Love can also be blinding. Love can seep through the eyes of the right person and attach itself to the wrong person. Love can detour you from a healthy life path, leading you down a path of destruction. Love can trick you into going after it, simply for the sake of having someone to love. Love can have you accepting that which is unhealthy, simply for the sake of the oh-so coveted feeling of “love.”
My experiences in love have been quite profound. Mind-boggling, rather. See, I come from a two-parent home. My mom and dad have been married for the past 34 years, and they are still going strong. Though my dad isn’t the biggest on PDA (public displays of affection), there is no doubt that my dad loves my mom to death. Love between them has not changed. However, love can still become distorted even when taught through great example. Love comes with its own interpretations, and each interpretation is dependent upon who, what, when, where, why, and how you choose to engage in the act of love.
I want to share my most abysmal 2 1/2 year relationship with you. What I am going to share, is a piece of the hurt, the pain, and the anguish, that experienced, while foolishly engaging in the act of love. My foolish act began in October of 2003, the beginning of senior year in college at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I virtually met a smooth-talking guy on the old website, BlackPlanet.com. This was around the time when Internet dating was considered taboo. While I typically did not take any guy from the Internet seriously, there was something about the way he spoke to me, that struck my interest. Or, perhaps it was the fascination of meeting a would-have-been pro basketball player, who posted an image of himself posed with retired NBA star and mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson, that honed in on my naivety. Either way, at the time I didn’t care. He was tall, muscular, athletic, Black, and to me, fine as ever.
After days & nights of talking via BlackPlanet, and soon phone calls, I decided to entertain & thoroughly satisfy my curiosity by leaving the safe haven of my college room to go visit him. Mind you, I’d previously come down with a horrible cold (which the campus doctor diagnosed as mononucleosis), but he didn’t stop me from coming, and of course I didn’t stop myself either. That was red flag #1: a man who doesn’t care about your health, doesn’t care about YOU. I paid for myself to take the Amtrak bus from Santa Cruz to San Jose, another Amtrak bus from San Jose to Stockton, and then the Amtrak train via the San Joaquin Valley all the way down to Fresno. Now, this could very well be considered red flag #2: any good man who wants to see a woman in his city, will at least front the bill…however everything is case-by-case, so I’ll call it red flag #1.5. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to endure a 6-hr trip, one way (about 2 hours if driving) to see the man who would soon turn my life upside down.
My first time arriving in Fresno, I was met by Mike (name change for personal reasons) and one of his friends. And walking to the car, I was met by another female who was behind the wheel. Red flag #2: what does another woman have to do with my meeting a man who is supposed to sweep me off my feet!?!? Along the drive home, my mind raced with possibilities of what exactly I was getting myself into…reaching the apartment confirmed my suspicions of a bad decision: the apartment was a small one-room loft, which housed then-27-year-old Mike, and the woman who was driving his car (whom I will refer to as Tina), and was the headquarters of an adult-oriented operation. Red flag #3: a grown man should be much more stable than living in a one-room loft, across the street from Fresno State University, with another woman living with him…you can pretty much conclude that the apartment was typically designed for young college students, which he was no longer.
I soon learned that Mike ran a private exotic dancing company. He would send strippers to perform at bachelor parties, birthday parties, sports parties, graduation parties, office parties, and private 1-on-1 shows. Red flag #4: any man who brings a woman into an unfamiliar environment, will soon expect her to conform to that environment. Now, as I said before, I was raised in a two-parent home, and my father is a minister (not to mention two uncles, and their colleagues). Needless to say, Mike and Tina (one of Mike’s beloved strippers) persuaded me enough with pleasant-sounding smooth talk to begin dancing right along with the other strippers. You can imagine how imperative it was to hide my encounter, and new life, from my family. Clearly, getting me to dance was his main focus of bringing me to Fresno: not to love me, but to work me. Use me. And later, abuse me.
Throughout my senior year, I spent my weekdays in class, and my weekends in a stable of women, waiting on 24-hr calls for strip shows. While I was able to maintain good grades, I was failing at decision-making. After I graduated college in June of 2004, we both made the decision for me to move in with him. Though the red flags were in my face, I decided to stick it out, feeling that a man’s profession did not determine his overall personality. And in most cases, such is true. This case was completely opposite. Mike became a manipulative tyrannical pimp: we women had to work at any phone call that came in, we women had to give him all the money earned (including tips), and if you did not do what he expected, his rage would surface. Red flag #5: a man who will let rage govern his way of running a home or business, is not a man to be associated with. Yet, I felt he had a soft spot in his heart for me. Often I felt, because I was a college senior, he had to have some type of respect for me. I was also able to turn the young “college student” on & off, and the newly-experienced “business woman” on & off, at their appropriate times, unlike several of the other dancers in his stable. Though I sunk to a low level, I still maintained some sort of dignity, still holding myself to a higher standard. Such thinking allowed me to navigate through the business, to high-paying patrons seeking a specific type of woman for his temporary pleasure.
