The Other Side of The Game

In the millennial dating system, treacherous based offenses are considered extremely heinous. In Detroit city, there’s a dedicated woman who seeks to find peace and healing in spaces where relational chaos ensues. This is her story. *Dun Dun*

Hold me down x Daniel Caesar

Barbara, this is Shirley…

It’s a couple days before your big event, the night out with your friends, or the date night you’ve been anticipating for a while. You’ve got every single detail figured out. All you need is the right hairstyle. You’ve taken your previous hairstyle down, prepped your hair for it to be re-beautified and are excited for your upcoming appointment. The day of your hair appointment, maybe even moments before it’s supposed to start, you get that infamous “Hey boo…” text from your hairdresser. INSTANT PTSD. We all know the conversation that follows this phrase. It’s either an ask for you to push your appointment back a few more hours, day(s) or *bonus points* none of the above. Your appointment is just canceled. No warning. No remorse and no sign of re-booking somewhere else at the last minute. Disappointing? Yes. But hey, it happens to the best of us. There’s another message category that I have come to loathe with everything in me. It’s the ever-provoking “Hey girl, I just think you should know…” message. Again, INSTANT PTSD. These kinds of “Woman to Woman” texts are usually followed by statements and/or evidence detailing extremely shady actions done by a significant other–either with the person messaging or with someone they know. I hate to admit it, but I’ve received this kind of message in previous relationships one too many times.

So what’s the big deal about cheating? I mean honestly, even Beyoncé was cheated on and it’s BEYONCE for goodness sakes!! Is it fair to say that everyone cheats and it’s just something we have to endure in relationships? We all know someone who’s cheated or whose played the side role once before. It could be you reading this who’s in the middle of an entanglement now! If we haven’t personally lived these kinds of experiences, we definitely know of them. The reality is that cheating is not a just a millennial issue; It’s a human issue–no matter the race, age, socioeconomic status, sexual preference or generation. So why do people do it? What makes people step outside of their relationships? Disclaimer: I can’t tell you that I have all the answers, or even the right ones for that matter because everyone’s situation is different and the motives change. I can however, tell you some things that I’ve learned along the way through my own personal experience.

My Man is My Man, is Your Man Heard it’s Her Man too…

Okay, so boom. I had received the “hey, I just think you should know…” message. What followed was a short statement about the sexual involvement of my then significant other and the woman on the other end of my phone. It was like one of those BET original movie “Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got here,” moments. All that I could remember thinking was what did he do to make homegirl THIS mad?! She had to be extremely pissed off if she’d be willing to tell on him AND herself cause that’s like the number one rule of cheating right?! Like DO NOT tell the other person’s partner that they’re actively cheating and with you of all people!! Sadly, this isn’t my first rodeo. It’s typically been the same routine in my neck of the woods. Girl meets boy, boy has girlfriend, girl sticks around to see how dedicated boy is to girlfriend. Boy makes a move in which girl justifies her actions by placing fault on the boy who has the girlfriend. Girl ends up falling for boy, then gets upset when boy doesn’t leave girlfriend. Girl opens up and confronts girlfriend to expose the boy for the trash that he truly is and then walks away… or girl sticks around to see if she’ll finally have an honest shot at being with said boy. What a great love origin story. How did you and your partner meet?? Oh, we met while he was with another woman. We fooled around and fell in love and the rest is history! It’s giving Alicia Keys. Yikes.

It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay…

I used to wonder what the main objective was. Like were we supposed to join forces and set the man up because homegirl’s feelings got hurt? Kinda like what happened to Ty Dolla $ign when he saw two of his women in the club? Or are we expected to be like “The Boy is Mine” and fight over him Monica and Brandy style?? Maybe we were supposed to be beefed out like 3rd and 4th baby mommas and do the dramatic Summer Walker slide down the nearest wall??? Who knows. What I do know is that the women who’ve approached me in this way definitely knew about me and continued to be involved with my- excuse me, I mean our boyfriend. They would attempt to follow/stalk me on social media, watch my stories weekly, if not daily just to see about me, to learn about who I was and possibly to see his involvement or lack thereof in my life. I knew that at the point of the “confession” she had been fed up with how things were going for her in the situation she involved herself in. I knew that she was very okay with being shady until it inconvenienced her wants and needs. I knew that she wanted to blow up my world by giving me information about our boyfriend because she was hurt and hurt people tend to hurt other people too. Lastly, I knew that she would not take any accountability for her actions in any of it.

