Was She The Only One?

        Was she the only one? e question popped into my head, and I have yet to ask him. I was about to breathe life into a possibility that I shouldn’t condone in the first place. My interest in this man was shaken, but didn’t ultimately crumble. In this moment in my life, I was getting career oriented. I was focused on making a name for myself, raising my GPA to a 3.5 by graduation, and that’s just the short list of it. I had aspirations of starting a clothing line: sexy, casual and exquisite bodysuits that catered to women of all body types. I wanted to launch a YouTube channel, start taking professional pictures that would allow me to make a statement, in hopes of bringing a different view of what life meant... on what life meant to a minority in more than one sense: black, a woman, not drawn to a specific religion or faith, the list could probably go on. In this moment, the only thing in life I knew for sure was that I just turned 21. When the clock struck midnight, I didn’t feel any different. At that time, it was eleven days into 2016, and it felt like that every thing I experienced, everything I thought I knew about the world, was completely wiped clean. There were no more milestone ages...13, 16 and 18 were things of the past. 21 would probably be the hardest year yet. I wanted to do incredible things, but what I was willing to work hard for in my professional life, I wasn’t ready to give my personal life the same effort, and because of that, I wasn’t sure if it effected my self worth. 

        So when it was brought to my attention that a man that I was dating had hooked up with someone while I was out of town, I didn’t know how to feel. At first I was numb. I held my phone, not particularly staring at the screen or anything for that matter. I asked all of the questions I thought was necessary at the time. d you know her? Are you dating other people or are they one night things? Were you protected?TD’s are very real, and anything I could do to avoid them was in my best interest. On top of that, I thought it was progressive that he could admit something like that to me. That he could tell me the truth, because so far, most men that I’ve been with would rather catch the Zika virus than to tell the truth. So in this case, the truth was in fact a “one night thing” as I put it, that I was the only one that he was dating, the only one, as far as I knew, that he was sleeping with regularly when we had started dating. And because it was all new to us, I felt like I couldn’t be upset. I didn’t want to be upset. I couldn’t afford to be. At the end of the day, I just wanted to be safe if I chose to still date and have sex with him. In a way, the fact that I was the only one he was dating stood out to me more than the fact that he apparently felt the need to hook up when I’m not around. When I consulted some of my friends about it, they all immediately went up in arms about why I was so calm about it. I could see them waving their fingers and shaking their heads, calling him all sorts of names... but I wasn’t angry, and I didn’t think they should have been. But then, I wondered if I should have been, but to me, that wouldn’t have been fair. Their counterargument was that what he did wasn’t fair. Maybe it was a lot deeper than that. I had to do some serious thinking. 

        I had to infer that by his actions, he was neglecting to say something that needed to be said and so was I. In the beginning, I did tell him that all I wanted was his honesty. When we first started dating, he did everything that society says a gentleman should do. He picked me up, opened the passenger’s door to the car, shut it, drove me to the destination, paid for the both of us, dropped me off back at home when the night was over, and a majority of the time, he allowed me to initiate sex. That was very important to me. Having been in situations where I was taken advantage of, I felt like he gave me the choice of whether or not to be intimate, which made me very comfortable. And to go a step further, he booked a hotel room on occasion if there were no other options.

        Then, we started to see each other almost everyday, which scared him to the extent where he’d start flaking. He finally told me that he was unsure about committing, the pains from his last relationship were still heavy on his mind. The infidelity, the lies, the bad blood... and all of that was understandable. He didn’t want to be hurt again, but he let it be known that he still liked me, and didn’t want to disappoint me. 

        Commitment and a serious long term relationship weren’t in the cards at the moment for me either. I had just ended a long­distance relationship that went on for close to two years. Companionship and someone else to have a turn at flicking the bean was in my best interest, but I was adamant that our interactions would not be labelled as friends with benefits. I’ve been down that road and it fucking sucked. I was living in my 20s. I wanted to experience the dating stages. So, if time kept us together, and our bond flourished, then we could deal in a new set of cards that would appropriately fit the situation. At the moment, we both wanted to have fun and share ourselves with one another. The ultimatum was that we both be honest, and just see where it went. At the time that made sense to me, but now I’m not so sure. Was there such thing as a companionship that had all the perks of a relationship minus the commitment? No. When you’re dating someone, and at this point, I think we’re getting a little more serious, there’s a certain level of commitment to be had, and really, the truth was, I didn’t want to feel like I needed to commit if he didn’t want to. I did want the freedom to date other people and participating in things with some male friends when I was in or out of town. I understand the stigma to being single... but when you’ve been chronically dating one person for some time, boundaries start to form, and if they are not acknowledged, they get broken, and when they’re broken, people get angry. Without realizing that at first, honesty was the only thing I meaninglessly asked for. 