As time progressed, and the lineup of women changed as frequently as underclothes, I eventually found myself to be the last woman standing. His “bottom b***h,” if you will. When he lost his money, I stuck with him. When he lost his car, I stuck with him. When he lost all his dancers, including Tina, I stuck with him. After my 1st abortion from his impregnating me, I stuck with him. When I was the breadwinner keeping the bills paid, I stuck with him. I held down a regular 8am-5pm day job and still “performed” at night. Oftentimes I got very little sleep. I put up with his sleeping with every woman who came through the apartment door as a stripper hopeful; his reasoning was, “I gotta get in their heads, to make them wanna make the money.” Though I saw right through it, I loved him. I was in love with him. And I tried my very best to offer the benefit of the doubt. I was the bottom b***h, and I wanted to hold onto that appointed title! I even introduced him to my parents when they drove up from Los Angeles to Fresno, twice, to come see their youngest grown babygirl (yes, even though they knew he ran a stripping operation, I hid my total involvement from them). And, I knew better than to challenge him too much, because of his various acts of rage: busting holes through the doors and walls, getting in women’s faces, choking women, cursing, yelling, all enhanced with alcoholism. I had been victim to quite a few of his attacks…and yet, I stayed. Red flag #6: a man who puts his hands on you, does not love you, in any way.
There were countless occurrences that should have prompted a faster departure from his mental grasp, one of which being his mission to manipulate his daughter’s mother Sherry to be against me. She and I had nothing to dislike each other about, however at that time his intricately-devised plan to keep women in competition with each other and in constant pursuit of his attention & affection, had worked on us. And, it wasn’t long before women began fighting me. Mike gave me the coveted title of “bottom b***h,” yet he was in every other woman’s ear, convincing her that she could boot me out of my place. Clearly, he instigated fights, for his egotistical enjoyment. Red flag #7: any man who will allow other women to challenge his woman, is in fact NOT a man. Amidst the times he lied to me, kept money from me, kept me from having any real friends, worked me like a slave, choked me, pushed me down the stairs, head-butted me in my nose, the final straws were having my 2nd pregnancy from him that he denied (which I eventually aborted), and having two women, both named Danielle, attempt to fist fight me. Each of the two violent bouts was at a different time in the 2 1/2 years of turmoil, but still impacted my life.
Upon deciding to finally leave him in March of 2006, I had found an apartment in Fresno, and I bought two large suitcases to pack all my stuff. But I never got the opportunity to move in. Unfortunately while I was at my day job, he summoned his daughter’s mother Sherry to change the locks on the apartment door, thus keeping me from my belongings. Trying to fight for my things would have been to no avail, so I called my parents, went to the Amtrak station, with the clothes on my back, purse in hand, the last $30 in my bank account, and booked my ticket back to Los Angeles.
To this day, I still struggle with forgiving him, forgiving myself, and moving on. To this day, I still think of the two abortions I had. To this day, I still mentally punish myself for letting love be the reason I stayed with a lying, manipulative, selfish, drunken, violent abuser. My past experiences have spilled over into every other relationship I’ve had with men. With the exception of my dad, I have a hard time trusting and believing men. Even the differences in how men and women are biologically and psychologically wired, I find fault.
Yes, world, I was a college grad who decided to let the veil of “love” reduce me to a stripper. Yes, world, I did a stupid thing. Am I bitter? Not quite, but I feel it festering, and I’m not quite sure how to stop it. I am always told to pray…but what if you don’t feel like your prayers are heard? What if you are exhausted from praying? Exhausted from smiling as if everything is back to normal? What if people you care(d) about, use your past to hurt you in an argument, when one has nothing to do with the other? What if you cry to yourself because you are afraid to show weakness to people, since they are prone to use your past against you? What if you constantly fight feeling hatred for men (and it does not help that urban pop culture promotes and perpetuates ill treatment of women)? What if the primary option to heal, as you see it, is to remain single, even at the expense of passing up the person who may be the one for you? What, then?
Young ladies, please do not tread the same path I did. Please use your heads before engaging your hearts. Please pay attention to all signs and red flags (it does not help that, red flag #8, was that we were 6 months, 6 days, and 6 years apart). Please save yourselves from anything that will result in post-trauma. Please spare yourselves the flowing tears because you see everything that men say and do, will in some way serve as painful reminders. Please think thoroughly, before acting.
Love is beautiful, but not worth the pain. Take off the blinders.
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