You are talking to someone for a couple of weeks. They slowly grow on you, to the point you might even like them (but that part you would never admit). Now, they’ve asked you out. You laugh and exit the message. If it’s THAT day, you might just clear it altogether. Whatever the case is, it has gone further than intended and you have shut down yet another person.
For me, vulnerability poses the greatest obstacle to the idea of dating. Perhaps because I’ve had to struggle to find peace with myself, or because it took so long for me to become comfortable in my skin, or because I became dependent on myself. I deeply fear the idea of sharing my energy and space with someone romantically, because of the thought of relinquishing power and control. The idea of someone being able to drastically change how I see myself, after overcoming that same challenge that I faced for years, leaves a bitter taste.
For a lot of us, our first understanding of relationships comes from our parents. And while this experience varies for many, I have seen ways my mother compromised parts of her identity for the sake of her marriage. It may be because I have never experienced “love,” but the idea of wavering my independence for anyone is troubling. While my mom is one of the strong- willed people I know, my dad is very well one of her weaknesses. And of course, that is not how all relationships function, but this is the only basis I had for a long time.
Not growing up witnessing ideal relationships leaves many of us to do one of two things: explore what we think healthy, loving partnerships look like, or shut down the idea altogether.
For those of us who go on to foster our own relationships from influences of the media and the outside world, we can’t always efficiently understand or communicate what it is we need from that relationship. I think a lot of these individuals become more dependent on the idea of being in a relationship than engaging in the relationship itself. Creating what you never witnessed, mixed with the fear of being alone, can drive many unstable, and dare I say it, ~toxic~ relationships. But I think even here, there is a fear of exposing your vulnerability and admitting that you don’t understand love and make mistakes. It might take some time to even admit that to yourself.
For the rest of us, who shut down the idea altogether , we give into the fear of the unknown. I’d say I happen to fall into this group. There’s a certain need to guard yourself off from the possibility of getting hurt, as the said pain could set you back in your affirmation of yourself. It’s important to acknowledge that by shutting yourself out to some of these experiences you don’t give yourself the chance or space to experience what could be a fruitful relationship. With everything in life there is a balance, and shutting yourself out of opportunities from which you can grow will ultimately hinder you from doing so. This is by no means a pressure to get in to a relationship, as I find myself quite content still without one, but just a point of reflection about not giving someone a chance. But I must say I’m a hypocrite to some degree because to show my vulnerability and possibly lose myself in the process of embracing someone else, does not seem worth it.
I think because it takes a while for a lot of darkskin girls to understand their beauty and value, the thought of going back to square one is a valid fear. It took so long for me to build my confidence because of how long I spent struggling with my appearance. A lack of confidence can sometimes really strike at the deepest parts of your emotional state, and you feel foreign in your body. The fear heightens when you are also keen on doubting the intentions of everyone that comes in your life, especially due to bad past experiences.
Because a lot of dark skin women have been seen as undesirable and been degraded for their appearance, especially those with afro-centric features, you may be hesitant to engage with anyone. After turning someone down or walking away, the quickest response is always, “ok, you are an ugly black ass bitch anyways.” I think this hesitation prevails in PWI’s, when you aren’t always clear where to draw the line for someone being attracted to you or just having a racial fetish.
This idea of desirability also circles back to why the establishment of your self love was so important in the first place. Some people are constantly down your throat and have made you loathe yourself because of factors you literally cannot control. To have to return to that is traumatic within itself. I think it is really interesting how past lived experiences with desirability can still be a scary factor when considering dating someone. Society has really managed to scar black women.
The best place for a lot of us to start is with honesty. How well can you trust yourself? Trust that you know yourself enough and that you are bringing yourself into whatever situation you are in. Trust that you are strong enough to learn from any bad experiences and push past it. That you can be open to the unexpected, but know that your foundation is strong enough for it not to crumble.
And maybe, that’s not the case for you. If it isn’t, you have to be honest enough with yourself to understand how much certain situations and people take a toll on you. And maybe it gives you a sign to spend a little more time with yourself. To be nicer to yourself, and learn a little more about you.
I think everyone is still figuring it out, this relationship thing will never really make sense. You don’t, and won’t, have all the answers. But while I understand and live through the same fears as you, I don’t think you should let it hold you back. So maybe, just maybe, don’t leave them on read next time.
Art credits: @ _stormae on Instagram