So, my 20 year high school class reunion is coming up next year. All the hoopla is starting already vis-à-visFacebook groups, people I haven’t talked to (or thought about) in 20 years coming out of the woodwork, etc.
I’m pretty proud of where I am 20 years later. And, I think I still look pretty good. That said, I will not be attending. And I am unapologetic about it. In the words of Auntie Maxine Waters, I’m “reclaiming my time.”
So, why am I not attending? It’s really not that complicated.
My (long time ex) boyfriend (of ten years) married a woman in my graduating class (we weren’t friends, but acquaintances).
“Well, that’s not that bad, you’re trippin'”, you might be thinking.
The thing is, they hooked up while he and I were still together — living together, in fact. She knew it, and didn’t give a fuck (I mean, she really didn’t need to give a fuck about me; I don’t expect her to — but y’all know what they say about how a relationship begins — it typically ends the same way; plus it’s mad thirsty and snaky).
Nonetheless, I found out he was cheating, moved out (of his condo), and to make a long story short, they ended up getting married.
In any case, I’ve long since moved on from that situation. I harbor no hard feelings (a tinge of petty anger, yes — but, bitterness, no; there is a difference). Hell, he and I even keep in touch, sporadically (Well, we did — I’m sure that will cease now that I’ve spoken my truth, and asserted my right to control the narrative).
Having said that, why in hellwould I voluntarily subject myself to being in the same spaces as the happy couple. Especially around people who know both wifey and I — some of them knowing what went down. Why would I participate in that? There’s no doubt that there are folks who would take pleasure absorbing the negative energy emanating from that elephant in the room. I just want no part of it.
So, there you have it. I am not going to my reunion because I will not subject myself to the side eyes and discomfort of watching a woman I graduated with prance around with my (then attached) ex-boyfriend that she managed to marry.
Plus, fuck high school reunions and all they represent. Meanwhile, I’ll just be sippin’ my tea, and reclaiming MY TIME. In other words, my time and comfort are much too valuable to participate in a charade society deems somehow meaningful. Why open up an old wound that I will be forced to nurse back closed? No. Just no.
** Also, please refrain from tagging me/contacting me on social media about anything related to this charade. And, feel free to continually reference this post, if you remain confused.
Like most of you, I have been caught up in JAY-Z’s latest album, 4:44, all weekend. The album is dope, as are many of the think-pieces I’ve been reading, dissecting its dopeness. The album spoke to me and my reality on many levels (a separate post forthcoming), but interestingly, a think-piece about the album, highlighting a somewhat separate (at least on the surface) issue, has me feeling some kind of way.
An open letter to black women who’ve listened to Jay-Z’s 4:44 and are waiting on an apology from the men who did you wrong. This could easily be a conversation about how Beyoncé lost her mind, her career, or her literal life behind Jay-Z. But, thankfully, it is not.
Honestly, the entire article speaks to me, but this quote is particularly poignant:
“That’s right. We gotta stop celebrating ruinous men ruining any woman —even a woman who has betrayed our Sisterhood’s” sacred trust. We made him and his situation look so good that Sister really thought she was getting herself a prize — a poison that looked like it tasted so good, she was willing to steal it because of her own desperate thirst.”
Okay. Those of you who read this blog know that I have had my share of experiences with no good, “ruinous”, ain’t shit men. Most particularly, my ex-FWB. I knew he wasn’t shit when I hooked up with him, but as you may recall, my ex-friend highlighted just how ain’t shit he was, and set into motion a set of sneaky, snaky events that ultimately ended our friendship.
To sum it up, she slept with him, lied about it, started a fraud ass relationship with him, got knocked up, and the rest is history. You may also recall that she ended up reaching out to me a bit after the baby was born, humbling herself to “apologize” and tell me just how ain’t shit she found out he was (a “you told me so” moment from which I took copious amounts of pleasure) — denying their baby, “cheating on her”, knocking up another woman. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Digressing a bit, you know when you’re bored, on social media, and you go down that rabbit hole, searching and scouring looking for shit? Well, last week, I went down that rabbit hole, and found this photo of ex-FWB from January, with some other broad he knocked up (likely, the woman my ex-friend mentioned). The petty in me wanted to anonymously e-mail it to my ex-friend. But, truth be told, she’s probably seen it. Point being, I took pleasure in imagining my ex-friend’s pain. Like a lot.
