Love is, Love Ain't

I find What Chili Wants on VH1 interesting.  The one thing that intrigues me about this show is that this TLC group member is a beautiful, successful woman with specific standards (nit-picky standards but standards nonetheless). Well, in the last season, Floyd, her rich, athletic “best friend” would pop in and out, and I began to believe that he (and probably Usher) was the real reason she could not find her life partner or was not available for her life partner to find her.  Now, yes, let’s remember this is “reality” TV, but a lesson can be learned from Chili and her “best friend.”  In a recent episode, pretty boy Floyd comes to visit and goes with her to get a facial and buys her $14,000 13k diamond earrings (no typos there, yes he bought that) and took her out to dinner and talked about how he loves her and etc. etc.  Chili’s matchmaker interjects in the commentary portion of the show and asks a valuable question, “Ladies, how many of your male friends buy you $14,000 earrings??”  Most of us would say none of our male friends have.  But take a moment and ask yourself, what are some things that your male friends have done that suggest something greater than friendship?  What have they done that leads you to be emotionally connected to them in an unusual way for people who say they are “just friends”?  What do they do that makes it difficult for you to genuinely date someone else or be available to the possibilities of dating someone else?

About a year ago I had to ask myself some of those questions.  I have some fantastic male friends.  They treat me like a lady.  They look out for me.  They check up on me.  They make sure I’m good.  I’m baby girl, and they treat me as such.  But one day a close male friend of mine said the strangest (at least to me) thing.  He had recently broken up with his girlfriend of over 2 years, and he was just not feeling the dating scene.  He said, “You know what, M-boogie, I want to marry but I don’t want to put forth the effort to meet anyone.  We should just get married – I won’t have to do much with you.”  Yes, I think we should all laugh here.  Now you may believe I was being overly sensitive to his idea, but he was serious.  And that was not cool with me.  I immediately shared this with a few of my close girlfriends, and they all felt the same.  My close friend, Sistaoutsider, broke it down for me.  She told me to evaluate my male friends and see who were truly friends and not someone using friendship as a way to keep me as an option.  I remember it clearly when she said, “Think about it.  Are any of them trying to put you on?”  And by put on she meant were they introducing me to eligible bachelors, were they inviting me to events that would broaden my social circle that may lead me to meeting eligible bachelors.  Now she didn’t mean that they had to be active matchmakers, but she wanted me to consider their actions to see if they were trying to hold the monopoly on my companionship, you know just in case they didn’t want to put forth the “effort” anymore.

This was some of the best advice I’ve gotten.  I ended up separating myself from a couple of guys who had been doing just what pretty boy Floyd had been. No, they weren’t showering me with ridiculously priced diamonds, but they were always talking about how much they adored and loved me.  We never went to dinner or other events with other people.  We always had intimate dinners and dates.  Yes, dates.  I was dating my friends and didn’t even know it.  They had a friend with benefits.  No, not sex, but everything but that.  In some cases, I would not go on a date because I could hang out with my friend.  He was going to make me feel like I was the only girl in the world but with no commitment.  But don’t get it twisted, he would still be dating and would tell me about the dates and like a fool I had passed on two or three dates just to “hang” with him.

These guys were beneficial as I dealt with issues I had at the time with my old boo, but if I had continued to let them put my “love in the layaway,” I would have not met new boo.  And though I don’t know what new boo and I will ever become, he stands as proof that when you remove the blockers you can meet a great guy.

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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