In honor of Valentine’s Day, all week ELIXHER will be celebrating our love — our love of self and our love of other women of color who are trans, queer, and cis. 

By Cairo Amani

It’s no mistake that Valentine’s Day comes in the thick of cuffing season. For those of you who fell in love cuddled under sheets, binge watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, you’ll be hitting the stores for chocolates and stuffed animals, planning getaways for spring and summer. For those of you who meant to have only temporary boo thangs, this could be the moment you set up your escape plan.

Even if you’re single, you don’t have to miss out. Valentine’s Day has something for everyone. You like candy? Make a dentist appointment for next month. Like the color red? You’ll be swallowed by it. Hate all of these things? That’s okay. You’re not the only one. Pop in a romance movie and take a shot with friends every time something makes you roll your eyes.

This will be my first Valentine’s Day in years where I’m uninvolved and unattached. I’ve found myself reflecting on my past relationships and what I’ve learned from them. I’ll share that with you here.

1. Forgive and Forget–and Move On

My very first boyfriend told me when I met him that he was a cheater. He then said I made him want to change. I believed him. (Forgive me, y’all. I was sixteen, confused and trying to fit in.) I’m sure you saw this coming, but he cheated on me. And begged for forgiveness (on his knees, templed hands and all!). I should’ve done this:

But instead, I was more like this:

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If I could tell my younger self something, it would be that I could’ve forgiven him without continuing to date him. Forgiveness could’ve been (and should’ve been) separate from our relationship. But, oh well. You live and you learn.

2. People Leave Your Life for a Reason

I fell madly in love with the next guy I dated. (This was a long closeted period in my life. Bear with me.) We hooked up before he broke it off with his girlfriend at the time. So, according to their relationship boundaries, he cheated. Months later, on Valentine’s Day, I cheated on him. (Yes. I know.) He dumped me. I was baffled.

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But he cheated on his girlfriend with me. How could he get mad now? Well for one, he and I had only kissed while they were dating. But on Valentine’s Day, I slept with a woman. There’s a scale issue there.

If I could tell my younger self something else it would be, “You’re a lesbian. Stop wasting time and hurting guys.” But then, I never would’ve met Ex #2 and I might not have learned my next lesson: How to let go when someone isn’t treating you right, even if you don’t want to. He’s now happily engaged. He made the right choice. Thanks to him, I easily dumped the next dude I dated and stopped pretending I like boys.

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3. You Don’t Have to Date Everyone You Love

One of my closest friends is an amazing woman who I was also madly in love with. (I do this a lot.) We have the sort of friendship where all we need is a one-second look to convey paragraphs of information. We don’t stop laughing until days after seeing each other. We’re convinced we should have a reality TV show. We won’t believe you if you disagree. We were also terrible lovers. I could chalk that up to age and circumstance but, whatever it was, we just couldn’t get it together as girlfriends.

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As soon as we got rid of the romantic aspects things cleared up dramatically.

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It was a hard pill to swallow for me. I spent a lot of time hearing that good relationships are built on friendships. It just seemed obvious that my good friend with whom I shared a mutual attraction would make an excellent girlfriend. Lies. But yet, another lesson learned. Luckily, our friendship was strong enough to weather that lesbian love storm.

4. True and Healthy Love Exists

I’ve never really intended to settle down and marry but sometimes, when your committed relationships fall apart one at a time, you can worry that you wouldn’t be able to settle down even if you wanted to. My most recent relationship lasted over four years and our parting has nothing to do with a lack of love.

My ex girlfriend has all the characteristics I think make for a healthy partner. She is caring, kind, admirable, giving and forgiving, humble and the sort of lover that celebrates you so much it’s impossible not to love yourself. She taught me things and learned from me and, year after year, she was my best friend before anything else.

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Okay, I’ll stop being mushy. What did I learn? In short, I learned how to function.

I learned what it’s like to argue and be forced to make up before bed because you love someone too much to go to sleep angry. I learned what it’s like to have healthy communication with a partner about gender, sex, money, art, and friendship. I learned that it’s possible to spend every day with someone and not be sick of them. I learned what it’s like to miss someone sleeping next to you at night. I learned what it’s like to work professionally with someone you’re dating and keep those things separate. I learned I’m not always capable of keeping those things separate. I learned what it’s like to grow alongside someone and how to handle it when you might be interrupting that growth. And, at the very end, I learned what it’s like to suffer through a goodbye with faith that it will assure a less painful future. I learned how to love.

And now, on VDAY 2k15, I feel thankful for the person I’ve become through all of my romantic encounters. If you’re in Brooklyn on February 14th, come find me. This year I’m single and I have but one mission.

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cairo-amani-2-700x325Cairo loves moleskin notebooks, considers Scrivener a godsend, and enjoys reading, dancing, and board games that involve doing silly things for points. You can find out more about her here: about.me/cairoamani

Cairo photo credit: Sil the Photographer

2 Responses

  1. Cairo

    Sorry I didn’t see this comment sooner, Z! The biggest compliment I can ever receive about my writing is that it inspires someone else to do their own thing. You’ve learned a valuable lesson. I hope your journey to love yourself (which I think is on going in humans)is incredibly prosperous and amazing.

    Thank you for reading!!

    Reply
  2. Z Amara Perri

    Beautiful Cairo! I learned some of the same things from my exes. You’re making me want to write my own essay. I learned a lot about myself from my exes and why they are exes. Mostly I learned that it’s really hard to love someone when you haven’t figured out how to love your own self first.

    Reply

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