It was beautiful — glorious, really — being able to experience karma (and its justice being rightly served). However, reading the words in the aforementioned article really made me pause. I’m sitting with it for a while.
No Pain, No Gain is one of those songs that reminds me of a bunch of older aunties sitting around the kitchen table — smoking cigarettes, drinking wine, playing spades and talking shit (and lamenting) about men.
Betty Wright strikes me as one of those aunties, waxing poetic about her experiences with men — schooling us young girls on what (and what not) to do to keep one.
Basically, No Pain, No Gain reads as a relationship manual of sorts, filled with some gems, but if I’m keeping it real, a whole lot of codependent encouragement.
Nonetheless, it’s one of those classics to which young (-ish) folks probably just sing along, without really paying attention to the lyrics — and just how problematic they are. And this song is problematic as hell.
Let’s break it down (in no particular order or fashion).
First of all, the name of the song.No Pain, No Gain. Why does love have to hurt, though? Is it a prerequisite? Am I too naive to think that love can be smooth — think The Isley Brothers’ Smooth Sailing (even if that has been counter to my experiences)? But seriously, I should expect a certain amount of necessary pain — think Stevie Wonder’s Ordinary Pain — as requisite to come away with anything meaningful?
“Anything worth havin’ at all / Is worth workin’ for and waitin’ for”
Okay, I can get with that. Love is a verb, and all that. Relationships take effort. And if it it’s worth anything to you, you’ve got to be willing to put in some work. And patience. Oh, patience. I accept that.
But she goes on with: In order to be something / You got to go through something — which begs the question — go through what? I’ve been in bad relationships. Relationships that have caused me to question my worth. And to be honest, mantras like that which Betty Wright espouses would play in my head as I contemplated why I would subject myself to (and make excuses for) the bullshit I experienced.
“We’re all entitled to make a mistake / We got to prepare for some heartbreak / I was earnin’ my man, while I was learnin’ my man / Something you young girls might not understand”
Earning my man? Learning is one thing, but earning? The whole concept of earning in a relationship doesn’t sit well with me. Shouldn’t basic things like respect, trust, etc., be given freely? Not everything in a relationship need be earned (and by extension, commodified). And frankly, Auntie Betty makes no mention about earning me (save for the flowers and candy and all kinds of gifts that could perhaps be tokens to ease his guilty conscience). And, the tone deaf narrative about selfless sacrifice for a man is played out. But, I digress.
“If it weren’t for the trials we’ve been through / I’d never have the courage to come back to you”
Okay, so…what the fuck happened in the relationship from the get go that would prepare me to be courageous enough to take his dumb ass back after he does God knows what in the future?
“But love is a flower that needs the sun and the rain / A little bit of pleasure’s worth a whole lot of pain”
Heartache and anguish for just a little bit of pleasure? So, as I cry myself to sleep, I should just think about the good times, no matter how few and far between they may have been?
“If you learn this secret, how to forgive / A longer and better life you’ll live”
So, my heart is breaking after my man has done some unforgivable shit, but I should think about the good times, and forgive him?
All of this just seems wrong. And counter to all of my sensibilities.
Maya Angelou once wrote, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” So there’s that. That advice seems so much better and gentler for the heart. Sorry, Auntie Betty.
Stevie Wonder’s song Stay Gold always makes me happy. In the song, he sings about reflecting on a place and time when we were young, and life was care free — while remembering that nothing lasts forever. But more importantly, he reminds us that we must always stay gold. Staying gold; or, being optimistic — staying encouraged — being buoyant — is tough.
Especially with a heart that’s been battered and abused more than once. And you’re left with the scars.
That said, I read a thought provoking article the other day, suggesting that we only fall in love with three people in our lifetimes — each for a specific reason. As you know (if you read my blog), love (and even things love-like) have been kind of disastrous for me. But suspending my belief, for a few moments, about love’s curse on me, I challenged myself to be open. The article paints an eerily accurate description of my love experiences, but leaves me hopeful.
