If like me you live in the UK and are only just moving onwards from the third national lockdown then, you will understand when I say that I am not the same person I was from the first pandemic, nor the second. Time alone has forced many of us to face ourselves in ways that prior to the pandemic, we could hold off. One of these things for me has most definitely been my outlook on relationships and the ways I navigate myself within the realm of ‘talking stages’.
Before I divulge into the epiphany that has been my love life, I want to confess that prior to the pandemic my perception of myself and ideals I held around the type of woman I wanted to be, were to put politely – a mess. I knew the woman I could be but refused to embody her across myriad aspects of my life. Holding onto past versions of myself and reliving my “what if’s” had clouded not only what I wanted from a relationship but who I was allowing into my space. I hadn’t even noticed the trail of failed talking stages and phone calls that seemed to last all night but ultimately meant nothing. It was this cycle of not wholly valuing myself and therefore not treasuring the ways in which my time and presence was precious that in the end left me exhausted, and more antisocial than I had been my whole life.
The truth was that I was merely an emotional leverage for the men I encountered. The pandemic helped me to see that this is what I attracted, simply because it is what I am failing to provide for myself. The inner shift to put myself first in the quest to have quality relationships which were not aimless, allowed for me to trust the early signs that this was going to be a dead-ended interaction.
Finally free from the bondage that was lockdown, I can boldly say I know what I want and that a red flag is a red flag (for those who don’t know what that is, to put it plainly it means leave that man alone). It is not amber or because “he’s just a bad texter”. No – it is a red flag. Patterns do not lie and consistent nudges from the universe that this person just is not worth what you bring to the table, must be received. The time for making excuses for the actions of the men I encountered was long gone. I feel too often and definitely within my culture, there is this glamorization of the woman who can persevere and overlook the pain their relationships bring. It is the myth that tells us women are emotional dumping grounds for men. It is this toxic narrative that encourages women to be consumed in order for men to evolve as people, but that needs to die. It is a story we are all sick of hearing.
Of course this is not me saying that I am a certified relationship guru but just that if you think you deserve better, it’s probably because you do. We have all experienced these inner turmoils within ourselves about someone (yes I know you have them because I do too). My advice? Please do not ignore them.
Todays popular culture rotates around relationships and sex. These images are constantly being shoved in our faces. From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook we are bombarded by visual culture that tells us we should be “coupled up”. This rush and obsession with being in a relationship became so prominent during lockdown. In a time when physical human interaction was at it’s lowest exposed me to the truth that relationships today rested heavily on real time spent together. The room to remain complicit to the ignorance of important questions between two people was eradicated. It was now time to actively communicate.
Particularly for me, encounters became meaningful conversations and attraction being more to do with another person’s mind. Reciprocated interactions meant building a mental understanding of who it is I’ve decided to connect with. The instant gratification of just being able to see a person relayed to me that these are processes I had rushed before and therefore failed at really knowing the person before me. Being too distracted by the tangibility of things meant later down the line we become more accepting of another person’s bad habits as we are blinded by memories of the “honeymoon stage”.
Strip away the sex, the materiality and the endless “relationship goals” posts and you’ll find alot of us don’t really know how to communicate with ourselves and especially those we aim to build consequential connections with.
Speaking as a bald, black woman this world does not allow for women alike to willingly choose singleness. The amount of times men have found a way to make my choosing to just be myself about themselves is just profound. I know now more than ever the kind of interactions I am willing to invest in. I dare more women to choose themselves. And I refuse to feel guilty or ashamed that I choose myself because the truth is the best relationship we can have is with ourselves.