I like words like “treasure.” Words that are nouns and verbs. That allow me to talk about what I have and what I do.
I am getting married in 21 days. I never thought I’d ever get married. I was raised by married parents, at whose wedding I was the flower girl, so I always wanted marriage, but I never thought I’d get married.
There are a lot of reasons I thought I’d never get married. They arise from my conditioning, of course. I’m brown-skinned. I’m fat. I’m opinionated. I’m brainy. I’m loud. I’m awkward. I’m a little macho. I’m hyper-sensitive. I have a vindictive temper. I can be nitpicky as hell. I’m a little too fond of being right. I want a lot of attention from whoever I am dating.
I only do monogamous relationships. I talk a lot. I talk a lot of shit. I talk a lot of slick shit.
I’m self-conscious of my body. I’m stubborn. I will write about your ass and then go to a venue and read that shit out loud to other people. I can shut down when I feel neglected or as if I am being condescended to. I can be cripplingly insecure at times. I make up stories in my head about how unreal people’s feelings are toward me.
I am a mess.
I never thought a man I would want for a husband would want me for a wife.
Yes, I bought into the stereotype of what “wife material” is. Very early on. I vacillated between trying to embody those characteristics I saw in so many real and fictional wives around me–self-abasing adoration, stupid loyalty, prescribed sexuality, suicidal generosity–and trying to refute them.
I made up my mind at nine that I wanted to be a writer and at thirteen that I was a feminist, and I honestly didn’t think I’d find a man that would truly respect and help me with either of those ambitions.
I could only imagine a man regarding my personality, politics, and avocation as terrible inconveniences.
I had been teased enough for my dark gums, big thighs, protruding stomach, wrinkly hands, hairy arms–I can go on and on–to think your typical hetero black man would pass on me and pick a more conventionally attractive woman to be his wife if and when he made that choice to partner up romantically.
I had had enough boyfriends lie to me, cheat on me, manipulate me, criticize me, misuse me, and gaslight me to think that there was something about me that would never really allow a man to treat me right.
That didn’t stop me from trying to become a powerful woman. It didn’t stop me from trying to become as wise as I could. It didn’t stop me from talking shit or doing most of the things that I wanted to do. It didn’t stop me from seeking love and relationships, either, though it did tinge all of my efforts with a bit of hopelessness–I won’t lie.
When I met my fiance, I was only a few months out of a broken engagement. I had just completed a stretch of intensive therapy. I wasn’t sure who I was or if I had any business getting into another relationship. I thought I might be rebounding or setting myself up for another romantic failure. I was terrified of getting hurt again and sure that he was too pretty, too cool, too whole, and too young for me.
But I got close to him anyway. We became friends, and then we became a couple, and here we are–fifteen years later–living and raising our daughter together, embarking on a partnership that I truly hope will last the rest of our lives.
And in this moment I treasure that hope. I am so happy that I still have the ability to hope after everything I’ve gone through in my romantic life. I am so happy that I still have my belief in love and my respect for marriage.
I treasure my belief in love because it is what has allowed me to remain open and continue seeking new connections and experiences throughout my life despite all of the hurt, disappointment, and frustration I have endured.
I started dating at 13. Throughout my adolescence and twenties, I had a series of ill-advised, overly serious, largely codependent (at least on my end) monogamous relationships that really could’ve fucked me up for the duration if I had let them.
But I treasure all of the experiences I had in all of those relationships right now–because they have helped make me the exceptionally strong and wise woman and constructive partner that I am.
I really do appreciate all of my “big” exes. I think of the things that happened between us during our relationships–the things they did to me that were hurtful or made me angry–as mistakes. I acknowledge my role in every dynamic–what I allowed, what I did, and what I didn’t do.
I thank B for teaching me that men can respect your wishes to pace yourself and swim in your proper depth if they want to.
I thank S for teaching me the need to and importance of setting boundaries and saying no.
I thank C for teaching me that when you keep allowing someone to hurt you, you are cuing them to hurt you. That the only effective way to make a person see that they are hurting you is to stop them from hurting you. To leave them and leave them alone. That you make it impossible for a person to see the harm that he’s doing when you treat his bad behavior like it’s decent or his unhealthy love like it’s lifeblood.
I thank G for teaching me to follow my gut. From our first meeting, I sensed that what he wanted from me was more than I had to give to him. But I ignored that instinct because I was curious and flattered; I wanted to be liked as much as he liked me. I learned, though, that you have to process everything that is happening in your relationship; you have to walk away from some stuff that you like or you want sometimes because you can’t handle or don’t want some other stuff.
I thank R–who I did not date, but who I do love–who is my dearest male friend and one of my most treasured friends–for telling me not to shrink myself anymore for any more men and calling me on my bullshit (that is: my distrust, pessimism, pretentiousness, cowardice, and self-absorption) without belittling or stigmatizing me.
I treasure these lessons that I’ve learned, even if I had to learn them in some really hard ways. I treasure every ugly realization I’ve had to make about my faults in order to own my mistakes and learn how not to repeat them.
I treasure my relationship with J, in which I am the truest, fullest, most complicated Michelle I have ever been with any man.
I treasure J for being such an amazing man that he can love me.
I treasure our history, which is long and twisty and hard for some people to understand and of which some parts are hard to own, but has been so necessary and constructive for us–as individuals and as a couple–that I wouldn’t change one thing about it.
I treasure the opportunity I am getting on the 29th–our 15th anniversary–to marry J. I am so thankful to be alive and functioning and willing to enter a new stage of my life and have a new adventure. Do a new, scary thing.
I even treasure my fear because it means that getting married is important to me. I am not just doing it for the sake of tradition or convention. I have a sincere wish to be in a marriage and experience all that means for me.
Treasure is a noun and a verb, as I said, and, as I write, I realize that I have all these wonderful treasures that I never thought I would have in my life. I realize that I am one of those treasures.
I am a mess, yes, but I am a beautiful mess, and I–with my dark gums, my fat stomach, my opinions, my feminism, my neurotic love life, all my shit–am my own best thing.
Love is my treasure.
More time here–on this Earth, in this body, as this self–to love and learn is my treasure.