Monday, April 30, 2012

When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong

I've got a friend I'll call Earnest. I'd seen Earnest around the poetry scene here in Atlanta for a while now, and I'd always thought he was cute in passing, but I didn't actually get to know him until he started casually dating a friend of mine. Eventually things fizzled for the two of them and he showed interest in me. My friend assured me she didn't mind if we dated. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about him but he and I became friends and continued to regularly talk on the phone.

He was always so doting and loving. He really knew how to make a girl feel like the center of the universe. Whenever I was sick, he'd volunteer to come lay with me. He'd always offer me TLC. He was never more than a phone call away. Truthfully, there were a few conversations with myself where I asked if he was someone I could seriously take things to another level with.

There were two things that kept me from trying to move forward with him. While my friend dated him, she remarked how he always made her feel like a princess, but she hated that she was well into her career, while he seemed to not have much of one. Sure, he had and has a job, but there's no progression. Whenever she imagined babies and a husband, she felt it hard to be supported or even on an equal level with a starving artist. He often spoke of how one day he could possibly sell big and become a millionaire. My friend being a bit of a realist wasn't impressed with the prospects. Then there was also the fact that she'd rejected him. I hated the idea of dating a guy that my friend didn't feel worthy of her. I felt like I'd be lapping up her leftovers.

Once he showed interest in me, I had a hard time looking at him seriously. I often wondered if my friend's opinion of him somehow biased me, but regardless, it was what it was. I couldn't help but to agree with her assessment of him. Granted I'm still broke myself, but I've been blessed enough to have a child with a man that always saw to it that his family was taken care of. I'd hate to turn around and then have another child with a man that wasn't capable of doing at least the same.

Earnest and I hung out the other day and I found myself getting comfortable with him. Very comfortable. I guess in my comfort I found it necessary to come clean with him. I felt that he deserved to know what kept him from being able to jump that final hurdle. Some would call my confession to him arrogance. I felt that I would be doing him a favor. Regardless, I spoke.

I looked at him and said "do you know what keeps you from being marriage material?" He listed some physical traits (that I'd actually found quite attractive) and I laughed that no, those weren't it. Then I got serious, looked at him and said that he lacked the financial resources to move forward. His laughing demeanor changed. He wasn't cold or mean, but it was clear that he didn't agree with what I'd said. He stated "how do you know I won't have a lot of money? I could go out tomorrow and sell some art and make a million dollars." I had to bite my tongue to not mention well intentioned things such as the chances of him doing such were slim and that he was already in his late 30's. There were a few other things that could have been given as a retort, but there was no way to say them without sounding shitty, snobby and condescending, so I remained silent.

I could tell immediately that my well intentioned information hadn't been received the way I'd hoped. He then said "that's why white women get good men. They see potential in men and hold on through the bad stuff and they're able to reap the rewards in the end." Again, I wanted to mention his age (typically when women date for "potential" it’s in their late teens or early 20's). Also, truthfully, I know plenty of black women that have dated broke ass dudes, hoping that one day he'd get his shit together and do right by them. Hell, I stayed with my (then) broke high school sweetheart and helped support his ass thru school, only to be shitted on when he was well-employed.

I was kind of shocked at how new this information seemed to him. I asked if any woman had ever shared that info with him before. He gave the straight answer of "no." He was in his late 30's and dated plenty of women, yet no one thought to tell him straight up that his lack of financial resources was an issue. I found myself thinking that it was more of an issue of women thinking it, but not wanting to hurt his feelings by sharing it, so they'd rather leave him alone than to say what needed to be said.

I even tried to lessen the blow by explaining to him that I too had been rejected by men for lack of financial stability. I agreed that it did sting immensely and that I too felt that although I did not have it all in terms of money, I made up for it in other qualities. But eventually I had to take a look at myself, and after rejecting another man who had even less than I, I saw that the men that told me I was too broke to marry may have been onto something. Since then I’ve decided to quit dicking around and enter grad school already. Earnest didn’t seem to care.

There was an awkward silence. He said he had some things to do and that he was ready to go home. We've only talked a little since then. I can't say that I feel bad because I told him the truth. Lord knows that women can deal with a lot of shit, but by a certain point in our lives, we need stability. While he offered all of the emotional stability in the world, financially, he could never support a family where he is now. I'd hoped he'd take my words and hear my intention. He didn't.

I later told my friend about it and she said that she’d once told him that his “nest wasn’t ready” but I’m assuming those words fell on deaf ears. Perhaps he refused to hear her, or he just didn’t understand what she meant. Regardless, she stated that she did tell him the deal.

 I don't regret telling him. I just wish he'd heard my underlying message instead of an insult. And I agree, he has all of the potential in the world to make a lot of money. There are a few things that he's quite skilled in and he's a freaking genius. He reads like a bandit and could easily start an empire of how-to dvd's and Youtube videos. And I honestly hope he does all of those things and more. I hope he eventually has a wife and they have a bunch of beautiful brown babies and that he raises those kids to be fantastic contributions to society. Because I know that Earnest can do it. But love don't pay the bills.

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