"After I broke up with my boyfriend, I decided to be single and celibate for a year. Who would I be without a companion, sex partner or suitor? I didn't know. But I did know that, although friends and lovers are important, I'm the only person who is guaranteed to be around for my whole life, so it would be smart to get comfortable with myself."-- Aya de Leon, Deciding to Marry Myself.
I'ma be real: my past few relationships have crashed and burned faster than an overpriced home in the middle of the San Diego desert in October. Some have been ugly, while others have just ended up being stagnant and dissapointing. What started out as exciting and full of promise ended, in one way or another, with me deleting someone from my phone or IM buddy list (some call it immature, I call it momentary therapy). There was the multi-year relationship with a former best friend that went from disappointing to dramatic to downright ridiculous in a matter of months. Then there was the "we're-so-deep-no-one-else-can-understand" on again, off again romance with another close friend. Then there was the one I like to call pure seduction. We had great chemistry and could cut the sexual tension with a chainsaw, but I wasn't down for committment, much less with someone two hours away. I've blamed myself, my partners, my family and our fucked up society for my love's demise. Sometimes if I'm in a good mood, I'll mumble something about it being a test of fate, that I'm being challenged by our higher being, blah, blah, blah.
Lately, I've been shying away -- and sometimes running -- from anything that smells even slightly romantic. My excuse? I want time to myself. I want to deal with my shit. I want to stop looking for someone to be my perfect shield. I know that everyone has their baggage, and some of us have a lot more than others. And while I've grown to accept that the baggage will always be there, I want to figure out how I can carry it more effectively. Instead of spilling my shit in the middle of some busy intersection while trying to run for a bus to take me anywhere but my past, I want to be organized about it, put my pain and insecurities on a granny cart and strut my way down the block with the confident swag of someone who's mistake-prone but life-savvy.
So I've come up with a new version of my Campaign '08. Something geared more toward self actualization. Something that if put on a mixtape might have the title of the "Re-education of Jamilah King". I've decided to do the most dangerous thing a person can do in our society: learn to love myself. It's kinda like my own little independence day, every day.
I say self love is dangerous because our society is stanchily opposed to anything that doesn't include at least two friends and an unlimited text message plan. Especially for younger folks who grew up on the internet -- what do we have if we don't have Facebook, Myspace, cell phones, sneaker conventions, digital cameras (usually to take myspace and facebook pictures with), iChat, gChat and AOL Instant Messenger? We live in every moment but the present and want everything but what we have. This consumer-driven mentality has inevitably trickled down into our love lives. We're always marketing ourselves for the next available suitor, even if we say that we don't give a damn about outward appearances. We always want someone's stamp of approval, whether it's a date, a picture comment or a wall post. Whatever the cost, we can't be alone.
I'm not immune from this. I have Facebook, Myspace, (ill-fuctioning) digital camera. I still care about what people think. I don't want to be alone. But I guess I just want to learn how to meet genuinely amazing people build relationships that aren't predicated on sex and romance.
This self love talk might sound nice, but what does it look like? To be honest, I have no idea. I signed up for salsa class to tackle my rhythmic handicaps -- does that count? I meet up with a group of friends every Monday night to have dinner. I devote entire weekends to hanging out with my mom and my dog, watching episodes of The WIre and eating boxes of eggo waffles. I can't say that I've learned myself any better. I honestly have no idea what an independent, self-loving person might look like. I'm also afraid that the goal itself might be circular and misinformed -- what if I just waste a bunch of time trying to be more independent than I was yesterday? If love is limitless, how will I know if I've actually gotten there? And where the hell am I trying to go anyway?
Some of my friends disagree. They think that I'm punishing myself. Why not just find someone to build with instead of being alone? And what do I know about life or love? I'm only 22.
I'm still figuring it out.