‘together●ish: Navigating Through Ambiguous Relationships (Part 1)

This is by far one of the most complex issues in dating today. I decided to take a deep dive and break it into parts. I thought it was only fair I start with my own story. (Mannie Fresh voice) Ladies and gentlemen, boys are girls, little children, dogs and cats…. I give you part 1.

Protege Music

My sister and I, are six years apart. Due to this age gap, she was often delegated the responsibility of my care. She picked me up from school, dropped me off at my friends house, helped me with my homework, went to my choir performances, the whole nine. Now before ya’ll give her an Olivia Pope white hat … she also locked me in a shed, put me in the dryer and tried to turn it on, locked me in the fireplace, and left me in a dark basement while she played a pre-made recording stating the she was the devil and was going to get me. (I peed like 3 drops I was so scared lol.)

We have always had a better than normal relationship. But even though it was better than normal, her being my “parent by proxy” often took a toll on the both of us. It wasn’t until she got her first car that our relationship started to change in dynamic. It was a white 2002 Mazda Protege and we both loved her equally. Growing up in a house where the air was either thinner than Denver or thicker than New Orleans, the Protege was our key to escape. We went from being forced together, to choosing one another. We used any and every excuse to get out of the house. Her in the driver seat, me in the passenger with a book of CDs in my lap, and her favorite stuffed Spongebob safely strapped in the back.

I fell in love with music in that car. I learned to appreciate the tiny and seemingly insignificant details hiding in the background. My sister would often rewind the same 5-10 seconds of a song screaming “DO YOU HEAR THAT?” We listened to everything from Alanis Morissette to Mos Def. But there was one that reined supreme. We knew every word, pause, adlib, both to the studio and live versions. The soundtrack to our sisterhood.

Destiny Fulfilled

See I know we not official (no)
But us being official ain’t never been an issue
It came down to us
Boy remember we were different
We said that we’d talk
If we ever had problems about anything
I was cool with no commitment (wait)
Let me take that back
It was you so I was with it (see)
Guess I didn’t get
When you showed you didn’t miss it
Now it seems that your interest ain’t here
And we ain’t the same

For those of my readers who are DC3 (Destiny’s Child) fans, these lyrics need no origin. However, for those of you who may not be so familiar, this is the second verse of “Is She The Reason“, from their farewell Destiny Fulfilled album. The song tells a story explaining the amount of hope she had in the relationship. The potential she saw. Then she started to see changes in him, tried to love him back to where they were, and ultimately finds out there’s another woman. The song then goes on to take an air of frustration. There was a feeling of being led on. A feeling of anger and despondence, due to the lack of honesty he had about his true intentions and what he really wanted. All of this resulting in the perfectly sumized (it’s a word to me) final line, “Got me feeling like I wasn’t good enough.”

(reiterates slowly) Got me feeling like I wasn’t good enough. This statement resonates in my soul. The weight of it is unavoidably felt like 808 when the beat drops. Something about these words excavate every moment of feeling less than. From bad relationships, to being picked last for the dodge ball team in 3rd grade. The feeling of inadequacy is often an indelible one. Because of this, we will often do everything in our power to never end up in this place again. Even if it means placing ourselves in situations that are not optimal or advantageous… we will fight with all our might to feel worthy.

Play Me For Your Heart

My favorite part of the verse above, is when she says “I was cool with no commitment, let me take that back, it was you so I was with it.” Baby that’s real sh*t. Because if were honest, I mean REALLY honest, none of us are intentionally searching for something unofficial. It is not a destination, it’s just somewhere you end up, like Grambling State University … I mean Community College. But really though, if it is not what we want…why do we do it?…

There is no one answer for this question. No one thing that buys us a one way ticket to the land of relational ambiguity. For some, it’s hope. For others, it’s the feeling they won’t be able to get another person like the one their dealing with. There are those who have told themselves “something is better than nothing” so much they believe it. For some it’s the sex. For others, it’s not wanting to start over. For some people, it is the fear that their current situation is as good as it gets. For me… it was my infatuation with a good story.  

April 16, 2000. The release date of the oh so classic movie, Love & Basketball. My life was forever changed when I walked out of that theater. At only 10 years old, I remember thinking I still had a little over a year to learn how to play basketball and get my skills together. Because how else was I supposed to meet the love of my life?

Seven years later, I met a guy. We met through a mutual friend and instantly clicked. We were complete opposites. I was nerdy, inexperienced, and sheltered by the gates of the suburbs. He was also very intelligent, but at a young age had experienced more than most adults, living on the other side of the railroad tracks where there were no gates to provide shelter from the realities of the world. We talked every night, often pushing ourselves to the limit ending up in an age old game of “you sleep? Nah you sleep?” I started taking him to church with me, after which, I always had a new taco spot I wanted to try. We were genuine friends and it was perfect. But with senior year coming to a close, this perfection was fleeting….

One Sunday, during out normal routine, I told him I had chosen where I would attend college. When I told him where, he just looked at me….shocked. Before I could ask him what the look was about, he responded “me too.” I COULD HAVE DONE THE SOLDIER BOY DANCE RIGHT THERE! It was officially my very own Love & Basketball. This was pre-Pintrest, but I was already planing our wedding in my head.

Fall quickly approached, and when we arrived on campus, needless to say there was no love and no one on one games playing for each others heart. I would enter into what would end up being a five year relationship, and he would end up busy being a student athlete, playing the field on and off the clock. (He was a hoe, I was trying to find a clever way to say he was a hoe lol.) But five years, a degree, and a failed engagement later, he called me. Excited to hear from him, he proceeded to pour his heart out to me. He made it plain that I was always the one he loved, but that he always had bad timing. I was in my early 20’s but this conversation made me feel like I was 17 again, up talking late on my LG flip phone, looking out the window. Just like that, the sparkle was back.

So we started dating…or so I thought. When we were together everything was great. We would spend hours in deep conversation, talking about any and everything that was on our minds. We often reminisced about the days when we were young and the time we spent. But when we weren’t together, he was distant. He would be short and very delayed responding to my messages, became slow to initiate calls, and time spent just didn’t feel the same.

Long story short, I would come to learn that he didn’t want an “official” relationship at the moment. He just wanted to “chill” and see where it went. See where it went? At this point we have known each other all of our adult lives and you want to see where it goes? Despite everything in me screaming “GIRL LEAVE HIM ALONE!” I persisted. I put on my Bob The Builder uniform…and got to fixing. I was set on campaigning for a role I would never attain.

Past, Potential, & Reality

We were not together… he made that very clear. So I started dating. I mean that’s what single people do right? When he learned of this, he began to attack my character. It was his belief that I should be “acting like were together” so he could know I was “for real.” Meanwhile, he was doing the same thing I was..but somehow that was different.

Now I do agree with him to a certain extent. I feel like relationships are like sleep… you gotta pretend to do it in order to really get there. However, this should be a joint effort. But what was going on here was just manipulation. He basically wanted me to prove myself worthy of the title of being his girlfriend, and felt no need to the same himself. This is toxic AF, but common. I would love to say that I called him on his egotistical BS and moved on…but it’s just not the case. I was so obsessed with our story, with who I knew him to be all those years go, that I had completely ignored and neglected who had had become and was today. It would be years ( I’m not going to say how many lol…the shame) before I would finally break away from this parasitic cycle. It would be years before I would separate past from potential, and most important reality.

Part 2 next week!

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