You Can Have a Piece of My Love…

Truth is, I could have responded to these women in a variety of unpleasant ways. These women don’t know me or where I come from. Dropping a statement like that and then exiting the chat can be dangerous. I have seen one too many episodes of Snapped, and Dateline NBC where similar situations ended in tragedy for all involved. None of what was done to me, behind my back and in front of my face was okay. However, other women who I do not know personally are not expected to be loyal toward me, nor my then-significant other. Their loyalty is to themselves, and rightfully so. It is not the other woman’s responsibility to safe-guard my relationship. It was my partners. He didn’t show value or respect toward me, so why should she? As messed up as it sounds, I get it from that angle. So, to the girl(s) who have ever “just thought I should know,” I want you to know a few things too. First, I want you to know that I am sorry that you were hurt and that because you were hurt, you felt the need to hurt me too. If being in a committed relationship is what you desire, you deserve to be loved out loud in public and not in stolen moments or in the shadows, or on the weekends when I’m out of town. You deserve to be loved by the whole person and not just a piece of what they are willing to offer you due to their own selfish desires to have someone else and you too. You shouldn’t have to share your person with anyone else (unless you’re into polyamory and don’t mind that kind of thing). You deserve to be in a trusting relationship, where you sleep easy at night knowing that you don’t have to second-guess what/who the other person is doing when they aren’t around, or when they haven’t answered your calls/text. You deserve someone who will cherish every part of you, even the not-so-good parts. I truly wish that kind of peace and stability in relationships for you, even after you had played an active part in making that unachievable for me at the time. That’s all the energy I have for you sis.

It Wasn’t Me…

I can’t speak for all of the men in the universe who’ve cheated, but I can share real life conversations I’ve had with the culprits themselves. About a month ago, I met a stranger at the bank. I had caught him at a time where he was extremely frustrated with how his day had gone. As we began to talk, he started to open up to me about his personal life. Mid-sentence into his frustration-rant he said “See that’s why I cheat on my wife! She just doesn’t understand me!!” It was like a record scratched in my mind. He saw my facial expression switch from understanding to pure concern with the infamous Druski “What do you mean by that?” look and then proceeded to say “She just doesn’t understand how to handle me. I’m a Pisces, she just doesn’t understand me.” I wish I was making this up, but I have the recording to prove it. I began to talk to him more about why he felt the need to cheat. It honestly boiled down to frustration. Frustration on the job, frustration at home and frustration with being a Black man in society. He wanted to find a safe space. A space that would comfort him instead of nag him, that would hold him instead of push him away and that would hear his thoughts without judgement. He just wanted peace. Sounds simple-Am I right fellas? WRONG. You ever notice it’s always the ones who actually caused the hateration and holleration in the dancery themselves, screaming for peace??

That’s another Ted Talk for another day.

I listened as this man took absolutely no accountability for his actions. In fact, he proudly justified them. A couple weeks later, I was in the salon getting my hair braided. The topic of cheating came up and it instantly became WWlll in that joint. One man said he cheated on his girl because he loved her. Come again?! Another man said, “men don’t really be getting hoes like women think they do so if a shorty comes around and is paying the man some attention, it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see how it turns out, even if he has a girl.” Interesting. Another man said he lies to his girl because he values her feelings. He “tells the truth to the hoes because he doesn’t care how they feel about it.” Genius. Again, I listened to these men take no accountability for their actions. I asked some of the men if they’d ever been caught. The room filled with a resounding “Yes!!” So what did these men do to get out of it?? That’s right. You guessed it. THEY LIED. They told their girl it wasn’t true, that they never met that girl before in their life, better yet, they swore on they great granny’s grave that she was trippin, that the other girl was a hater, that their phone really did die that night, etc. There was no surprise that they got away with it at least once using one of those pathetic lines. And don’t get me started on the co-signing of the lying best friend. These are just a few of the crazy stories I’ve heard over the years. This is the mentality behind many relationships. The gaslighting, the manipulation, the lies. All under the guise of protecting the interests of the one they really “love.” It’s giving Kevin Hart. Yikes. Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by one or more of these lines. This is a safe space love. I’ve been there too.

Love Should Have Brought You Home…

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a man say he loved his girl even while actively cheating on her, I would be rich enough to quit my part-time job. I’ve personally been told I was loved over and over again all while being done dirty behind the scenes. I used to be so confused when I heard that line. How could you possibly love someone you are actively hurting? From what I’ve learned and have always heard, men are able to separate sex from feelings… most of the time. A guy could really be in a whole relationship, have sex with other women and it just be that. No feelings, no attachments, just sex. The concept blows my mind. There’s so much simplicity to the thought process that men go through and it’s high key terrifying. Like my guy, what about the possibility of getting someone else pregnant, contracting an STI and passing it along to your partner, or the other person blowing up your entire world, destroying your family and all you claim to love??? Again, these kinds of fatal cases actually happen in real life. I guess men don’t think that far ahead. It’s the high stocks of audacity that men be carrying around in bundles. It gives them the super strength to make them feel extremely invincible to any of the consequences that come with their actions. I am sorry to put this out there fellas, but contrary to very extremely popular belief, if you are actively cheating on your girl, putting her feelings, emotions and physical health on the backburner so you can be out with the “hoes,” you may “love” her but you don’t respect her, nor value her, nor are you protecting her or your situation the way it needs to be, and if that’s the kind of love you putting out there, you can keep it. I put that on your great granny’s grave dawg.

