Thank God I Didn’t Wait Til I Got A Man To Start Enjoying My Life
This past weekend, we celebrated our friend and senior editor Victoria Uwumarogie—now Oluloye’s wedding. My sister planned the event but the day before and the day of, she needed quite a bit of help decorating and setting up the reception space etc. Thankfully, my mother put together a task force to do so. And since my family is ride or die, my aunt, uncle and little cousin came to Chicago to help my sister with the event space. My uncle was an incredible help. We needed to string several lights from the ceiling and the day before, my sister and I couldn’t quite figure out how to do so. My uncle came through and knew how to secure everything perfectly. And the lights went and stayed up all night. But it was a process.
And in the middle of it, one of the lightbulbs broke. As I was helping to get the broken shards of glass off the table, and floor, my dear uncle said, “You know Veronica, T is such a nice young man.” T is my boyfriend, who my uncle met for the first time last Christmas, who was also helping us with the reception space. I smiled at the compliment because it was true and also because I remembered that my uncle, I would learn years later, was one of the few people who recognized that the last “prospect” he met, wasn’t the best fit for me.
“Yeah, he really is.”
“I’m so happy for you.”
I nodded, still smiling. I’m happy for me too.
My smile faded with his next sentence though. “You know, you’ve worked so hard and now it’s time for you to really start enjoying your life.”
In my silence, he repeated himself. “You’ve worked so hard, it’s time for you to enjoy life.”
Perhaps, I could have ignored it the first time. But the second, I just couldn’t. It really didn’t sit right with my spirit.
“Well, I’ve been enjoying my life.”
“Right, but you know what I mean. You know what your mother and I mean.”
To be fair, while my mother likes my current boyfriend and wants me to be married too, (more so for grandchildren than anything else), she has never suggested that a boyfriend or husband, even T, as beautiful a person as he is, would make me happy. And I’m so grateful that I’ve never felt that type of pressure or heard that type of messaging from either one of my parents.
Now, I knew and know my uncle meant no harm by his words. He was simply expressing his well wishes and even complimenting me on my accomplishments. But he’s not the only one under the false assumption that a romantic partner, a man, can make someone happy. And while my boyfriend has contributed immensely to my happiness; being that I’ve been single and alone more often than not, it was I who made a conscious and determined effort to make sure I cultivated my own happiness. I had to. Otherwise, spending roughly 27 out of 29 years of my life without an official boyfriend, would have been miserable and I likely would have lost my mind, literally. Happiness is an inside job. And I think people, particularly women, really do themselves and their partners a disservice, expecting another person to come into your life and do a job only you and God can do. It’s problematic and unrealistic to hold someone else responsible for your happiness? In fact, there’s a meme for that.
I went back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to write about this. I don’t want to portray my uncle as the bad guy because he’s not. My decision to write it though came from the fact that I think about this type of thing, romantic relationships and the prioritization of them over ourselves as individuals quite a bit. I think far too many women, myself included at one point, go into romantic relationships, “just happy to be here.” Happy that someone deemed us worthy of their love. Perhaps we should step into relationships believing that not only are we worthy of love, we are already loved. We should be grateful that the person we decide to be with, who decides to be with us, can recognize that fact. Being with someone who recognizes your worth is certainly cause for celebration. That’s a good reason to be happy. But recognizing your own worth and fostering happiness independently allows you not only to reject and dismiss the people who don’t contribute to your happiness, it allows you to appreciate their contributions even more when they come.