        And honesty, I guess is what he gave me, if you don’t want to go into what he should have morally done while I was away. I was well aware that there was thin line between being single and dating. I already assumed that he was seeing other women or had some encounters that called for a one night stand. I mean for Christ sakes, the man was as tall as a horse, treated me like a lady, and was a bouncer at more than a couple of bars around Chicago. He was bound to get the eye from other women. But as soon as he told me that his penis was inside of another woman while I was gone, I instantly cared more about him than I think I ever did, and more quickly than if we had gone on a date everyday consecutively when I returned home. It’s not that I thought that he was disposable. I’d be an awful human being. It was more along the lines of my opportunities with him were now suddenly threatened because his eye was wandering. I just turned 21, which was huge because he was already passed that point. We couldn’t go to bars unless he could get me in or they didn’t card me. I thought about what we’d be like when I returned to Chicago. It was the new year, so spring and eventually the summer heat would come around. I didn’t want to be alone again when Valentine’s Day, spring break and summer vacation came. Then that’s when it hit me. Honesty is much more than admitting something. In order to be truly honest with someone, you have to be honest with yourself. And that’s still not the just of it.

        I honestly didn’t care that I left the man there in Chicago for about a month. I honestly didn’t think too much about what he was going through while I was gone. Just based off of our previous conversations while I was there and while I was away, the life he lives was hard on him. And because I did not share those problems, I didn’t necessarily relate. The only option he had was to assume that I was living my life, that I had flings, that I slept with some of the men that appeared on my Snapchat that he watched every time I posted. I didn’t know that he suspected that I forgot about him and handled my business until he asked me. And until the day he did ask me, I was glad that he was watching my Snapchat stories and texting me at odd hours of the day, because to me, that let me know that he was still interested. We didn’t text every day, most times because he didn’t text me first. When we did text, we didn’t text very long. Some days, I didn’t know what to say to him because all I wanted to say was that I missed him. Some days, I just wanted him to tell me that he missed me. I needed him to miss me because it seemed like in every relationship that I was in, I needed to constantly be reassured that they weren’t going anywhere. I needed to know that I was desirable, that the thought of me would keep them up at night or reflect in their dreams. I wanted him to want me more since I was gone for as long as I was. I wanted him to lose his male instincts and forget that other women had vaginas, breasts and personalities similar to mine. I wanted him to remember what it was like to be with me. At the same time, I didn’t want to miss him because in my mind, that made me vulnerable, which gave him some form of power over me. That insecurity is one that will probably live on forever as long as I am alive. It dates back to the relationship that I had with my father, the relationship I witnessed him having with my mother.

        It was a long journey for me to realize that all men are not abusive, hateful, spiteful monsters. Since my father found it easier to leave me when he and my mother separated, than to fight for me, I instantly associated that behavior to any man that I decide to open up to. And this man that I was dating was no exception. After our first date, I planned out exactly how our second would go and prepared for there to be no second. My father taught me that if he could walk out on me, any other man could do it too. He taught me that now matter how hard I tried, how hard I fought and how hard I loved, that everything was all of my fault if it didn’t work. He taught me that I could be cussed at, disrespected and even hit by other men, and it was up to me to apologize and make it right. He taught me I was disposable. And most of the time, especially in relationships, I overcompensate, I apologize, I stay quiet when I’m upset, because I thought that that’s how I could have a successful relationship, whatever the fuck that is. I mean really, why have we place success and failure in the realm of love and relationships? It doesn’t make any sense. With an attitude of success and failure when it comes to someone you’re dating or are in a serious relationship with, the need to blame, guilt, resentment and other consuming emotions poison something that once felt pure. But if we simply must have success and failure in relationships, time should not be the determining factor of what is success and what is not. It should be how well you were treated, how well you loved, and if it did not work, how well you took what it taught you and applied it to your life, it should be about how well you moved on and bettered yourself.

