I think before I start this piece it’s important that I make a disclaimer: I speak for myself and my experiences alone, if this is relatable then let’s start a conversation , if it isn’t well thanks for reading, I appreciate you.
With that out of the way, I want to extend my gratitude to Sza, the goddess who has presented us with a masterpiece of an album for our listening pleasure. Sza’s CTRL was essentially the sole motivation for me to write about this, from Supermodel to 20 something, her mellow alternative r‘n’b homage to the girl trying to find her feet in an environment hostile to feelings.
It’s fair to say that I’m new to this dating thing, it is equally fair to say that I wasn’t emotionally ready for the experience ahead. I realised I had a lot of preconceptions regarding intimacy, partnership, sex and ultimately love which were admittedly products of my environment. I found that with each encounter, certain patterns became apparent to me regarding how young millennials approach this terrain of finding love and in turn I was confronted with the unrelenting truths of being a Black woman looking for a significant other.
For starters, something that was entirely new to me was this idea of wanting nothing whilst doing something. We all know the ‘let’s just hang/chill’ line which ultimately means ‘please don’t catch feelings, I like you but I can’t be yours’. The kind of interaction which Love Galore references, where we ‘skrt, skrt on niggas’, and ‘skrrr, skrrr on bitches’, because we are afraid of commitment and titles. Emotions are prohibited whilst we play this game of ‘who least gives a fuck’. We make ourselves comfortable with the notion of being someone’s only momentarily, keeping each other ‘satisfied through the weekend’, it almost starts to feel like there is a prize to be won for being devoid of feelings and treating bodies and the personalities attached to them like they are expendable. I was introduced to a new set of lexicon that described this category of relationship, you say ‘we’re seeing each other’, rather than ‘we’re dating’, you say ‘let’s see how it goes’, rather than admit you aren’t looking for anything, so nothing is definite, you are suspended in this sort of relationship limbo. A ‘situationship’.
That really wasn’t for me. The harder I tried to fight liking someone, the deeper I fell in like. There came a point where I was unsure as to what I wanted, it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I was settling and making unnecessary compromises to keep men who felt caged.
When I reflect on this desire to be ‘cuffed’, it makes me realise just how deeply embedded stigmas of Black female singlehood, were in my psyche. It makes sense considering I grew up in predominantly white spaces where I was subjected to daily reminders that my Blackness was anything but desirable. I resolved to seeking refuge in the pages of my favourite hardback, where I wove stories of ‘prince-charming’ and happily ever-afters in each letter. I guess this explains in part, why I made such compromises whilst dating, so afraid was I of returning to that girl who didn’t feel loved that I clung onto the shavings of affection that men threw in my direction. I was so desperate to be someone’s ‘normal girl,’ someone they could ‘take home’, to mama, I wanted to be that girl who gets claimed as somebody’s. But in all honesty, my desire for affection masked something more insidious, something that felt, smelt and tasted like loneliness. The kind of loneliness in Drew Barrymore which makes you ask ‘Am I warm enough for you?’ The kind of loneliness which makes you that clingy bitch, you hate so much. The kind of loneliness that makes you compensate and bargain away your authenticity.
Now sex makes things a bit more complex. Whilst I have been unlearning the problematic assumptions with placing value on a thin piece of membrane and the double standards of promiscuity, I have also made peace with the realisation that to be ‘pro-ho’ can also mean to support women who choose to have as little sex as they wished. It meant supporting women like me who felt strongly emotionally attached to sex. I definitely feel that in this era of ‘fuck and bounce’, in a bid to enjoy the ‘fruit of the flesh’ I often trivialised the emotional connections made during sex. Masking them to maintain the sort of ‘temporary love’ Sza talks about in Supermodel.
So ‘God bless these 20 somethings’ who are movers, shakers, thinkers and creatives constantly ‘runnin’ from love’. A generation that dodges bullets of emotions, afraid that they will pierce too deep. My advice to those who find themselves frustrated in this ‘anti-feelings’ environment, take a hiatus and do you for a while. This is obviously easier said than done, but I passionately believe in the project of self-reclamation. It is and isn’t corny.
Words by Amarachi Ninette Iheke
Photos/Phramegrabs by Hannah Wolny