My baby sister, the aunt to my baby dragons, said that the women in our family (read: maternal) are “the marrying type.” When I asked her what that meant, she kinda looked at me. Then, I knew.
Our parents and maternal family wanted all female children to be able to take care of themselves. The worst thing to be called was ‘a weak woman.’ This is a woman that is dependent on other people. On its face, this is dope, right? On this bitter Earth, it is an abuse and a danger to have female children ill equipped to deal with the world around them.
I had a mother and aunts and a father that reinforced that I had to be self-reliant. In the words of my father (I cannot make this up!):
“You need to depend on a man for nothing.”
This is the drumbeat I heard from middle school up through high school and up until I got married for the first time! I learned to be self-reliant to a vicious degree. I learned to always have a backup plan. Never to ask men for money. I learned to ‘always have my own’.
Funny thing about that.
When you say that you want to build your life with someone, you have to trust them. You have to be able to give into the relationship that you are building. With that indoctrination, I was reminded of this one thing:
I didn’t deserve the chance to be in a committed relationship. Why? Women like me, didn’t get that. I couldn’t trust, because that would make me vulnerable.
Vulnerability is a liability.
Now enters Strong Woman Syndrome. Or in my case, Strong Black Woman Syndrome. My heart had to be fortified from disappointment before any could come. I had to be prepared for him that would walk away before he could ever come into view. I had to learn that there would be times where I would be alone because no one could (or would help me).
This quote was baggage. It was an emotional anchor that I took into every relationship, and threw in the face of any man that tried to lob me. It made me suspicious and vigilant. It made me hyper focused on flaws rather than joy. This thought of not being the marrying type had be resigned to a life of being single when I hadn’t fallen in love yet.
I never thought I would get married because I thought I was too much. I was too ambitious. Too loud. Too driven.
But also too scared to admit I didn’t know exactly how to be with someone without having a life hidden in a purse, box or closet. I had to admit that I was far too quick to expect a blow, than a touch. I freely admit, I was ready to fight and flee than ‘work something out.’
I was taught to be strong. To be resourceful. To be vocal and fortify my heart. Even when I was in a relationship, the man I was with had to beat in walls to get to the real me. But, I wouldn’t let him in. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t because I didn’t know how. I wasn’t taught that part.
Here on the cusp of 40, I have time now to reflect. To be mad. To take ownership. To admit what I learned equipped me, but didn’t prepare me. I have to love me, totally, so I could give love to someone else. I had to break my own walls and realize the lie was there, put there by hurt people. Whose only crime was that they didn’t want me to be hurt.
I don’t have to be a wife to every man I meet, but I have to be ready for the right one. And now, I am. And I have him, and he still thinks the sun rises when my eyes open. I am worthy of that kind of love. So are you.