I Pledge Allegiance : The Allure of Red Flags

I Spy

 Like the true introvert I am, my guilty pleasure is people watching. And just like any other guilty pleasure (like my “good ice” eaters out there), I know where all the good spots are. Unmatched, at the top of the list in 1st place goes to (drum roll)… the airport. A place that knows no time, no fashion season, and where no one looks at you crazy for drinking at 7am…it is the perfect combination of human interaction. Some relaxed & headed to vacation, others tense from business trips, some with family, while some make their way one deep.

I didn’t think anything could scratch my people watching itch like this until my nephew was born. For those of you who have children, or who have children in your life…you get it. There is something so mesmerizing about watching a little person navigate through the world. Everything is new. A fresh start. But while their experiences may be brand new… they certainly are not. They come pre-programmed with their own personalities, desires, likes, and dislikes. While eating a bowl of something I cant recall, my nephews 1st complete sentence was “I don’t like that.”Pushing the bowl away in protest. At the age of 2 he could clearly and precisely identify what did and did not bring pleasure or satisfaction to him. A line had been drawn. He would rather not eat than to return to the thing that brought him discomfort. A lesson indeed.

So why is it that adults have such a hard time pushing away things and people that are no good for them? I mean if someone treats you poorly (on whatever level) common sense says separate from the thing that causes harm right? Unfortunately, this is not as simple as pushing away a bowl of unfamiliar food. Somewhere between the introduction to solid foods and the introduction to alcohol, things get much more complicated. Because unfortunately…..life happens.

Grandma’s House

So I have this theory. When most people think of the ultimate safe space, a place where your shoulders are down and the sleep is good, grandmas house usually makes ranks pretty high on the list. It doesn’t matter if your grandma lives in a shotgun house or a mansion. It doesn’t matter if she has bulletproof plastic on her sofa, or if she has a big comfy recliner from when big poppa passed away. See a few bugs? No sweat. No cable? Whatever. Have to move that big plastic booster off the toilet before you go to the bathroom? Not even a shrug.  Regardless of the conditions, there is something sacred about this place. It will forever be a fond highlight on our memory reel. It is our normal.

nor·mal (adj) “Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” 

Based on this definition, (thank you Merriam-Webster). It is not actions themselves, but the consistency in which we experience those actions that renders them as normal. And here is where it gets real… it doesn’t take long for something to go from normal to comfortable. A seemingly slight and even minuscule transition, but it is the difference between what is expected….and what is desired

For those of you who grew up in loving and supportive households, congrats you don’t have much to worry about. But for those of us (most of us) our comfort in and desire for dysfunction will be something we battle with indefinitely. 

The Devil Wears Creed

One of the most memorable sermons I have heard to date was entitled “The Devil Wears Prada.” The pastor went on the paint the picture that the devil is not some ugly red thing with a pitchfork. Quite the contrary, he will present himself looking how you like em, talking how you like em, and smelling exactly how you like em. Where all my cologne loving ladies at? (raises hand and both feet). He will present himself at his best (or her best). Because the end game is manipulation, and the best manipulation requires subtlety and finesse (does Kappa shimmy).

Now whether or not you are religious, we can all agree there are people we allow into our lives that have ill motives…or were simply never supposed to be there in the 1st place. It may not be something tangible they want from you like money or sex. It could be something intangible like peace, self esteem, or respect. Some people want association for status, some are just lonely, while others are so emotionally damaged …they are a demolition team of one. No matter what the reason, people always show their true colors eventually. They will give us breadcrumbs and hints along the way. In my own experience, I have never been in a bad relationship that I didn’t see signs of foul play in the beginning. I just chose to ignore them, because unlike my nephew and his bowl refusal…these things were not foreign to me. I was used to it. I was comfortable. Furthermore, something about these relationships felt homey…almost like my grandmas house. (I’m preaching better than y’all shouting in here). Despite the mistreatment, ups, downs, and sometimes disrespect….I was hooked. I had fallen prey to the very thing that was above me on the emotional food chain. But despite my friends and family shooting flair guns and holding up “girl don’t do it” signs… I would defend this dysfunctional comfort at all costs. I had pledged my allegiance and anything else would have been treason. My experiences and the frequency thereof, had taught me that the red flags I was seeing were not a big deal.  I was addicted to the the devil who wore Creed cologne and made my bed to the Harlem shake. (But FR FR…that mess was LIT! Smh, it’s always the ones who ain’t worth not a damn)

Healing

People often say “you attract what you are.” I disagree. It is my belief that we attract what we desire. But more times than not what our heads want and what our hearts desire don’t match. We will tell ourselves we want the good girl, but end up with cousin Faith every time. We will tell ourselves we want a simple guy, but end up giving our number to the 1st bottom grill in a Charger we see. Until we address desire and why were drawn to certain things…it doesn’t matter what our heads want. Desire will always win. This is where I had to have a “come to Jesus meeting” with myself. I had to ask myself some hard questions. I had to look at the patterns of what I was drawn to and redefine what my normal would be. I had to acknowledge that what is good for me, may not be the thing that brings me the most comfort.

I had to reaffirm myself and work to fill holes that I had been subcontracting out for others to do.

(Cues organ & wipes face with brown towel) I’m closing. This required me to do something that my mentor had told me to do years ago… know my absolutes. The things I would not tolerate by any means. The things that didn’t matter if it was the first time they had happened. The things that I would stand on in times of question. I could not be scared to leave. I could not be scared to start over. Because dating is no different than anything else. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. And without a plan, red flags can look like welcome signs.

With love,

A.

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