Years of exclusively dating my boyfriend has led to one culminating event: that’s right, you guessed it, we’re shacking up. The hour-long commute between Brooklyn and Harlem would finally be bested, and we would be able to wake up next to one another every morning, be it rain or shine, storm or snow. However, my parents weren’t so keen on the idea.
My traditional parents, who brought me up in the church, and my boyfriend’s modest aunt, who raised him with her classic Southern charm and careful demeanor, were shocked beyond belief when they were told that we would be sharing a queen-size bed, without us first sharing vows.
My parents simply couldn’t fathom why the two of us needed to move in together. When they were first told, they said something along the lines of the following: “I don’t see why you two are rushing to live together. If you care about one another and you want to be close to one another, then just visit with one another more… or marry. If you live together, you might be tempted to sin.”
To that remark, I tried to verbalize my adoration for my sweetheart in ways that confronted them with the reality of my adulthood, while still remaining respectful. But, my assertions were easily countered with bible scripture, prayer and more steep conversation. The painstaking argument that he and I would save money if we lived together failed, and led to a back-and-forth about my income and whether or not I was eating right (I wasn’t).
Ultimately, I had to ask for silence. I reminded them of the failed relationships of my past, the longevity of the current one and the importance of my happiness. I said the following:
“Mom. Dad. I am an adult. I know that’s a little hard to believe because I have such young features, but I am a woman. And as a woman, I need you to understand that I’ve made a lot of choices in my life, many of which I know were bad choices. But this is not one of them. I love him, and rather than promise each other that we’ll spend eternity together, we’ve vowed to spend every evening and morning together. We’re happy.”
Grateful that my parents seemed to relax to the idea, I didn’t realize that I still had a brigade of other family members that I would have to elbow my way through in order to be free of opinions. Even my siblings made annoying statements and thought we were living together because of something we didn’t want to be open about:
“Oh, wow. Good for you…. mama and daddy aren’t gonna like this, though. (*clears throat*) Are you pregnant, or something? If you are, I won’t say anything. So, what’s the next step for you two? Marriage? You can’t wear white.”
Aunts and uncles proclaimed:
“Baby girl, you’re going to live with your boyfriend, now? You ain’t wasting no time, are you? Well, I guess y’all grown. You two make such a fine couple, and your babies are gonna look just like the both of you. How long ’til y’all get married?”
And random family members I don’t talk to often said things along the lines of: “Moving in with him might be a big mistake. It’ll be less romantic, and he’ll take you for granted.”
From those statements, I started to understand two things: My family members apparently are pretty conservative, and they’re also a bunch of haters.
Before responding to any of them, I visited why they might have certain reservations, and why they believed rooming with my boyfriend was like giving up on romance or somehow giving in to sin. I understood my parents to a degree, and challenged myself to understand the reservations held by my family members. The absurdity, as well as the reality of their claims stood side-by-side in my mind, forcing me to stifle stiff retorts.
The boyfriend and I would likely take the other for granted, which could happen even if we decided not to live together; nonetheless, we would also take care of one another. We’d exchange words from time to time, but also love. And we’d argue about chores and tasks, just as we’d argue down anyone who dared to speak against the other.
In my mind, marriage and children is talk for the future, not today. As long as my insurance kept me fat with contraception and shotgun weddings contined to be a thing of the past, we only had the present to deal with.
Within that long-winded thought process, I’d found answers to everyone’s questions (whether I chose to answer them or not) and reassured myself that he and I were making a great choice. I realized that the doubt and reservations come from a place of fear and love, but I needed to communicate my lack of fear and more so, my confidence in my choices and my relationship.
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