Tag Archives: love

Prelude to an Exhale: My Best Friend Is Getting Married!

18 Jul

My best friend is getting married (in three weeks).  In fact, in the last four months, three of my close friends have tied the knot.  I can remember having “waiting to exhale” conversations with all three of these friends (one of them male) about the improbability and impossibility that true, enduring, forever-type love was possible for us.  And so we imagined alternate endings to would-be fairy tales and held fast to each other in what felt like our perpetual singleness.  And we had some good times and some hilarious conversations over glasses of wine, inexpensive meals (the male and I were on graduate student budgets), and long distance phone calls.  I watched on the sidelines, only partially participating in the last two years, as we un/successfully trekked along waiting for love and trying not to settle in the meantime.  And we dated and dabbled and tried on various imitations of love and distracted ourselves with the details of everyday life (grinding hard, raising children, going to school, making love without commitments, and watching soap operas for fleeting moments of romance).  And we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We waited while holding our breath, as if the love-thing would just happen with no warning or effort, and the anticipation itself would build and make the exhale that much more exhilarating.  But the waiting didn’t do it.  My best friend met her soon-to-be-husband at a New Year’s cookout that she almost declined attending because of a bad bout of the flu.  I encouraged her to go, saying, “you could meet your husband there.”  (I have always been rather clairvoyant).

My other friend, who is ten years older than me, gorgeous and definitely wifey-material, saw her now-husband on facebook, a site she had intentionally avoided for years and is now no longer actively using (she jokes that she got what she needed from facebook—her husband!).  Her husband’s face was one she recognized from her childhood.  After marrying other people and growing into who they are, they re-connected, fell in love, got married and honeymooned in Hawaii.

And my homeboy, well his dream girl was in his life all along on the periphery.  She was his friend from college who held all of the calm he needed to complete the life he was building.  Once they were official he told me that the next time I saw him he would probably be engaged.  I attended his fabulous outdoor cookout-style wedding on the water a few weekends ago in Florida.

In a time when black love feels impossible, and we are constantly bombarded with messages of its demise, it is refreshing to have friends who are happily in love and committing to love.  And it is especially encouraging that they are with the people they wished and prayed for all along, not substitutes or good-enough versions of what they really wanted.  Being single into your thirties always leads to the chance of running out of time or options…and the fear of settling (whatever that means). 

Years ago my best friend and I compiled lists of our “ideal” mate.  We were encouraged to specifically name everything that we wanted in a future husband and to keep the list in a place where we could remind ourselves of our standards.  I wrote an early version of my list in pencil, just in case I changed my mind about dealbreakers that seemed so significant in my early twenties and less relevant in my late twenties (and let’s not forget that who we are and what we want when we are 18 is not the same when we are 28, or hell, even 25).  I came across my final list a few weeks ago, written in pen with the non-negotiables highlighted in yellow.  At the time I wrote it (about five years ago) it felt lofty but I was optimistic and convinced that the only way I could be truly happy was with the man I had written out on paper.  Now, I realize that my happiness is a personal endeavor, something I am independently responsible for.  But while I have been focused on loving myself fiercely, unapologetically and utterly…I am still checking for the love list!

I often argue with my students when I try to explain to them that love is an action word, and that it is a choice, not an emotion.  Love feels like lust at first, during the initiation and honeymoon stage of a relationship, but after that…the real love starts, the love that is not based on the woozy feeling you get when that special someone walks in the room or calls/texts your phone.  Love is the decision to stay after your first major argument.  Love is coming home at night when you have an invitation to go elsewhere.  Love is seeing yourself with someone through the calamities and celebrations of life, through their good and bad moments, with or without vows.  Love is commitment.

When I read over my list, which includes my preference of a man with beautiful eyes and a soulful spirit who will be affectionate and affirming and open doors for me (yes, feminists like chivalry too) I  realized that my list was not un-realistic or lofty.  Don’t get me wrong, I fully aspire to fall in love with a man so beautiful (inside/out) that he gives me butterflies… but the majority of my list focused on character and demeanor and the capacity to love…   Who knew, the baby-thug of my teenage dreams is not the desire of my grown-ass woman heart.

I am hopeful that love is possible for everyone, in all of its various manifestations (not wholly heterosexual or monogamous or conventional or even romantic).  And while I don’t necessarily believe that “there is someone out there for everyone,” or that we all have “one true soul mate” (I mean, what if my ONE true soul mate lives in Korea and we never meet?) I do think that under the right circumstances, at the right time, with the right person, all kinds of things are possible.  And when you think about it, love is a miraculous thing.  It is as much a miracle as making a baby, which though seemingly innocuous and ubiquitous takes perfect timing and synergy.  Out of all of the times of making love, making a baby can only occur when specific factors fall in line (so too, with falling in love).

