Aww! The boat’s gonna start rockin’ now! Hold on!
I started this blog by sounding off about my frustration about the boxes that we (all of us) seem to want so desperately cram one another into. Well, today I’m daring to publicize a very real, complex, and personal struggle I’m engaged in regarding inter-racial relationships. I know this path is laden with controversy and as much as I may want to play this safe and tread lightly, I’m not inclined to do that. So, please hear me, respond freely, and consider this but one place along a journey that’s barely begun.
At one point (not very long ago) I’d decided that were I ever to consider entering another relationship it would definitely not be with a brother. I was poised to find a Birkenstock-wearing, hockey-playing, co-op- working, vegan-neo-hippie, because to me this spelled: SAFE! And, of course I know I’m kidding myself. There are no guarantees with anyone and despite my best efforts to do what I do best to those things that cause me pain (amputate them), I know I can not eliminate enough humans from my life to ensure pain-free living from here on out. And I’m left having to make choices about the risks I’m willing to take. I’d decided that black men were entirely too risky and that although there are risks with anyone, my experience has taught me that I was more likely to get burned badly by this group than not.
Have you ever seen Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller and Jen Aniston? Ben’s character was a risk analyst. Besides the OCD thing he had going on, I saw a lot of me in what he was hoping to accomplish. He had to choose between two women: one who had already betrayed him, crushed him and another who just inherently went against everything he considered safe or acceptable. What a choice! The head vs. heart thing was not concrete enough for him, so he input the characteristics of each woman into his risk-calculator. His reasoning was that naturally he should go with the woman with the lowest risk threshold. Insane? But I can so relate. (And, besides, what is talking about guys with your girlfriends if not risk management?)
On one hand I have the ‘known:’ brothers (and I make a reasonable argument on my behalf for knowing brothers well—the majority of my contact with men for 32 years) and on the other hand the’ unknown’: Birkenstock Man or any derivative thereof. For so many reasons, the unknown has come up more favorable time and time again as I’ve processed the perceived risk. Am I jaded? Perhaps. Probably. Ok, granted. But what good is experience if we don’t learn from it and avoid making the same mistakes again? And, I’m not thinking of just my own experiences. I keep hearing the same stories over and over again with the same themes, same abuses, same addictions and deceptions over and over and over again. I can’t help but ask myself, “Are you crazy? Why not consider trying something different should you do it again?” The answer: the box!
I wish I felt like I was free to move on with my life and expand my net. But the truth is that I feel the pressure, tremendous pressure that is primarily unspoken to keep it real, not sell out, or stand by our brothers. The truth for me is that not one or two but a lot of brothers have hurt me, terribly, and I am afraid to trust them. But I’m also angry with a community that ostracizes any of us (male or female) who dare to consider relationships outside of our race. Shared experience does not have to breed perpetual limited experience and repeated experience. I don’t think I should be expected to bare the load of the black man’s plight and accept the unacceptable just because I’m a black woman. That devalues me as a person and I am, above all else, a person.
Does this mean that I think all brothers are awful? No, not at all. A handful of the most precious, good, faithful, respectable guys I know are brothers. Each with his own set of issues, but good, decent men who love God, themselves and the women in their lives (and treat them well). I love them dearly and they know who they are. And honestly, it’s this group of fellas that is the impetus for me even bothering to get a dialogue going about my struggle. I want to be careful not to dishonor them. I know they are in my life, in my face to force me to challenge my instinct to go to the chopping block and try to rid my life of pain, to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They are the thorn in my side on the days I want to run. They are my hope for standing still and learning to trust.
So here I am. Struggling with a doozie.
Bring it on! I’d love to hear from you.