I Just Need Time to See Where I Wanna Be…

Let’s be honest here. The real beef is between me and the one person who was actually supposed to care. I believe my previous partners were at a cross-roads between commitment and single life. We were and still are really young. Being locked into something so serious when you’re young and unsure about life in general can be pretty terrifying. I get it. That’s very valid. However, instead of making the executive decision to call things off, the audacity chip in the back of the man’s brain sparks the idea of wanting to have the best of both worlds. A partner who’s down and committed but also the urge to tease the idea of being with another person who finds them attractive enough to sleep with but not to “commit” to. I guess if you could effectively have your cake and eat it too, why wouldn’t you? The problem is, it may work for a while, but it’s not a permanent fix. This is a clear sign of immaturity and selfishness with a complete lack of regard for the people who get hurt in the process of “figuring” out where you want to be at that point and time in life.

Don’t Hurt Yourself…

I have had the opportunity to speak with my previous partners in this current season of my life. These conversations have been hard and sobering. For the first time in a long time, I have been able to hear the perspective from someone who’s really hurt me and to express the extent to which their actions had impacted me in my own journey. Although these conversations don’t excuse the behaviors, and the destruction they’ve caused, it definitely has given more context to our histories together and areas where things slipped through the cracks on all parts. The bottom line is that the person wasn’t ready. There was nothing I could’ve done or said to change that. If someone isn’t ready to commit, they just aren’t. You can’t force it and you shouldn’t have to. It’s a process that takes growing up and some people just aren’t there yet. Maybe they never will be. It’s above you now. It is the responsibility of the people who are in a relationship to protect the relationship, no one else’s. When one person falls short of that responsibility, it leaves the door open for anything and anyone to come in-between them. I was taken for granted. I was disrespected, and I was treated less than what I deserved. I was left exposed in the middle of someone trying to figure out if they wanted to be with me or in the streets. As a result of his uncertainty, I placed my own worth and value in his line of terrible decision-making. Such a dangerous place to put someone in and an even more dangerous place to be.

Ring The Alarm, I’ve Been Through This Too Long…

I wouldn’t say all of these things without taking a look at my own tenure through relationship Clown College. I pretty much majored in “give me one more chance,” and graduated with high honors. I wish I could tell you that I handled these situations with the utmost class and dignity (maybe to some of my friends/family I did) but that would be a lie. Honestly, nobody is that well adjusted. The thing is, I am only human. I have real life feelings and emotions and just like anyone else, I have things going on that people have no idea about. It’s like you could be minding your business and someone comes out of nowhere to hurt you. The one person who was supposed to protect our love, completely disregarded it. All of the history, the good times, the pain, the loss. Completely ignored for the sake of selfish desires. There’s a lot of words and phrases I could use to describe how I feel about it but the main feeling is betrayal. It’s hard opening yourself up to someone, finally being able to trust and then having your entire life blown up by disloyalty. It’s heartbreaking. It leaves you in a space feeling like you can’t trust the shoes on your feet to stay on when you start walking.

There were a lot of red flags that I chose to ignore or move past in my previous relationships for the sake of longevity with the person, being in love and wanting to be loved back. I allowed myself to be embarrassed time and time again because I really believed that this time would be different–and the next time, and the next time (okay but this is the last time…) It’s giving Rasheeda and Kirk. Yikes. I struggled a lot with letting go. I would think to myself, these women have absolutely no idea what I’ve been through with this man. Why would they be okay with something like this? I ain’t did nothing to this girl and here she is wrecking my situation and what I got going on. But as I’ve described earlier, it’s not up to the outside person to care about your relationship. I mean, you’d expect people to be decent human beings and treat others like they’d want to be treated overall, but that’s not always realistic as we know. Anyways, I just had this intrinsic belief that people could change and that if I loved them hard enough- if I showed them that I was worth fighting for, then maybe, just maybe they would find it in their hearts to love me the way that I was supposed to be loved.

She Said Don’t Break My Heart…

By now, I know some of you are reading this like “SIS. Why didn’t you just leave?!?” or potentially some other crazy remark about my foolish ways. I feel that whole heartily. I really do. However, being cheated on does something ill to your psyche. It had me questioning my self worth, my body image and more than anything it had me doubting my intuition. I wondered all the time if I was worth it or if I was asking for too much. I was constantly comparing myself to other women- their looks, accomplishments, social status. I kept thinking that if I could just change little parts of me to accommodate my partner’s needs, he wouldn’t have to look elsewhere. If I could just channel my inner Chaka Khan and be every woman, I would be enough, right? I was so lost y’all. The tears are starting to well up in my eyes as I write this out. There were so many times when I knew in my gut that something was off but out of fear or exhaustion of facing the same harsh reality, I would try my best to let it go. But I never really let it go. The feeling was always with me, even in the so-called “good” times. I tried many times to advocate for myself. To plead my case for how I was feeling. It was typically met with nonchalant energy, maybe an apology and a promise for changed behavior that would start, but would never be consistent. As I struggled through relationship, I imagined the nameless, faceless women behind their phone screens looking at my life, wanting to be where I was. Looking at me do my best fake smile on social media, desiring to know what it felt like to be next to him. They had no idea how depressed I was. I was suffering internally. I was so insecure, sad and I was lonely–all while having someone right next to me. I wish they could’ve seen how far I had gone, how worthless I felt. Maybe it would’ve prevented them from making the same mistakes I had. I think in a way, they were able to get a taste of my reality the moment they hit send on that “I just think you should know…” message. That’s when I think they could’ve realized that they had gone too far, that they had let someone take them so far outside of themselves that it led to pure rage, taking it out any and everyone in their path for the sake of justice for the injustice THEY had committed against ME. So in a way, maybe they did understand what it was like to be me at the time. To have an out of body experience. Even if for just a moment. Who knows.

