This time of year seems to turn on the reflecting button.
I posted my notes to a younger self earlier this week and was going to post more, but changed my mind and decided to write about relationships, marriage, men and women, divorce, remarriage, and the rest.
When I was younger, I didn't think much about guys. I was too busy reading and surviving my step-mother. I already wrote about my first encounters with men. I do remember my first kiss, that was endearing because it was when I was about 11 and he was a fellow minister's kid. Just a little peck on the lips and that was the end of my romantic endeavors.
As I got older and once I encountered men in the sexual way, I understood something very profound about them - they lose their minds over what is between a woman's legs. It doesn't matter who they are, men are very visual and sexual beings. For that matter, women are also. And since sex is like chocolate, as I taught the teenagers, once tasted, it is always a big part of one's life.
It is not the only part and many relationships are ruined by a guy (or a gal) only wanting a role in the hay and not wanting to sit down for coffee the next day (hey, I rhymed, as my daughter would say!) Anyway, it is part of it, but without the emotional connection and the commitment, it is just a physical act.
My daughters will date one day. My son is dating. I taught all the boys that no means no. That there are other ways to express love without sex and that once they do start having sex, to be honorable and respectful to the young lady - and safe. I also taught them that if they do it without protection and a child ensues, they will do the right thing and take care of their child - and they will also establish paternity. I also taught them that just because they take a young lady out to the movie or dinner, she does not owe them sex, a lesson that some men still haven't figured out.
When people get older, expectations change and shift with the circumstances. I remember being in college, after I healed from Cory, and was settling into my post-baby life. I never expected to have another child and faithfully took birth control. I was also dating someone from my hometown that I cared about deeply. Everyone thought we would get married. I broke it off, I knew if I married him, that I would never get out of that town and that I couldn't stay there. Years later, I was there for a visit, and I was right, he was still living in that town and hadn't fulfilled the promise that was in him. I wanted more for my life.
I've also learned that it is okay to walk away from love if deep down you know that love is detrimental to you. That is something that struck me so vividly when I watched the movie, For Colored Girls. The woman deeply loved the man, "since we were 14" and when she started taking steps to own her personhood, he killed her kids. The thing that kept her bound was his pleas about no one would love her like him and that they were connected.
Sometimes connections have to change.
When I got divorced from my first husband, it was something I agonized over. I had witnessed my dad stay in a relationship because he had already been divorced and widowed and since he was a minister, he feared what people would think if he divorced again. He was also projecting forward for when his illness would overtake him and I've learned that something men fear more than not having sex, is getting older alone.
I called my dad and counseled with him before I filed for divorce, this was after I immediately left the house and took measures to protect the boys. There was the religious tug of war happening in me. My mother's side was Catholic and those women weren't with their husbands, but weren't divorced either. I didn't want to live in a limbo.
The years after that divorce I spent focusing on my boys. I rarely dated and when I did, I didn't give them access to my boys. I wanted a family for them, a home, and something much more than someone offering crumbs from the table. Love and true connection deserves the entire cake.
There were times when I really just wanted companionship, a dinner partner, someone to walk along the beach and share in that moment of life, and they wanted something else. Much like the woman in the film when she thought dinner and he thought sex. Ntozake Shange told black men to come to the film with a notepad and write down everything not to say or do to black women, such as saying let's have dinner when what they really mean is let's have sex.
I think being older gives me the perspective of a rearview mirror. That is a benefit of age. I am a good student, have always been observant, and being a writer, am always reflecting, overthinking as my husband sometimes says. It is good to look back and learn and then teach those lessons forward.
I am watching my sons grow in their relationships and can say that I am proud of the men they have become. This makes me know as a mother that my sacrifices were worth it.
Perhaps watching the movie and preparing to see the stage production still has me in this place of looking at relationships, at men and women, at marriage and divorce, at courting and dating, and continuing to learn lessons along the way.
My love is too giving to have thrown back in my face.