If you can't love yourself...
How the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen!" - Rupaul
What do we learn from our first loves?
That it was rushed too soon and we didn’t know what we were signing up for.
We were in the relationship for the sake of being in a “relationship” not truly understanding what that means.
Or, that heartbreak is a bitch.
I fell in love with him at the tender age of 20, without knowing too much about relationships. I could only reference what they showed in the movies. It was dramatically hot with a ton of sex, relationships solve deeply embedded personal problems, and everything *almost* works out in the end because of ‘love.’
Going through so many ups and down with this person, I felt they were my soulmate–or at least I would envision them in my life for the long-term. Our relationship was going smoothly until it wasn’t. We abruptly split after a heavy, dramatic year and a half together.
The plan was to keep radio silence between us. I fucked that up within a week after having an anxiety attack and calling him to console me.
Why did I call him? Well, he was my person I regularly, habitually went to for emotional support and understanding. Of course, he calmed me down and we were talking as if we hadn’t broken up. However, I was keenly aware that we did because of the unsettling throb in the back of my heart feeling ashamed to have called him after we agreed not to speak to each other.
I called him a second time, to tell him I understood where I fucked up after talking with my therapist that evening, he didn’t give much of a reply and didn’t contact me afterward.
I called him…. a third time. I had saw a bug in my apartment, my bedroom specifically, and I was terrified because I couldn’t find it to kill it–I knew he’d know what to do. After a few excruciating moments to stop myself from calling him, I pressed the dial button on his contact.
He gave me what I needed: a person who listened, calmed me down and told me what to do next. He also gave me something I didn’t need or want to know (but I asked about it anyway); within less than a month of us breaking up, he slept with someone.
Now, I do understand the arrangement of a breakup. Both parties are allowed to sleep with whomever and the other person can’t get mad about it. I wasn’t particularly mad, just hurt and upset. That was something I couldn’t have him console me on. To avoid self-destruction, I left my apartment to go for a walk.
* * *
I ended up on 116th Street and 7th Avenue at an African market a women told me about previously that day. I strolled around looking for cowrie shells at a price I was willing to pay.
I made my purchase and didn’t know what else to do. So, I started walking toward 6th Ave. Then 5th Ave. I stopped by a taco shop to get my first meal of the day at 4 P.M.
I typed into my Google search bar, Why do men get over women so easily?, while I waited for my food. To provide some kind of justification for his actions, I perused every article with the topic of recent ex’s readily sleeping with another person.
Some articles said it was because he was hurt by the relationship, too, and used sex as a way to cope. Other articles said it was because he was over me and I should just get over him. I also saw that post-relationship sex serves as a way for him to reaffirm his self-esteem and confidence.
None of those reasons gave me any solace. I continued walking from 5th Ave. all the way to 1st Ave. only to find a highway with no benches close by to sit and reflect. I walked back toward 7th and ended up at Central Park overlooking a pond searching for answers before my phone died.
* * *
That night I downloaded Tinder–it was the fastest track, I knew, to find a hookup. I first looked at the long history of unanswered chats from over a year ago. I couldn’t obviously respond to them so I decided to change my bio and start swiping right on guys I found attractive enough to fuck.
Recognizing my dire need to build up my confidence after that hurtful blow from earlier, I realized I couldn’t reclaim my self-esteem by how many guys swiped right on my profile and messaged, “R u dtf?”
I did end up going on a Tinder date the next day. When he popped up in my inbox, I realized I had swiped on his profile in the frustration of just trying to find someone to validate my existence. After doing the preliminary “this person doesn’t seem crazy” portion, I agreed to go on a walk that he suggested.
Every woman should know this, but I repeat: ALWAYS tell a friend you’re going out to meet a stranger from the internet.
We met up at a nearby park. When I first saw him I realized I hadn’t gotten to know someone new in an uncomfortably long time. I rapidly was trying to figure how to seem as approachable as I did via text.
While we were out, I noticed a handsome guy, around my type, smile at me while he was unlocking his bike. Believe me, if I weren’t already hanging out with someone, I would have totally fallen for the bait and talked to him. Within the next few blocks, three fine men strolled passed us looking me up and down in an “I’d definitely fuck her” way. I took that as a compliment.
After telling him I was a horrible texter (bad move, because he never texted me–ever) I walked triumphantly back to my place. Four guys, who I actually thought were fuckable, showed me attention. It proved, to my ego, that I wasn’t a whale sized piece of shit–I was actually a petite girl with a slim waist and a great fashion sense.
* * *
Clothes, unused napkins, and bullshit were scattered across my living room.
I began to clean up my apartment. Crusted toiletries that I would never use, old clothes that I hadn’t worn in over a year, and badly expired food were thrown out.
While cleaning my bedroom, I got the idea to switch around the furniture. I had to either sacrifice door space so that my bed could turn into a different position or sacrifice my sanity by looking at the same room. I decided a foot or so of door space wasn’t worth the joy I’d get from walking into something “new.”
* * *
I wouldn’t have someone else to validate my attractiveness, so I decided to get a tri-fold mirror to look at myself from every direction. I was focusing on trying to occupy my time because it was clear my ex had moved on–or just wanted to move on from me.