You’re A Dime + Ninety-Nine…

What I do know now that I should’ve known then is that I NEVER have to beg or convince someone to love me or to treat me like a decent human being. I know that it is better to be by myself than miserable with someone else for the sake of history, or for appearances. I now know that I was not asking for too much. I know that relationships and being in love is cool, but it’s not the end all, be all. I know that I am not difficult to love. I know that my worth is not tied up in how people treat me, whether good or bad. My identity is found deep in God. I know that I will not let the actions of people whose intentions are to hurt me, win. I know that I may be broken, but I am whole. I know that I am deserving of a love that I don’t have to question. I am deserving of a love that I can trust. I am worthy of full commitment in relationships, and I do not have to settle for anything less. So if that means I have to wait a little longer, I’ll take a number and keep living my life. I. Am. Enough. Always have been, and always will be. So in conclusion, if you ever catch me in these streets fighting over anything, it will be over maintaining my peace, and my healing BUT never, ever, ever over somebody’s crusty son caught up with someone else’s dusty daughter.

Yours in Authenticity,

-L

I Used to Love H.I.M. (An Ode to Every Boy I’ve Ever Loved)

For me, falling in love is pretty easy…it’s the falling out of it part that’s hard.

Song Inspiration: Out My Mind, Just In Time x Erykah Badu

It was 2002; I was in the 3rd grade. We had just finished lunch and were coming in from recess. I remember standing in line to get a drink from the classroom water fountain when I glanced over and locked eyes with my crush. Instant butterflies rushed to my stomach. I tried not to be so obvious as I quickly looked away just to swiftly look in his direction once again. He was whispering something to his friend. I watched them talk as they continued to look my way. I was caught up in his smile and the way he was so personable. My mind started to wander and I drifted into that thought about that one time he had said something funny while the teacher was talking and had made the whole class laugh. My boo was so funny, maybe he’d grow up to be a famous comedian or something. Then there was that one time that I lost my pencil and he let me borrow his; He even sharpened it for me before I used it. My boo was SO thoughtful! Maybe he’d be one of those traveling doctors that helps people recover from illness all over the world. Oh! There was also that one time when he… “LONDON!!!!” the classmate behind me yelled unnecessarily into my ear to get my attention. Apparently my daydreaming had me holding up the rest of the line to the water fountain. Thanks to the loud ass classmate behind me, I was busted. I quickly grabbed my drink and rushed back to my seat before I could be any more embarrassed.

But then it happened. The moment I had been waiting for all school year. My crush had glanced over in my direction again, but this time he was making his way over to me. In my mind, I panicked. He moved in closer. I could feel his breath as he got closer to my ear. My heart was beating so fast. I just knew this would be the moment he’d tell me that he felt the same way I felt about him all this time and I just knew he was going to ask me to be his girlfriend. I could feel it. He leaned in close, cupped his hand around my ear and whispered “Why have you worn the same pants for the last three days in a row???” My stomach instantly dropped to my ass. It was in that moment I had realized that during my daydreaming, my crush was laughing with his friend at the fact that I had worn the same pair of purple jeans for the last three days in a row. Now granted, I had NO business being in that type of outfit situation in the first place BUT in my defense, I was a third grader! I truly LOVED those purple pants and had successfully found three different shirts to match those jeans so my third grade logic told me to go for it! *face palm* I couldn’t have been more mortified in the 8 years of life that I had lived up to that point. I had this entire dreamy/romanticized scenario in my mind of how I thought things would go and I had set myself up to be completely let down. How would my little 3rd grade heart ever mend?! I cringe and laugh every single time I share this story, but in all actuality this moment would be one of the first to define the way I processed my relationships in the future.

Growing Apart (to get closer)

My experiences in this last year and a half have been some of the most traumatic, yet transformative that I have ever had. I am currently dealing with the aftermath of a break-up with my significant other of 5 years. I have so many thoughts and feelings about it but it’s been so hard to explain. I walk around like everything is fine when on the inside I feel like I’m on a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions. Some days I’m extremely sad while other days I’m extremely angry/frustrated. Some days I’m just lost in nostalgia but overall, I’m anxious about the unknown. Being with someone for so long, you get used to certain patterns and ways of being, even if it wasn’t necessarily the best situation or under the best circumstances. Oddly enough, during this time I have had some pretty impactful encounters with a couple of people who have really helped put some things into perspective.

