In the spirit of vulnerability, I’m not editing this piece at all…
There is always a girl story. Amongst my friends and I, the previous sentence is a common expression because in all honesty, there is always a story about some girl and me. It never fails and has become a running joke. If you are someone in my close circle, or one who has spent an extended period around me, you are now laughing hysterically at how true this whole paragraph is.
The origin of the phrase “There is always a girl story” was derived on my barber’s last day at Filthy Rich Barbershop in Woodside. As friends, colleagues, and peers toasted to 360’s accomplishments, a woman affectionally called Tita said what I will more than likely title a book about it and laughed. For eight years, she, the employees and patrons heard me come in every two weeks, with another dramatic and entertaining story.
“How do I get myself into these situations?” I asked 60 this morning, in search of outside and familial insight from a trusted source. After some laughter about the subject matter, my brother delved into his observations.
“You don’t go out seeking anything. You just be in your own world, enjoying yourself, and somehow, shit just happens,” my good friend replied to my inquiry. He continued “I’ll see a picture on Instagram of you out and about and start laughing because I know something happened; so I’ll wait for you to sit in the chair and tell me about it.”
I believe we attract who we currently are; our circumstances are the manifestation of self-fulfilling prophecies, given birth by our words and actions. If most of my time revolves around parenthood and work, perhaps I draw unto myself a need for freedom; a subplot with a short story arc for the sake of ego, fodder, and more inspiration to write. Maybe I absorbed a steady pipeline of situations because I wrote about dating as a single father for years.
As a widower, years before I turned 30 I have experienced the whole process from “Hi, my name is Chad,” the whole courtship process, and lived all of the vows including “’till death do us part.” While there are drawbacks and PTSD I have continued to work through over the past nine years, a side-effect of my experiences has made me fearless in this arena. I have no qualms with openly saying how I feel, or “I like you;” I don’t consider it a big deal, nor the end of the chase; hell, it’s when the chase really begins.
Last week, I delved into “There’s always a girl story” with my therapist during our last session. As I briefly ran through a few scenarios and how I felt about them, she asked me a question and it’s been on my mind ever since: How do you feel about being vulnerable?
I told her I don’t have a problem with it and there’s power in vulnerability. Ever since, I have thought about her question and where I stand. I am very guarded and admittedly difficult to read. The reason being I am very transparent, I will share my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and context without breaking a sweat. It can give the mirage of connection; however, one can intuitively discover said transparency is used to keep distance. I believe my vulnerability is a privilege.
Perhaps the reason I have found the word vulnerable icky in an intimate relationship context is linked to my childhood insecurity of feeling misunderstood. My too-cool-for school exterior and juxtaposed transparency act as a boundary. The truth of the matter is vulnerability is scary. It means I am not only leaving room to be misunderstood, but I am also welcoming it.
My therapist’s question about vulnerability has led me to do quite a bit of self-inventory. There is always a girl story because I am humored by my interactions with women and all its randomness. If I were to tell a tale of an encounter and its aftermath, one would think I am exaggerating. For my friends who have seen it, I do get a kick out of the response because I am in fact not exaggerating at all.
A few weeks ago, as my mother, sister, daughter and I sat in the stands at Arm & Hammer Park, the home of the Trenton Thunder, we laughed and joked as we watched our boy during his first college baseball combine. Country music loudly blared from the PA system and the three adults from the New York playfully imitated each singer’s dialects and the subject matter of their music. One song played, “In Between” by Scotty McCreery and it became my new favorite song, even though I’d never heard it until that moment.
“’I’m a far cry from being a one-night stand; but I ain’t ready for a ring on my hand. I’m in betweeeeeeen Friday night wild and quiet Sunday mornings!” Hell yeah! This guy gets me!” I said to the women in my family.
My mother was not having any of my shit and said “No you’re not. You’re ready to settle down.”
As my mother gave examples to prove her point, I interrupted with a “Yo chill!” She called me out and held a mirror right to my face. Even in the midst of my own false projection, she accurately pinpointed who I was as I humored myself. I don’t often show her my vulnerable side; but she pays attention and I think finds fun in letting me know she does.
My good friend, Kofi does the same. As he has heard about every woman and encounter over the past 14 years, he quickly cuts to the chase when I want to stay in my comfort zone of distance. As quickly as he will laugh and say “You are gonna fuck her world up,” when we both know something new is temporary, he will also say tell me to “Stop fucking around” if we both know I am denial. Truth be told, my therapist asking me “How do you feel about being vulnerable?” was in the same vain.
I can pinpoint the moment I knew Timile Brown at the time was “the one.” She’d shown interest for quite some time and I was hesitant because on the surface, it did not seem as if we were a good fit. Eventually, I gave in, decided to live in the moment, get out of my own way, and give it a go. We went on a couple of dates and I liked her a little more than I wanted to admit. The reason I wanted to push her away was because something inside of me had a good feeling; but the fear of vulnerability and all of its scariness gave me discomfort.
I don’t remember what I said; but for all intents and purposes, it probably had something to do with being nonchalant and guarded and it wasn’t in the context of us. As she sat on my lap, she replied “Pssh! That’s not you at all…you’re a teddy bear.” It wasn’t just what she said; but the confidence in which she said it. That was when I made up my mind about her.
You live and you learn from your past experiences. They help us grow and discover what we like, dislike; what works and what does not. For me, to do as my mother, Kofi, Timile, and therapist have, is what works for me.
I would like to thank my friends Kofi, Natrina, Fritzo, and 360 for helping me write this essay; it took three days. I read the piece to Kofi and he said “It took you this long to write this because first, you had to get to the point where you are vulnerable with yourself and comfortable with reading it.”