So while I am not sure that marriage is a viable option for me, or that my love list will manifest into my life partner, and while I am not particularly interested in or invested in traditional representations of commitment, I could not be more happy for my best friend (and my other two newlywed friends) and the love she (they) found.  And while she is standing at the altar, dressed in her flowing white dress, holding hands with her future husband and making promises of fidelity and forever,  I will be on the sidelines, crying my eyes out, breathing in deep, and finally, finally, finally exhaling (for her).

Shout out to everyone in love and summer weddings!!!

Did you say lesbians? I love lesbians!

29 Jun

So I’m sitting in a coffee shop talking with a brother about a trip he took to Africa to work in a village. I was a little annoyed by his comments that more black kids should be taken to Africa so they can see how good they have it in America, but I decided not to intervene on that point. (Good is a relative term and entitled US urban/suburban black youth can go to plenty urban and rural places in the US and see that they have greater access to basic needs. No global gawking is necessary).

Then he proceeds to explain that one of the participants was a lesbian and that she started to become more feminine the more she got into the gender roles established in the community that hosted them. He continued to talk about this woman reconsidering her “lesbianism” having had this experience in Africa until I explained that I did not agree with his perspectives on lesbianism as something wrong.

In hindsight I wish I had just said, “Did you say lesbians? I love lesbians. They are so awesome!” Then followed that up with my long list of why I LOVE lesbians.

Lesbians founded my alma mater—I’m pretty sure of it.

Lesbians taught me about Marx in their spare time in Ohio.

Lesbians gave me a place to stay in DC, Oakland, Southern California, Ohio etc.

Lesbians are deliberate about having a relationship with my son.

A lesbian groomed my partner for his current position and still has the shit we left behind when we moved in her basement—MB we will handle our business soon.

Lesbians taught me about heterosexual privilege, homophobia, and heterosexism in addition to racism, sexism, ageism, ableism etc.

Lesbians played guitar and sang and danced with me

Lesbians write some really good fiction

Lesbians go door knocking with me on Get Out The Vote campaigns

Lesbians go marching and rallying with me

Lesbians fight for justice everywhere

Lesbians taught me about public policy, labor rights, women’s rights activism and advocacy

Lesbians helped me paint and pack my house when we moved away

Lesbians brought me honey and took me out to dinner.

Lesbians created black women’s studies

In short lesbians have always shown me and mine lots of love.

Did you say lesbians? I LOVE LESBIANS, will be my first response next time someone wants to think that we might think alike because we are both, I dunno, black, speaking English, fancy the same coffee shop at the same time of day, whatever. Next time I will be ready with a list of ALL the fly lesbians I love: Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Sapphire, Cheryl Clark, Me’shell Ndegeocello, JenRose, MaryBeth, Laura and Katie (shout out to your new beautiful baby girl), Moya, Nancy, Monique, Bonji, Donna Troka, Sile Singleton, Taising and Jen, Carol, Smiley, just to name a few. Do you love lesbians too? Name your list of favorites and tell us why. (Please be considerate, do not out anyone!)

no love

21 Feb

i don’t write love poetry anymore

or/poetry about love

my heart and bed are empty

my thoughts a distant memory

of/what love used to be

*

i once wrapped my life & legs around him

watched from the outside as i

lost myself in someone else

who didn’t lose himself in me

it was an out of body experience

& when he touched me, he moved me

mentally

his voice melted me like butter

& in his presence i was weak

when he would walk into a room

it was his eyes that would speak

saying, “Robin, c’mere”

& i would come every time

@ the drop of a dime

thinking if only he were mine

i would find a way to

love him longer/pull him in deeper/make myself sweeter i

often wondered how miraculous it would be

if he used his powers for good

when I would tell my friends about his swag

i was often misunderstood

but there was

healing in his fingers &

peace across his lips &

wonder in the rhythm

when he moved inside my hips

he had that voodoo

to woo, ah, & please

skills that could bring a grown woman to her knees

so imagine me, half grown

but mostly just an aged child

trippin’ off the way he had me

hypnotized/with his eyes

until I could hardly see

he offered me his love & i was a fiend immediately

wanting whatever piece of himself

he was willing to offer me

i wanted to give him a progeny

tattoo his name all over me

until my whole body was numb

i was trippin & his so-called love

left me mute, deaf, & dumb

i was paralyzed by the lull of his words

seducing me like poetry

i begged him to

speak to me

get to me

make me feel things were the way that they used to be

the days when he would stare at me with wonder & surprise

the 26 months before he got between my thighs

when we were friends & not lovers

when we would laugh & not fight

when we would sleep with no covers

& make love until the daylight

but

that was all an illusion

& all his back & forth kisses

brought me was confusion

it all began to make sense/eventually

loving him was becoming detrimental to me

i lost who i was & tried to be who he wanted me to be

& it took hours & years in front of the mirror to finally see

that that just could not be

light skinned & simple minded

i simply can’t be

submissive & open-handed?

paying a “love me” fee?

giving up my body & mind?

baby, that shit is NOT free

so you can stay with that other chick

but she can’t do it like me!

