Love is a powerful emotion and it’s important to remember to love for love, not for any other reason.
I remember when I was in 7th or 8th grade, I liked a guy. I think his name was Ted if I remember correctly. He was sweet. He was a little dorky like me. We could talk easily. Ted finally asked me to go “steady”. Going steady back then might not seem like a big deal by today’s standards, it was pretty tame. You might hold hands. You might eat lunch together. You might kiss but the intermediate schoolgirl in me probably wouldn’t have gotten much further. I was so excited. I was going steady with the boy I liked. Life was good.
For about an hour.
Like most girls, I went and told my friends. I knew they would be excited with me. They should have been. Interestingly enough, they weren’t mean to me, but they WERE mean ABOUT Ted. Girls can be rough. They couldn’t understand why I would want to go out with him. He’s soooooo weird (spoken in true grade school voice). Sadly, they convinced me I shouldn’t WANT to go steady with him. My going steady lasted the whole some of three hours and I
lost hurt a friend. Something I regret until this day. I don’t even know what happened to him, I hope he’s happy. I hope he’s successful. He’s probably some rich, intelligent millionaire!
Things happened throughout my school years that kept me from WANTING to date. It would seem like anytime I met someone who made me happy, someone else would step in and say something and mess it up. I would watch my friends go in and out of relationships, I would see them lose a male friend because their new “boyfriend” didn’t want them hanging out with another guy. I decided dating wasn’t worth the headache. I was happier being “one of the guys” than I was dating a guy. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I was turning down a lot of offers. I was pretty shy. I hid it well, so well most people don’t realize I can be shy even today. The ironic thing is, all these years later and I’m still more comfortable hanging out with men than most women.
Fast forward to 10th grade. A friend of mine had a cute cousin. He asked me out. I WANTED to say yes, but again, someone else’s opinion affected my decision. This time it was a respect thing. This young man happened to be black. My dad wasn’t racist. He was older and felt people should date within their race. It wasn’t a black and white thing, it was ANY race. He felt it was better for the children. Perhaps back then there was some truth to it. It was easy for me to say, “I’m flattered but out of respect for my parents, as long as I live under their roof, I won’t go against them.” Looking back, I don’t regret it, because I still feel like family is the most important people in our lives and sometimes you have to do something you might not want to out of respect.
I went on to date and marry the man who was to become my husband, then ex husband. I don’t want to dwell on him because we should have never married in the first place. He showed me love by showering me with gifts and attention. He was a show boat. He wanted everyone to look at him and say how lucky I was to be with him. Honestly, I didn’t even like who I was when I was with him. We divorced and I was single again.
I was hurting after my divorce. I refused to show my family how hurt I was, I felt like I was a failure. I had picked the wrong guy…..again. This time with no outside influences, just the opposite really. Everyone loved him. Loved him for me.
I dated, a LOT, following my divorce. I don’t even know if dating is the right word, because sometimes I couldn’t even remember the name of the guy I was at dinner with. He didn’t matter to me. I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to be single, but I didn’t trust myself to get invested emotionally with anyone.
Interestingly, every guy I dated after my divorce was black. It wasn’t a defiant thing, it was an attraction thing. (To set the record straight, by this time, my dad had changed his opinion somewhat about interracial dating) One day my ex (he was my boyfriend at the time) said to me, “You know, if we every break up, you’ll never date another white man, you just aren’t attracted to us” and he was right. I wasn’t attracted to HIM. I loved him but not the way a woman should love a man, he started out as a friend and figured out how to make me love him so he could have the ideal world. But remember, he was PERFECT for me, according to everyone else.
I was fortunate to date some great men over the years. I never let them close to me emotionally because I didn’t want to get hurt, but I can still say they were great men.
What I find strange about our society is the way we judge one another’s relationships and compare the couple in terms of society attraction. I have always been overweight. I don’t hide it. I don’t make excuses for it. I work out, I lose weight, I gain weight. I won’t say I yo-yo because it can be over years for the up and down to take place. Interestingly enough, I was attracted to athletes, especially those with the linebacker build. If I dated someone society viewed as “hot” people would wonder why he was with me. For some reason, our society accepts “hot” women dating overweight guys with no problem, but they do not want to accept a “hot” guy dating an overweight woman. Another example of things wrong with our society.
