I Kept Offering My Heart to Beautiful Boys Who I Knew Didn’t Want It
Michel Foucault once said he became smart for the attention of beautiful boys. I had an argument with a friend about it once. I related to this sentiment, as I now realize I had built my personality around compensating for my fat body, and hadn’t yet achieved the results I yearned for. I thought this tactic would only work for thin and white people, that beautiful boys aren’t attracted to the rest of us, no matter how smart or interesting we are. The irony is I was in love with him—or I thought it was.
I have this narrative in my head about how it went down. And I had reason to believe that.
And I am learning to accept that maybe that wasn’t him.
I am realizing how love has been a driving force in my life.
There are three great heartbreaks that shape my twenties. I kept offering my heart to beautiful boys who I knew didn’t want it, but I wanted them to. I offered my heart to them and resented them when they didn’t do with it what I wanted them to. This is behavior that made me ugly and unattractive in ways that had nothing to do with my body.
When I have talked about my experiences, the feedback I often receive is “you need to love yourself”—which is not untrue, but also not productive. The questions are not, “what happened that made you feel this way?” or, “What do you need to heal?” and—mostly importantly—how do you feel love? These are the questions I needed to be asking, and the answers I am finding now.
In her monograph on the practice of loving, All About Love: New Visions, renowned feminist thinker bell hooks defines love as “a combination of care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility, and respect.” These are the components that comprise the practice of loving. With this, I have learned to ask myself: how am I practicing love? Am I acting in loving ways? Am I inviting people to love me?
More than this, I have learned I cannot understand how to love if I am not practicing it on myself. This is more than appreciating my good qualities and finding confidence in them. Loving yourself, for me, means seeing your flaws and believing in your capacity to change; it means holding yourself accountable to your mistakes; it means trying to practice harm reduction on every front; it means being gentle with yourself; it means saying no to situations that hurt you even when you want to say yes; and it still means lots and lots of selfies.
I have learned that the ‘love’ in ‘love yourself’ is a verb, not a noun.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I began this year by hurting someone I care about deeply.
At the time it felt painfully necessary to my growth—and it was—but my handling of it was incredibly messy and harmful on both ends.
I have learned a lot in the year since. I have learned that hurting people is inevitable and if we do not learn from causing harm then it was in fucking vain. I learned this accountability does not inherently reparate the harm. Chani Nicholas said “We can’t change what has occurred, but our relationship to it changes as we heal”. This is something I am learning too.
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I’ve learned that I’m deeply romantic in ways that I buried deeply and never let myself embrace. I did this because people hurt me when I was young and, consequently, my only way of understanding the world was that I was inherently wrong, and everyone else was right. Sometimes those people were my parents and I have learned they were also people navigating their own immediate and historic traumas the only way they knew how.
This is one of the ways the intergenerational trauma of living under racism manifests—to turn us inward and harm each other, as a roadblock to our liberation. I learned I have done and did this. I have learned new tools to be better about this. I learned I do not want to do this again. I learned people are more than my experience of them. I learned that I need to heal my trauma instead of displacing it. I learned a roadblock is not the end. I learned white supremacy does this to white people too. I learned it is different but it is not the same. I learned different but not the same insists that same is not lesser.
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I learned compassion. I learned I didn’t understand compassion. I learned white people’s relationship to whiteness is complicated. I realized people of color’s relationship to whiteness is complicated. I learned complicated does not mean lesser. I learned collective liberation includes but does not and can’t center white people’s liberation from white supremacy. A lot of people disagree with this and I learned that that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong.
I learned that I feel it necessary to use my position as a light skinned person of color to leverage my proximity to whiteness and other privileges by disrupting white supremacy and anti-Blackness as much as I can, whenever and wherever I can, while never forgetting my capacity to uphold both. I learned that this necessitates I am diligent with myself as well.
I learned I have a lot to learn. I learned that this is what I know right now and I am open to growth. I learned I know nothing. I learned I want to live a long time so I can learn as much as I can. I learned nihilism is a clever and entertaining yet misapplied smokescreen for disassociation.
I learned I have a body. I learned I am in relationship with my body. I learned that my fatness does not inherently limit me but how much I hate it will. I learned that I cannot expect people to love me if i do not practice love. I learned I cannot practice love if I do not first practice it on myself. I learned how fucking fundamental it is to know how to love and be loved. I learned people cannot give me what I refuse to let them. I learned I want to love someone who wants to love me back.
I learned trauma is a roadblock on a journey. I learned there is another side. I learned that the stars are fucking real.
I learned life is complex and it is arrogant to assume we understand anything at all. I learned I am sorry, that I can’t expect forgiveness, and I am learning to forgive myself.
[Featured Image: A person with short hair. They are wearing dark sunglasses and a dark shirt. The photo is in gray scale. Source: Modestas Jonauskas]