"And I’m not about to get married for the sake of somebody else, either. Just because everyone is all up in your face having kids and tying the knot, I’m good on that. Just because we say I do doesn’t make us happy." [An Interview]Read Now
MW: The woman I spoke with last month talked about losing her virginity. Can we talk about that for a minute? Did you love the man you lost your virginity to?
I thought I did. But I was 19. I thought I did. It was the first time I’d really spent the night at a guy’s house, and stuff like that. I thought I was really doing it. I was in college, I was working. I had my own money. I had my own car. I was still at home – I hadn’t moved yet – but I was coming and going. And I had this guy and it was cool. It was fun. That’s what it was… he was fun. But when I came out of my fun stage and was looking at what my life was going to look like…
MW: How old were you when that happened?
I had just graduated from college—I was 22. After I looked at what I wanted my life to look like—and I looked at him – it didn’t equate. He couldn’t get with the program because he hadn’t grown up. It really made for a difficult situation. We broke up, and then when I went and got my own crib, we got back together for a minute. But in hindsight, I had been done for a minute. And I knew I was done. But we had been together for so long that I said, maybe we just needed some time apart and maybe he’s grown up some. But I knew in the back of my mind that shit wasn’t true. (laughs) I said, this dude is not any further along in this process than he was before. For a moment he’d gotten himself together. ‘Cause see, he was a street nigga. And it was fun. And then he got a legit job. I said sweet, ok then, this is actually going to go somewhere. I said, he’s got his gig – he was getting up faithfully every morning going to work. I mean, he was not late. Did not miss that alarm clock. If I spent the night at his house, I dropped him off to his ride in the morning. I didn’t take him to work – he never ever asked me to take him to work. It didn’t cross his mind. He met somebody who stayed south who was going in the same direction and he just had to meet them at a certain time in the morning. So I would get up, drop him off and then go back to bed. He had that gig and we started talking about moving. We were about to get an apartment and I was on 10. I was like, ok, this is really going someplace. I’m liking the way this is looking. And then…
MW: Uh oh…
Yeah, I’d gone to see the apartment and everything. I’m at school and his mama calls me and says, I know you all are about to move but maybe right now isn’t a very good time. Maybe you all should wait. You know his job at the post office is only temporary. I was like, temporary? Then she said, he may or may not have it later – he has to get through the probation season. I was like, what? After that he started temping, and after that he just stopped working altogether. I was like well, now you’re not legit anymore. I can’t do anything with that. (loughs) I need to know there’s steady income paying the rent. And after that, I just kind of had a bitter taste in my mouth with him.
MW: So when you got pregnant at 25, was that a planned pregnancy?
Of course not. But when you have your own crib, your own car, and you’re in your profession, you feel a little bit better about taking risks.
MW: And you had all of those things at 25?
Yes. I was in my career – I had even started my master’s degree. I hadn’t finished – I had to stop because the school was too far and I said, I’ll pick it up later – but I had started. I was in the profession that I wanted to be in at the time. So it wasn’t as big a risk. I wasn’t worried about being homeless. I wasn’t worried about having to explain to somebody why I’m having a baby. I didn’t have to do any of that. Now of course when my family got the news it was a little different because no one really thought I would have kids. They just didn’t peg me as having children. I was always with somebody else’s kid – my nephew lived with me and so did my goddaughters for a while – so I always had them, but they went home. (laughs) If I got tired of them or their parents wanted them back, they went home. But me having kids on a full time basis, nobody really expected that. And they definitely didn’t expect me to have kids with somebody who wasn’t a CEO.
How much of a CEO wasn’t he?
(Laughs) He was working at CVS. And no, he didn’t own the place. But he was working. He had been to school. He had been to the service. There were just certain things about his person that worked for me. And he was a lot of fun. To this day, we have a lot of fun. I was a little more comfortable with the risk. And I knew if something happened, that I was able to take care of my own kid and I don’t have to worry about hounding somebody, sitting up in court. I didn’t have to do any of that. My kid was going to be taken care of hands down, because I knew I could do it. And I didn’t have to depend on anybody else to do it for me.
MW: So, are you married?
MW: How long have you been together?
We’ve been together eight, going on nine years.
MW: How many kids do you have together?
MW: How old are they?
One is seven years old and the other is almost six months.
MW: (Laughs) And… why aren’t you married again?
By choice. I’ve been engaged for six years. He proposed to me just before our oldest son turned two. When he proposed I was excited. I was like, ooh, really? I pulled out my big notepad and started making preparations like, oh my God, where am I going to get married? But what I was caught up in at the time was the wedding itself. The dress, the preparations, what are we going to serve, who my bridesmaids will be, what they will wear, who my maid of honor will be, what she will wear. So I was going through all these steps, calling around, getting all these prices, putting money away, saving and everything. We figured we’d get married one year from the day we got engaged. I thought, we can do this. And then as the date drew closer – I’m calling around and I’ve already made arrangements with the caterer – we started talking money and that’s when certain things started to come out.
