Love, Actually.

Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.
— Toni Morrison, Paradise, 1999.

As Black woman who has amassed some level of wisdom, degrees, and wealth, I am tired of “dating”. And I honestly wouldn’t call what I’ve engaged in, that. Dating.

If I pay, I’m “too much of a feminist”.
If I don’t pay, I’m a “fat bitch, eating for free.”
If I don’t go out, I’m “never going to meet someone on the couch.”
If I go out a lot, I’m not going to the right places, or, I’m “not approachable enough”.
If I hold you to a higher standard concerning your treatment of me, I’m “not fun anymore.”
If I hold no expectations and allow you to show me who you truly are, I “didn’t establish enough boundaries then, so they can’t be enforced now.”

(those quotes are real statements that have been told to me.)

There’s so much…too much pressure to find love. To be in love. To sustain love. And to do so during such a young age range. But, not just any love, right? Because, society doesn’t really criticize or discard the woman who doesn’t sustain her platonic relationships. Society doesn’t celebrate the woman who displays and maintains romance in her friendships. Society doesn’t even value the Black woman who loves herself and forbids anyone to love her less than she loves herself.
Culture only heralds the maintenance of romantic, monogamous love. Culture dictates this static storyline for life and love and marriage and children. And if you are unable to either achieve or secure that type of love, you are deemed a failure. You are ridiculed for being broken; not good enough; in need of something…more or less. And the woman is typically targeted as being her own problem, especially the Black woman.

But, how does she balance being open and protecting herself from the careless nonsense of past, present, and future lovers? How does she hold both the hope of new and real romantic, monogamous love and the lessons of love lost and/or betrayed in the palm of her hands? How does she pin down the understanding that past lovers don’t have to define future ones, when doubt from the memory of old patterns swirl all around her mind?

I think about how much of a role vulnerability plays in dating, relationships, and love.
I think about how people are not taught how to be responsibly vulnerable; how to disclose certain truths about ourselves in ways that respect and honor the boundaries of another; how to receive the vulnerability of another in a way that does not leave them regretting ever showing up naked at our emotional doorstep.
I think about how being queer + Woman + Black + spiritual/a follower of Christ forces me to break away from conventional interpretations and understandings of what it means to be in a partnership and in love and fully present.
I think about how I have been the giver and the recipient of callous responses to vulnerability.
I think about how I have been the benefactor and beneficiary of such patience and grace in response to vulnerability.
I think about how neither realities are easy to experience and accept. How it is extremely easy to run away from the call to love. How extremely difficult it is to stay away from the warmth of love. How love breaks you down, into a million tiny pieces, whether you’re in it or not.

This is not a cry for help or a subtle ask to be set up with who you think would be my “perfect match.”
This is more of an excavation of why I think it’s so difficult to find and do and be in love. Especially as a Black woman.
And I am certain that I have in no way scratched the surface of wonder and exploration on this topic.
And, sometimes, I entertain the notion that this is exactly God’s point. This is precisely what God wants me to do: peel back the layers of love until I reach the heart of the matter.
So, here I am on a lifelong quest to understand on a divinely human level, what love really is.


(ps: that pun was unintentional, but I’m keeping it.)

Stella OloyedeComment