“I believe in love to be the center of all things, and I believe in love to be the way…” – Paula Cole
I didn’t have a topic to write about this week, but knew I didn’t want to write about love. Bah-humbug. Being single and child-free from Halloween to Easter requires a level of fortitude – with Valentine’s Day marking the aggravating midpoint. However, after reading a series of essays from some of my favorite writers in The New York Times with their perspectives on Black love, I was inspired. Set aside some time after you finish reading this and indulge in those beautiful pieces.
I’ve thought that I’d been in love many times, but it has rarely to never been mutual. Instead of being the lead in a love story, I’ve most often been the star of a natural disaster movie. In hindsight, when I think about some of the men I’ve been involved with, I’m not even sure some them liked me, much less loved me.
I grew up on a steady diet of big 80’s ballads, Jackie Collins, Danielle Steele, all the ABC soap operas and Dynasty. I was pumped and primed for dramatic love. I recognize that I have some of the same tendencies as Elmyra Duff of Tiny Toons fame and that can be a lot (she was so misunderstood). But once I like you, Iwanttoloveyouandhugyouandsqueezeyou. I’ve entered into some (messy) situationships that I should’ve run from, but never wanted to miss the possibility of finding my one true love. That same poor decision making process caused me to struggle with leaving failing situationships, because I never wanted to make the mistake of giving up on love prematurely.
If I had a child on whom to dispense any sort of parental wisdom, one of the golden nuggets I might offer, would be from T.D. Jakes…”when people can walk away from you, let them walk”. I learned that lesson much too late in life. I used to think it was, when people walk away from you, try harder to show them how much you care and are willing to sacrifice in time, effort and resources for their love. I would’ve walked to the moon and back for one man, who at the end didn’t even make an effort to wash his balls to be with me, you decide if that’s a metaphor or not <<insert Price is Right losing horn sound>>. I saw a quote a few years ago, which resonated deeply… “everything I learned about love was from someone who did not love me”. Yup, pretty much. So at my big age, on my #JourneyToL, I’m still searching for love.
For the better part of my thirties and forties, I spent a significant portion of time ping-ponging between two relationships, for the sake of distinction, let’s refer to them as Black Voldemort and Liar Liar. I didn’t create room for anyone else because I was determined that it would work with one of the them. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. The stories of me and Black Voldemort need their own space, just know that “until you do right by me, everything the New York Giants touch will fail” was uttered by me to curse his beloved team back in 2012 and so far has been effective – sincere apologies to other Giants fans.
In 2019, at 46 and after a few months of regular communication, I went on my first new date in 10 years with an acquaintance of several years, with whom I shared mutual friends, let’s call him Sam (online dating is off the table because “stranger danger” is real). It was so weird, but wonderful at the start, talking to him for hours at a time – just like when I had my Pepto Bismol pink princess phone in the 80s.
Learning about his childhood, his likes/dislikes, waking up to “good morning” texts and knowing that I was on his mind, sending jokes back and forth to help make it though workdays. We lived in different states and after several weeks, I was sprung and my inner Elmyra wanted to kisshimhughimsqueezehim. So during one conversation on a Wednesday night, on a whim I asked, “are you free for dinner on Saturday?”… he paused, seemingly confused by the question and asked, “wait, but how?…are you going to be in town on business?”… “Sir, this is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’… are you free for dinner on Saturday?”… “Yes.”… “Okay, I’ll pick you up at 7 p.m.” That shit was smooth if I do say so myself.
Now for as smooth as I think the invitation went, my many anxieties immediately jumped to the forefront of my brain and multiplied to infinity and beyond. This dating thing ain’t for the faint of heart at any age, but whew. Someone new potentially seeing you naked at some point? I can’t even quantify the number of things I let myself worry about. I had to schedule last minute appointments to get my hair/eyebrows/manicure/pedicure/wax… I may or may not have Googled how to lose 30 lbs in three days, gone shopping for new clothes, lingerie, perfume… the phrase “it takes a village”? Was never truer than in those three days. I texted my BFF and a male friend incessantly for the next 72 hours asking their opinions on everything. Then I was back to being 18, worrying about a first kiss, having sex, eating a late dinner and thereby potentially triggering my acid reflux, having sex on a full stomach and OH MY GOD WHAT IF I FART?!!! snoring (it’s loud), making the right moves when it comes time to do the horizontal hokey pokey – would I still know what to do? It was a lot. I called on both Black Jesus and Iyanla to fix my life! Black Voldemort and Liar Liar already knew and for the most part accepted things I disliked about myself, which is why it was easier to just continue to deal with them.
When Saturday came, I was up bright and early, drove several hundred miles and had one of the best dates, first or otherwise that I’d ever had. When I got to my hotel room, there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the desk. As a Hilton Honors member, I thought “damn, Hilton is really stepping up the customer experience!” It never occurred to me that they could be from him, before I read the card. I’m not the kind of woman that gets flowers “just because”. I buy my own flowers. Black Voldemort had never even given me flowers at any period in almost 17 years and Liar Liar only sent me flowers when he fucked up. So receiving flowers just because? Sam was already winning, even though my bar was hella low.
Since I’d asked him out, I was determined to make it a full service experience by driving and paying for dinner. He wasn’t having it. I was shocked, because I’ve driven my car in the past, with a man I was involved with in the passenger seat, stopped to get gas that I pumped and paid for myself (sad, but true story), so of course I figured he would let me treat him. But he was doing things I only read about in books and had seen on TV by opening/holding doors, pulling out chairs for me…I truly didn’t know how to act. At times throughout the evening, I was rendered mute by nervousness and overwhelmed at it all. He’d even been thoughtful in his selection of the restaurant because he knew its history would be of interest to me.
We would see each other a few more times in 2019. Of course I wanted him to be the one. He did not think I was the one. And that was the way that story ends.
I’m glad I had the experience, but right now, the way my nerves are set up? I can’t imagine going through that again, even though I think I still believe in love, because Luther said there was nothing better than it.
Thank God for Beth and Randall Pearson (This Is Us), I’ll live vicariously through their love story for the next few months until the show ends. Maybe by then I will have figured out how to find true love or I’ll just write my own. What will finding love look like in my 50’s?
Do you still believe in love? What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Leave feedback in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you!
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