To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.Robert Morely
In 7th grade English my teacher gave out assigned seats. My assigned seat was in front of this young white male. He began throwing small balls of paper at me during class. I turned around to tell him to stop and he advised me to go back to Africa. Annoyed by his ignorance I quickly reminded him that America would be boring without black people. He laughed and agreed and made a snarky comment about black people being entertaining. I rolled my eyes and turned back around in my seat and he continued to throw paper at me. Finally after an hour I picked a few paper balls up and threw them back at him.
Our English teacher yelled at me and gave me dentition. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t understand why the guy who I’ll call Liam could make racial comments and harass me all class, but I ended up with detention. The teacher told me if I didn’t react I wouldn’t have gotten into trouble, acknowledging that he knew what was going on but still chose to only punish me. The teacher also moved Liam from behind me to across from me to the very next row over.
After the my initial encounter with Liam I really disliked him. He annoyed every fiber of my being. The next day in English class Liam told me that he thought I was beautiful. Liam was confusing, but he was also the first male to tell me I was beautiful. I didn’t say thank you to Liam because I figured he was joking but a part of me oddly felt good. I felt happy that someone other than myself appreciated my beauty. Someone didn’t think I was the weird fat black girl.
From the first time he called me beautiful I started developing strange feelings for Liam. He was tall with blonde hair and blue eyes your typical all America boy. From the first time Liam called me beautiful he never stopped. He rubbed my arms and held my hands during class. I made sure to always wear a short sleeve shirt to English. Then one day he told me he loved me. I didn’t say it back because I was afraid to and I didn’t understand my feelings. Honestly I felt liked I loved Liam too but we were kids who knew nothing about love. I knew nothing about expressing myself or my feelings.
One day I dropped my pen and asked Liam to pick up the pen for me.
“Call me master” Liam said jokingly
One of our other white male classmates overheard Liam and advised him that his comment was too far. I was in complete shock. I couldn’t believe that Liam actually said that to me. I was so hurt and couldn’t believe I allowed myself to be apart of his slave fantasy. I felt so ashamed and so stupid. I left out the classroom and refused to come back. I did not care about the consequences.
The English teacher wrote me up and I was sentenced to a week of detention and a week of in school suspension at lunch. My parents also punished me by grounding me for a week and beating me. I felt so dumb the consequences didn’t matter to me I was numb and heartbroken.
After I healed from the beating, completed detention and in school suspension I was right back in English across from Liam. However I had nothing to say to him. He apologized profusely but I hated him.
Then one day a few weeks into me ignoring Liam like he never existed to me he stopped me in the hallway after lunch. He apologized again this time he looked me in the eyes. I felt like he was hurting and sincerely apologetic.
“Baby girl I’m sorry. I love you” he said and then he hugged me.
I melted in his arms and laid my head on his chest. The moment was perfect. I didn’t tell him I loved him but I did. I didn’t tell him I forgave him but I did. I loved him calling my baby girl. It made me feel special.
I didn’t think he was racist at the time I just thought he was a product of his environment. Living in a predominantly white area sometimes people used racial slurs or said racist things they would later apologize for and I was used to that. Honestly we were kids, and even at a young age I realized kids aren’t born racist or hateful. Kids are taught those behaviors. My parents would have died if they knew I was in love with a white guy. We were kids and I told myself he had to be taught that behavior. I didn’t blame him I blamed the word. I still blame the world.
That strange dynamic between us lasted all the way through high school. One day I thought he cared for me and the next day someone was telling me he said he would never date a black girl. I would be hurt or sad but I never stopped loving him. He was the first guy to make me feel beautiful.
Fast forward to present day I discussed Liam and the roll that he played in my young life with my therapist. I told her once again how Liam made me feel. She paused and said “let’s be clear Liam said some pretty awful hurtful racist things to you. Let’s acknowledge the toxic role he played in your life”.
I felt so dumb once again. I credited Liam with making me feel beautiful and helping me love myself. I never really acknowledged the toxic role Liam played in my life. I found that since Liam I continued to gravitate towards men who hurt me or men who are mean to me. I attracted men who were prone to anger. It’s almost like I think I deserve a man who in one breath will tell me I’m beautiful and god’s gift to the world, but in the next breath tell me I’m worthless.
I am a work in progress and I realize that I have to 100 percent love myself before I can expect anyone to love me. I realize my worth and I have made a promise to myself to heal from past traumas. I made a promise to myself to always know my worth and never settle for less. It’s so cliche but love isn’t supposed to hurt you or break you.