It’s Not A Race: Loving On My Own Time

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How far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps?
How often have you bartered with bone, only to sell yourself short?
Why do you find the unavailable so alluring?
Where did it begin? what went wrong? and who made you feel so worthless?
If they wanted you, wouldn’t they have chosen you?
All this time, you were begging for love silently, thinking they couldn’t hear you, but They smelt it on you, you must have known that they could taste the desperate on Your skin?
And what about the others that would do anything for you, why did you make them Love you until you could not stand it?
How are you both of these women, both flighty and needful?
Where did you learn this, to want what does not want you?
Where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?

-Warsan Shire

Once a woman approaches her mid-late twenties she’s stripped of her personal identity. Conversations become less centered about her and feature the lovers, or lack thereof, in her life. At an early age, women develop a hostile relationship with time as we’re taught that our desirability is a race against the clock. In adolescence, we learn that our youth is coveted, and men are willing to do anything to get our attention. In our twenties, we’re told to begin vetting suitors before we pass our “prime.” In our thirties, we’re pressured to settle down with any man who’s willing to look our way. We’re constantly being reminded how our bodies change as we get older, that our biological clock is ticking, and how if we don’t act fast, we’ll age out of the dating scene as men continue to pursue the younger girls.

After a woman reaches a certain age, society heavily roots her value on whether she is a wife and a mother. Family gatherings and Uber rides have become draining to me as I get flooded with questions regarding my non-existent love life. I’m constantly inundated with, “You’ve already finished school and have a good job, what are you waiting for?” – As if getting a man was the next major accomplishment in my life. It seems that as a woman, you can accomplish everything you’ve desired in life, but if you’re single, people assume something is wrong with you and it reduces all your other achievements.

I’m currently pushing 8 months in my season of singleness. In the past, I’ve gone from relationship to relationship, with short breaks in between. As much as I want to say I’m open to dating around, “talking,” or whatever you want to call it, it’s just not my personality. I’m very monogamous and when I find someone I’m interested in I give it my all. I don’t enjoy dividing my energy or attention between multiple suitors and inadvertently I become voluntarily exclusive to men in the early stages. Sometimes this results in me shooting myself in the foot as I expect others to reciprocate my style to prove that they’re equally as interested and invested, or else I distance myself.

My love life these past few months has been underwhelming. My DMs are filled with men who are having conversations with themselves, and the men I’m interested in usually hit me with “the timing isn’t right” which I pretty much interpret as a spineless way of saying “you’re not the right one.” I used to ask myself what I was doing to attract men I had no interest in and scare away those with whom I potentially could see a future with. When in reality, it really had nothing to do with me. I tried to change pieces of myself – make myself prettier, nicer, more fun, etc. and it’d always end up in vain. I realized that the only thing that can keep a man around – is a man who wants to be kept. I cringe when I hear older women talk about how they were required to lower their standards. They’d say that cheating is the new norm and that so long as a man takes care of his financial responsibility and doesn’t hit you the relationship is worthy. The thought of settling for less due to this time pressure terrifies me. I didn’t settle with my friends so why would I with my lover, who’s supposed to be my best friend of all?

When I had dinner with my family in DC my older male cousin pulled me aside and made me feel whole again. He told me that I was beautiful, smart, kind and that any man would be lucky to have me. He told me that he had expectations of me to be focused on being the best person I could be and not belittle myself by scoping out men. It’s the smallest affirmations that make the greatest impact. I shifted my prayers from asking God to reveal my husband to asking God to help me shape myself into a better individual. I wanted to improve so that I could be a better daughter, friend, and if God wills, in the future – a better wife and mother.

I can’t help but smirk now when people try to tell me to be cognizant of my “prime” and strategic with lovers. I honestly, don’t think I’ve even began to scratch the surface of my prime yet. As I get older, I just become better, smarter, healthier, and happier. I’m learning that someone can desire you, yet not value you, and knowing the difference is significant lest you be led astray. When people pressure women about their prime it’s rooted in desire. They say men are visual, they want the nice shiny things – they want that eye candy that’s young, beautiful and breaks necks when they enter a room. I get that – but men who are like that were never meant for me. There’s a saying that when you like a flower, you pluck it but when you love a flower you water it daily.

I don’t want to be the budding flower that’s picked and discarded once it wilts. I want to be the rose that’s lived its course and is pressed between pages of a book, cherished for eternity. As each chapter of my life unfolds, should a man enter my life, I’ll think to myself how lucky he is to be a part of my story.

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