I didn’t let this bother me. If I was with the “hot” guy, I was just happy because I had the hot guy. Oddly enough, sometimes the hot guy was with me for my personality but I couldn’t stand his! I would be bored. My mind wasn’t stimulated so my heart couldn’t be. I fell in and out of relationships so fast back then, my family started calling them the flavor of the week. I didn’t like the reputation or the connotation, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Every now and then, a guy would get me to calm down. I would actually put in an effort to have a relationship. The only problem was, again, they would be approved by my family or friends, or both, but they wouldn’t be approved by me. Not always through any fault of my own. Sometimes they were just bad boyfriends.
I moved out of Michigan and when the person I thought was going to move with me couldn’t at the last-minute, I decided to restructure my life. I didn’t want to go back to the “flavor of the week” mentality but I also didn’t want to settle for someone who treated me poorly. How do you find the balance?
I didn’t. I was lonely here. No family, no friends, travelling for work all the time. I’m shy. I’m an introvert but keep it hidden. I fell for the handsome guy that could spin words so well I believed we were going to be together forever. I had a good job, was alone down here, and I let him take advantage of my loneliness. Not once in four years with him did he EVER pay for a meal. We would go on vacation, he wouldn’t pay for a thing. He would constantly tell me how much I would have to change in order for him to move from love to something permanent. I convinced myself I believed in what he was doing and the best way to help him was to support him however I needed to. He was cute, I liked being with him but more than that, I didn’t know anyone else here in Kansas City, so I put up with way more than I should have. The best thing to ever happen to me was cutting ties with him.
I stopped travelling for work. I started making friends. REAL friends. The funny thing about having friends is, they have opinions and their opinions mattered more than I wanted to admit sometimes. If I found a guy cute and they didn’t, I would wonder if I REALLY thought he was cute. If I went out with a guy who was average by society standards, but made me laugh, made me happy, I felt I had to justify why I went out with him. If one of my female friends even wrinkled their nose a little, or said, “eh, he’s ok” I would defend WHY I liked him.
As a woman, I was just as guilty. If my friends would start dating someone and I didn’t find him attractive, I would do the same thing. I would make a face, and then I would hear a reason why she was dating him. I think it would be great if we could all just be happy for our friends and enjoy the journey.
As I have gotten older, I have learned the “perfect man” isn’t any one particular age, particular height, particular race. The perfect man for me doesn’t have to be approved by any of my friends because they aren’t feeling what I’m feeling. I have also learned he doesn’t have to match my past preferences. He does have to match my present preferences, but those preferences are so different from before. I’ve also learned to be strong for myself. I don’t date just to date. I tell the man goodbye when I see he isn’t the one for me.
Over the last few years, I have also learned attraction isn’t about perfection. Attraction, true attraction, comes from the heart. It doesn’t have to come with your friends approval of attraction because. I find a smile sexy. I find eyes that look at me like I am the most important person to them a turn on. I find the fact I WANT to be around them longer than an hour or two heart melting.
I have also learned to value myself. I learned not to wait with the hope something will get better. If it starts out poorly, it isn’t going to get better. Some men have the ability to spin words until you start feeling like you are the crazy one. Don’t fall for it. You know it will be the same words tomorrow from him. If he gives you a list of things to change about yourself, start with the most important one, changing the status of your relationship.
Love is happiness. Love yourself first. If love doesn’t happen for you today or tomorrow, it’s ok. Embrace who you are today. If you are in a relationship and you feel devalued, re-evaluate the relationship. Life is too short.
Most of all, don’t let anyone mess up your “steady” moments with a nose wrinkle or an unkind word. Follow your heart, YOUR heart, and when you meet the one who steals your heart, you will find him the most handsome man you have ever met, and you won’t even WANT to justify why because it’ll be obvious; obvious to you, to him, and to the world.