**Last week I had the pleasure of giving a bigger audience a small window into the storyline you all have allowed me to share on here when I guest blogged for Very Smart Brothas. This post expounds on that, so feel free to pop over before continuing!
I was tired.
I sat across from him blank-faced, having tuned out his conversation at least twenty minutes ago. He never noticed. I had done everything right, I told myself. I had done everything right.
It was the exact center of summer. Having conjured up a thoughtful birthday gift for a man that in all honesty could barely be considered a friend, much less a boyfriend prospect, he decided to finally take me out on a proper outing. Before this I endured the dinner date-where he split the bill 50-50 and I only had an appetizer; or the movie date where he neglected to meet me outside (as he, having bought his ticket, was already in the theater), or the day-party, where he spent the majority of the evening dancing with my friend. What could I say? These were the first dates I’d had in months, and when he wasn’t being an ass, he would listen. Listen to me talk for hours about my life and lost love and how I ended up here. We’d converse on everything and nothing, about life and goals and the state of Black America, from the view of first-generation Americans. He loved my natural curls and would play with them endlessly. I needed his approval, his approval to make everything people said I was “doing wrong” sound stupid. “See? I could be ‘me’ and still find someone!”
But the talk sessions became shorter and shorter and his schedule less available, and instead of pulling back like a smarter person would, I gave more. Stayed by my phone, ready to change my plans if by some off chance he called. Ran the occasional errand. Changed up my appearance, as if being more attractive to his friends would make him more attracted to me. And where did this get me? Across the table in this gorgeous restaurant, listening to him muse on all the wonderful things I had done. “I really value your opinion,” he enthused. Right before asking me for some quick advice-for another girl he was seeing. After all, we have a great connection-he just wanted to tread lightly, as he didn’t want to make the mistake of falling too quickly simply because the first girl he hung out with he had an awesome connection to. I was a baseline, the standard. I just wasn’t the girl. I, in the dead of summer in heels, full makeup and straightened hair puffing in the humid breeze, had pretty much had enough. The human body can only bend so far before it breaks, and that was my breaking point. I politely excused myself to the restroom and never returned.
It was two weeks before my birthday.
I don’t want to hear it, y’all. Blah, blah, “you only get what you allow”, yadda yadda, snooze. You’d be surprised what you will put up with when you believe yourself to have no options. And that’s where I was. So I did the only thing I could do-I removed the one option I had control over. Myself. I dedicated the rest of the summer to self-care, starting with my birthday.
See, between the Dutch dates and red velvet pancakes, I still hadn’t learned. Effort in, effort out. I was still giving advanced level efforts for remedial reciprocation. The problem was me.
I scaled back. Stopped being available to others at my detriment. Stopped putting in all the overtime for people who wouldn’t even clock in. I wasn’t exactly popular, but I was unapologetic. Everyone needs the occasional selfish summer, and this was mine. And then a funny thing happened;
People started showing up.
It isn’t selfish to create boundaries and stick to them. In fact, it’s pretty egotistical to think people cannot function without your never-ending assistance. I promise a ‘no’ doesn’t hurt as much as you think it will. While I never believe you “teach people how to treat you” depending on what you allow (as that would mean that for all humans, the standard baseline for treatment is well, shit, and you only work up from there), you absolutely can teach a person to take you for granted. We take our parents for granted all the time as children, as we believe they’ll always be there no matter what. And, just as when your parent allows you to suffer the full weight of a mistake without their cushion, all people in your life have to learn. This residence does not come with a revolving door.
Now? You get effort for effort. If you are interested, so am I. If you cannot be bothered, neither can I. I am what I am, take it or leave it. And I’ve never felt better.
And where did that leave my love life? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading….