Why Can’t We Be Friends?

I’d love to say that I live a life that is free from regret, but alas–this is not true. One of my biggest regrets that I am actively working to rid my life of is my relationship (or lack thereof, really) with my siblings. In order for me to accurately portray  the problem that we have, allow me to paint you a picture from my point of view. I grew up with my mom and dad married for the majority of my childhood. Prior to my lovely entrance into this world, my parents were in relationships with other that resulted in children. My father has one daughter and one son (who do not share parentage outside of daddy) and my mom has one son. My siblings are between 3 & 6 years older than me.

Growing up, the time I spent with any of them was limited. There were the infrequent visits to our home, until my brother (mom’s son) moved in with  us during his high school years. He and my dad clashed a lot, leading to feelings of resentment on my end (I was still am totes a daddy’s girl). I felt like I had to be perfect because he caused them so much strife. My sister was a teen mom (twice), so once again the onus was on me to be a paragon of chastity. Again, this was all in my brain because nothing of the sort had been communicated to me by either parent.

I did the best to live up to the ideal child role during my formative years. Bringing home report cards filled with honor rolls and accolades. Despite being able to get myself into tons of trouble since my parents worked opposing shifts, I remained the proverbial “good girl” through my high school years, narcing on my bro if he had company when we weren’t supposed to, etc. It was a mess. Only years later did I realize that I was putting undue pressure and strain on the relationships between my siblings and myself.

I was so busy trying to be the opposite of what I thought they were that I never really got a chance to get to know the people that they truly were. My oldest brother is fiercely loyal, protective, and kind. My sister is a fighter, a nurturer and an all around great person. Again, it took me way too long to learn these things about them. I was too concerned with not being like them (only taking the negative aspects of their personalities into account).

As adults, I feel like our relationships are…tenuous. I find myself adopting older siblings in the friends I have made throughout the years instead of building better relationships with the ones I’ve been given biologically. I honestly don’t know why it’s easier for me to do this. Perhaps, pride? Fear? Shame? Doubt? Who knows,  but what I do know is that it needs to change.

In the sunset of my 29th year, I’m taking inventory of my life. I’m taking a hard look at the things in my life with which I am either  unhappy or dissatisfied and trying to fix them. In doing this, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with myself, but it’ s the type of frustration that leads to action–I am hoping. There have been too many years of inaction, blaming, and all around apathy (more on that later). So from here on out, I pledge to be a better sister. I want to keep the lines of communication open and build deeper relationships with my siblings. I don’t want to be in the sunset of my life thinking “what if…?” I want to just do. So I am.

What Hurts the Most Part III…

I can’t really pinpoint just one thing that made me start drawing back. It could have been the insecurity I felt as you went off to college or the attention that I found myself getting from the guys at my school. Something in me clicked and immediately made me rethink our whole relationship. I felt somewhat tied down by you and our relationship. I felt as if I were settling too soon and in some way giving up something. Instead of being brave enough to come to you with my fears, I reacted in the way of a scared little girl. I avoided your phone calls, feigning busyness. I think in some way you knew that I was having some sort of issue, but did not want to face it.

After it became inevitable to avoid you anymore since you were home for break, you called me and said we needed to talk about something important. I remember feeling a sense of dread as I though you were going to break up with me for some fabulous girl you had met on campus. In my mind, I thought that I should best you and be the first to break things off. I figured that this would put me in a place of power and therefore make me feel better.

Before you came over, I remember calling my friend T and asking her if she thought that I was doing the right thing. She told me that I was overreacting and should hear what you had to say before making any decisions, either way. We spent an hour going back and forth, contemplating situations and outcomes. I was convinced that since I had already started alienating myself from you that you were tired of your high school girl and ready to cut ties. She was sure that you were going to confront me about my distance and try to work through whatever issues that I had with our relationship. Stuck in the mind of self preservation, I maintained that I was going to break up with you. The last words I remember T saying to me before we hung up were “Don’t make a mistake that you’ll end up regretting for the rest of your life.”

