It is some of the early lessons one learns as a child — the ones that have lasting power and hella impact your entire life — that cripple you as an adult.
Anonymous As told to Ida Harris
I’ve spent my entire life chasing love from men. When most people hear about women like me they assume I grew up without a daddy — they’re wrong. I have a daddy; a very present one at that. I had a ton of uncles and older brothers who all doted on me, and made me feel protected and loved. They still do. Some would say I’m spoiled, and for the most part I am — by them. So how did I get to such a desperate place otherwise, you ask?
I was taught. I get it from my mother and other elder women in my family. One of the first things my mama told me was not to be a heaux:
“Men don’t want no old used up stuff,” she said “men don’t marry whores.”
Though, she instilled in me from very early that my validation as a woman was based on my ability to get a man, keep a man, marry a man, and have his babies. It didn’t matter if he was abusive or unfaithful either. I watched as she and her sisters took pride in their wifehood no matter what it looked like. As long as the husbands showed a willingness to take care of them and his children it meant they were valued and worthy of respect that wasn’t extended to my unmarried, childless aunt.
Her single status was often brought up and ridiculed unnecessarily. I remember family members saying such petty things like “I’m gonna ask Ann to stop at the store and pick up some napkins; she ain’t got husband nor kid so she should be able to do that.” I didn’t have to read between the lines to get the message. It was clear and cemented: A woman isn’t as valued if she doesn’t have a man and some children.
Growing up, I’m pretty sure I was on the ADD spectrum because I’ve always had difficulty staying organized. My hair was disheveled, my clothing wasn’t neat, my room was in a constant state of disarray. I just couldn’t get right. Instead helping me establish ways to manage my messy, the issue was almost always linked to acquiring a husband.
“A man ain’t going to marry no woman that keeps a messy house.” My mother scorned. And sadly her criticism forever lingers.
So long before I started liking boys, I felt I wasn’t marriage material and as I grew into my own womanhood, the motivation to be neat and organized was centered around become marriageable. My lessons were well learned albeit distorted.
As an awkward teen, I had an accent, bad hair and my fashions were horrible. The glasses and bad skin only made it worse, but underneath all the sweatshirts and baggy jeans, I had a banging ass body — and I knew this. The Flat stomach, the juicy booty, shapely hips, and bouncy breast brought all the boys to the yard; some grown ass men, too. They all wanted to squeeze my titties, feel my ass, grind their dicks against me, put their fingers in my box; and eventually, I let them. And not one of them publicly acknowledge me as their girlfriend, but it didn’t matter. I wanted them to like me, desire me, and they would — in those moments. It validated me just enough.
I carried this warped understanding woth me to college and into adulthood: If I gave men access to my body, they would like me enough to eventually make me their girlfriend or wife.
Over time, my skin cleared up, I learned to care for my hair, dress my curves; I traded my glasses in for contacts. It was the gift and the curse, as I got even more attention from men, which led to a few dysfunctional relationships.
I loathed family gatherings because there was no way I could bring Dollar Tree ass dudes around my Lord & Taylor ass family; and each year I showed up manless, I would get the same badgering and questioning my aunt Anne had gotten about potential husbands and birthing babies.
I pretended I was, too, busy for men and had no desire for children. As I ate and drank to my own shame, I wondered if they talked about me like they talked about my childless aunt. Was I next in line to make store runs for napkins? I’d cry my eyes out on each trip home and become more determined than the last to show up the next year with a fiancé. It was a vicious ass cycle that wore on my heart.
I chased love and validation from men like a junkie chases a high. I would do almost anything to obtain it. I put men’s attention before my family and friends. I had a type, but if a guy showed interest in being my man, I accepted whatever package he came in; physical and emotional flaws and all.
The only requirement for them was to outwardly like me and he became my type; and I would do anything to become his. If he was a Muslim — I prayed five times a day. If he was Christian — I got baptized. If it he was a hood nigga — I was a gangsta bitch. If he was Mexican — Yo hablo Español. If he had children, I would show up at his house with bags from Toys R’ Us. I did the absolute most — actually, I more that. I was extreme with my bullshit. Till this day, I have a horrific tattoo on my body from the time I was dating an Esé, and he took me to the “tattoo shop” which was really his homeboy’s garage, where people did lines of coke in plain sight and drugs in the side alley.