MW: Oh hell…
Yeah, about six months into it, we just started bumping heads on some things. First we looked at how much it was going to cost. He said, well I’m not spending that amount of money on a wedding. He said it shouldn’t cost that much. It was some idea he had for the wedding – I can’t remember what – but I totally disagreed with it. I was like no, I don’t think so.
MW: Because you were planning your wedding…
Right. (laughs) And then he made a comment and said we needed marriage counseling – you know how when you get married at a church and they make you get counseling with the pastor before he’ll perform the ceremony? Well he said we needed that. And I said, no dear, we need relationship counseling, and they ain’t the same thing. And at that point, it dawned on me – I think I’m good. We can exist as we are and if it becomes too much, we can go our separate ways.
And with all relationships, especially with men and women, men and women have different ideas of intimacy. Especially when children have been introduced into the equation. And mind you, he proposed after we had a kid. Now of course had he proposed before we had any children and we had gotten married before we had any kids, this probably would have looked very different. But, we did have a kid. And it did sometimes mean he couldn’t be first. As with all men (laughs), they have to adjust to this. And it’s a hard adjustment to go through – first, to realize they are no longer first – and then to say, I want this right now and it can’t happen. They say, what is this madness? What? What do you mean, not now? And I’m like, uhhh, not now. And he had been married before and he had a son with her, but it was still a very different dynamic than what he was going through with me. They didn’t really live together – I mean they did for a minute, but it was very brief. So still, that notion of having to wait – we’re all here together but I have to wait on the little person – he was like, what is that? I’m confused.
And then, a friend of mine lost her aunt. She had three daughters but I didn’t know that she had been married. And then at the funeral, her husband showed up. Me and her daughters got to talking and it came out that they had been estranged for years but because they were still legally married, he was entitled to all of her money. And I said, but she got kids – what do you mean? The whispering was that he showed up all of a sudden to claim his piece of her money. And I said, as long as she left her will to her kids, he can’t touch it. But they said, no no no, because they were married, he’s entitled to whatever she has…
MW: Right, because he’s the surviving spouse.
And I said that’s some bullshit. I said, I wish I would. We split up, we ain’t talking, you ain’t sent child support check the first, I ain’t seen you in 15 years, but you’re entitled to what I have? My kids don’t even get it – you get it? And we haven’t seen you and you’ve done nothing? I said hell naw. Marriage did that ? I said, that’s okay. We can stay together, but that’s all it’s going to be. (laughs)
MW: So how did your forever fiancé deal with the fact that…
Oh, he was pissed. Because at first, we just put it off another year. But when you continue to be with somebody, you learn more about them. And as you learn more about them as the years go on, you start questioning some things. And there were just some things that I was learning that… I had to ask myself, do I want to be tied to this for the rest of my life? Because I also believe that when you say I do, you should really try to make it be forever. I mean, divorce is expensive. (laughs) It’s expensive, it’s stressful, and I would rather not deal with it. If we come to the point where we feel that we can no longer make this work, I really want to be able to split amicably and easily. I don’t want to have to sit here and divvy up what belongs to you, what belongs to me, how much money you got to send me… I don’t want to be bothered with any of that. I don’t want to have to go the courts and let them say, ok, let them dissolve their marriage. Why should they be the ones to tell me my relationship is over?
MW: And how much I gotta pay...
Darn it, if I feel like my relationship is over… and that’s another thing – with that, it puts the government in your business. It’s a legally binding agreement, is what it is. And if at any point you want to sever that legally binding agreement, you got to go see the man. I’m okay on that. I’d rather deal with my own shit in house. So with that, it was like, why do we need to get married then? We can just remain together and that’s just what it is. Why do I have to have a piece of paper to say that I love you?
MW: So how does he feel about that?
He has come to grips with it a little better over time. He went through a period where he was extremely salty behind it. But also when I look at it – I don’t think he was ready, either. He thought he was. But in my personal opinion…
MW: He was ready to be married but he wasn’t ready for a wife…
Right. And I was not about to subject myself to that because I knew I’d have to get divorced. Because I’m not going to live in a marriage miserably…
MW: But you still are kind of in a marriage. You live together, right?
Yes, but things aren’t tied. There are certain decisions he can make that won’t affect me, just like there are certain decisions I can make that won’t affect him. There are still some things that are kept separate because we aren’t legally tied at the hip. Knowing that also allows a little freedom on my behalf to allow him to do certain things. It’s like when you know certain decisions will have certain consequences and repercussions, you’re more prone to try to control it because you know what the outcome is.
MW: What kinds of things are you talking about?