More specifically, though, coming across this piece was ironic — considering I just spent the past week waxing poetic down memory lane about the two major loves that I’ve had in my life. So, according to this article, I’m due for the real thing this time. The love that will make the previous two disasters look like child’s play. And will be easy. The one that will make it apparent why the other ones didn’t work out. Will the third time be the charm?
Before I start pining away and waiting patiently for the love that, according to Kate Rose, will come “so easy it doesn’t seem possible”, I should really reflect on what my other two loves have taught me, and how they prepared me for what I only hope will be real.
My first love. According to Rose, “This is the love that appeals to what we should be doing for society’s sake…We enter into it with the belief that this will be our only love and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t feel quite right, or if we find ourselves having to swallow down our personal truths to make it work because deep down we believe that this is what love is supposed to be.”
Damn. She hit the nail on the head with this characterization. My first love was a guy who I was with for nearly 10 years — just because. There were major problems in our relationship (which began when I was only 17), which really should’ve ended it long before it blew up. But we were together for “so long” and our families liked each other and he bought be cute presents and, and, and…
Nevermind the fact that he body-shamed the hell out of me (I gained some weight, he dumped me for a while, and I starved myself to lose it), cheated on me, and did other creepy things that are just too weird to discuss in this post. But yeah, it ran its course.
If I have to reflect on what it taught me, and why this love entered into my life, I’d argue that it showed me what I didn’t want. I don’t want to discount all of the wonderful times I had with this man (he was my first…yeah, that first), and we experienced a lot together. But, even the sum of our experiences leaves me in an icky place, and when I made peace with how that relationship ended, I vowed that I deserved better.
I made peace with my body (despite his judgment), I learned how to live with a man, and did the domestic thing for a bit. Actually, as I think about it, I made an entire Thanksgiving dinner for our families the year that we lived together. So yeah. Love number one lessons = self-acceptance, the qualities not to accept in a man, men who spend their lives in the gym probably won’t appreciate a chubby girl, and time doesn’t mean much once the love has run its course.
Love number two. Damn, that still hurts. According to Rose, “The second is supposed to be our hard love—the one that teaches us lessons about who we are and how we often want or need to be loved. This is the kind of love that hurts, whether through lies, pain or manipulation.”
Man. As much as I am still hurt by how that relationship ended, I learned so much about myself from him. He motivated me to be my best. He challenged me in many ways (which made me a better partner and woman to live with). He accepted my flaws. He knew the kind of love that I needed — an attentive, protective, and fierce love. And it was lovely. But, oh the eventual lies and hurt.
Rose describes the second love as one filled with highs, lows, dramas, etc.; this roller coaster analogy sums up a lot of what I experienced with this person — both good and bad. Mainly good (until it got bad).
Rose cautions, “With this kind of love, trying to make it work becomes more important than whether it actually should. It’s the love that we wished was right.” This sentiment speaks to my need and want to maintain a friendship with this person who hurt me so very deeply. Damn, I wish it didn’t have to end like it did. I digress.
But oh, this elusive third love. Rose beautifully posits:
“This is the love where we come together with someone and it just fits—there aren’t any ideal expectations about how each person should be acting, nor is there pressure to become someone other than we are…It isn’t what we envisioned our love would look like, nor does it abide by the rules that we had hoped to play it safe by. But still it shatters our preconceived notions and shows us that love doesn’t have to be how we thought in order to be true.”
This description completely challenges my ideas and expectations about a future partner. Primarily because there probably shouldn’t be expectations. The idea of not playing it safe is particularly intriguing to me in that as a Taurus, stability and safety are innate to me. That said, I may need to consider stretching my idea of what I believe my love will look like — act like — be like.
But being honest, I am still not ready to love again. I resist it, in fact. My musical chairs of questionable situations with men since my last love has shown me that I am not ready for anything real yet. For a long time, I shunned the idea of loving again — I was that hurt. But like Stevie says, I’ve got to stay gold.
