I was never a girly girl.
I wasn’t exactly a tomboy, but I wasn’t doing the Barbie doll thing either – not as a toddler, not in elementary school and certainly not in middle school.
As I got older that didn’t change very much. There were a million “girl” rules of which I knew very, very few. I just didn’t get it. In fact, when I did get a real boyfriend I didn’t understand all of the fuss from my girls or why they had a new set of “rules” they wanted me to follow:
“DON’T give him your number yet, wait until he asks two more times.”
“DON’T call him first.”
“DON’T call him again if you called him last.”
“DO ignore him in the halls at school when you see him.”
Huh? This is how you treat a boy you like? I was so confused. As a result, in the end, as naive as they might have been, I followed my own rules.
I have pretty much always followed my own rules, made my own path and had my own dreams. These dreams included things like traveling the world by the time I was 25, meeting interesting people like artists and heads of state, becoming the head of my own non-profit and driving a convertible Volkswagen. They did not include getting married and living happily ever after – not at 16 or 20 or even 24 after I became a mother.
I was never the girl who wanted a big wedding in a chapel with 200 of my closest friends gathered around. I was the girl who wanted to plan the big wedding for some lucky girl. In fact, the idea of being someone’s wife scared the mess out of me – mostly because the concept seemed so daunting. First I have to wait on a man to choose me, then when he chooses me I have to hope HE thinks that I am worthy of marrying, then I have to figure out how to keep him happy for the next like FIFTY years. Really? That sounded crazy to me like there was no “me” in it. I knew how to meet and date a man. I even learned how to be a good girlfriend eventually, but to keep that momentum going for decades and decades? Scariest thing ever in my mind. I just didn’t get marriage.
As a child the only marriage I had seen work in my family was that of my grandparents. My grandfather, much like Yoda, was almost a mythical being to me. He was “all-knowing” and “all-seeing” and wise beyond (my) comprehension. His relationship with my grandmother seemed like it existed in a vacuum. I didn’t have any other frames of reference for it – in or out of my family – and I didn’t know it’s origins or history. They just were.
For me, my first outward desire to be married was vocalized as a revolutionary act. As a young woman living in an activist community and trying to find ways to strengthen and empower the black community, I framed marriage as apart of our self-determination as a people. It was strategy. Meaning, creating spaces for like-minded, conscious, black people to marry and reproduce would serve as a way to structurally build and rebuild strong black communities across the country. I felt like if more “conscious” people married and became examples of what a healthy, functional marriage looked like it could start a movement of healthy, functional marriages in the black community. I still believe this. The difference is, when I believed it at 22 I didn’t connect it personally to emotion or love or romance – just “the cause.” At that point in my life my personal history dictated that I didn’t get the happy, loving, romantic part – I got the work. Besides, I wasn’t even sure that other part existed. My relationships up until that point were dismal at best.
When I had became pregnant I thought it made sense for me to be married. It was very matter-of-fact. I loved my daughter’s dad, but I seriously doubted his ability to be a good husband. I really didn’t want to just get married because I was pregnant, but my mentor at the time encouraged me to do so “for the cause.” She urged me not to become another statistic for black women and I kinda agreed but thankfully, I didn’t comply. Although I espoused these wide-eyed ideals for building strong black families and thus communities, I actually felt more comfortable as a single parent. In contrast to the lack of marriages I saw in my family growing up – I had seen plenty of single, black mothers. I knew what it meant to be single and raise a child. That felt more normal to me. I didn’t want to be a single mother…I just sort of knew it would happen to me…if that makes sense.
By the time I had my daughter I had only been in love once – with her father. Love in that relationship was euphoric…in the way I imagine a first crack high to be. It is said that crack addiction is so hard to break because the addict is forever chasing that first high that they can never, ever, ever get again. I was that addict for (an unsettling number of) years. Although I loved him in a way that I will never love another man again – I came out of that relationship so clear that I never want to love another man like that again. The next time I was in love was the relationship that changed everything for me. It made me believe that normal love was possible in my life. It showed me what partnership looked like. It shaped my ideas about real family and even, marriage. That relationship helped me to understand a little better what it meant to commit to one person and still be one person at the end of the day. But, alas he was not “the one.” And, what I found out was now that I had been opened to this idea I wasn’t ready to leave it on the cutting room floor. I wanted what I saw.