As I waited for you to come, those words must have resounded in my head a hundred times over. You arrived and I was immediately conflicted. Seeing your crooked smile and feeling your arms embrace me, giving me comfort, made me waver a bit. For a split second I was unsure about the decision that I had come to. We made small talk for a few minutes, avoiding the elephant in the room. Finally, in an effort to do what I thought was right, I dropped the bomb. Slowly a tear fell from my eye as I said, “I don’t love you anymore. I think we should see other people. I think it’s best for you and me to move on and try to be happy with others.” I said a few other things basically in the same vein trying to make myself believe that what I was doing was for the best. After all, we were both young and if it was meant to be, fate would bring us back together.

The look on your face after I finished my speech is forever etched in my mind. It was a cross between confusion and utter defeat. You tried convincing me that I was wrong, but I firmly stood my ground. I remember it ending with both of us crying. I’d never seen you cry before that day and I felt like the lowest of the low. Knowing that I was the cause of pain to you made me cry even harder. After you left, I just sat there with T’s earlier words still resounding my head. I shortly realized that she was right and I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

In the weeks and months that followed this episode, I fell into a deep funk. I wanted nothing to do with boys and dating was not even on my agenda. I threw myself into my schoolwork and extracurricular activities. I concentrated on everything but thoughts of you in order to fill the void of not having you in my life any longer. On occasion, I would pick up the phone to dial your number getting to the last digit and then just hanging up. I couldn’t imagine what that conversation would end up being like. Eventually though, it was like our relationship had never happened. I crawled out of my funk and began dating again. In the beginning, I would compare each guy to you, none of them matching up. After a while though, I began to just see each guy for him, not even bringing you into the equation. I’d stopped asking Kristin how you were doing and she stopped volunteering information.

My life moved on and I was finally happy again. I wasn’t seriously attached, but I loved life the way I was living it. Everything was falling into place for me personally and professionally and little did I know everything would change after a quick trip to the Walgreen’s. Even though I felt as if I received a sharp jab to the gut when I found out that you were engaged, it didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would feel.

At the time of our relationship, we were so wrapped up that we just knew that we belonged together. Instead though, I think that we were drawn together in order to help both of us learn a lesson. I learned that jumping to conclusions could lead to disastrous results.  I hope that I won’t ever have to suffer as much as I did in order to learn another lesson at another time.

What Hurts the Most Part II…

In the short time we conversed, I have to admit she seemed to be a sweet girl. The kind of girl you always went for. Pretty, petite, soft-spoken. Kind of made me wonder how we ever…no, how you ever changed your view of me. I knew that traditionally I was not your type, but you never said so. You on the other hand? My type all the way. As much as I denied it to myself at the time, I knew you were.

After we parted ways, I played the ‘what if’ game so any times. What if I’d said yes? What if you had stayed? What if, what if, what if? I liked to think that we would have been one of those sickeningly perfect couples. Seeing you with her, I know that is not true. It wouldn’t have lasted. The look in your eyes when you introduced her to me. The way her arm wrapped itself about your waist, leaning as close to you as she could get. The light that seemed to be coming from the both of you as we conversed. You two are now that sickeningly perfect couple.

            As soon as I left you, I whipped out my cell phone, calling Kristin. Before she could get a word out, I demanded to know why she’d left me out of the loop. Her answer surprised me. I thought I’d been a bit more tactful in my questions about you, but I obviously hadn’t. She knew that I still had feelings for you all along and to protect you, she acted in the manner that she did. She also took that time to really let me have it. When we first parted, she told me off really good, but this time was different. She read me up and down from A to Z and all I could do was take it. I knew that everything she said was true and had nothing to say to refute any of it.

Though it’s proving to be a hard road, I know this is only the beginning. With time it will be easier to get over you. I also know that I’m the only person who is to blame for any pain that I am feeling because I brought it all on myself. Hmm, it’s funny that the cause of all this was the simple fact that I couldn’t say three little words without hesitation then. Now, they flow freely. I love you and always will.

