For the years that mattered I lived in a house with a mother and father. My grandmother and my grandfather were my parents. I watched everything my grandmother did and I learned from her. What I feel now for her is anger and sadness. Why did you teach me all of these things I’ll never be able to use? I know how to cook. I know how to clean. I know how to listen. I know how to love. None of these skills mean anything in my world. In her world they meant more than money, well almost more than money. In my world? It matters more if I’m skinny. If I have a title. A “good job.” And good credit. I don’t have any of that. All I have is love. That doesn’t mean anything if you’re Black.
My White girlfriends and my lady friends of all manner of nationalities have found a way to find husbands who value what they bring to the home. What is it about being Black that we seem to live our lives, or the only life which is valid, is outside of the home? Our job. Our car. Our clothes. Our jewelry. We invest so much in things which can be bought or sold, given and then taken away. No one could ever take my love away.
I’ve been married twice. My first husband didn’t value me because everyone on the outside told him I was nothing. I was crazy. I was this and I was that. He loved me and he married me away from his family. Away from my family. But when all of those groups were brought together – I was discarded. All of these years later he has tried to make amends. He didn’t know how special I was. Thank you for the compliment. Now.
Now here’s the thing. You’re probably thinking I’m unattractive, uneducated, untalented, and lonely. I’m not. I’m very attractive. Very well educated. I hope I’m talented. I’m not alone. I always have someone vying for my time. But that’s what makes me so sick about this. They only want my time incrementally. They want two hours alone. They want a weekend away. They want a week so I can help them with their book, project, or just a friend until another girl; the one with the “good job” comes back. I am everyone’s best friend and as one lover put it, “a great gal.” Just not great enough or good enough to marry and keep for his very own. To keep me all to himself. Like Joe Pesce in Casino said, “It’s the dollars. Always the dollars.” That’s the point at which we have arrived. A job applicant synonymous with a wife. How many times have I been asked, “What do you bring to the table?” I can’t even count it. I don’t want to count it. I refuse to have my love placed on someone else’s balance sheet like a vase or a table in an inventory of probable purchases. My love is animate and very much alive.
I’d like someone to fuss over and to do for. I’d like someone to hold me at night. I’d like someone to strive for and to struggle with. And that’s the next point of the sad story of my wasted love. I’m a work in a progress. I’m not ready to wear. I’ve got baggage, issues, problems just like any other woman and other man. But this is a man’s market. A man doesn’t have to marry. He can sit and feel the warmth, the heat, of any number of perfectly acceptable women who rotate around him like planets around a sun. Most have had no fathers and many have never watched a married couple. They have no idea that only the real sun keeps its heat indefinitely.
So here I sit. Aging well. Adjunct professor of history. Published author. Children are for the most part grown. I’d like someone to love. Note well, I said I’d like someone to love, other than myself. I’m not looking for anyone to complete me – I would like to build something with somebody. My own somebody. I know I’m not skinny. I don’t have a good job. I don’t have connections. I think I have 18 dollars and change in the bank – that’s what I bring to the table. But I reject your table. It doesn’t seem to be doing you any good. If your table was so very attractive you’d want someone to share it with you. Instead, you’re like some strange host, you bring them in and you move them out. Year after year, rotating among the planets who crave your warmth.
I learned something else from my grandparents. Youth is a time for building. I’ve met so many men who assume they’re going to grab someone when they feel like it, when the time is right, when they this and when they that, and I laugh at them. Really now? Is that what you think you’re going to do? I’ve met so many women who feel that they’re just too good to even consider a man who’s working, striving, and living his best life. Really now? Did you think of all the people who allowed you to become the successful Black woman you are? I bet you a thousand monies that there was a blue collar brother on your team, in your family, somebody somewhere who is responsible for you to getting to your brighter days.
And that’s where we have it. That’s what we’ve got on the table right now. No connections. No comfort on those cold nights. I’m a living witness, cher, a degree can’t keep you warm. And the corks from all those bottles popped in the club can’t call you honey or bring you a cup of tea when the Arthur starts to creep through your bones. We’ve got a stockpile of the most magical, most transformative source on earth. We look, every day, and just don’t see it. All of this wasted love.