In the last month or so I had been fortunate enough to have a conversation with my first long-term boyfriend. He was my high school sweetheart; we were supposed to be together forever. My sister had even named us godparents to her first-born. I was with him from the ages of 16-21 before we called it quits. He and I were growing up together while simultaneously growing apart. He was back home going to school while I was staying on campus. We were both trying our best to experience life separately, living our own experiences, having our own new encounters, building our own new relationships all while holding on to what we had built together. He was all that I knew. He and his family had supported me through some of the toughest moments of my life at that point. He was the person I thought I was going to marry. We fought for our young love as hard as we could, but it got to a point where we couldn’t even be in the same room together without being frustrated. We had this whole life planned out for the two of us. Unfortunately, plans change. The break up was rough. We both took it hard, but in different ways so we actually hadn’t been on speaking terms with each other for almost 5 years.

So when we finally met we both had a lot of things to say, but most importantly we had a lot of apologizing to do. We were so young when we were together and our expectations of what actual healthy relationships consisted of had been totally defined by outlandish societal norms and broken family constructs. We had no idea what it really took to be together and quite honestly we had no business imposing such heavy expectations on each other at such a young age. We were able to talk about our lives since we split- the good, the bad and the uncertain. Although I wish we could’ve had this type of closure a long time ago, it felt really good to know that we could be at a place of peace with each other within our own journeys. I left that space feeling hopeful, and I think he did too.

Coincidentally, I also recently reconnected with a middle school boyfriend of mine. I can remember a string of middle/high school boyfriends who were just that- school boyfriends. This was because I wasn’t allowed to date. That meant no home phone calls, no activities outside of school like movies, or arcade centers, not even park meet-ups. Don’t get me wrong, if I could find ways to cheat the system, I would. So from the school hours of 7:30 am to 3:30 pm, Monday-Friday I would spend time talking, passing notes, sitting next to at lunch, and holding hands in the hallway with my boo. If I had friends whose parents weren’t drill sergeants like mine, I would take advantage of the opportunity to see my boo in person at a bonfire or a casual kickback. I had to get in where I fit in so I made the most out of the time I was allotted. Of all my middle school flings, this one felt the most real to me. The connection we had was unparalleled. I know it sounds silly coming from a middle school perspective but it’s really the only way to describe it. We were so young but it was like he was one of the only people who really saw me. We had a deeper understanding of each other. He’s the one that called out my perfectionism before I even really knew what it was. He was my first kiss. He made all of the risky attempts to connect worth it.

I moved to the city of Detroit about 3 years ago. One of the first people I reached out to was this middle school boyfriend who happened to live in the city. Although we hadn’t been in a relationship since middle school, we had stayed somewhat connected through a mutual friend of ours and through social media. I was really excited to get to re-learn him as adults and not through the lens of my 13-year-old self. I had high hopes for meeting together at some point but after a couple years passed and it never happened, I let it go. To my surprise, a couple of months ago we ended up reconnecting over the course of a weekend that our mutual friend was in town visiting. I finally had the opportunity to tell him about how our interactions together were so special and what our connection had meant to me back then. I had waited all this time to see him and couldn’t wait to ask him why it took so long for us to finally reconnect. His response was really short and to the point which caught me off guard. He calmly said “London, we only dated for about two weeks before you broke up with me.” In that moment, I had felt that same feeling of rejection that my 3rd grade self had felt before. Now, there was a lot of middle school politics in-between this situation that I won’t delve into… but the point still remained that what I once thought was a special connection between me and this person could have really been summed up to a fling that lasted all of two weeks before it was totally dismantled.

I left that interaction feeling real unsure about myself for a moment. I thought back to my past interactions, not only with him but with every boy I ever thought that I had loved, from the boy in 3rd grade, the guys in middle and high school, all the way to the current situation that I was in. Did I really love these people? Was the connection really real? Did I make all of this up in my mind? Were any of these encounters genuine?? It felt like that one scene in the movie A Beautiful Mind, when the main character played by Russell Crowe found out that all of his fond memories were indeed made up and that he was actually suffering from schizophrenia. At first, I was shook but then something clicked.

Not all honest expressions of my feelings are real honesty. You see, my honest feelings may not be truthful assessments of the situation. I can be honest with how I feel and still exaggerate or misinterpret what is true. I can feel justified in being blatant about my feelings- not hiding a thing and prideful for being so real, all under the guise of being honest enough to not stuff things up inside.