I didn’t want to pay full price for a mirror. I bought three mirrors from IKEA, along with some tri-fold mirror hinges from Amazon and decided this girl was going to learn how to assemble something without instructions.
* * *
Rummaging in my closet, I found some old clippers he left. I was in a dire need of a haircut and I had recently decided I didn’t want to travel an hour and a half to Brooklyn to see my barber. I’m a very particular person about my hair, which is why I would commute so far to get my hair cut by someone who I knew wouldn’t disappoint. But, my wallet and new values of time decided I needed to learn a new skill.
I found an apt YouTube video to teach me and I took my hand mirror and started buzzing the back and sides of my head that needed a shave. I was going for a fade but, didn’t have the right tools to do so. I cut off all the hair I could and didn’t mess up my locs (or dreadlocks) at the top.
There was a straight line in the back of my head to square off my hair–I felt I had been successful in my first cut without paying $35 and wasting 3 hours of my day on the train.
* * *
I used advice from the internet as a means to cope– it’s the best on-demand friend to consult about relationship woes.
I came across a TedTalk from Tracy Mcmillian called, “The person you really need to marry.” In a desperate need for relationship advice and hope that I wouldn’t be alone the rest of my life, I clicked on the video.
Mcmillian was honest about her past; she had been divorced three times, had a child with her second husband, and admitted her third husband started dating a young woman 9 months into their marriage. She was reflecting on being a woman in her 40s trying to be in a successful relationship.
My expectation for her talk was to describe the type of person you should marry given one’s idiosyncrasies. I wasn’t expecting her to say the person I should marry is myself.
I never thought to put the act of loving myself as a priority. RuPaul’s famous line is: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an Amen!”
When he said that, I felt I had the act of loving myself down. My perception of love was negative self talk until I finally accomplished a task; not taking the time to pamper myself for the ultimate purpose of saving money; and, beating myself up for getting tongue-tied in front of new people to avoid doing it again. None of this caused me happiness, by the way.
Through that self-exploration I realized I “loved” my ex in this way, which pushed him away from me emotionally. I wasn’t able to be emotionally understanding because I wouldn’t allow myself the space to have emotions or healthily express them.
I soon started to look up a ring I would use to propose to myself. I felt the appropriate day for a planned proposal was my upcoming birthday.
* * *
I had to come to the realization that I was intentionally lazy. I wouldn’t make up my bed because why does it need to be made pretty if it going to get messed up again several hours later? I would look at my crusty feet and think about how much a mani-pedi costs and would internally cringe at the price. And, I feared trying to get a find barber because if someone fucked up my hair, I’d truly be a hot momma.
Having so much time to occupy being fresh out of a relationship I ventured to the hair store and decided to spend $25 on a pumice stone, a cuticle pusher, 2 bottles of nail polish, and a nail buffer file. Mind you, a decent mani-pedi costs $25 in the city. But, with how fast my cuticles grow, I’d have to go at least twice a month–something my bank account immediately disagreed with.
That night I sat on the side of my bathtub and used an exfoliator to massage my feet. I grazed the pumice stone over my feet, noticing they haven’t been blessed by Jesus in a while. After 20 minutes of scrubbing dead skin, I cut my nails, cut my cuticles and was ready for the fun part. My nails gleamed a shiny gold and my heart felt lighter. Side note, Spam cooking oil drys your nails in 5 minutes–true story.
When I walked back to my room to go to sleep, my bed wasn’t made and my heart felt like I betrayed my future self of a freshly made bed–that was the late time I, accidentally, didn’t make my bed in the morning.
* * *
When my feet hit the floor to begin my day, the onset of a hangover immediately followed.
The previous night I went downtown to buy some cheap cooking wine. I bought some cheap rosé for shits and giggles. I walked around and ventured into a park that had decent seating among the grass. I pulled the rosé out in an attempt to “have a good time.” I got loose enough to start doing yoga in the park without a mat. When I did my first low lunge, I could feel the wine telling me to sit down.
That was my signal to start heading home. While I was walking to the train, I saw one of my favorite restaurants and wanted to take myself out.
This Caribbean restaurant was packed on a Saturday night and the only seat I could take was at the bar. Feeling generous, I treated myself to a couple appetizers and a drink. The loud music and alcohol had me feeling the provocative vibe of the place.
“I’ll get the check and the strongest drink you’ve got.”
I stumbled outside and called my friend to make sure someone knew I was drunk and trying to get home. All I remember was the ride home was very quick, I made sure I had my wallet, keys, and phone, and my door and locking latch were secure.
I don’t usually drink, so waking up to a hangover was equally shitty as it was confusing. I didn’t have any Pedialyte for the occasion. I slept the entire day and woke up in the early evening making it a point to shower and eat because no one else was going to help me cure the crappy state I was in.
Feeling better, around 7:30, I didn’t want to stay inside. For the first time, I did yoga in my nearby park without giving a fuck what people thought about me. I watched the sunset in peace while doing a downward facing dog.