        Early on, I knew it was hard for him to express his feelings in words. Every time he texted me first, I thought I had won the game of who cracked under the pressure of not hearing from the other first. And though I may have taken the news about his hook­up better than most women would, it didn’t change how I felt about him. Though he didn’t apologize, he asked me if I hated him. How could I? He told me the truth. He understood that that was something that could potentially damage our rapport, and didn’t allow that to silence him. And after all of that, instead of us both just being truthful, we both carry on our insecurities and our walls are still standing strong. And he wasn’t the only one that was being dishonest. I had the biggest facade, possibly committed the ultimate crime from the very beginning. The fear of being walked out on or manipulated by a man influenced my reaction to control things. As long as I controlled how much I cared, how much I loved and how much I felt, there was nothing this man could do to me that would make me feel like I failed. And to take it a step further, how much I controlled my feelings towards him could’ve have caused him to wonder where we stood since the day I left. My constant posting on social media deliberately excluded him. I smiled, I laughed, I featured other men and our closeness, and he watched all of it. I found pleasure in seeing his name pop up on the list of people that were tuning in. He was on the string. He was interested. He was controlled. 

        I realized, that I was more infatuated with dating than I was in dating m. was more concerned with having regular sex with one person, than having sex with m. was drawn into being at someone’s side at the Bulls games, holding hands down Michigan Ave., lifting the armrest and sliding closer to someone as we watch a movie at the theatre, than actually holding hiand, cuddling next to m,eing in a moment, no matter what it was, with m. was in love with the idea of dating, being paid attention to, not having a man that would do the things that he did with and for me, not the experiences, memories and potential love I was making with m. didn’t see him as a person, but as an opportunity to have control, to have the upper hand over a man. And when I saw the person, I looked at him as a person who could potentially disappoint or hurt me. And all of this was because I’m afraid. Afraid that he would lose interest, afraid that I would have feelings for him and it not work out, afraid that we would have feelings and work out, possibly complicating or even jeopardizing my plans for the future I want, or worse, he being dishonest with me, making me believe that he was there for me, when he had his own agenda. I was on a very specific path, and as long as I felt like I was in control of my own feelings, my own choices and ultimately myself, I was okay. So when he told me that he hooked up with the other woman, I immediately wanted to know about how much control she had over him. If they were dating, I’d have to compete for his time. I’d have to worry about him potentially having more feelings for her than for me. But since that wasn’t the case, that he confirmed that I was the only one, I automatically was eerily unfazed.

        So in the end, who really was being dishonest? Was it the man that was probably missing the girl he started dating? He might have been missing her so much, he turned to alcohol to numb the pain, decided to nab a chick he hadn’t spoken to in a while and bust a nut with another human being because his hand was no longer doing the trick? I will never know because he never said that he missed me. But clearly I have a lot that I haven’t said either. Was it deceitful to be more interested in my power over a man than the efforts he made to make me smile? Was I wrong for assuming that he didn’t care because he expresses his interests through his actions and not his words? Was I dishonest for intentionally being absent in order to protect myself from a crime he has not committed yet?

        If I know myself well, instead of asking the question I really want to ask, the next question I’ll ask when I see him is “was she the only one?” Because truly, I don’t want to know, it’ll give me a gauge of how much control I have.

        The only thing I genuinely want to do, is sit beside him and share my first (legal) bar drink with him and say “You know, while I was gone, I thought about you a lot.” Give a bashful smile and maybe lean in a little bit, “I missed you.”

        Because of course, I’d feel safer if I heard a number, or that this woman was the only hook up than to hear that he wasn’t thinking of me while I was away. That he didn’t miss me. That none of our dates mattered, and he was in it to see how well I could get him off.

        Honesty has nothing to do with being safe. So if I asked for honesty, it is only right that I step away from the idea of security and give him the same.

 

Between Books and Broken Hearts

Lauren Crow: The Body Positive Princess