We weren’t supposed to end like this at all. Destiny had been on our side since the first day that we met. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was over to Kristin’s house visiting and you walked in. Less than ten seconds after I saw you, I was pumping Kris for information. After getting your name, rank, and serial number from Kristin, I commenced to flirting. I cringe at the thought of my fifteen year old self trying to flirt with an older man of seventeen. I had a weak sense of self at that point in time, so I remember coming on to you with a false bravado that covered my insecurities. Something about you gave me a sense of assurance. You were the first guy that I had even had the guts to approach in more than a friendship kind of way.

We started off innocently enough, getting to know one another as friends. I learned more about you at that point than I think I ever learned during the course of our relationship. We flirted for entirely too long until I finally asked you out. Kristin had to talk me into it. I remember being so nervous that you were going to play the “friends only” card. Surprisingly, you said yes. Our first date is etched into my memory as if it just happened yesterday. I can remember your outfit and mine, right down to the shoes. It was my first official date and I was so nervous. Kristin came over to help me get ready and all I can remember saying to her was, “Oh my gosh, I hope I do not make a fool of myself.” The date went smoothly and thus began the course of our relationship.

Too young at the time to realize it, I now see that you were as perfect a boyfriend as I could ever want. You were the ultimate gentleman, holding doors when we went out and respectful of my decision to remain chaste until marriage. We had so much in common, from our favorite food being Italian to our unhealthy obsession with reality television to the same sarcastic sense of humor. All of my friends said that you were a compliment to my personality and brought out things in me that they had never seen before. We became so wrapped up in each other and our relationship that it became ‘us against the world’. This is where I think things began to go wrong for me.

What Hurts the Most Part I…

I was quite shocked to run into you when I did. I don’t know how to describe the feeling I had when I noticed you. It was a mixture of happiness and sadness, tinged with a bit of longing. I gave myself a little pep talk and thought I could just slide by without you noticing me. I remember when we first met; I was trying so hard to get your attention. Isn’t it funny how I went from wanting you to notice me to now wanting blend in with the crowd?

But no, you had to turn your head, spotting me, and waving me over. I must admit it was awkward to see you again, as we had not split in the best of ways. “Not in the best of ways” would be the most politically correct way of describing our split, I guess. You would probably beg to differ as it was you who had to hear the words, “I don’t love you anymore. I think we should see other people.” You went your way and I mine, never to meet again, or so we thought.

I’d get updates on you from Kristin, our own personal Chuck Woolery. Who would have thought that all of her meddling would bring us together?  She always thought that we would end up together forever. It was kind of sad to have to be the one to tell her about the demise of our relationship. You were always such a private person and I knew that she couldn’t get it out of you. Recently the updates from Kristin had been infrequent. I figured that you and she had lost touch as well and that’s why the updates waned. What I didn’t know was that in order to protect my feelings, she was keeping all of the things going on with you away from me. She knew how I felt (even with my constant denials) and that I probably wouldn’t be able to handle what I’d be faced with in a matter of moments.

When I first noticed you standing there (while I was debating on whether or not to say anything), I didn’t notice her. I didn’t really pay attention to her once you waved me over either because it was a public place after all. She could have been any random person, in the store, taking care of business. After a bit of small talk, I noticed she still remained with an expectant look on her face. Finally noticing her, I examined her briefly, but carefully. She was about 5’3”, with a thin dancer-like body, and caramel colored with delicate features much like that of a porcelain doll. Her outfit looked like it had been tailored to fit her and her only. Immediately, I felt pangs of jealousy. She was the type of girl that I’d been envious of my whole life, the extremely beautiful ones.

The introductions were made and I tried my best to remain unchanged. I felt my eyebrow rising and a confused look spreading across my features. I tried to control it, but I’m sure that my face gave all that I was feeling away. I’ve never been one to be able to hide my emotions through my facial expressions.