* * *
After not-so-trying yoga class, I went to the park to do my usual. It was a Sunday evening and the sky was clear with a mostly vacant park. The sun was close to setting.
Because I’ve mastered some cool looking poses, I tend to show off when I’m out in the park. I especially like to have an audience marvel at things they can’t do.
A guy, from a group sitting near me, openly came up to me while I was in ‘Pigeon’ pose.
“Hey, I took this picture of you and I was wondering if you wanted me to send it to you.”
Startled and flattered I said, “Well…. that was smooth.”
Even though this felt like the universe telling me that I do have the ability to bag a guy, I declined and continued with my flow.
* * *
In an attempt to hush the fear of talking to new guys, I clicked on another TedTalk video: Why Ms. Independent Can’t Find Mr. Right by Annie White.
Typically, our culture exemplifies men courting women. However, given the drastic shift in gender equality rights and technology, qualified men don’t go out of their way to initiate contact with a woman, in the real world, they find attractive. White said, those that do are typically men who regularly try to get numbers for the sake of finding the next woman he’ll bone.
She gave the challenge, to Ms. Independent, to initiate an interaction between a man she found worth talking to. I was as nervous as every other woman in the audience because that’s flipping scary. White noticed the apprehension in the room and introduced a courting technique for women she called “You Choose, He Chases.”
There are three phases to the technique: a question, an introduction, and an exchange.
Go up to him and ask a relevant question he can answer. After a few pieces of dialogue have been exchanged, introduce yourself. When the conversation comes to a natural close, exchange your card and bid him adieu. I’m a young 20-something, so I don’t have a card to give–that was the only part I had to improvise on.
She explained that when a women initiates contact, the man is given the opportunity to contact her. Because of this, he has to “chase” you. When a man initiates, the woman could be put into the position of chasing him because she’s aware he can easily move onto the next person if he doesn’t seem interested in her. The situation is flipped when a woman starts the conversation.
The woman is in the position to pick and choose rather than waiting to be chosen. It also shows a bold move on her part.
Later that evening I was doing yoga in front of the sunset and I saw my first victim. My anxiety immediately spiked when I dared myself to talk to him, but if I chickened out now, it was my fault for not trying.
After finishing up, I calmly walked over to him and motioned that I wanted to speak to him.
“Excuse me, that smells like some good kush, do you have a plug up here? I’ve been trying to find one.”
It was very obvious he was smoking tobacco.
“Oh, this is just a Black and Mild.”
“So you don’t have a plug up here?”
He shook he head.
“Darn, I’ve been needing to find one that lives near me.”
He looked stunned toward me but, played it cool.
“Well, my name is DeShawn and I just wanted to introduce myself because there aren’t many black people in my area,” I lied.
I commented on his hair, he had locs like I did. He complimented mine. I could tell the conversation wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t want to prolong it any further so I quickly thought of a way to exit.
“It was nice meeting you, Namaste.”
I smoothly walked toward the exit and exploded within myself that I actually did that.
* * *
I walked into an all glass condo lobby in Midtown and asked the concierge to direct me toward my destination.
“Just sit down and you’ll be able to go up at 7 P.M.”
Noticeably there was another woman there waiting for the same event I was. I could tell because people who live in Midtown dress and act very differently from people who live above 110th St., in Manhattan, and elsewhere in New York.
More women started to trickle in. We all nervously shot looks at each other because openly assuming she was there for the sex workshop was an uncomfortable encounter all of us were avoiding.
Right at 7, the doorman opened the entrance to the elevator and we were smoothly lifted up to the 47th floor. We entered a beautiful apartment overlooking the sunset.
We talked about why were there, what we intended to work on, and what were the blocks inside of us. She explained chakras and we followed her sensual exercises to open all of the major 7. The end of event is what I was most nervous about.
It was time for all of us try the masturbation technique she introduced to us called peaking. Being familiar and vulnerable with each other, I decided I would let go of the tension inside of myself and try something out of my norm.
After sometime, it was over and the event concluded. I couldn’t believe I had masturbated with a group of women laying less than 5 inches away from each other.
* * *
Writing in my journal about the sexual experience, I had to admit to myself I wasn’t emotionally ready to have sex with another person. I was only seeking it out because he did it and I felt maybe I might get over this hurt more quickly if I slept with someone new.
I had to admit to myself Tinder wasn’t the answer and the amount of 'right' swipes on my profile could not be converted into a currency that could build my self-esteem.
And, I had to admit that I had to express the pain, anger, and sadness this break up caused me. Although it would render me unproductive for a significant portion of the day, because I released my feelings, they wouldn’t resurface like when I used to suppress them.
When I cleared my apartment, pampered myself, and did yoga, I felt a noticeable change in my mood. Although I wasn’t completely over the breakup, I could remind myself someone else doesn’t need to love me in order for my existence to validated–I needed to do that for myself.
Recognizing my fears of seeking out new sexual partners, having to date and flirt again, and wondering if someone would find me attractive slowly made those anxieties melt away. Instead of sulking into a bucket of Crown Fried wings, I tackled each fear head-on. And while not overnight, I began to see the light inside myself that I failed to recognize.
So honey, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an Amen!”