No one ever sat me down and told me what healthy, wholesome love looked like.
My concept of love has always been based on knowing what it ain’t: my parents.
Love isn’t disconnected cable and alarm clocks when you don’t get your way. Love isn’t sequestered dreams and revenge plots, pettiness and microaggressions. Love is not hurting me.
When I was a child, I questioned how a love for me could exist amidst so much turmoil. I fished for memories of collective joy between us and could find none. Romantic love was not something I could conceptualize beyond it existing and falling apart.
As a child, I could tell you what familial love felt like: it felt like my dad’s African folktales on the nights where the nightmares kept me awake. It felt like my mom letting me wear her favorite lipstick at my kindergarten graduation, only to smudge it all over my new white dress. Love looked like my aunty yanking my edges into braids and fixing beads around the ends. It was something that never faded and always protected me.
Love for myself looked like me pouring love into others.
Romantic love looked like poems I thought I was supposed to write about boys I was supposed to like. It looked like imaginary dates and holding hands only to tell him that I have trust issues because of my parents’ nasty split. Love looked like him holding me and saving me because I needed saving.
Love for myself looked a lot like self-loathe.
I am constantly defining and redefining the boundaries of love for myself. Sometimes I smother, other times I love from a distance. I always love like Sethe: thick. My affection is physical and time-consuming, admittedly so. My love still doesn’t know itself, constantly doubting and rethinking because nothing in this has ever read secure; things are always subject to change. It runs towards the distance and basks in it. Is so beautifully and painfully naive, creeps hard. My love is multilingual and muted. Most of all, my love is organic, born from rejection of the known and craving of the unknown. My love is learning to be my own.
This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a Twenties Unscripted 10-Day Writing Challenge #WYAOApril. I am responding to the “Love” prompt. Check out the challenge here.