“I’m wondering what happens when this isn’t enough for you,” you say. You hate to say you know how this works; that at the beginning — the “Oh my God, could this be real” phase — you’re seeing the end. You tell him you’re falling. That’s a lie. You’re choosing. Feet planted on solid ground. Refusing to be swept away.
You chose this — the 500 miles between you and him — because it doesn’t disrupt your carefully-crafted existence. When it ends (and you know it will), it’s a clean break. No shared spaces, communities, or friends. Just a few “unfollows” and a deleted text thread. Voila! All gone.
“I feel like you need to be still right now and I wonder what happens when you’re ready to move again,” you say. At some point, he will want more than your arms-length approach. Permission to leave it in post-coitus. Consideration of his unsolicited opinions. Submission to his spontaneous nature. Room to dream of relocation to a sexy city outside the safety of the Midwest, a Vegas elopement, dropping your last name, a kid, a dog.
“Don’t worry about that,” he says. “You’re everything I could want in a woman.”
You don’t worry. You just know.
Five months later, morning texts fade to one-sided threads and calls on the drive home from the bar turn into days of silence and “I love yous” become “I’m sorrys.” You’re driving home from work thinking of nothing in particular when “He always got them fuckin’ excuses” blares from the radio and rips through you like an electric current.
How many more apologies and justifications can you absorb?
If my southern black grandmother was alive, she’d disapprove of the following:
My stubborn arrogance
My four tattoos
My refusal to grow and straighten “all that good pretty hair”
My writing and releasing a book that discussed my sex life
My sex life existing in the first place
My blog where I “tell everybody all my damn business”
My Instagram feed (especially the bikini and sports bra / yoga pics)
My indifference toward the Browns and Cavs
My ban on slips and shape wear in my wardrobe
My predilection for tall, boyishly handsome, emotionally unavailable men
My preference for dining out over cooking
My continued disdain for household chores — especially dish washing (not even her switches from the trees in our backyard could whip that out of me)
I like to think I make her proud on Election Day.
I never heeded her warnings about people seeing through my dresses or found value in four hours over a hot stove, but she is my model for citizenship. Her grandchildren were the first generation of our family born with a government-protected right to vote. Since I was the grandchild who lived under her roof (and the brightest — don’t tell my cousins), she prioritized my political education; starting with the Cleveland Mayoral Race of 1989. Six-year-old me didn’t absorb much beyond the mutual hatred between the candidates and their devotees. In the end, it didn’t matter how many “Forbes for Mayor” stickers I collected after my grandmother and I left the polling location — “our guy” lost.
Then came the 1992 Presidential election. This time, I was a sophisticated eight-year-old third grader. Who needed the weekly Scholastic News when Grandma made me watch grown up news? “Four more years” and “No new taxes” were a “No.” Universal health care and a First Lady who was too smart to waste her time in a kitchen or a garden? Hell yes. Al Gore nailing Dan “Couldn’t Spell Potato” Quayle on supporting a woman’s right to choose? More hell yes (I didn’t know what we were choosing at the time, but as a little girl with big dreams, I appreciated the sentiment).
My grandmother and I never voted together. In December 2000, she suffered a massive stroke. She lived until 2010, but only pieces of her strong mind remained. (Even with a scrambled brain, she was furious about the Supreme Court “giving the Presidency to that damn Bush”). When I cast my vote for the first Black President in 2008, I bawled in the voting booth. I wished she could’ve voted. I wished she could revert to her pre-stroke self to discuss the magnitude of the moment with me.
Twenty-four years after being impressed by the lady too smart for baking and gardening, I voted for her. My grandmother would’ve done the same. While I doubt we’d have the same sensibilities (she’d have all the respectability politics and no interest in my feminism), I think she’d be happy she helped raise an informed, engaged, opinionated black woman. She’d be happy I live in a world with a female Presidential candidate from a major party.
She might not have enthusiastically been #WithHer. But she’d be damned proud her grandbaby is.
I forget how hard I’ve worked to make it to “okay.”
My life has a steady rhythm — a job I enjoy, paid bills with a little leftover to have some fun, time and energy for my creative pursuits. I’m addicted to the stillness; to the freedom found in routine.