Empowering myself through different types of relationships
Growing up, I had parents who were deeply in love with each other. They would often recite their story of falling in love when they were 18. My mother was at UCLA, my father was living in the nearby city of Long Beach. It was the mid 80s, everyone wore biker gloves, and my father was particularly into my mom’s gloves. Almost 36 years later, they are still together.
And this is what I thought all relationships worth being in looked like. To have respect from your partner and to respect yourself, means that you are with one, devoted partner. Sex should only be between you and your partner. While this all sounds fine, we know that most women over 18 are unmarried. We also know that Black women tend to marry later.
As a hot, young person — am I supposed to just sit here? Mindlessly swiping through person to person on Bumble, hoping that my Prince Charming will come and I can finally enjoy in the pleasures of sex and romance?
That can’t be the way.
If marriage or monogamous relationships were truly the only way, why do marriages fail as often as they succeed? What if some people just are not meant to be monogamous? What if we could explore this grey area? What if loving someone and loving yourself meant exploring others and being honest?
So that’s what I have done. It’s been formative and important. I have had beautiful partners and relationships. I have sometimes been left with more questions than answers. But more importantly, I can tell you with complete honesty everything I dislike and like.
There were the years in college, where I learned what I liked and didn’t like. I dated and slept with the men I wanted to with abandon. I adopted the idea that if it feels good, if we are honest, and if we are safe — there is nothing wrong. I had hook-up buddies I high-fived after fun nights together. I had men I dated who knew they were nothing more than a casual fling. I purchased my first vibrator, took time to learn what gets me off, and made sure to communicate that to each partner I encountered. And through this, I made sure to get tested, I used condoms, and I always made sure to check in with myself and confirm I was still having fun.
There were the years right after college, where I knew what I liked, and began to explore. There was Jacob, who I dated for 2 years. On our second date he told me that he had been with his girlfriend for 7 years. He didn’t believe in marriage. But if he ever did, that she would be the one. The honesty was refreshing, and I was continuing my exploration of the idea that a person can love and like multiple people. Over the 2 years, we were good friends, lovers, and sometimes, felt like partners. When I was sick with strep throat, he came to drop off provisions. When I needed a ride to Ikea, he picked me up in Bernal Heights at 5pm on a Wednesday and drove me all the way to Oakland.
There was Aaron, who had just gotten out of a serious relationship. He was interested in casually dating, and we did that. We were always open with the other people we were seeing and sometimes laughed over drinks about terrible dating adventures we encountered.
Celebrating and dating and choosing the grey area made me feel empowered. It made me feel in control of my womanhood. My lived, Black, female experience.
The other day, I was with a girlfriend who is also in her mid-twenties. She is one of my friends who has constantly been in relationships. She confided in me, after I encouraged her to purchase her first vibrator, that despite all these relationships, she had never experienced an orgasm with a man. I was appalled and realized that this is often too common.
As young women, we are often told that monogamy and waiting for one partner is what we are supposed to do. That this process will lead to fulfillment and joy. I don’t buy that this works for all women. In fact, I believe it is robbing women from a chance to figure out what makes them feel pleasure and from learning what makes them happy. My experiences and relationships have taught me that love can come in many forms. Learning your body and what makes you happy both physically and emotionally is a process that can only come from exploration. So with that being said, happy and safe exploring!