I was in the Garden State discretely auditioning for 15 minutes of fame. I had been waiting my turn, camped on a beach chair in the parking lot of a low-end department store in my fabulous silk dress that I so desperately wanted to avoid ruining with under-arm sweat. That's when mom, then playing the role of personal assistant, brought up a sore subject. She asked about the last man I'd dated. Let's call him Miles, because he reminds me so much of a character first introduced in Benilde Little's novel, Good Hair.
When I met Miles right after Mount Holyoke, I was one of those people. I had been living in Manhattan for five years, hanging out with a bunch of women who, in addition to sharing an alma mater, shared a "1950-ish" goal of marrying well.
Miles, the fictional character, has all the the swag and circumstance deserving of a wildly successful, handsome, and charming Black man. He is a workaholic. Success is his wife, but he takes many concubines. And while Miles initially surrounds his paramour in magnificent romantic splendor, his attention span is painfully short. Painfully.
I had a Miles. He moved on. I'm still trying to.
"He's not the one," mom said. At least I think that's what she said. At that point I was reading her lips. The chatter of reality tv hopefuls and this conversation was bleeding into one another. I was in a wind tunnel, wondering how the hell we landed on this subject anyway. Mom was angry with me. I'd confessed to her that I wanted to know what it was I did. How did I manage to lose the man with whom most women didn't stand a chance? The man I felt I deserved. The man of my Betty Dreams.
"You really need to see someone about this. You don't know how to lose. You've never been able to accept failure. It's because we spoiled you. We gave you everything you wanted."
How mom was comparing my love life to my childhood wants was beyond me. This was not a car or a Dooney and Burke bag or a Tiffany's bracelet. This was a potential husband. Grown woman business.
I had been channeling positive energy prior to the audition, but I felt myself deflating. Mom's words were so final. "He's not the one. You're barking up the wrong tree."
At that moment I was quietly reliving every past romantic failure. From high school. To college. To adulthood. They had all merged into a single sorrowful composite experience that somehow rendered all of my victories up to that point insignificant.
I was remembering how Scorpio loved me and hurt me. How Prince Charming disappointed me. How Mr. X vanished. I was building yet another emotional monument to yet another man.
The angst clenched my throat and tears filled my eyes until finally I began to sob in the middle of that low-budget parking lot, in my a fabulous silk dress, while a lady dressed up as Tinkerbell looked on.
I was convinced that I was in love with Miles, and I made a deal with myself at that moment to do whatever I had to do, which turned out to be pretending to be someone else, to close the deal. I'd anointed him the perfect man: Ward doing the levels-- eatin' ribs with the brothers who work for transit and drinking Vueve Clicquot with CEO's.
At the open of Benilde Little's book, Alice, the main character, is still quietly suffering in Miles' absence after two years. She's a newspaper reporter, living the Manhattan life: climbing social ladders in the appropriate pair of pumps. For Alice, love is the conclusion of a long and dizzying fairytale.
"You want a fairytale," my mother said.
Alice and I aren't completely different. Of course, in the end she stumbles upon a blue- blooded doctor of Boston stock. They live happily ever after with one minor hiccup-- an illegitimate child. And then two books later, Miles, at the age of 40, finally marries a flighty and fabulous twenty-five year old, of my namesake. Aisha. Go figure.
This is not heart break. This is a dream deferred.
I confess that I am in love with the idea that I can have it all. Fabulous degree. Fabulous career. Fabulous wardrobe. Fabulous man. When I met my Miles, I was reeling with the excitement. Praise God, literally I thanked God, that I would not have to be another successful 'strong' Black women without a husband or a date. Amen! I was flyer than that. Above being a victim. Alas, I had done it. I was on my way to being one of the impeccable women in the society pages of Uptown Magazine.
And when our romance dismantled I blamed myself. I wasn't on-point enough. I wasn't accommodating enough. I didn't say the right things. Maybe I said too much. In fact, I'm still haunted by the possibility that when I meet another him, I'll let him get away as well. I still feel that because I am fly and I am a Black woman , I do not have the luxury of making mistakes.
A few hours after my unsuccessful reality-show audition, my grandad called with good news. Pop-Pop was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of years ago but today it's completely in remission. He said the doctors had told him he was in excellent health for his age. He said, "People who get old stay in the house and they dwell on things they have no control over."
Pop-Pop may not have realized it, but at that moment he taught me one of the most powerful lessons I've learned to date. You have to move on. Living things adapt or they die.
I had to move on.
I ended my phone call with Pop-Pop chewing on that nugget of wisdom. I pulled up Facebook on my blackberry and read a post written by an old friend. Actually, he was my first crush, but we don't need to assign him an alias. I adored this guy in middle school and high school but I was too shy to make any good on it. On his end, what started out as mutual interest turned into repulsion. To him, I wasn't the goody-two-shoe Black girl with stars in her eyes. I was just awkward. Yehp. In my first concupiscent experience, I fell flat on my face.
This old crush had just posted about a basketball tournament in memory of a mutual classmate who'd passed away. It was already in progress at the local middle school. I though, how convenient? I could maybe see some old friends. I didn't think twice about seeing my former interest.
So I went over there, dressed casually in snug denim, a silk blouse, and peep toe heels. I ducked my head in and quickly realized I didn't recognize anyone, except for him. I stepped back outside. Suddenly my heart was beating through my chest. I could easily turn around and go back home. He'd never even know I was there if I just quietly slipped out.
"Hey!" I greeted him with my mega-watt smile.
He returned it with a hug. "Aren't you like a star now! " He smiled back. I relaxed. As he peppered me with questions about my new life in Medium-City, South I couldn't help but realize how much tastes change, and so do circumstances.
Over a decade had passed since I was infatuated by his puerile good looks. I had since moved on, found new men to become infatuated with, to seduce, and new men to mourn.
As I turned to leave, he asked to exchange information. Cool.
That night, during a casual text conversation, he invited me to his place.
I mean... really?
As I politely declined his invitation, I accepted that time changes things. This weekend was supposed to be nothing more than a quick trip home for an audition. It turned out to be an abrupt confrontation with the past; The old neighborhood, the childhood crush, and the not so distant feelings of hurt and regret. And while I realized I was completely over my teenage crush, I had to face the fact that I was still completely devastated by losing Miles. Hell, by losing. And thoughts of Miles still unleash all of my insecurities. Will I find success? Will I meet 'the one'?
Am I good enough for the life of my dreams?
I had met Miles Browning at a party. He smelled my hollowness and zoned in on me like a coyote at a camp fire.
The truth: I am probably part to blame for Mile's abrupt loss of interest. And so is he. In retrospect, there were a lot of external factors that made our relationship unfavorable at the moment. But I am a lot like Alice was at the beginning of that book--- heart broken, hungry for the inexplicable, and looking for fulfillment. Whatever it is I'm wanting, I saw in him.
It's not all that easy dating as a fly Black woman. You have these standards... they complicate things. But it's even harder when you want the world and you lack the patience it takes to wait for it.
Time in and of itself takes care of a lot of things. If we work toward being our best selves, life only gets better, even if there is a misstep, or several, along the way. The best thing we can do is learn, quickly, from experience and take some wisdom for the road.
As Pop-Pop might say, no use dwelling on things you can't change.
Flyness and funk,