I despise taking a chance on a man and being deeply disappointed by him. In my life, it always starts, I think, from the first meeting. He approaches. Perhaps says something witty to make me smile. Then something disconcerting. I respond with a cocked eyebrow, but gesture for him to continue.
We either get a drink, or dance, or talk about Jesus, James Baldwin or Jane Austen. If he’s a champ, he will sit through a description of how much I despise Jane Eyre. My deep and abiding love for T.I. will be mentioned and duly noted. We might mutter insults about our ex-es on a second date. Talk about our hustles. Our dreams.
But somewhere after the first kiss, things go south. Either he doesn’t have a job, or he lied about having read Shakespeare, or he doesn’t go to church on a regular basis. If things are particularly bad, he will have hidden an estranged wife from you or refused to call. He may have told you something about wanting to marry you, then rescinded his hasty proposal once you decided to believe him. He’ll tell you that he’s still in love with his ex.
You retreat. Watch SATC, Bridget Jones, recite all the words to every T.I. song ever recorded. Listen to Alice Smith’s “The One” on repeat, yelling, “I’m not the one to play with.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocdEUptIUcg
There may be shots with friends at your favorite bar, or a pint of ice cream–pick your poison. And then out of nowhere, before you have fully healed, the next man will approach, with the same sad lines.
“You are so beautiful”
“I’m in love with you”
“We should get married.”
When I bravely embarked on my year of singleness, I assumed that I would be protected from the stupidity and dishonesty of men. I was so, so very wrong. This year has been packed with opportunistic men who eagerly wait for me to let my guard down and then do or say something frightfully terrible.
The most hurtful moments have been when men have destroyed the idea of myself that I carefully maintained. I, and everyone else, carefully maintain a picture of their best selves. That picture sits on a shelf of your mind. It is dusted every morning. Maybe the picture shows you as being really beautiful and strong or super smart and funny.
When someone really loves you, they help you maintain that picture of yourself, even as they carefully suggest ways for you to improve. They make you feel loved, desired, even when you are still wearing your 15 year old brother’s sweatpants, which has a big hole in the side, and a Freeport High School Peer Leader T-Shirt, and you have forgotten to put on perfume, again.
“You’re so beautiful,” he’ll say.
But in the breakup, that picture of yourself is shoved off the shelf by the one you love. Suddenly the picture transforms and you are ugly. Boring. Not very pretty, or talented. The loving relationship turns into something foreign.
“How could you have ever thought I loved you?” you’ll hear, instead of “I love you.”
The trick to healing quickly is to maintain the idea you have of yourself, even when the man is being a complete idiot and trying to break up everything in your house.
I can and have forgiven a lot. Holding onto someone else’s poisonous actions does me no good. However, it is more challenging for me to forgive the attempted murder of my identity. My life is my art. I have carefully constructed it for over 28 years. Men might be liars, cheaters, or idiots, but I refuse to let them destroy my life, my art.
As Erykah Badu said, “I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my sh–.”