Lysa TerKeurst

The reality of the relational situations that I have been in is that I wasn’t actually looking at the reality of the situations that I was in. I had to read that sentence again in my mind too. I was too busy getting caught up in the romanticism of it all that I wasn’t really paying attention to the hard facts. Did I have a crush on that boy in 3rd grade? Yes! However, he wasn’t interested in me in that way-not at all. Instead of facing the reality of that, I chose the alternative route to fantasize about what could be-not what really was, only to be let down by what I already knew to be true. Did I really think that I was going to marry my high school sweetheart? There was no doubt in my mind! But the reality of the situation was that we just couldn’t make it work and there was absolutely nothing we could do at the time to prevent our split from happening, no matter how hard we tried to piece it back together. Did I really have a deep connection with my middle school boyfriend? Oh absolutely! But the reality of the situation was that we were 7th/8th graders. Because of my strict lifestyle, we only had so many hours of a school day/week to interact. We took advantage of the time we had together and it was great, really great but it wasn’t enough to make a real difference in our journey together like I had hoped. Did I really love my most recent significant other? With everything in me. Unfortunately the reality of the situation is that you can’t make someone love you the way that you want to be loved-they’ve got to be ready and willing to make those compromises and sacrifices. I realize that I’ve spent a lot of time grieving over what was never really mine. Had I understood these situations for what they truly were, maybe I wouldn’t have been so lovesick in these seasons…

It Gets Better With Time

As I continue to live through the daily motions of life without someone I thought I would be with for the long haul, I am constantly reminded that it all gets better with time. It took 5 years for me and my high school sweetheart to find closure. It took a little over 10 years for me and my middle school boyfriend to reconnect and I’m guessing it’s going to take some serious time before me and my recent significant other can get our stuff together too. In the midst of all this uncertainty, I am certain of this: there is a love out there that is just for me. It won’t be imagined, short-lived or forced. This time, I promise myself that I won’t stir up or awaken love until I know its time for me has truly come. So, I’ll be patient. Whenever that time comes, I will welcome it with an open mind and an open heart.

To every boy I’ve ever loved… or at least thought that I loved: I still do. But not in the daydreaming, fairy-tale imaginary kind of way. It’s in the genuine sense that I hope you’re happy, healthy and living your best life. It’s the hope that you’ve found, or are on your way to finding your purpose, discovering your passions and experiencing actual love or at least what it feels like to genuinely love someone else. I hope that when you think of me in whatever capacity we’ve interacted-past or present, the memory makes you laugh or smile. I sure do.

Yours in Aunthenticity,

-L

Black Dads: The Unsung Heroes

Just taking some time to acknowledge and celebrate Black fathers.

Song Inspiration: Champion x Kanye West

As we all should know by now, Father’s Day is some time in June. Each year I remind myself to be on top of finding a Father’s Day gift for the dads in my life and almost each year I wait until the last minute to get something and unfortunately this year is no different. As Father’s Day quickly approaches, I have been dragging my feet on trying to find the perfect gifts for my dads. This brought up conversation around why it’s so easy to celebrate the mothers in our lives in comparison to how difficult it is to celebrate our dads.

Historically speaking, the roles of fatherhood in the Black community have been tainted by the trauma evoked on the Black family structure that dates all the way back to slavery. En route to America, Black men, women and children were separated from their families with little to no hope of seeing each other ever again. Once in America, Black men and women were separated yet again and sold into slavery, stationed on plantations throughout the country. Eventually, Black men and women had the opportunity to be joined together in marriage while still enslaved. The act of marriage was signified by way of “jumping the broom,” where the marriage ceremony consisted of a broom being laid down before the bride and groom for them to jump over because there was no legal recognition of Black marriages during that time.

Once the marriage was established by the couple, they would typically begin to reproduce and start a family. Although family units were created during this time, they could still be easily torn apart by way of slave owners. The Black man had no control over what happened to him or his family both physically and economically. There was no autonomy for decision making over the Black household. For the majority of Black families, there were no means of economic gain outside of slavery. If a slave master wanted to rape the Black man’s wife or sell his children to another plantation owner, the Black man had no say. If the slave owner decided to sell the Black man to another plantation owner, he would have no choice but to be separated from his wife and children, most likely never to be seen by his family again. This cycle has continued for years post-slavery-just repackaged.

The divide in the Black household post-slavery was further pushed by the systematic disenfranchisement of the Black man. Employment opportunities for Black males were few and far in between, crippling the Black man’s ability to provide for his family. Black men were given jobs that were less than desirable with minimal pay. Desperately in search of economic gain, some Black men took to the streets to find quick but illegal means of income to supplement the need. Which leads me to the incarceration rates in the united states. Although the Black population in the united states is about 12%, Black bodies make up 33% of the prison population. Black males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than any other racial group. Black men also serve longer sentences for the same crimes as other ethnic counterparts. As we also know that historically, Black men have suffered untimely death at the hands of police brutality. Educationally speaking, Black men are more likely to be suspended from school, or disciplined harshly, and the graduation rates for Black men in high school/college are low in comparison to Black women. The societal structure for Black fatherhood has set Black men up to fail.

So as you can imagine, because of historical trauma, among other things that are out of the Black man’s control, Black dads get a bad rep. I just want to be clear: I am in no means making excuses for Black fathers who are not present in the lives of their children. I am just providing some historical context as to why some of these barriers exist in the Black family. I want to take a moment to celebrate the Black dads in our lives, even if they aren’t necessarily our own.

