A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I were going through a patch of growing pains. Though we have been a couple on and off for the last millennia, there are still a great many things that we are learning about each other and at times the growing pains are too much. OK, if I am truly honest I have a bad habit of trying to break up with my boyfriend every time he rubs me the wrong way because I tend to be a bit dramatic. We have been back and forth for the entirety of our adult lives and it kind of is what it is, but this post isn’t about him its about me.
As I was saying, a few weeks ago I was in a right mood and decided that I needed some time to breath and my loving boyfriend acquiesced. About a week into the break I had to confirm for a birthday party that we had originally RSVPd to as a couple and now I was having to RSVP for just me. As I stared at the text to reply I really didn’t know what to say. I needed to confirm my attendance but I needed to say that I was going solo to a group of people who monitored my relationship status more than they monitored their bank accounts.
After playing around with the wording of my solo RSVP I finally came up with the response “Confirmed. Just one.” As I sat there debating my text, dreading the response that would come back and the loathing the eyes that would be on me at the party I had a very profound epiphany. I felt less than when I was alone. As I sat there staring at my phone, tears welling up in my eyes, shame rising in my chest I couldn’t fathom why I felt this way. I am a worthy, valuable, smart, talented, educated and beautiful woman with many other qualities that make me valuable all on my own. What in me is so broken that the thought of arriving somewhere alone makes me feel vulnerable and exposed.
The answer: programming. As I started searching my mind for the root cause of this feeling of inadequacy the memories of every subtle moment of programming started flooding in. From being told that I needed to frame my life in a particular way to attract men to being looked around to ascertain the whereabouts of my spouse I was made to feel inferior on my own. Women, more so black women, are made to feel inferior when we are single. We are made to feel less than when our relationships end as if the demise is somehow entirely our faults. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard:
“You can’t keep a man because you’re mean.”
“You need to reevaluate your standards if you want a man.”
“God, my daughters will never get married, they’re too difficult.”
“Maybe your expectations are too high. Maybe you should just settle for less.”
I, like many other women, have been programmed for the majority of my life to feel like the end all of achievement was a man. Getting married, being the perfect wife and having children were all the things that I was supposed to wrap my life around and I for the most part rebelled against that. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into this bleak existence. Every woman that I had ever spoken to about marriage had this sad story to tell about how they settled. My mother told me about how she had not one but two terrible proposals from both my father and my step father and how I could look forward to that. How I had to settle for that.
Yet, as I got older and relationships became more difficult and I started really desiring to settle down I was torn between having my standards and settling so that I would no longer be alone. The words got to me. They chipped away at my standards and my ego and I faltered. Every breakup, every fight, every time I had to start over I judged myself so harshly because I knew what other people around me were thinking. Add in the fact that my boyfriend and I were going through a sticky patch and that is the perfect recipe for paralysis.
But this day was different. See, I’ve been on spiritual journey, a journey back to God and the divinity within me over the last year and I decided that I was tired of this feeling. Tired of feeling like I wasn’t worthy of exactly how I saw my life. Tired of feeling like the path that others have walked define my path. Tired of feeling like I must be confined to the mistakes and the wounds of my ancestors. It was time to start breaking the generational curses that have been bound to my female ancestors for centuries.
So I picked my head up. I wiped away my tears. I stood in the knowledge of my divinity. I stood in the essence of my worthiness. I stood in the power of the knowing that I am more than enough on my own and I am not the mistakes of my ancestors nor is their story my own and I confidently confirmed my reservation. For one.
Has there been a time where you have had to shrug off the societal expectations of a relationship?