30- Day Writing Challenge
Day Three: First Love/First Kiss
My initial experiences with love and kissing took place on different occasions so I’ll publish two posts today to describe them.
I mulled over the first love part, wondering exactly what was meant. Did my adolescent shenanigans apply? There was my puppy love back in high school. After all, when I was sixteen no one could convince me that what I felt wasn’t the real thing. In the words of New Edition: if it isn’t love why did I feel that way? Why did he stay on my mind?
I thought that being stood up on my Sweet Sixteen and dumped by Chris was so HURTFUL! But nineteen years later, I look back at my teenage self, bawling each time Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” played on the radio that August and shake my head at my melodramatic antics.
That was just an adolescent infatuation. It was never the real thing.
My bona fide first love would come in my early 20s, and surprisingly it was with someone I met online. I was at the University of Washington’s Odegaard library with my BFF Raquel, who was a sophomore there at the time. We planned to go to Thai restaurant on the Ave night once she completed typing an essay. While waiting for Raquel to finish her task I logged on, checking both my Hotmail account and my inbox on the now infamous Blackplanet.com. I rolled my eyes at the empty flattery in most of the messages I received from men, but lingered over the words contained in one of them:
Girl I know this might seem strange
But let me know if I’m out of order
For stepping to you this way
See I’ve been watching you for a while
And I just gotta let you know
That I’m really feeling your style
Cause I have to know your name
And leave you with my number
And I hope that you would call me someday
If you want you can give me yours too
And if you don’t I ain’t mad at’cha
We can still be cool cause
I’m not trying to pressure you
Just can’t stop thinkin’ ’bout you
You ain’t even really gotta be my girlfriend
I just wanna know your name
And maybe some time
We can hook up, hang out, just chill
When Raquel came over I showed the message to her.
“Raquel, come see what this guy said to me! Isn’t he sweet?” Raquel leaned in to get a better view of the screen and read it.(Later I would find out that the words were actually the lyrics of a popular R & B song that had yet to make its debut in my city).
“Yeah, he sounds cool. Are you going to give him your number though?”
“I sure am”, I emphatically responded as I replied to him. The next day I received a call from an unsaved number. It was him.
Dexter and I talked for three weeks before he asked me out on a date, the standard dinner and a movie combo. I hated the movie(“Unbreakable” featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis) but truly enjoyed his company. The multitude of other men trying to gain my attention just didn’t compare, and within a month of our first date, we were an exclusive item. Though we continued to have date nights we quickly settled into a domestic routine. As a homebody, I liked this arrangement and appreciated the fact that we could simply savor each other’s presence. Though he held a demanding IT position he still made time to speak with me throughout the day, checking to see how my day was and whether I needed anything. At the time, I didn’t drive, but unless he was out-of-town on business I never used public transportation. Even on nights when I didn’t stay over he took me to work and back every day.
Prior to meeting Dexter, I had a particularly negative experience with a man I’d known for over a year. But because Dexter made me feel so secure and adored I took the chance of entrusting my emotions to him. On a rainy winter night that year the sounds of Avant and Keke Wyatt belting out their rerecording of “My First Love” echoed through Dexter’s apartment as he cooked dinner. I enjoyed the lush tones of their voices and smiled to myself, knowing in that moment that Dexter would become the man who gave me a reason to sing such a song.
When my Mom met Dexter she was very warm and polite to him. After hosting him for dinner three times, she delivered her verdict.
“Danielle you need to keep that man around and marry him sooner rather than later!”
I wasn’t expecting that. I knew my mom wasn’t a fan of people under the age of twenty-five getting married, so I needed to hear more from her.
“You think I should think of marriage with him already? But why?”
“Because I know you Danielleee”, she replied dragging out the last vowel of my name in the sing-song fashion only she and my Grandma used. “You are high maintenance and quite prissy. I can see Dexter doesn’t just tolerate that, he actually values it. The typical young man in your generation isn’t going to see it that way-“
“But Mom I am NOT high maintenance! I’m not materialistic or demanding either…I don’t see your point.” She laughs gently.
“Correct baby, you are not materialistic. But you require much devotion. And I know you pride yourself on your job and having money of your own, but you need security. You will never be content with a man who is unambitious and broke. I know my daughter! That man loves you, and he will make a great husband and father. MARRY HIM!”
Years later I recounted this exchange with my Mom to Dexter.
“Your Mom was right”, he grumbled, “and I wish you’d listened to her. We would have been spared much drama and unhappiness dealing with other people! You were so stubborn!”
I grin to myself on the other end, now understanding the wisdom in what my Mom said to me about my personality. I didn’t end up with my first love…yet I cannot say that I feel overwhelmed by regret about it. Over the last three years, I’ve had many opportunities to reflect on my love life, dissecting it with the same fervency as sports fans reviewing their teams’ postgame performance. And you know what I realized in doing so? Though I’ve had my disappointments I’ve also been blessed to have amazing men in my life. Dexter is one of the handfuls who served as the template, the prototype. So when unappealing would-be suitors try to bulldoze their way in, I softly tell them that I am not for them and they are not for me. Caribbean folks say “every cheese has its’ bread”, and I believe this to be true. I know there are women in this world who are content with mediocrity from men. I am not one of them. Once you’ve experience true, unwavering loyalty and adoration from a man you just can’t accept anything less. Downgrade for what?
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