By: Gabrielle Perry
“I love you…”
Imagine standing in front of a man you’ve deemed your heart’s desire, your true love, professing that love, and him telling you “Okay.” This was the situation I found myself in. This man knew everything about me, secrets I will take to my grave, and was present during the hardest time of my life. By all accounts he was the perfect guy: handsome, kind, successful. Hell, we even sang in our church’s choir ensemble together and yet here he was looking at me with the dead eyes of indifference.
Not exactly the stuff fairy tales are made from. From that day to this one, a plethora of emotions have riddled me. I felt everything from embarrassment to seething anger to deep sadness and the most important…gratefulness. Why am I grateful that my ex stabbed me in the heart? Because had he not I would have been sentenced to a life of mind-numbing boredom and mediocrity. And there is nothing worse than settling for a life, or a love, half-lived.
Growing up, I was never the little girl playing “wedding” or “house” with her Barbie dolls while dreaming of the day I would have my own. I grew up with a mother who told me every single chance she got how ugly, fat, and nasty I was. Finding love one day was something she made sure I took off the table of my mind very early. By taking my emotions out of the equation of each relationship I found myself in, I was able to see romantic relationships more clearly, especially amongst my Black brothers and sisters.
According to statistics gathered in the last decade by the Center for Disease Control, Black women are more likely to cohabitate, have a cohabitation relationship end, and less likely to marry by age 30. We are also more likely to have a shorter marriage if we do marry for both our first and second marriages, and we are even less likely to have a successful second marriage.
Why is this the case? Why are Black women less likely to find and sustain love? Is it centuries of self-hatred poured into our souls by society convincing us we have to accept the bare minimum from a man? Is it an unwillingness to look beyond our hearts and see our significant others for whom they really are, flaws and all? Is it a lack of traditional standards?
In the social media age, one seemingly only has to have a high follower count and lots of material possessions to “Twitpic” to be considered the pick of the litter. After all, we are the generation of “Netflix and chill,” where classic courtship has been replaced by lazy communication, lack of thoughtfulness, and the implication that a woman can be measured in value by the amount of money you spend on a date with her.
Not only is this all too common, but social media has taught us that women should be grateful for a man even deigning to partake in this idle indulgence. In 2015, dating is now “talking,” and “talking” could be anything from “sexting” to cohabitation. But do the changing times explain the long-standing struggle for Black women to love and be loved satisfyingly in return?
For myself, I was just so elated that a man looked twice at me in my early adulthood that I would have fought tooth and nail to keep him and accept him any way I could get him. But at what point do you ask yourself “Am I happy?”
While other little girls planned their weddings, I planned world domination. I wanted to walk amongst kings and leaders of nations. I wanted to excel academically and professionally to heights no one had ever seen. I wanted to cure diseases, get my doctorate, travel the world treating the ill and living a life that would leave a legacy of grace and humanity. But with him I would have settled.
For him I would have gladly given up my grandiose dreams if he asked. I would have settled for going to church every Sunday, dinners a couple days out of the week, and an unremarkable life in Louisiana as an engineer’s girlfriend. I would have settled for all of this and tattooed the word “happy” on my forehead, even for a man that, in retrospect, I wasn’t even attracted to.
My ex’s rejection of me purged me from all fear of seeking out the life and love I richly deserve. Because of it, I knew I was better than mourning a “love” I didn’t even want. I was better than putting myself second and playing sidekick to a man unworthy of me at my full potential. These days, access to my heart comes at a high cost, and it’s a price that I set. What you require from others, what you exude from within, is what you will inevitably attract. Exude the confidence and self-assurance you were born with and you will eventually attract the right person.
My deepest desire is for you, the woman reading this who finds herself in a similar predicament of self-actualization, to realize your full potential. As screenwriter and author of best-selling novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Stephen Chbosky once said, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” It does not matter what you have been told, who told it to you, what’s happened in the past, who broke your heart, how long it’s taken you to put it back together, or even if you’re still wounded…insist upon happiness. And never settle for less than you rightfully deserve.
About the Author:Gabrielle Perry is a devout Christian, senior college student, fitness fanatic, and every other characteristic of an ABC Family after school special. She plans to cure diseases one day but publishes her innermost thoughts as a different kind of medicine for people. Follow her on Twitter @GeauxGabby