"There are notes between notes, you know." -- Sarah Vaughan

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The importance of being equally yoked

When I first moved to D.C. I was hurting, wounded. I had spent the two years before then dating an attorney whom I thought was supposed to be my husband. He didn't see our relationship in the same way, but this was the height of my delusionional and dysfunctional period so I hung on for too long trying to make it be something it never would because he was all of the things on paper that I had been raised to think a husband was supposed to be: educated, affluent, well-traveled, ambitious. He had political aspirations and I was a reporter fasttracking to newsroom leadership. We had the makings of a power couple and I wanted that life. It was only when I was about to move here that it started to sink in that it was not going to happen.

I came to D.C. determined to have a different kind of relationship with a different kind of dude. I met a couple of guys and went on some dates, but no one who took my mind off of the attorney.

Then I met Caribbean guy. One of my sorority sisters had come to visit and we went to the club. This guy asked me to dance and then hung out with me for the night. When my girl and I decided to move on to the next spot, he asked for my number. I gave it to him and a couple of days later he called. We laughed and joked and discovered we lived down the street from each other. When he asked me on a date to a Wizards game that weekend, I said sure.

We went to the game, which was fun, but because I had moved here from the South, I didn't know what "winter" was, so when we were leaving my coat was open and I had nothing on my head. Caribbean guy stopped and zipped up my coat, tucking me in. I was smitten. Many times in the four years we dated off and on I would think back to that moment and wish he had never touched my coat. That one gesture set us off on a journey we might have otherwise avoided.

Caribbean guy was different from other men I had dated. One, he was Caribbean. Where I grew up down South people were black and white. Not much diversity of ethnicity or culture there. Also, I come from a pretty solidly middle class family where I was raised to follow a traditional path: go to college, start a career, get married to some upwardly mobile man from a good family and have kids.

Caribbean guy grew up closer to the struggle. His hardworking blue-collar family had never owned or lived in a house while he was growing up. Everyone in my family of professionals and entrepreneurs had owned their homes for as long as I could remember. His parents hadn't gone to college. My parents have four degrees between them. He had joined the military after high school, then gone to college because he wanted to pursue a career in a field where he needed traditional credentials. I went straight from high school to college, the military never an option. Mr. Caribbean prided himself on being humble. I had/have entitlement issues.

Now, I know you're reading that thinking, well, so what? I said "so what?" too, because I didn't realize then how much your background and experiences impacted the way you approached life. Up until then, I had been dating men with backgrounds similar to mine.

After the initial phase of rainbows and pink puffy hearts passed we realized that some of those differences were major issues of contention. He was a freelancer (read: paid sporadically) and always thinking up some kind of (LEGAL!) hustle and running off half-cocked. It all seemed shaky to me, as I was used to a 9 to 5 brother. He wanted a down chick who, if she couldn't see his vision, could at least support him pursuing it. I wanted him to see his way to a job with stability, salary and bennies. While he was counting pennies and moving from his apartment to his mom's basement, I was stacking loot. Since I didn't share money with men I wasn't married to, he would drop me off at the airport for my trips to Europe and beyond.

We broke up and got back together and broke up and got back together, but each break just made us respect each other less. He accused me of being bougie and elitist, I accused him of being stuck on broke, too comfortable with living hand to mouth. We were both right.

He wanted to master me, but didn't seem to understand you had to pay the cost to be my boss. My daddy was head of our household cause his money paid for it. Now, I know some will find that distasteful, but I'm just noting it to give you some insight into what I was raised to believe was the norm. Interestingly enough, Caribbean guy's dad was head of the household, too, as his mother was very submissive. We wanted the same thing we just had different visions of how to get it.

The beginning of the end was when I bought my house. Caribbean guy weighed in on every place I saw, on where I was looking to buy, on how much I was spending etc. I listened and then did what I wanted to do, which is exactly what I had intended to do all along because it was my money and my house. He hated me for that and for being able to do what he couldn't do. I hated him for daring to think he could tell me how to spend my money and for not being able to do what I could.

When moving day came, he was mad. My family came up and he didn't lift a finger as a way of "punishing me," which was stupid cause my shit was gon' get moved whether he moved it or not. All those years and he still hadn't figured me out. One monkey never stopped my show. But my people noted this and started individually taking me to the side to tell me this brother was not for me. Despite their advice, I still wasn't quite ready to do what I knew I needed to do.

Then I went home for Christmas. My cousin had bought a great, big, new house and we gathered there for dinner. He asked me to take my grandma home and during the ride, grandma talked to me. She told me how proud she was of me and how she had every postcard I had ever sent her from all the places I had traveled and how she pulled them out sometimes and laid them on her bed to look at them and think about all I had done that she would never do. She told me how proud she was that I had succeeded in my career and now owned my own home.

Then she got down to real business.

Grandma: "I know you want to be married and have babies and I want that for you. But [Caribbean guy] is not your husband. When a man loves you, he will make a way."

For the duration of the ride she talked and I listened. Grandma wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, but hearing her say it made me sad. After all I had done to make her proud, here I was disappointing her with this relationship that didn't even make me happy or meet my needs. I decided I would not start the new year off in this relationship. And when I made that decision a calmness came over me. I went home and a few days later, I broke it off. Caribbean guy didn't take it well though he knew it was the right thing for both of us. We have never spoken again. Ever. I've never regretted it and I'm betting he hasn't either.

I decided to take a break from dating. I gave myself a year and half to clear my head and figure out what it was I really wanted -- not what I had been told I wanted -- and needed in a mate and a relationship.

When I started dating again I did it slowly. I met some good brothers during that time, two who thought I was the wife they were looking for. I remain friends with them. Then I met Mr. SingLikeSassy.

Mr. SingLikeSassy is the head of our household. He's a 9 to 5-er AND a (legal!) hustler. He's also a gentleman. He always opens the door and puts me in the car. He keeps the house cool so I won't be hot even though he is cold-natured. His vision for the future fits enough with mine that we are not working against each other, but instead work together. He puts me first and I put him first. He doesn't need me to submit because I want to -- but he submits to me, too.

We are equally yoked.

4 comments:

  1. professor b9/07/2008

    About time you got to the end of the story!! I was wondering where all this was heading. ;)

    I still say I'm surprised YOU stay with hustle man as long as you did. You noticed I let my hustle man go real quick. LOL!!!!

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  2. I needed to hear that.

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  3. That was a great story! :-D

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  4. professor b8/20/2011

    About time you got to the end of the story!! I was wondering where all this was heading. ;)

    I still say I'm surprised YOU stay with hustle man as long as you did. You noticed I let my hustle man go real quick. LOL!!!!

    ReplyDelete

Use your inside voice ... or I'll put you outside. -- SingLikeSassy