Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Desperate Looks Like

My most dreadful love relationship showed up when I was in my twenties. I was lonely and very fearful that I would never find a boyfriend. At 25, I had never been in a serious relationship, had kept my virginity until I was a sophomore in college with very few sexual experiences to follow, and had never had anyone profess their love for they do in the movies. I had convinced myself that I was some kind of freak of nature. During my twenties, there was a great deal of hand-wringing and gnashing of the teeth when I contemplated my love life. You couldn't tell me that I wasn't being punished for being smart and political. No one wants the brainy chick who owns "more books than clothes." And because I could never pull off fake giggles at corny jokes from some of the men I would date, I just knew no man would ever want to get to know me.

Then I met Derek (not his real name). I think we first met while I was in college. Later, I would see him in NYC at a protest or an organizing meeting. He was attentive, charming, serious-minded, industrious, an activist...and married. His marriage was in divorce mode, he'd moved into his own apartment, and his wife and he only spoke if it pertained to their two children. He was free to date, so we did.

I was so happy to be validated, to matter to someone. It's a beautiful thing to see someone's face light up when you walk into the room. I was in heaven...and a little too happy.

Emotions can be very disorienting. I was so into not being single that I ignored the warning signs about Derek. I watched him con people, tell lies, and jip people out of their money. I'd challenge him about all this and he always had a comeback that somehow linked his actions to our 400 years of oppression here in AMERIKKKA. Somehow, his stealing from "the man" was more about reparations than it was about being out of integrity. I made that make sense and I rationalized that all his lying was reserved for OTHER people. Derek would never do that to me. We're activists on the same team, I thought. "Love can make you do wrong."

Fast forward to the end of that relationship: Derek ended up cheating on me; swindled me out of about a $1,000; forged a wedge (temporarily) between me and my father; and then went around the community telling our friends and colleagues that I was crazy. His spiral downward, in community stature and in many other ways, went into free fall soon afterwards. It would soon be revealed that he was conning not just "the white man," but anyone who crossed his path. Other women, unlike me (who was too insecure about speaking out), began to talk publicly. One of them, I think, went on a talk show. After this, the community was all aflutter. His lies were showing up in so many ways. After a while, he simply fled NY and is someone else charming folks via forked tongue.

My love lesson in all this? If you are desperately looking for love, love will demonstrate what desperation looks like. To be desperate is to be "reckless or violent because of despair." With Derek, I had recklessly abandoned what my head told me about this dude...just because I didn't want to be single and alone. I'm so grateful to have lived to learn better. And I'm grateful that my subsequent relationships have be 100% healthier. They didn't all work out, but everybody after Derek was a big improvement...mostly because I grew to be more secure about who I am and what I have to offer.

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