The Black father figures in my life have truly shaped me into the woman that I am today. I just want to acknowledge these men for a minute. My Papa Don, who taught me how to be confident and go for what I want in life with boldness, through his hilarious stories that showed me that chances make champions. To my Papa on granny’s side for teaching me how to give back to my community through acts of service. To my Papa Calvin who keeps me laughing and goes above and beyond for me. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would travel near and far just to spend time with me no matter what we would be doing that day. To my Dad, who teaches me how to take it one day at a time, not sweating the things I cannot control. The one I get my sense of humor from and my bomb taste in music. The one who supported me through college whether it was visits, dramatic phone calls, or financial draining of his pockets at the drop of a hat. To the wonderful dad I was blessed with at age 12. When he came into my life, I was a moody pre-teen who felt like she didn’t need anyone else. He was patient with me, cared for me and loved me even when I tried my hardest to be unlovable. He would be at every game, band concert and award ceremony. He would cook dinner and do laundry all while balancing a full-time job, household chores/responsibilities and being active in the lives of all of his daughters. To my brother-in-law who just gets me. I don’t have to say much for him to understand where I’m coming from. He brings so much peace. He is a dedicated father who loves hard taught me how to be selfless. I am so appreciative of you all and the sacrifices you’ve made for me and others.

So, if you’re like me, and don’t have the slightest clue as to what you’re going to give your dad for Father’s Day, or you don’t have a father in your life due to loss, separation or estrangement, find the nearest dad you know whether it be a friend, neighbor, or other close relative and encourage them today. If you really can’t think of any examples in your life, word to J.Cole give a shout out to Uncle Phil (RIP, he really was a dope father figure). Let them know that they are seen, loved and appreciated and explain how/why. Shower them with support and uplift their spirits. These are the things that money can’t buy.

To my Black Dads: You are seen, you are loved and you are appreciated. Despite all odds, you will overcome. You are equipped with all the skills and tools to care and provide for your loved ones. You are strong. You are wise. You will win. Happy Father’s Day!

Yours in Authenticity,

-London


Drop The Prayer Sis!

Between cuffing seasons, hot girl/boy summers, situationships, friends with benefits, the ex-factor, and friend zones, dating as a millennial should be considered a competitive sport.

Song Inspiration: I Want To Thank You x Alicia Myers
Me looking through my Twitter thread for the specific prayer that produces amazing relationships

A few weeks ago, I was doing my usual scrolling on Twitter when I came across one of my favorite internet couples on my timeline. It happened to be an entire thread about how they first met, leading all the way up until they got engaged and then married. To add to the mix they have the most adorable child with another one on the way. I looked at the entire thread in awe, completely elated for this little family I don’t even know. Among the overflow of “Congratulations!” and “so happy for y’all!” comments in the thread, I saw some other common phrases in many forms: “Sis, what was the specific prayer?!,” or “Drop the prayer sis,” and a bunch of “Lord, I’ve seen what you’ve done for others….” I giggled to myself a little as I searched the rest of the thread looking to see if home girl actually dropped the specific prayer *you know, just looking for a friend* And to my– I mean MY FRIEND’S disappointment, there was absolutely no prayer to be found.

DATING AS A MILLENNIAL BE LIKE

We live in a generation of not being in love and not being together. But we sure make it feel like we’re together because we’re scared to see each other with somebody else.

Doing it Wrong x Drake

I hate to admit it, but Drake said it best. Every time I think about what it’s like to date in this day and age, my mind goes directly to this lyric. There’s so much going on at one time. We often find ourselves caught in some type of relationship hokey pokey- you know the kinda-committed, kinda-not dance. Unfortunately, I know this two step a little too well. I am a lovey dovey kind of woman. I LOVE love. I am the kind of person that dates with the intention that it will blossom into something more, that could eventually blossom into something big, that might even blossom into something bigger like umm idk… marriage. My bad. I definitely didn’t mean to drop the “M” word on y’all like that. Even saying that word out loud makes me feel some type of way. Honestly, dating in this time makes me feel like that word is a figment of my imagination. I hear it all the time though. In fact today my mom casually and unapologetically dropped the “M” word and added in the grand-baby razzle dazzle today while we were driving. In my mind I was like “GIRL, if you only knew…” Instead I just laughed awkwardly and changed the subject.

I wanted to break it down to my mom like this: Relationships or lack thereof in this time period are confusing af. How you ask?! Let me count the ways…

Let’s start with Cuffing Season. Where did this even come from?! It’s that space between the fall and the spring (September-April/May-ish) where we find the urge to want to be cuddled up with someone. If you don’t have a solid foundation once the sundress season hits, be prepared to be kicked to the curb (sorry boo, it happens to the best of us). Next, we have the talking stage. It’s that beginning piece of any relationship that consists of you sliding into your soon-to-be boo’s DM’s whether that be via social media platform or an in-person scenario. You’re honestly just trying to get to know someone, feel them out to see if the vibe is real. In this time, it’s unclear if one is supposed to drop all the other people they may be talking to, or if they should continue to keep it casual and let the other person they’re talking to know that they are also entertaining other people. There are so many unspoken rules or there aren’t any rules at all. This is often where many relationships start and end. Some of us find ourselves in a constant loop of the talking stage with some potential for a good match, all to be let down, going back to square one.