Like, financial decisions. You know, I made a conscious choice to stick with him when he decided to start his own business. Which is fine. He decided he wanted to quit his job and go ahead and start up his own and I said, ok, let’s see how this works out. I sat back and I watched to see how all this was going to pan out. But mind you, if the stuff went south, all our stuff ain’t tied together in one thing.
MW: (Laughs) So you have the luxury of watching.
I have the luxury of watching. And if you need my help and you ask for it, I have no problem with assisting. But I had to see if he had enough drive – and not just drive, but enough… see, before you start a business, you need to know the ins and outs. There are things you should research, like what is it that you need to get this baby rolling? Now, I thought starting the business was a great idea. He took the classes. I thought what he was going into was great. I just didn’t feel like he should let his full time job go in order to do it. So, you know I just said, ok, I’m being the motivator or whatever. But in the back of mind I’m saying, you know, if this shit don’t work out…
MW: I’m ok…
Me and my kid is gon’ be alright. And I just realized he hadn’t done his homework. But I knew he hadn’t done his homework when he started. I knew that already. I was just looking. And oh how badly I wanted to say something. And if we had been married, I would have, because everything would have been all tied up. But this way, I was able to give him the leeway he needed to learn on his own and…
Learn from his own mistakes…
Right. I was able to take a back seat and keep doing what I was doing – making sure the kids were good. He was still doing what he was supposed to do too, but like I said, he hadn’t done his homework. So when stuff didn’t pan out the way he had hoped, he was a little salty. Granted, I would have been too. But I would have done my homework first. And there were certain rules, regulations, fees, fines, (laughs), stuff you need – that he just hadn’t fully explored. He was just so excited that he did some of the research, but not all of the research. But he learned from it, though. So if he chooses to jump back in it again later down the line – which, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does – he’ll be much more prepared for it. But he had to go through it first to see what was needed. But had I been married? I’d have said, no honey, we can’t do this. And it really would have caused a lot of friction in the house because I’d have been up and screaming like, you can’t do this and we can’t do that and we have to pay so and so… but because we weren’t married, I didn’t do any of that. I said, is there anything you need me to do? I got some free time on Saturday – is there anything you need me to type up or send over?
Since you’re not legally married but you are monogamous, what are the rules of your relationship?
It’s us. We stick by each other until we can’t do that anymore.
What does that entail?
We support one another, we’re open with one another. We don’t feel like anybody owns anybody. I don’t own you because I’m married to you and you don’t own me because you’re married to me. We are existing in this together. When I feel like I’m not being supported, I have to bring it to the forefront and tell him what it is. I have to say, this here, this ain’t working. We had a conversation one time where I had to point blank come out and say, we need some space. We’re going to have to take some time apart. We’re going to have to because this here ain’t working. You need to be in your space and I need to be in mine.
And did you end up taking that space?
No… he was like, I understand what you’re saying. He was like, I see it from your perspective. And he made some changes. But I feel like when you’re human, sometimes you need to take space. That’s my own personal feeling. But when you’re married to somebody and you take space, it looks different. When you’re not married and you take space it’s like, oh, ok. You’re taking space – it’s not a big issue. Nobody’s up in arms like, oh my God, they’re getting a divorce. She done moved out the house, oh God. There’s no uproar. Ain’t nobody all up in the business, ain’t nobody all concerned. You don’t get all of that. But for some reason once you say married, it changes all the rules. I like the rules as they are, to be honest with you.
Now of course everyone doesn’t subscribe to this, clearly. His grandmother still says, I wish you all would get married but I’m not going to say anything. (laughs) Also his cousin isn’t married. They had plans to get married – they announced the engagement and everything – but for whatever reason, they still ain’t tied the knot. And I think its more so her than him. She’s strong willed like that. I think one day she just decided, you know what – I’m good the way this is and I think we’re going to stay right here for a little while. Now his other cousin, once she got herself a man and had a baby, she hurried up and tied the knot. She had other people in her ear, though. Folks saying, they already not doing it right. I think that influenced her decision to go ahead and do it. So they did it, and I hope they’re happy. They seem to be. And I’m not about to get married for the sake of somebody else, either. Just because everyone is all up in your face having kids and tying the knot, I’m good on that. Just because we say I do doesn’t make us happy.
MW: Well, let me ask you this – married men, because of the word married, expect a physical recognition of this union…with some regularity. Do you experience this with your forever fiancé?
That was what sparked the argument six months before we tied the knot. He was complaining that he wasn’t getting enough.
MW: But you already had a small baby?
