Love is, Love Ain't

Archive for the ‘Dating’ Category

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!

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.

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!

Recently at a party, a friend of mine and an associate got on the subject of how hard it is to date because of their past dating experiences.  Here’s how this conversation went:

One said, “You know, when you’ve been hurt, it’s hard to deal with the next man.”

The other cosigned, “Yeah, because I refuse to be mistreated by the next guy.  I’m not going to fall into the same traps like before.”

A male friend (I’ve never dated him before, but I think he’s a great guy) interjected and said, “Whoa, you all have got to stop allowing the hurt from the past men influence how you approach the next guy – you’re not going to find anyone that way.”

I sat there silently saying to myself, “Amen to that!”   My friend yells out, “But I refuse to be naive!”

Folks, this is where I had to jump in.  “Well, he’s right, you can’t let the liar, cheater, scumbag, jerk, asshole, or whoever you’ve been dating negatively influence how you approach the next guy…”

My friend cut me off before I could finish.  I guess she thought I was not qualified to say that.  I mean, I was sitting next to my date, whom everyone affectionately calls “boo” behind his back, and I obviously wasn’t having a shortage of men (in terms of quantity more so than quality) to choose from.  But the “boo” sitting next to me was all the reason I needed to be qualified to speak about how to deal with the next man.

Before I met “boo” I had spent way too long going back and forth with a wonderful man who I thought I would marry, share my life with, and start a family.  One day he decided that he no longer wanted to be my wonderful friend but a jerk and sperm donor.  I mean, really??  After that, I just wanted to not deal with men for awhile.  When “boo”asked me out (and my friend made me accept), I had to really make a conscious effort to give him a fair chance and use my unfortunate experience with my last potential husband to know what my standards will be and not become an expert at finding people’s faults.  And this my friend is where I think we should join Kanye West and have a toast – a toast for the jerks, the sperm donors, the assholes, the men who pretend they want marriage just so you will stick around but they never intend on marrying, oops sorry, had a flashback on the last one. 🙂  So here are my toast speeches – feel free to steal them and tailor them to your encounters in your previous experiences with like or love!

For the jerks…

Thanks for making me feel like something was seriously wrong with me.  It made me take time to personally reflect on who M-boogie is and realize my self-worth.  Otherwise I would have been OK with just being good enough.  But no, I found out that your insecurities, self-hate, and unresolved issues had nothing to do with me.  I am actually beautiful, smart, sweet, and caring.  I know these things for sure, and I believe it so much in my very core that the men I share my time with will remind me that I am all those things and more.

For the sperm donors…

Thanks for your continuous requests for me to be your baby’s mother (not wife, just baby’s mama).  I must be sexy as hell!  I must have taken such good care of you that you wanted to not only have beautiful babies but you also wanted to entrust your legacy (and your paycheck) in my care.  At first I thought you were trying to trap me to be your love machine and to have court orders that require us to see each other when we exchange the babies for visitations over the next 18 years, but after trying to look at the bright side of our lame encounter, I see you just didn’t know how to communicate to me how sexy and caring I really am.

For the assholes…

Oh, assholes, I really want to thank you.  Your ignorant, narcissistic, hateful, cold-blooded, downright evil existence is worthless.  However, had I not met you, I would have been unequipped to…well, actually I can’t even sarcastically thank you because I don’t want to thank you, but cheers to me running away from any future assholes (and men with asshole-like tendencies) as fast as I can!

These toast are really all about taking our experiences and using them as foundations to become better people equipped to interact with those who are worthy of our time and attention.  So many times we take our bad dating/relationship experiences and become better at figuring out what is wrong with the next person instead of figuring out what we truly want for our lives of love.  Sometimes the hurt can seem too much to bear, but pop some bottles and make some toasts because we will share our lives with some amazing humans who won’t be perfect but who will be perfect for us in the stage of life that we are in.

Love is Love Ain’t is taken from a scene in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, where Paul D and Sethe have been ruminating on their relationships (familial and conjugal) and what it means to love too much. One insists that “thin love ain’t love at all.” We’ve taken these lines as our inspiration and intend to take a humorous (we hope!) yet serious approach to discussing our experiences in and out of love and courtship. We’ve been friends for a long time, and realized that our relationship experiences aren’t as different as one would think. We’ve decided to share them in hopes of broadening the dialogue on black love and its various manifestations. We hope you’ll join us!

About the authors:

Sista Outsider is a 41 year-old lesbian femme, currently pursuing a doctorate at a large university in the Midwest.  Married for six years in her previous life, she has been out for the last 16 years and feels uniquely qualified to ruminate on same-sex (queer if you will) relationships as well as offer her opinions on others as well.

M-Boogie is a 20-something year-old single woman currently pursuing her doctorate at a reputable southern university. She has been on an unpredictable yet exciting journey that will hopefully lead her to the man of her dreams. While only having three meaningful, monogamous relationships, she has met, dated, and secretly loved a colorful range of boys and men giving her the insight needed to discuss this thing called love.

So, check this out.  A couple of weeks ago I got a message in one of my in-boxes from this woman who wanted to submit an application. (More about that later.) Now, I’m always respectful and polite when people send me messages, even when I don’t solicit them. Regardless, I responded to her and later on that day, we proceeded to chat on the phone. Well, as she began to tell me a little about herself, she made the comment that she was looking for a “dime piece.” She said that she was “vain” and wanted a certain kind of woman on her arm. I was rather stunned, first because I hadn’t asked her what kind of woman she was looking for and second, because she used such an archaic and misogynistic term that signaled the commodification of women and their bodies. Well, I sort of let it go, and the conversation proceeded onwards.

My problem, however, is the term in which she used to refer to the type of woman she was interested in dating. But first let me mention a bit about this wonder of a woman. From what I gather, she is newly out and continually referred to her lesbian identity as a “lifestyle.” I was offended, but figured she was only parroting the heterosexist terminology that is floating around in American culture today regarding lesbian and gay identities as a lifestyle choice, rather than as an ontological state.(But that’s another blog.) She mentioned that she had been out for five years which might explain her rather heterosexist attitudes, but who knows?  Either way, this chick has three kids, the youngest of whom is 12 and all of them at home and never mentioned a job.  I thought to myself, “She talkin’ ‘bout looking for a dime piece, what, pray tell, is she going to do with her when she finds her?”  It seems to me that she has her hands full raising her children, and might want to focus on that rather than searching for a woman who is only 1/10th of a 100 percent of a real person.

Finally, this woman wanted to talk about intimacy within the first one or two conversations that we had. Lady, I’m talking about work, not about the particulars of your bedroom behavior. Now, I’m a firm believer in having those types of discussions with someone with whom you have decided to become intimate. But suga, I don’t even know your last name. Is there any particular reason you want to know what I’m into behind closed doors before you even know my favorite food? Is there anything wrong with getting to know someone BEFORE the sex questions come up? Sheesh!

So the moral of the story is this: don’t refer to women as articles of currency. Not only is it crass, but it suggests that women are objects to be bought and sold based on physical attractiveness and according to whose standard of beauty anyway? And I thought we stopped selling sistas in 1861. Black women should be slapped up side the head (just kidding!) every time one of them mentions a “dime” piece  to remind them of their fore-mothers who were bought and sold on the slave market.

And lest any of you think I’m hating on beautiful sistas, I’m not. ‘Cause I’m one of them. But I just wish my sistas would think more about how we’ve internalized heterosexist attitudes towards women and stop engaging in behaviors and speaking in terms that dehumanize and commodify each other.

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