But wait- there’s a thin line between the talking stage and actually dating which we like to call situationships. Situationships are usually undefined and uncommitted. They can be based on comfort or convenience and vary between short term & long-term. College hook-ups are a wonderful example. You may only be together when you’re in school & when summer break hits, you say your goodbyes, but keep in touch because you know welcome weekend comes around quick and you don’t want to miss a beat. There’s an even thinner line between the talking stage, actual dating and situationships which are known as… you guessed it- friends with benefits!! You find that you may actually vibe with the person, get along well, but don’t want to make the relationship commitment. I mean why would you need to change the flow of things by adding a relationship title?!?! Or, you may find yourself strictly in the friend zone which is where all these relationship concepts go to die.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this semi-new and exhilarating concept of living a hot girl/boy lifestyle not only in the summer but all year long *Thanks Meg*. In this phase of life, you have no attachments to anyone or anything. I like to call this the “I catch flights, not feelings” stage of life. You do what, and who you want– when, and however you want. I would like to think that this is a stage of confidence and taking control of your life, but it often turns out to be a crazy roller coaster of unstable actions and emotions. This stage is definitely not for the weak hearted. It’s a constant cat and mouse game of who can play who, or who can do the most without catching feelings and falling in love. It can be exhausting no doubt.

WAIT A MINUTE: How could I forget the ex-factor?!? You always have that one ex that’s trying to make things right for the 100000000000000th time. Depending on the season in your life you may or may not entertain their advances. Nine times out of ten, you end up entertaining your ex against your better judgement and end up regretting it. But hey, such is life… See you in a few months big head.

IF you can successfully move past ALL of these stages, you unlock a more serious dating situation. You may even call this a stage relationship. At this point, you probably have texted your starting five line-up saying that you think you may have found something worth giving up the late night “you up” texts for. Even though you still may be a little unsure, you take the risk anyway hoping that it works out for the best *I just realized that sounded real Will Smith from Hitch-like, but its the truth* You start to spend more time with this person which could lead to something more promising, but if it doesn’t you’re back at square one, hoping that you can at least get back three of your starting five line-up *depending on how long you’ve been in the dating stage this could prove to be a difficult feat, but possible.*

So mom, this whole “M” word thing is not as simple of a goal as you’d think.

RELATIONSHIP GOALS

Now, back to this prayer that nobody seems to be finding… I often find myself and other women making these kind of comments often. We see couples like Ciara & Russel, Will & Jada or my absolute fave Michelle & Barack, and can’t help but ask ourselves how in the hell do they manage to pull this relationship stuff off and make it look so effortless. There’s even a book about it (Thanks to Pastor Mike Todd of Transformation Church). Thankfully/hopefully we don’t have to look too far to find relationship goals in our real lives. It could be our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, other family and our friends. I love hearing stories about their relationships. It’s like they’re unlocking a secret code to this relationship stuff. I’ve gotten my fair share of relationship advice and the most obvious and real sentiment is that everyone’s relationship is unique and how they love each other works for them. Each love story is so special because it unravels how those individuals discovered each other and learned how to love. They’ve all had their fair share of ups and downs, but they found someone willing to weather those storms.

So, I asked my mom how she managed to find my amazing step-dad and without her knowing any context to my question her answer turned out to be a PRAYER!!!!! When I tell you I was so ready to hear about how she asked God for the perfect man and then would list all the qualities, her answer made me stop and think. She said: I asked my dad this same question a long time ago. I said dad, how do I find a good husband? He said that I needed to pray for myself. He said that instead of spending so much time praying for the perfect partner, pray that you yourself would be someone that you’d want to marry.

As confusing as that sounds I immediately thought of that 3 Stacks line in Green light “If I were you it would be me that I’d go home with.” I had a big reality check. A lot of times we pray prematurely or seek a partner with qualities we don’t even possess! How many times have you heard someone say, I want a boss who makes six figures and drives a BMW, but they themselves don’t even have a job? Or I want someone that knows how to cook/clean, but they themselves don’t know how. If you want your future partner to be good with finances, first pray that you learn to handle your finances well too (secure that savings account or make goals to improve your credit score). If you want your future boo to be compassionate and in-tune with your needs, first pray that you’re that kind of person in your daily life-showing love and compassion to those around you. If you want your future bae to love kids, pray first that you’re able to have the patience that comes with interacting with children because honestly, most of us don’t. If you want your future sugar booger to know how to cook and clean, pray that you’re also willing to learn new things and take a cooking class, or finally learn how to do your own laundry. The list goes on, and it looks different depending on your wants and needs.

The best part about this kind of prayer is that if all else fails, and you still can’t seem to snag a boo out of the deal, you were able to manifest a better version of yourself simply by investing in you first. That my friends, is what I would consider a prayer worth trying. So wherever you find yourself in this dating timeline, I encourage you to take a minute to stop and pray for yourself- that you become the best version of yourself for you, and that all your hearts desires will begin to surround you as you grow. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and where you stand in this millennial dating timeline or your thoughts on dating in general!

Yours in Authenticity,

London