There I was a middle class-raised, college educated woman, putting myself in the most shitty situations for the sake of being in a relationship. Many times, these were men I thought I could change into someone I could take home to my family to earn my badge in respectable womanhood.
I swear. I did everything and anything to be wifed up. I even forgave men who did me wrong in the most fucked up ways imaginable:
He asked me to “borrow” half my rent money days before it was due, and promised to pay me back the coming Friday. Friday never came. I was left to come up with the rest and deal with late fees on my own, yet I continued to accept his excuses and his dick.
There was a time he was supposed to accompany me to my company holiday party. I had bragged to my coworkers about my boyfriend for months; they were excited to finally meet the “mystery guy,” who dropped me off to work in my car and never picked me up. He remained a mystery by standing me up the day of the event. After that incident, I accepted his lame excuse and continually allowed him to come in and out of my life and my bedroom whenever he wanted, on his terms, in hopes that one day he would change and love me, pick me — validate me
I met while he was visiting Atlanta from the West coast. After fucking him on the first night, we were in a half-assed, long distance “relationship.” He seemed really into me from 2,181 miles afar. He even sent money to pay for a ticket to come see him. He booked a rental car and covered the cost. When I arrived, I called to let him know I made it in town and to get his address. He didn’t answer, he didn’t return any of my text messages. Luckily, I had family in Los Angeles, because he didn’t cover a hotel. I ended up staying with a cousin, who was salty I came to town to see some nigga instead of her. Not only was I humiliated, I was hurt and downright confused. Yet, I reveled in the fact he paid for the trip so surely he cares right? And there had to be some good reason for his absence, right?
There was. I found out several months later when he showed up in my town. When he called, I was happy to hear from him. HAPPY! I was even happier when he asked me if he could come over; not to take me on a date, not to offer an apology for his disappearing act, but come over. He shared that he ghosted me because he felt “I” was moving, too, fast, but now he wanted to move forward and take it slow.
I convinced myself this was a rational explanation and agreed to “move slow” I didn’t want to run him away — again. I didn’t want to put pressure on him. I wanted to be his peace. I wanted him to love me one day. And besides, like my mother and aunties conditioned me to believe, a small semblance of his something was better than his nothing.
His definition of taking it slow was have unprotected sex and the ability to call me at a moment’s notice whenever he was in town. I didn’t even require him to give me an advanced notice he was coming. I just obliged his wishes and dropped anything I had to do on demand. I allowed him to stay at my place, and I cooked him a vegan meal because I was vegan — for him. I even used sick days so I could fuck, feed, and prove my worth to him. And although I had a pretty good job, lived close to family, and was feeling quite at home in Atlanta, in my head, I was prepared to move to L.A. to be with him as soon as he asked. He never asked. One day, he just stopped calling.
I was desperate and dumb. My desperation meant I had no boundaries. Men treat me like shit because I treat myself like shit. I put them first in my life without mere consideration for my own needs. I extended myself far more than they asked. I wasn’t genuine around them. I was whatever they wanted me to be. In my world, I was me, but in their world, I was whomever they requested of me like the “queen-to-be” in Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America.
I was pathetic and they were unimpressed like Prince Akeem was in that movie. Only difference was, when they smelled my desperation, they took advantage. While I don’t take responsibility for them being trash, I take responsibility for being a garbage bag. I learned the hard way, that I set the terms and conditions for loving me, and if the stipulations are low to begin with, chances are men will further lowball me. I’m still new to the idea if validating myself. It’s going to take a whole lot of self-care and unlearning what I’ve been taught, but I’m going to definitely push through. Ladies, we must be mindful of the messages we send our daughters — and what we allow our sons to get away with.
I be writing. I’m aiight with standard English, but poetic with Black Vernacular. I’mma dope dealer, too