Deep in bereavement, I wrote this Frenzied Love piece as a mea culpa of sorts. I was inconsolable after my first Ethiopian boy jilted me. His apathetic departure shook my self-esteem to the point where I rehashed all our interactions. For weeks, I would slip into mental jaunts at work/home/car; wondering what I had done to reduce my value that would have led him to end months of intimacy in series of vacuous texts. I kissed him on the second date- too forward, I invited him to Netflix and chill- I’m easy. Wallowing on each morally damning memory, I pieced his degenerating interest with my libido fueled trespasses.
With time a variable for distance and with distance providing perspective, I found my resolution- piecemeal. Immediately after he canned me during our ritual midnight phone calls, I sent an SOS to a close group of friends via fb messenger. I was swarmed by calls, each girlfriend demanding a full detailed account and his social media handles! I’d like to say I won the friend honey pot but my friends militant convergence was heightened by the oddity of the character involved. See, I was never the Rachel Barry of my friends. I never fell for the bad boy and I was the first to lambast my friends if I sensed a “Sally” transformation piqued on by a love interest. I was an emotionally healthy boss ass bitch.! After 10-30 minutes of hardcore affirmation – they pelted me with the investigative questions, how fine was he/what did we talk about/his finances/why didn’t they know about him? Each response would start with “well he’s not that (attractive/knowledgeable/cultured) BUT” then I would stumble, wracking my brain for the qualities that compensated for his deficiencies. Upon telling my longtime friend who I met while studying abroad about his plans to visit South America specifically the country of Puerto Rico, we both erupted in laughter… until I eventually dissolved into tears.
My friends confronted me with the obvious, he was an unattractive wasteman and I, an emotional boss ass bitch, would not be steamrolled by a 5’6/receding hair line/geography challenged man. They made me recite it until they were satisfied.
An exercise in futility.
Weeks after I would catch myself willing my phone to vibrate with a text from him and if I was ever so lucky- perhaps, a missed call… I would relish the time we spent together- filling myself with those stolen moments to balm the searing tears in my life caused by his absence. I was sure that he would circle back to me. After discovering my phone notifications weren’t from him I would be struck by an evanesent ringing hollow pain. Emotional upheaval had manifested into implacable physical pain! Automatically, i’d scour through our old texts and hover over my favorite sweet thread from him and the pain would dissipate. After 9PM, I would resort to this fix every time I got an alert on my phone. Now I know, the ringing hollow pain that spread in my chest for nearly two months was a reminder that I was– worthless. He never contacted me again. How could I harbor such monumental feelings for someone who just *shrugged me away…
Because he’s a first generation Ethiopian American male.
All relationships are created out of mutual respect, care, trust and that magical Chemical X. With my previous romances, Chemical X was a mixture of physical attraction and shared interests; be it entertainment, political views, academics. This Chemical X proton was charged only when the core attributes (mutual respect, care, trust) were already established. These were all American guys. Men who bought my roommate dinner in addition to my to-go order, respected my sexual boundaries, and offhandedly introduced me to their siblings on facetime. Eventually Chemical X would be charged by a combination of finally noting his broad shoulders and reading his inspired post supporting the latest issue on Expanding Healthcare coverage.
My spiral with this Ethiopian boy was fueled solely by an unidentified formula of Chemical X. My psychoanalysis: I saw him and immediately associated all of the best values of living in a tight-knit Ethiopian American community; respect, care and trust. I gave him my trust, care and entrusted authority over my self worth. He didn’t earn those qualities. I know now that he didn’t embody those values as an individual nor did he subliminally bestow them on other Ethiopians – as I carelessly did. An ingénue in America’s largest Ethiopian community: In Atlanta, I realize that I still treated each Ethiopian like kin; like they went to the Orthodox Church my mother founded while she was getting paid $9 hr; Like they slipped $20 in my pocket for my birthday; Like they graciously took my sister and I in when my mother worked overnights.
As written in my mea culpa, I pitted all the blame on myself because I fucked around. Looking back at my community, the care and solidarity that bred me had stipulations: keep to the edicts of our culture and the church, if not- ostracized. I was fucking around albeit with him but I still deserved his rejection. I had never applied such archaic moral social codes in any of my past relations but with him, I near chastised myself.
These diaspora identity markers such as tradition and community are redrawn as we leave home and seek to establish our own relationships and communities. The intersection of modern relationships with the diaspora traits that produced us; tradition and community, are confusing and loaded with deeper meaning than “Boy likes girl/ Girl Likes Boy” Look at me, I blindly pursued a worthless dude and nearly lost myself in the whiplash.