Did I just hear you say fiancée? You are engaged? You were supposed to marry me! Even though we were not together anymore, I still held out hope that one day things would be right between us once again. When we broke up, you said to me “This is not over and I’m not saying goodbye. You don’t see it now, but you’ll see that we’re supposed to be together.” Shortly after our breakup I realized that you were right and was reminded of the old saying, “When you love someone let him go, if he comes back he’s yours”.

I wrote this in 2005 for a class.

Portions have been edited.    

I was twenty-two when it happened. The one thing in my life that I had been wishing for all along had become a reality. It sounds kind of twisted to say this, but it should have happened sooner. No one in the situation was happy and it was becoming increasingly frustrating to keep up the charade. I was twenty-two when my father called me to tell me that he was filing for divorce from my mother. I am now an adult child of divorce.

Adult children of divorce are typically thought of as those whose parents divorce after the point at which one reaches adulthood (generally aged 21+). Adult children of divorce can also be classified as those whose parents divorced when they were children, but still have difficulty processing the divorce. There is lots of research done on children of divorce, focusing mainly on adolescents and teens. Adult children of divorce were rarely considered in this research because later life divorce was somewhat uncommon. With the recent prevalence of later life divorce, there is being more attention placed on adult children of divorce. This research is mainly dedicated to disproving the myths associated with adult children of divorce.

The most common myth is that since adult children are grown and mature, they won’t experience the emotions that young children do. Parents generally think that when their children are older, that details regarding the marriage are easier to digest. That is untrue. No child, whether they are seven or seventy-two really wants to know all about the dynamics of their parents marriage. My father and I rarely talk about my mother. It is best for him this way, he says. I recently sat down with him and we talked of my mother briefly. He said that in order for him to maintain the amount of respect that he still holds for her that it is best that he removes her from his life completely for now.

When I heard about the split, my mother was the first to start confiding in me. She began under the guise of trying to build a stronger mother-daughter relationship. It started off innocently enough, every once in a while she would bring up my father. She usually began by asking how he was and then going into a diatribe about he doesn’t care about her and wants nothing to do with her. I had to hear all about how he was supposedly unfaithful throughout the duration of their marriage while she worked her hardest to do any and everything for him. All of which were lies, as I’d long realized that she started caring less and less for him as I got older. Every conversation would have the same phrase repeated at least three times throughout, “I’m not trying to make your father out to be the bad guy.” Then she would continue bashing him. In almost every conversation that I have with my mother (we talk once weekly), my father is brought up in some fashion. I usually try to change the subject or avoid it altogether.

My childhood was not atypical, but not quite typical. I noticed the peculiarity of my parents’ relationship early on, I think. I can remember spending time with my friends and their parents and knowing that there was something there that was lacking in my parents relationship. My mother and father never had any pet names for each other or showed immense amounts of affection towards each other. When they did do either of these things, it seemed forced. They often had disagreements where they would not speak to each other for days at a time. They had a brief separation when I was about eight or nine years old, but I never thought anything of it. There was so much going on in our lives from my other siblings and their problems that I figured that they just needed a break from each other. I never thought that thirteen years later it would be a separation for good.

Initially, I was overjoyed. I’d seen the cracks in their relationship and often wondered why they were still together. After talking with my father to find out why he had finally come to this decision, my feelings about the divorce changed somewhat. He basically said that they were only together for so long for my sake. During their brief separation, my father later said that he knew that he had to be a part of my day-to-day life. Apparently, I had displayed some behaviors that he thought would be detrimental to my growth had it just been my mother who was raising me. I immediately felt pangs of guilt.  The feeling of guilt is not uncommon for adult children of divorce.  I felt like I was the cause for so much unhappiness in both of their lives.

I think one of the most difficult things that I had to deal with was the fact that I had to accept all the things that came along with this divorce. While I had anticipated it coming, I wasn’t fully prepared to accept other feelings that I would have. Researching a bit, I came across some common feelings of divorced children. Some of these feelings include, but are not limited to: feeling a loss of “home”, fears of abandonment and betrayal, difficulty accepting love, avoidance of close relationships, and doubting of one’s own ability to have a happy marriage.