We had a two year old. And I was working and taking care of the house and my feeling was, you want all of this extra but what are you doing extra? I’m going to work, picking up, dropping off. I’m cleaning, I’m cooking. What are you doing besides going to work? But I’m supposed to have enough energy at the end of the day to deal with you? But I ain’t dealt with myself, either. So I done dealt with the baby, the house, now you – and nothing for me? Yeah… I ain’t really liking that one. And marriage seems to scream that these are the things that are supposed to happen. Bullshit. I said, you know what? You can keep your marriage because I’m not on that. I’m just not. And men seem to have, once they get married, some sense of ownership with their women. It’s… I don’t know… it takes something away from it for me. At the time I preferred not to be bothered with it. Now that I’m older it’s not a big deal with me now because we’ve been through so much. At this point if I do go ahead and get married, not much will change. But if I’d gotten married when he proposed, things would have been totally different. At this point, enough has happened. We’ve gone through enough that now it doesn’t bother me so much. I doubt very seriously that anybody’s going anywhere. But at the time that he did propose, shortly after that…you’re in that process of learning somebody and you learn more and more about the person. And you have to make the decision whether or not this is what you want to deal with for the rest of your natural born life. You ask yourself, if this is the best it’s going to be, is that what you want to deal with? If this person doesn’t grow anymore than they’ve grown right now, are you okay with that? And at the time, I wasn’t. I was like, I’ll be damned if I deal with this shit the rest of my life. I’m just not going to do it.
MW: But he’s made some changes though?
Yeah, he’s grown. We’ve both grown.
MW: Have you ever considered the fact that part of those changes he made was because of you? And because you were acting in the exact same way that a wife would act? And can you consider that maybe he just needed a wife to help him grow up? And that you did that anyway?
No. Part of it was that he thought I was about to walk, to be honest with you.
MW: Got it. You're saying if you had married him and been a forever wife instead of a forever fiance, he would have said, I can do what I want because you ain’t going nowhere…
Right. Part of it was, he was in the process of making some changes on his own, looking at himself and deciding, there are some things about me I want different. And some of it was, wait a second, I think she’s about to walk. It looks like she’s going to talk. And is it really worth it me being this selfish, for her to walk? And he kind of weighed the two. And I mean, women do it too. There are things we compromise on for the good of the relationship. And he’s done that over time. And I’m not saying he was a horrible person. I think he’s great – he’s always been great. But when you look at what forever looks like (laughs), and what you’re willing to deal with for forever… you have to decide what you’re willing to deal with for the rest of your life. I asked a friend of mine that – she was talking about her boyfriend and I said, well, I can’t tell you to leave him. I wouldn’t do that. But you gotta ask yourself, if this doesn’t get any better than what it is today, are you okay there? And if you’re not okay there, you’re going to have to make some decisions.
So we’ve both grown. I’ve learned to compromise more on some things, and he’s learned to be more supportive in certain areas. I tell him, I understand how you grew up and what you’re used to seeing, but I don’t subscribe to that. I don’t make choices that will make my life twice as hard as it has to be. I’m not going to live my life twice as hard as it has to be. I’m just not going to do that. And so if we’re going to be together, you’re going to have to do your part. It took both of us to make children and have a house, so both of us have to pull our weight. Period. As long as I have to work… if I still have to bring in income, then you still gotta wash dishes. I’m just saying. As long as I have to contribute in this other way… if you want the 1950s lifestyle, I’m not opposed to it. But that means I get to live the 1950s lifestyle.
MW: Right – like, this is all I have to do.
There you go. And if you aren’t in a position to do that, that’s fine. I’m not knocking you. But then you can’t expect a 1950s outcome, either. It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t. So over the years, there’s been some things we’ve learned about each other. There’s been some trying times. I know I’ve been in positions where I was going to walk. And he knows it, too. And there’s been times where he’s had to ask himself, is this what I want to be bothered with for the rest of my life? But he said when he put in perspective, based on what he has dealt with and what the alternatives are, he said yeah, I’d rather be here. He said, I’m going to sit here and try to make this work. I’m going to try to do what she’s asking me to do.
MW: So at this point, do you think your relationship is forever?
I feel that it is forever as long as we want it to continue to be forever. But if at any point, our attitude or feelings change, then it won’t be. I think we’ll love each other forever, but who can realistically say… there have been many people who said when they got married, that this is going to be forever – I’m going to love this person forever. Which, I think you do – love doesn’t change. But the ability to live with that person? If you all aren’t growing and changing together, or at least respecting the growth and the change that person is going through, it can’t go forever. It can’t. So one person is constantly growing and changing and the other person can’t deal with the change… that’s what happened with my previous boyfriend. I was growing and changing and maturing but he was still in the same space. So no matter how much he thought he loved me or how much I thought I loved him, there was no way it would work. It couldn’t. We didn’t want the same things. We weren’t moving in the same direction. It just couldn’t happen. So no matter how madly in love you are with somebody, the human condition is change. So if people are not on board, then it’s not going to be forever, no matter how much you may want it to be. And if you force it, everybody’s just miserable. When everybody could just be happy apart. (laughs)
MW: (Laughs) That was the perfect end to this interview. I truly appreciate your time.