Rose writes something about those who’ve loved and lost that leaves me very hopeful, “But I kinda think that those who make it to their third love are really the lucky ones…They are the ones who are tired of having to try and whose broken hearts lay beating in front of them wondering if there is just something inherently wrong with how they love…Just because it has never worked out before doesn’t mean that it won’t work out now.”
I’m not looking for love. I’m recovering. But, despite what my experiences have shown me, I am able to be loved, minus all of the drama, lying, nastiness & shame.
“It means that no one else is living for you, my child. Because no one is you. Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel.
When you realize that no one owes you happiness or anything else, you’ll be freed from expecting what isn’t likely to be.” – Harry Browne, “A Gift for My Daughter” | December 25, 1966
Alice Walker, in the book “The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart” (2000), writes, “Healing begins where the wound is made.” This sentiment is where my conundrum lies. Because a truism that I’ve recently had to accept, is that wounds may never be tended where they began, or from the person who caused the injury. We can’t expect that. We aren’t owed that.
Today, I came across a letter, written by Harry Browne, a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate. He published this in a newspaper column on Christmas 1966 as a gift for his 9-year old daughter. I am not going to publish the entire thing in this post (the letter, in its entirety can be found here), but I want to focus on some of the points that particularly touched my soul, and in all honesty, are an eerily relevant complement to the rant I posted yesterday.
When I hear the word entitlement, I automatically think about rich (white men — or just white, period) folks who have had privileges that have shaped their worldviews in a way that leads them to believe that things like money, jobs, comfort, security, etc., are owed to them. That said, I do not view myself as an entitled person. I do not exist in a world that has shown me that people who look and live like me are owed anything — quite the contrary.
That said, upon further reflection, I had to check myself and realize that I do hold on to a sense of entitlement — on a more spiritual or moral level. And it’s affected my life in the most disastrous way.
Browne, in his letter to his daughter writes: “No one owes me moral conduct, respect, friendship, love, courtesy, or intelligence. And once I recognized that, all my relationships became far more satisfying. I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do.”
Well, damn. So simple, yet so profound.
Yesterday, I was feeling some kind of way, and lamented, here, about the fact that my ex hasn’t shown me the courtesy (that I feel is owed to me) of facing me, in person — palpably facing the mess he created. In my mind, a phone apology doesn’t cut it. It’s been three years — he owes it to me to face his demons. Me.
There’s that word again — owes.
But when it all comes down to it, he doesn’t owe me a damn thing. Sure, we weren’t married, do not have children, or any real attachments — but, you’d think at the very least I was owed a proper ending. 5 years counts for something, right?
But, I am not entitled to anything from him — not even respect. Thinking about this really hit me hard. But woke me up.
Brown confesses, “A great burden was lifted from my shoulders the day I realized that no one owes me anything. For so long as I’d thought there were things I was entitled to, I’d been wearing myself out — physically and emotionally — trying to collect them.”
I think that many of us hold on to the notion that if we do our best, treat people kindly, give of our time and love — we are owed some basic courtesy or respect. The truth is, we aren’t owed anything. Coming to terms with this truth can be the stuff of anxiety, depression, panic and grief — all things that I have been wrestling with over the past few years.
Additionally, Browne writes, “Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel“. That said, what would give me the idea that someone has a responsibility to exit his comfort zone to enter into a situation that will have no immediate benefit for him? Would it be the courteous thing to do? I think so. Is it the right thing to do? It depends on who you ask.
But, is it necessary for him? No. Because he owes me nothing.
Here’s the kicker, though — Browne cautions, “But once you realize that people don’t have to be good to you, and may not be good to you, you’ll learn to avoid those who would harm you. For you don’t owe them anything either.”
This is hard. Self-care is important — necessary in fact. Coming to the realization that maintaining expectations of and relationships with folks who really don’t have your primary interest in mind can, in fact, be harming you (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually), means a choice has to be made.
Either make peace with it, or move around. You’ve got to tend your wounds yourself. Because the fact remains: no one owes you anything.
And if the latter is what is decided, youowe no explanation.