*

i was crossing over emptiness

building bridges with fences

& when he left, i finally came to my senses

seeking bliss from a fool when I should have been seeking princes

i had to put up my defenses

& honesty is a must

that wasn’t love that i felt

that feeling was lust

i don’t write love poetry anymore.

Living Single

7 Feb

Living Single TV Show Female Cast

I hate the term single. Despite the fact that most of us come in to this world by ourselves and leave that way there’s an expectation of partnering in the interim. And while you are granted a bit more of a reprieve from single shade* in queerdom, there’s still a palpable partner privilege that operates. Couples only hang outs, automatic invites to your partner’s friends’ functions, less unwanted amorous attention because you’re read as off limits, more respect for your time as it’s obviously being impacted by another person, etc. I’ve had the unfortunate but not uncommon experience of losing friends to relationships, only to be heard from again in the equally unfortunate but not uncommon instance of the break up. As a non-partnered person I also feel some pressure when hanging out with half of a coupled couple. I sometimes sense suspicion of my intentions. It seems non-partnered people are read as a roving threat to relationships. There’s always some pop culture plot point where a generally good person, usually man or masculine, is tempted by an evil single seductress who doesn’t give a damn about the existing relationship. Y’all saw Obsessed right?

As I age, I am curious about that moment when singlehood switches in peoples’ minds from the willfulness of youthful independence to tragic pathological existence. I think that timeline is too short maybe even non-existent for straight women and while there’s a bit more leeway in queer community, there comes a point when casual dating isn’t cute anymore or perhaps even possible because folks are booed up. It has me wondering if there’s room to maintain a single life as an older person, like still dating in your 50’s and 60’s? And how do you find folks to date if all your peers at that age are married or partnered? I mean the Golden Girls had it rough but they’d all been married before. I really struggle with this as someone who is ambivalent about romantic relationships, particularly as constructed in this society.

Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal.  “I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner” leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. “Forsaking all others” doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family. Why do mother-in-laws stay getting a bad rap?

And yet, there’s something really real about co-dependence in a culture that doesn’t value interdependence. A romantic partner is expected to be there, in “sickness and in health” in ways that we don’t demand of friendship. Subsequently, a spouse or partner has legal and social rights that a friend does not. For queer folks this is particularly important when unsupportive biological family can legally trump chosen family. Our legal system actively limits who we can call on which reflects and exacerbates social beliefs about relationships.

I have a more playful, flirtatious way of thinking about intimate relationships which usually rubs up against (and not in a good way) a social expectation for monogamy. I have romantic friendships that are not quite platonic, sexy time friends that aren’t quite lovers, close kindred spirits that should really be on my insurance before a romantic partner. And while pop culture flirts with poly possibilities, it never quite goes all the way. There are an endless number of songs that reference men cheating or women cheating on their boyfriends b/c of the supposed sexual prowess of whomever is singing/rapping the hit. So while there’s a tacit tolerance of cheating, intentional polyamory remains off the table. And even with an occasional “my girl’s got a girlfriend” and “ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none,” women are tools for male fantasies, heterofying homosocial sexual behavior.  Folks are more into the illicitness of affairs and the freakiness of multiple sex partners than building articulated intimacy with more than one person. I digress…

I want to live in a world where there isn’t a hierarchy of relationships, where romantic love isn’t assumed to be more important than other kinds, where folks can center any relationships they want whether it be their relationship to their spiritual practice, kids, lovers, friends, etc. and not have some notion that it’s more or less important because of who or what’s in focus. I want to feel like I can develop intimacy with people whether we are sleeping together or not that I will be cared for whether I am romantically involved with someone or not.  I want a community that takes interdependency seriously that doesn’t assume that it’s only a familial or romantic relationship responsibility to be there for each other.

I didn’t just dream this way of relating to each other up. Other cultures and communities throughout time have had more options in terms of how they construct connection. And we are doing it now. Folks are creating interdependent relationships and community that disrupt popular perceptions of appropriate partnering. I just wonder what it will take to get more of us to honestly evaluate the realities of our love and determine whether we are actually getting what we want. Love is abundant, not scarce. Why would we ever want to limit or narrow its flow?

Asking for a Lift …From the Bathroom TOSD from Mia Mingus on Vimeo.

Sincerely,

Living single

Hat tip to Zachari C. for bringing her brilliance to the piece.

*Single shade – the general social derision of single people and singleness

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