I’ve talked ad nauseam about how Black gay couples don’t have a template for what our love affairs look like. Growing up, not too often did we see two men or two women navigating love’s landscape successfully. And if we did, seldom did culture tell us it was appropriate to celebrate.
But this year, my narrative around relationship shifted with a Valentine’s Day over-abundance of Black gay love. A friend of mine invited Bae and I to a double-triple date for V-day (that’s six couples, right?). I was apprehensive initially because when two-or-more gays are gathered, there a hook-up has been also. I didn’t want to thrust Bae into a situation where I needed to explain how and when I met someone and why they pronounce my last name correctly.
Friday night happens and we arrive at the restaurant. I’ll admit that since we were going to be around a gaggle of my brethren, I had to be sexy. Like over the top, try-me-if-you-want-to sexy…and I was: the second sign of my insecurity.
I’m the Track Star of Relationships
Four couples were there already and one more would join soon after us. Luckily, no awkward introductions happened. The gent to our right started us into a deep-dive conversation about Black love. It ended up being more eye-opening than I think any of us expected.
He asked us how each of us met Bae. On its face is a loaded question, but powerful nonetheless. What happened was some of the most beautiful stories about chance encounters at clubs, sex parties, online apps and even hospitals. Some were long off-and-on epic tales and some were 6-month haiku. But each story was unique, filled with love, and telling.
A couple weeks ago, my close circle of friends had an aha. We rush into relationships. If love affairs were track races, one of us is a 100-meter dash, the other is hurdles, and I’m a 4×4 relay. We run hard for a season, then we either lose steam, forfeit our endurance, or simply finish the race. All of this, for me, was symptom of thinking that a relationship has a destination. That there is a point when a relationship is supposed to have resolution so, then, we can live our lives.
Oprah Winfrey Network’s docuseries Black Love started to unpack some of this for me. The series deals with Black relationships, primarily other-sex couples, and their stories of Black love. Each couple is married in the traditional sense. That is, they’ve jumped a broom of some sort.
As I watch the series, though, one recurring theme was that aspects of relationship I thought should be mastered in months are taking these mostly-straight people years to figure out. Things like communication, acceptance, love language, and sex language are things I’d assume we should have figured by the third date. Ten years in and these couples are still working them out.
I’d wager that most of us have this mentality. It comes up when we think that “one day he’ll get it” or “by a certain point in our relationship, he should just know”. One story during our Valentine’s Day excursion struck me because it was exactly how I
think thought–that at some point bae should know. But what we quickly learned is that when we want Bae to comprehend something that we would easily pick up, we want to Bae to love us, communicate with us, activate for us the way we would. But he’s a whole (and completely different) human being who can never love us me the way I would love him or myself. #MINDBLOWN
The Lesson of Becoming
This V-day, I got the blessing to sit with couples that took 5 years to become what they are today. Couples that are 6-months in, and a little bit of everything in between. Some were planning marriage, others have bought homes together, and some just decided who’s bed goes in the master bedroom. Regardless of the length of love’s time, both spoke of how becoming is a continued effort.
The truth is Bae may never become exactly what I want him to be. Bae may never “get it” the way I think he should. And, more deeply, our relationship may never arrive at the destination I think it should be when I think it should get there. The relationship never has a destination. Understanding that can free you from pressure of false or arbitrary expectations.
Relationships, as these couples showed me on Valentine’s Day, are a constant journey. These 12 men didn’t find the perfect man, they are becoming their best selfs for the relationship in front of them. Being Bae isn’t something you are, it’s something you become. Every day with every decision, we have the opportunity to get closer to the self that our relationship and our lives demands us to be. Our real job in the relationship is to take every step as it comes and allow the journey to be the ever-evolving destination.