I feel all of these on a regular basis. The hardest thing for me was the sale of our house. My parents and I lived in that house for 20 years. All of my memories are cemented in that house. I know that some people say that memories will always be in your mind, but there is nothing like going home. I am no longer able to pull up to [address redacted], search for a parking space on the right side of the street, and unlock the door to a house. Instead I now spread my time between two apartments. Technically, I live with my mother, as I have a room in her house. I considered both places my home, though. Sometimes, I feel bad because when I come home for weekends and/or breaks, my time is usually limited and I have to pick one place or the other to stay. More often than not, I stay at my mother’s place and barely see my dad.

Hiding these feelings from everyone, I constantly denied feeling anything when people would ask me how I felt about the split. I bought into the philosophy that I should not really feel anything because I am an adult. It is not like I am in the middle of some great custody battle. I barely live at home as I am in school for nine months of the year. When I am at home, I am in and out so much that their problems should not affect me, but they do. I constantly question if I’m offending one or the other when I do anything. I’m unsure as to how the future will end up. I still have college graduation, my wedding, and eventual birth of my children. I will have to work out how to have both parents present (possibly with new significant others) with the least amount of friction.

Untitled Entitlement

So I’m sitting on Twitter last week and @miss_hellion tweets the following…

If a man has to meet all of your nutty ass standards, that’s fine, but don’t say there aren’t quality men out there. Just wait on the Lord.

I’m not saying you can’t have standards. You have to.

Just don’t be shocked that no one wants to travel though the 7 circles of hell to get to your vag.

I hollered! In my cube currently laughing silently as to not alert the cubipals because she is preaching the legit gospel right now. Like, this is my life up to age 20, almost to the tee. I was soooooo dumb. So so so dumb. I thought I had it all figured out. I knew the type of man I deserved and truly believed that if a man did not fit all of the criteria that I laid out, he wasn’t to be given a chance.

If you guys watched The Real World: Boston, you may remember a young woman on there by the name of Kameelah. Kameelah was a Stanford pre-med (I think?) student who had a list of over 200 qualities that her dream man must have. Some of the things on her list were a bit far fetched, but I was a smooth 15 years old watching this show and I thought her list was GENIUS. Immediately I began constructing a similar list and held fast to it for entirely too long. I wish I still had the list because I would share it w/ y’all while cracking up at my ignorance.

It’s so easy to say that a person needs xyz before they can step to you, but not have half of the things you’re requiring. I do remember being college educated was on my list and I was still in high school when I made the dern thing. Like, how am I  seriously putting demands on someone when I’m not there yet? Granted I wasn’t really applying it to the guys I had dalliances with during those years, this list was strictly for the man who would become my husband.

Because I was so sure that I’d meet him when I went off to Spelman (he’d be a Morehouse man). He would magically meet all of these requirements and we would live happily ever after. You would think that once I realized that I wasn’t making it to Spelman (but instead a shitty state school), that I would have given up on that silly list, but nope. I held fast like it was the gospel. It took getting a little more life experience and dating a bit for me to realize I was being ridiculous.

Like Miss Hellion said, no one is saying that having standards is a bad thing. However, when you have a meticulous list and refuse to budge or compromise on things that are really superficial or insiginificant; the real problems begin. The older I get, the more I know that there is no such thing as the perfect match. There are highly compatible matches that initially seem like perfection, but if you take a deeper look; you’ll see they have their issues too.

So many people I know are out there looking for that storybook romance sorta zing. We met, he is everything I want, we lived happily ever after. Half of the time, however, people don’t know what the hell they actually DO want. Certain things look good on paper, but when you encounter them in real life–it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Now what do you do when you’re stuck with someone that’s perfect on paper?

