly, I could not help but blog again about what we can learn from Chili.  So Chili and Floyd (UGH!!) hang out some more.  He basically ignores her while they are at Six Flags – he’s too busy having fun with his entourage.  This prompts Chili to finally have the talk that they should have had a long time ago.  I can’t remember what she says specifically, but she wanted to know if she and Floyd would be in that weird space they titled “friendship” forever. I heard Floyd loud and clear though when he called their relationship a friendship.  And I have learned from my own experiences that that is all I need to hear to cue my exit from a weird friendship.

What I have also learned is that you can never change another person; however, you can change yourself and can get out of these paralyzing “friendships.” Here’s a list of statements that your “friend” of over a year (I’m being lenient with this time period) should not be saying:

“I don’t want to get hurt.” – No one wants to get hurt.  This is really irrelevant, and I’m not trying to be coldhearted.  Ok, if you want to be specific about past heartbreak, family/relationship issues – fine, I’ll listen.  But you need to understand that there are very few people who have not been hurt or affected by someone else’s heartbreak and pain.  Don’t allow him to keep saying this to you for an extended period of time.

“I’m scared.” – Fear can be healthy in some cases.  After 3 weeks of knowing someone, you should be scared to make a commitment or move in with this person.  However, remember we’re talking about knowing this “friend” for a year or more.  Maybe he means he’s scared that you will find out that his intentions have never been to be your friend with the possibility of being your man but a lukewarm relationship parasite.

Anything with “just friends” or “our friendship” – Hello, no matter how many diamonds, dinners, private Six Flags trips he has given you, if he’s saying this word or combinations of this word he’s being loud and clear – you’re only friends.  Please, take him at his word.  I would even suggest that you not accept his lavish gifts.  Accepting the extravagant gifts is one of the signs that you’re OK that your love for him is “in the layaway for a rainy day.”

“I can’t see the future.” – Well, guess what, no one can (generally speaking).  However, after spending significant time with someone especially over the period of a year, you know something.  This person knows enough that will allow him to take the risk to see what the future could hold.  Part of me believes that this statement reveals that this person does know what the future holds, and I’m 95% sure it’s not you.  Sorry 😦  *hugs*

“Women are my weakness.” – Actually, he should never be saying this if you are in that weird maybe-more-than-friendship relationship.  He is actually playing you from the start.  If you really value his friendship, you should make sure that it is clear that he knows that you want to just be friends and then inform him of the standards you have for your friendships.  This means no evening romantic dinners, no extravagant trips/gifts, no spending nights at each other’s places and having closet/drawer space, and no sex.  Sorry, I digressed. 🙂

I’m not bashing male friendships.  I established in Part I that I have some fantastic male friends.  I also believe that it is so important that your partner is also your friend.  But I also believe that sometimes your friend has to be just your friend.  And if someone is your friend, they don’t play games with your emotions.  He doesn’t lead you to believe there could be more at some point.  He will encourage you during all parts of your journey even your dating journey. He will remind you that there are so many great men out there, and you will be so lucky that you can call him your friend.

And sometimes when you find that your wonderful male friend is the man of your dreams, it won’t be because he led you on at some point but that he carries the qualities you would like your mate to have.  He will have proven to be faithful and respectful during your entire friendship.  He will not take the opportunity for you two to be more for granted.  Don’t dismiss all your male friends or stop making male friends – just be very clear about what is going on.

 

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