Over the next several years, as I got older, the vision that became clear in that great relationship became less and less visible. I didn’t see how it was possible. I started to feel resentful because I had wasted so many years harboring all of the high ideals and low self-esteem that led to the failed relationships and bad decisions that led to me being where I was. Mid 30s, single and searching (bleech!). I wrestled with that for a few years as I dated a good number of “he’s not the one’s” and “he’s just not into you’s” and then it all changed.
Last year, one of the counted out was counted back in. A man from my past came back. If you have read anything else I’ve written in the last year, you already KNOW this story. If you haven’t here it is in a nutshell:
Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy/Boy is mid-divorce, girl is mid-break up they decided timing is off and part ways.
Boy searches for girl on social networking site years later, girl is impressed and falls for boy again.
Boy moves fast and proposes, girl moves faster and accepts
Boy is happy in love, girl is happy in love./Boy and girl plan intimate late summer wedding for family and friends
Boy lies to girl big time, girl finds out./Girl calls off wedding. Boy goes away.
Girl starts a blog and gains 12 pounds.
That pretty much sums it up. And that is where I am now. Today would have been my wedding day. August 21, 2010.
We chose the day because we reunited in August and both of our birthdays are on the 12th and this day had a “1” and a “2” in it so…
Yeah, we were that stupid. Remember that part about things moving fast? Well we didn’t take our feet off of the gas for four months. When we ended our relationship we had not only planned our wedding, but the next ten years of our lives.
I was completely caught up in the fantasy of it all. Something had happened to that revolutionary girl of 22 and the disillusioned young woman of 26 and the cynical, resentful woman of 30. She had been replaced with this women who was ready – in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit to share this abundance of love that had been secretly accumulating just below the sarcastic surface. I had done all of this work in my life to become a better person, a different person, a more evolved person and I just knew my reward for that was…him.
I was wrong.
I know that to even think I should be rewarded for moving closer to who I am supposed to be in the world – is absurd. But it sounded right.
I could write a whole other post about what I thought was going on for those months and what was really going on. As a matter of fact I might just do that.
But in the meantime, here is the bad news for you. I am just writing. I don’t have a great big bow for this one – because I am still digesting the jagged pieces. I have gone over every last detail in my mind – as you can probably imagine – a million times. Was it all him? Was it all me? Was it the timing? Was it Karma? I don’t have answers.
I have only been able to draw small conclusions and that has been much to the credit of a few close friends. It has been a little over six months and I think I have come to terms with the idea that I didn’t really love him. I am pretty sure at this point that I fell “in love with the idea of him more so than the man himself” it’s so cliché that it makes me sick. But, oddly enough, it’s not that part that bothers me so much. It’s that it happened at all. And it happened to me. I can readily admit that I want to be married. I do. (No pun intended) I just can’t believe that the girl who didn’t play with Barbie dolls, didn’t go to the prom, didn’t go out of my way to impress boys, didn’t choose to settle just to be married, never chased a man down – ME – I got caught in a cliché?? The idea boggles my mind. But the truth is – that’s exactly what happened.
It is now officially a year since he came back into my life. Next month, on my birthday, it will be a year since the proposal. I’d be lying to say that I am fully recovered from the world wind of it all. But I am (as my close girlfriend pointed out the other day) “leaps and bounds” better than I was a few months ago. I am grateful for that.
This is the first time I have been able to write anything about it – partly from shame, partly because I had no words. How do you describe a dream deferred?
I am sure more words, better words will come over time and I will welcome them. Until then I will take what I can get and pray for the kind of healing that will breathe life back into this dream and give her new words, new wisdom and new wings.