What does love mean to you? What does it feel like?
Damn, that’s the first question? Just gon’ dive right in there.
Shit. The questions get deeper than that?
This is deeper than rap! Haha. Love means…. shit… acceptance, understanding, knowing when and how to be tolerant. Love is like a beautiful flower in the most rare spot in the world. Like, a place its scientifically incapable of growing in. Everyday you see this flower in the same spot and the world knows it is the only one of its kind. But you steal the flower, for your lady. Because she’s that special, you don’t care that the rest of the world will have to carry on without the beauty of the flower, because she has it. That’s love.
Are you in love?
I don’t know. When I process my understanding of being “in love”, I say yes. But I also say no because I know the magnitude to which my love can exceed and that isn’t where it is now. I’ve often said, I’ll know I’m in love when I get married, duh that’s why I’m getting married; and that’s how I’ll know. I’ll be able to express my emotions a certain way. Surprisingly, I’ve already done that but I haven’t claimed to be “in love”. Initially, I only thought I would be in love when I got married, but I’m not married and I’ve already felt those feelings.
So are you in love?[With Mad Bass] I JUST TOLD YOU I DONT KNOW!
What I’ve often seen in humans, in general, and especially through my work with men in this project, is that our history with love often dictates how we perceive our worthiness of love. I’m wondering if your history with love has shaped your openness to being loved. What has been your “love history”?
Neglect, abuse, combativeness, disloyalty, unfamiliarity, conditionality, awkwardness.
Has the way you’ve experienced love as a boy affected how you’ve managed love as a man?
Yes. My environment has taught me not to trust love. Love was not measurable as a child. As an adult, I have a different perspective now that I have children and have created my own expression of love; but, as a boy, it was like “is it love when my dad is beating my ass because I did something wrong and there’s a lesson behind it, versus him whooping my ass because I didn’t answer a question quick enough”. Which one is love and lesson and which is a lack of patience and frustration? If you give me your last dollar is that love? Do I trust cousins who fight me but say they love me? It was confusing. How do you measure that? Like “no love” and “love” looked the same and only the words made it different. Being a man, I can see what love is, feel it, hear it. I’m aware of it and I know it exists because it feels as good as it sounds.
When is the first time you felt love?
When I was a teenager, my mom and dad got into a financial situation that caused them to separate for a while. My pops moved down to the Tide Water area and my mom stayed up here in Petersburg. Throughout that time, my mom, my brother and I stayed with some of her relatives. I didn’t like how they treated my mom. I didn’t like how they treated me. So I left. I was 15 at the time. My mom followed me in a car, going 10 miles per hour for several miles, for several hours. Eventually, I sat on the curb and my mom sat with me. She talked to me as a mom, and I kind of put my foot down and let her know I wasn’t going back to stay with them. She asked me where I would go and I let her know the plans I thought I had. Looking back, I know my mom was like, “If I physically put him in this car and make him live with me, I may lose my son; but if I let him go and support him, it’ll be better for us.” Before that, yea I knew my mom loved me. People always say they love you, but in that moment I was so aware of what love was–not only from my mom but from myself. I was a child and I refused to allow people, who said they love me, to mistreat me. The love a Black woman has for her black son is unmatched. She was in a position herself, and was able to say, “son, I love you but I have to do this.” She knew up until that point, she had raised me right and she knew I wouldn’t go astray. She allowed her oldest son to leave the nest, knowing he would return a man.
Now that you’re a parent, how does it feel to be in the position to give that sort of love?
It’s difficult for me to find a word for it. I think God speaks to us through signs and symbols because words don’t always have the capacity to describe how we feel. So, I feel amazing… if that will suffice. I feel incredible and empowered. I feel I’m a gift and I have been rewarded. Also, because of the type of love I needed as a child, God has blessed me with children who demonstrate that they need that magnitude of love and wont take anything short of it.
Do you think love is conditional?
My daughters continue to challenge my understanding of unconditional love. My father demonstratred what unconditional love was, but I couldn’t recognize it until I was a man. For a man to walk two/three hours, just to see his sons. Play a game of football or have lunch together. There have been times when I’ve had a car and said I wasn’t going to get them, and I wasn’t nearly two or three hours from them. Kudos to my dad. I must have that same energy for my girls. There’s nothing they could ever do to convince me to stop loving them.
Are you lovable?
I would like to think I am. Personally, I think my actions and intentions have shown that. I’ve been willing to let my guard down and expose the core of my emotions. I’ve allowed myself to receive love from others without thinking they have negative intentions or ill will, but that they simply love my entire being. I’m willing to make necessary changes and sacrifices for the greater good. I’m the pillar of my family and I always have to keep that in mind. Being lovable sometimes means identifying their needs and feelings–even the ones that aren’t on the surface, but you just know. Sometimes I’ve demonstrated more love for my family than for myself. That has definitely put me in some compromising situations. Ha!
I could imagine those ‘compromising situations’ were scary because you never know who will have your back after you’ve been everyone else’s shield/protection.
Not knowing is always… I don’t want to say ‘scary’– maybe ‘anxious’. That’s all fear is: anxiety associated with not knowing. You can give, give, give and you have to just wait and hope someone gives to you.
At 31 years old, what place is your heart and mind on this journey of emotion and not-knowingness?
You gon have to break that down.
Hahahahaha. Yea I figured that wouldn’t make sense. In your journey of love, and your willingness to make sacrifices–while fearing the unknown– where would you say you are right now?
I read this book called, The Alchemist. The author talks about being in a merchant store and learning all he could learn, but still thinking, this is where I should be, this is what I should be doing. We spend so much time thinking about the end of the journey, that we don’t live in the everyday happenings. In the present, not knowing makes for the perfect opportunity to just flow. Each day is a new day to edify and express what love is. Like, soak it up.
What do you think has been the best part about loving you?
Hmmm.. the best part about loving me?
Me being dependable. Someone to rely on and confide in. My patience and my firmness. How I work to create our right now and the security I provide for our future. My dope sex, and how I make your body tremble before sex is even involved. Mental orgasms on mental orgasms! How I make you feel, how I love my children and how I tend to my responsibilities as a man. I believe you think I’m unique and definitely unlike anyone you’ve ever dated in your life. I love deeply and selfishly. I want all of your love that is reserved for me and you can have all of my love reserved for you. I’m what you think a man is supposed to be: taking care of you, myself and our family. Committed, growing, and your ‘Shuggly’. You love me because I’m open with you and up to growing with you.
And cause you fineeeee!
[Bashfully] And cause I’m a very attractive Black man. And I have good genes; with two beautiful queens as receipts.
[Back in Character] What has been the most difficult part about loving you?
Firstly, my inexperience with expressing myself emotionally and receiving love. So I’m literally always questioning why someone wants to love me. Almost feeling like I know I deserve all of your love, but DO I DESERVE ALL OF YOUR LOVE? My history of not being able to interpret and openly express emotion has formed a callus, and sometimes breaking through that callus is tedious and tiresome.
Nothing about you is tiresome, Black man. You’re magical.
Magical, mythical, regal, excellent, ambitions, zealous, noble, vibrant, electric, humble, radical, mystical, loving, caring. Yes, that’s me.