I know that I said I would focus the love articles on marriage, but I think since I have so many friends who read this blog–as well as women who once claimed or claim to love me now–I am somewhat compelled to address something I am asked frequently: what happened in my love life that made me appear so callous in my relationships.
First, let me give you a song to play while you read. If you’re as old as I am, you might recognize it. I recognize it and it brings up bad memories, so when I heard it while driving this afternoon it led to a chain of thoughts and recollections. One subject and event led to another, from 1985 and the 15-year old me through the next 6 or 7 years; and what happened to make me the way that I am today. First, the song:
I grew up in Chocolate City, Washington, DC. I attended a private high school uptown with the wealthier folks, but had to commute across town from Southeast DC (the hood) to the Dupont Circle neighborhood, where a poor kid of color like me doesn’t belong. Anyone I met was not allowed to come home with me, although I did violate that rule and I paid for it once they saw where I lived. But some things you can’t hide, from the ghetto English I learned to speak living in the neighborhood I’m from, to the choice of clothing that differed from what the kids uptown wore, to the music we listened to. The kids I met around Mackin listened to soft rock; I grew up on DC Go-Go and rap music. The kids from Dupont Circle were warned by their parents not to venture too far down the Orange and Blue lines (away from Northern Virginia), and forget about befriending kids from my part of town.
And dating? Shiiit….
I was sexually active. The girls I met were not. I knew guys who drank, used drugs, committed crimes; the girls I met did not. This was a terrible mismatch. But I was not your average kid-from-the-hood. I was a mixed kid who had lived abroad and grew up reading books, encyclopedias and National Geographic magazines. I spoke several languages, lived in several countries, knew the difference between a British accent and an Australian one, and was a little more worldly than your average DC Black kid. On top of that, I had the hoodie confidence that came with knowing that the world would fear walking the streets I played on. This made me attractive to teenaged girls, despite that I wore old clothes and had never heard of Duran-Duran.
Every teenaged boy who meets a girl (at least in those days) had two goals: get laid or fall in love. There were girls from my part of town I could sleep with, even at 15 years old, so getting laid wasn’t a big deal for me. I wanted to fall in love, and like most people–I wanted girls who really didn’t want me. In my neighborhood (two from my hood actually read this blog), I was the popular boy. Of the prettiest girls in my age group, only one got to adulthood without spending at least part of her life as a “Miyagi Sweetheart”. But silly old me–I kept falling for grown women and “preppie girls”, as we called them. Problem was, I was a gimmick for them and any interest they had in me was short term.
Lord, why am I telling you all this?
Anyway, let me tell you who they are. Lauren Kelly-Washington, Malaika Smith, Kama Lucas, Violeta Alvarado, Ivy Reyes, Evelinda Acevedo, Terri Stoney (some of these chicks were 15, 20 years older than I was!)…. oh my gosh–I can’t think of the rest of them. And each one of these courtships ended up with lil confident Moe, heartbroken and more and more in resentment of girls from that part of town, hating soft rock more and more, and turning more and more into the kind of guy I grew up with. While I never really listened to this music, I liked it while I dated the girls who did. But just as quickly as I met them and started dreaming of what was next, it was over and I promised myself I would never, ever go down that road again. Anything remotely familiar in a new relationship would turn me off, and by the time I was 17, I was a freshman at University of MD, College Park–and so opposed to the idea of “falling in love” I became the kind of shitty guy every nice girl’s mom warned her of. And you know what happens to an insecure guy pretending to be confident as a defense mechanism? I went overboard with it, and kept this false confidence all the way into adulthood.
Let me say this: I am in no way blaming me being an asshole on those girls. We were all kids, albeit young adults, but it does explain what is in my past that made me what I became and why I am the way I am today.
Us guys all have our “things”. Some guys screw for sport, some are looking for wives, some are looking for arm candy to make themselves look good. I had become the kind of guy who would pretend not to love the women I really did love, and would break up with a sister I completely was enchanted by if I thought there was a remote chance she might break up with me soon. Better I hurt them than to let them get me first. I adopted the belief that any girl who was of the caliber I could fall head-over-heels for needed to be far away from me. I needed women I could easily walk away from, because it would make my life happier, I thought. At 42 years old I am just starting to get rid of that policy.
I use to threaten my ex-wives with “don’t push the buttons of a brother who had been divorced 2/3/4/5/6 times”. I gave a specific list of “don’t dos” and “better NOT dos”, and if they violated those rules, I was out. Each time I strayed from my philosophy and allowed myself to fall madly in love it always bit me in the butt. So as the pages of my life turned, it became harder and harder to be a normal person. Each of my wives had to threaten me with a break up to get me to marry them, and we entered each marriage with me saying to myself “I’ll try, but you better not fuck up.” The one thing I have never done was to drop on one knee and ask a woman to marry me. I had never married a woman I pledged undying love to. I had never dove head-first into a relationship the way I had done as a teen, because the last time I did I wound up hitting a painful hidden rock. And as a result I ended up hating an entire genre of music and swearing I would never date another Asian/White/Latina/preppie girl. I would swear another pretty girl wouldn’t “get me” again. Talk of damaged goods…
I say all of this because each of us over 30 who is unmarried probably have similar stories. Of course, you’re probably not as psychotic as I seem. But you are all damaged by something in your past, and the bruises of that something is showing on the way you treat your relationships–just like me. I had this bad habit of sabatoging my own relationships if I felt I was not secure enough in a relationship to just take off the training wheels and trust my own balance (or lack thereof). We all have those lovers in our past that we always return to, or someone who reminds us of them–or those lovers we try with all our might to avoid. We all have a certain way we react to heartache too. I used to track down some exes and their new boyfriends to fight; others I avoid and try to never see, speak to or think of again. I don’t even want someone who reminds me of her. And even very recently, I didn’t even want to love anyone with the same intensity and limitless boundaries I once did as a foolish, confident teenager. During my 20s, I even relocated each time my heart was broken in the silly effort to “escape” the experience. I would change my (nick)name, change my appearance, open a new business or get a new job, take a trip or go into seclusion, and when I emerged–I pretended to be some happy new person, and would try to live a completely different life.
I’m no psychiatrist or therapist, but I bet an expert would tell us we have to let go of all our fears and just do it, lest we become hostages of our past. I wish I had someone shake me 20 years ago to keep me from going down this road; I lost a lot of time–but it’s not too late. And it’s not too late for you too. Find out what in your past is being repeated. We have to break the habit.
Whatever you’re doing is not working; and if we fail to understand our past we are doomed to repeat it. I still proclaim to hate 80s soft rock. But here in this hotel room, where no one is listening to my laptop and my thoughts, I am enjoying Bonnie Tyler, Foreigner, Paul Young, Berlin and Madonna. The next time you all hear from me, I should return back to the trusting and naiive kid who wrecklessly trusted his heart to anyone who promised to care for it.
Thanks for visiting my blog.