Stan by your man…

The misspelling/wrong word choice is intentional. A few days ago I was talking about my third* favorite black celebrity couple–Tamia and Grant Hill. Tamia recently released a new music video for her song, “Beautiful Surprise” which features Grant as her leading man. I commented on how cute they (& their relationship–at least what we see of it) are & the homie Sarah said “She goes SO hard for him”. It’s true. On Twitter, she’s one of Grant’s biggest cheerleaders–consistently promoting his efforts and such.

Thinking about Tamia and Bey Stanning the hell out for Jay at various stops on the Watch the Throne tour both domestically and abroad, I decided that’s what I want. Whenever I start putting myself back out there in the dating world, I want to find a guy who makes me wanna stan for him. Someone who I will back fully no matter what industry, job or dream he may have.

And IT GOES BOTH WAYS, Y’ALL. I want him to stan for me like Jay does for Bey. Or Grant does Tamia. Of course I’d have to be doing things that are stanworthy, like maintaining consistency. HA! I’m working on it though. I’m working to be better so I can do and have better. It’s an uphill climb.

*Nos. 1& 2 are The Obamas and The Carters, in case you were wondering.

On Communicating Effectively…

Yesterday I tweeted the following:

i feel like effective communication is something that should be taught to children in schools like math/science/etc. it’s just as important

in life one needs to know how to express their feelings + opinions without being an asshole. it’s something with which i sometimes struggle.

one must also work to create an environment in which *others* feel *comfortable* expressing their opinions/feelings w/o feeling awkward.

The series of tweets was sparked by my past weekend spent with friends. It was a weekend that should have been fun, carefree and drunken, but instead filled with awkward moments and/or hostility in some cases. I tried being my usual self, but felt conflicted at moments because it was just so damn…weird. There’s no better way to describe it but. Certain people had expectations on how they thought the weekend  sheeit, really WEEK would turn out, while others didn’t exactly see it that way. All week long, my friend E joked that I was her translator as I uttered the phrase “I’m pickin’ up what you’re putting down” more than ten times during our time together.

One friend attributed it to personality differences. I agree with her to an extent. In this group of friends, the dynamic shifts often. Some of us…ok me & E have VERY strong personalities, while others of us live with Addison Forbes Montgomery in the land of Passiva Aggressica. This leads to a break down in communication, thus…weirdness.

It’s not always easy to say what you want to say, tactfully. Like I said above, it’s something with which I struggle mightily. Feelings might get hurt, egos may be bruised, but if you’re truly friends I believe you can get over it eventually. Or agree to disagree. Or…as I kept telling E this weekend “Let it be, let it beeeeeeee…” Those Beatle dudes were onto something.

They key is, however, knowing that your OPINION is not FACT. For example, I happen to think that peanut butter is the nastiest consumable shit ever created on this earth–right above bananas & fresh tomatoes. I should not, however, begrudge someone who’s down to eat a smooth PBBT. Humans have this crazy thing known as a mind and each one functions differently. Creating an environment in which one feels like he/she cannot present a dissenting opinion makes it very difficult to function in light of this.

I like to consider myself a pretty open and respectful person, so I try not to belittle anyone when they express themselves. Snorts of derision, sighs, and gasps of incredulity do not help either. Perhaps before embarking on anything, expectations should be discussed up front so no one is later disappointed.

Personally, I don’t like for every bit of my day to be scheduled when I am on vacation. I go on vacation to VACATE, ya feel me? But others of my friends need to have activities planned, spreadsheets filled out and a running tally of all things that could possibly happen. I get that. Again, not how *I* like to roll per se, but if I’m in the minority then I’ll roll w/ the group. Until I need a time out, at which time I’ll promptly let folks know.

I’m rambling, but I’ve basically said all of that *waves hands in the general direction above* to say this–communication is hard, but ineffective communication is harder. Not only do you end up being forced to possibly do some things you don’t want to do, but you end up straining an already tenuous situation relationship. Again, if you’re friends there shouldn’t be anything that you cannot say to your friend (within reason).