It was during high school, one afternoon, in an upstairs hallway.
I’d come to the conclusion I wanted to end the relationship. We’d been together awhile (probably around a year) and while things were good at times, overall things were bad. My boyfriend–my first real boyfriend–was clingy, demanding and manipulative. He wanted to plan matching outfits every day. He constantly compared our relationship, especially the physical aspect (really, the lack thereof), to his best friend. If I was having a good day and he wasn’t, he went out of his way to ignore me until my day was shitty too.
So, I told him it was over. He rested his head against the wall, silent. I though the conversation went as well as it possibly could have…until he reared back and slammed his forehead into the glass of a picture frame hanging on the wall. In disbelief, I backed toward a classroom door, hoping to escape quickly.
Shock quickly turned to fear.
Luckily, other students were farther down the hallway and heard the commotion. I hurried back to class and frantically told my teacher what happened; she rushed out to assist him. My cousin came to check on me and I told him I was fine, he hadn’t hurt me.
The painful part came afterward, when I was asked to keep quiet about what happened.
My ex begged me not to tell anyone what happened. He hoped to join the military and worried this would negatively impact his chances. His mom and sister came to me with the same request. I was horrified. I was supposed to protect him? He was upset, they said. That behavior wasn’t like him; his future was at stake.
My college boyfriend–my first real love–went home for the summer while I stayed in town and worked. Toward the end of the summer, he told me he wanted to take me out to dinner–to talk to me about something–when he got back. He was very mysterious, refusing to tell me what he wanted to talk about, and I thought for sure he was going to propose. Turns out, he wanted to break up. (Thank God I got him to tell me over the phone instead of in a restaurant.)
But after that, we were still cordial…until he got upset with me for not buying a computer from him. See, he worked at a computer store and I came in one day and bought a brand new laptop–but not while he was on shift. He could have used that commission, he said. He thought I would have wanted to help him out.
Too often, women are expected to take ownership for what men do. Recently, the trial and conviction of Bill Cosby illuminates this disgusting facet of our society. Why did she go to his hotel room? What did she expect would happen? Why is she coming forward now? He’s an old man; he’ll die in prison because of this. What about him, his legacy as a Black actor?
It sickens me for a number of reasons, but mostly because it happened to me. I completely understand the anger, the sadness, the frustration, and the guilt that comes with being made to feel like you have to take care of someone totally able to care for himself.
Women are socialized to care, to nurture, to feel. We are expected to be firm, but kind. We are taught to be nice. Even at our own expense.
This goes for everyone, but especially for women–we need to start taking care of ourselves. It isn’t selfish to protect yourself from harm. It isn’t mean to tell the truth.
Honestly, I hesitated to even write this post. What if my two exes, their friends and families, got upset with me? What if I hurt their feelings? What if I made them mad?
Then I realized–I can’t worry about them. I have to worry about me. One of my intentions this year is to speak my truth. I’m finally telling the truth I’ve felt obligated to keep quiet for so long.
You don’t owe anyone your self-esteem, your time, your money, or your silence–especially if they aren’t willing to positively invest in you.