Last April I woke up my ex partner at 8am on a Sunday. I had a butcher knife to his neck. A day later, a video of that day went viral on The Shade Room with a million views. Six months after that period and a lot of time reflecting, I can honestly say I am through with dating during my twenties. I’ve spent much of this year giving much of myself, my time, and resources to a relationship with nothing to show for. I have decided since that I should take the rest of my twenties, roughly the next nine years, to explore myself outside of romantic relationships. Before you write me off as a bitter ex, hear me out. I have come to a number of conclusions as to why it’s high time that I took this step for myself: emotionally, financially, and politically.
To begin, I must tell my truth. I come from a long line of matriarchs, primarily single mothers, approximately three to four generations before me. Women have literally built the economic, political, spiritual and educational foundation that I stand on today. I am so proud to claim this history as a crucial part of my identity. This was the first factor that influenced me to devote more time to my self-care.
For the last 7 years I’ve been what some would call a serial dater, because I’ve given myself so little time to develop on my own terms without the influence of men. I realized that men have filled several voids in my life. I realized that very few of these relationships were ever healthy for either involved and even fewer were with partners I actually loved. I lacked something very important. I realized I didn’t have enough space in my life for sisterhood simply because I hadn’t created it. I lacked community building skills. Where was MY community? WHO were my community?
There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “how you love yourself is how you tell others to love you.” I realized I was in a very unhealthy cycle and I needed to get out quick and focus on cultivate a relationship with myself. I have so much emotional baggage to unpack. For me, I dated so much that dating became disposable, and thus my partners did too. Partners came and partners went. That didn’t matter because for a while I thought I was in control. I wasn’t and it took a damaging toll. I didn’t realize I was devaluing people because in my mind there’s always someone else. They say the first step to recovery is admitting that there is a problem. While I still struggle with this today, I recognize that a healthy step is providing space for myself to unlearn, reteach, and be critical about the role I play in my own relationships.
Time is irreplaceable, so in a life so short how much time can we spend devoted romantically to partners? Relationships in my experience have always taken so much time and energy. While you’re actively nurturing your romantic relationship, is your personal relationship receiving the same attention? The same effort and care? As someone who’s personally battled with mental illness, can I afford to take time away from loving and listening to myself? These are all questions I’ve battled with and speak to a greater truth: your relationships with others is only as strong as your relationship to self. In simpler terms, the healthier your space is the healthier the spaces you create with others will be, romantically and not. So while not every twenty something is struggling with their journey to self love and self care, I am. In this context, falling back from dating is radical. Putting yourself first as a dark skin black woman, in a world where you’re often told that your time, efforts, and body belong to someone else, self love is a radical act. So while our flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen masks before assisting others, we too must remind ourselves what our masks look like, feel like, and are for us. For me, isolation is the first step.
Having had a queer cis identity in which I’ve only ever dated hetero cis men, patriarchy plays a major role in my personal experiences. In a world where we're constantly being told, explicitly and not, to be reliant on men, deliberately avoiding romantic relationships with men then becomes a radical act against the heteronormative, patriarchal, and paternalist norms that have influenced many of our lives. We don’t, in fact, need men in our lives. And while we may want them, it’s healthy to acknowledge the power in their absence. Time distant from heterosexual romantic relationships can be transformative for both us and them. Maybe we’ll delve into sisterhood and explore our sexualities. Maybe we’ll cry it away or write it away. But what good is a hypothesis in the absence of experiment? I encourage us all to do what’s best for us, even if that means building ourselves now, and building up our partners later down the road.
Disclosure: while I would consider myself a queer nonbinary woman I have only dated heterosexual cis men. Thus, my above account is very cis-centered as both myself and previous partners were, at the time of dating, identifying ourselves as cis. While I do use she/her pronouns I do consider myself non binary in nature as I don't believe gender truly exists, but that’s for another piece. Also, given these experiences the tone of this work is extremely heteronormative and I do apologize to those my personal narrative excludes or isolates.