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I have no exes
On craving romantic attention
First, the love and support y’all sent me on last week’s comeback email?! I am shooketh, but also grateful, honored, and just like the above gif, blessed at the different ways sharing what I’ve been going through has been able to relate to you all. I’ve now learned about some of your IVF journeys, how some of you are managing your mental health, and how many of us are looking to embark on our unique real estate journies. I love it for us.
Second, on a completely separate note, I feel like sometime between 2020 and now, every Black woman ever decided to read or re-read bell hooks’ All About Love (AAL). I learned so much from that book that I could probably write my own book just on my reflections. I’m now getting ready to read Communion, but since so many of my friends have read AAL, I figured that must mean many of you have too. So with that being said…
I’m planning a round-up of Black women’s biggest takeaways from the book and I need your help to make it poppin’! If you want to be included in the roundup story, just hit reply to this email and tell me which section (community, family, romantic, etc) you want to share your reflections on.
And if you want to pitch a personal essay tied to the upcoming All About Love series, please send your story idea to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our essay authors are paid.
This Week’s Story
I love publishing stories about late bloomers. If you were here when Carefree first launched a few years ago, I shared my own late bloomer story. While I relate to this identity on a cerebral level, the thing about calling yourself a late bloomer and feening for romantic love is, when you’re in the thick of constantly not being chosen and being told “you have to love yourself first before anyone else will,” it’s easy to forget to look up and smell the flowers along the way. The flowers are beautiful and one day you’ll bloom with love just like them.
I’m excited to have author Brikitta Hairston back again, this time to share her own late bloomer journey. As she puts it, “Being a late bloomer doesn’t mean you’re behind. Learning vicariously is just as important as learning from experience.”
EIC of Carefree
I Have No Exes
by Brikitta Hairston
For about an hour, I wanted to be a psychologist.
In college, I took courses in both child psychology and forensic psychology, however, I have since changed that career path after considering how difficult it would’ve been to handle so much of others’ pain. What I learned from that period has been invaluable, and is probably the only thing that helps me cope most days with the reality that I have never loved and have never been in love.
There is a psychological phenomenon called the ‘Life Script,’ which explains how the decisions we make as children are informed by our environments and predicate the course of our lives. They are specific to each individual’s development and methods of problem-solving, and tailored to how they interact with their environments. It’s why even siblings who grow up in the same house, go to the same schools, play the same sports and watch the same shows grow up to be completely different.
As a stellar example, I’ll use myself.
For years, I wondered why I had never been asked to the school dance. Never been asked on a date or bought me a carnation. I’ve never had someone say “I choose you,” even if they were lying. I’ve never been chosen. However, despite growing up in the same home, my romantic life is in complete contrast to my older sister's. We were raised by the same parents, went to the same schools, and attended the same Bible studies and dance classes, but when she was 25, the age I am now, my sister had plenty of exes and got engaged to be married.
Every time I brought up how much my lack of relationships bothered me to friends or my sister, I’d get the same response: Everyone's path is different, Don’t be so hard on yourself, Maybe change up your appearance a little, or, my personal favorite—you have to love yourself first, men are attracted to women who love themselves. And I probably should have clocked that the only people who had that sentiment were already happily partnered.
Why does everyone say “Love yourself first”? When you can only get so far and have so much self-love, for something proven to get no romantic love.
Romantic love is kind of insidious that way. You could have every other type of love—from your parents, friends, siblings, and yeah, yourself—but without being able to fill the craving of romantic love, every day can feel like you’re missing something.
I have watched my friend flirt and be flirted with for years and convinced myself I was behind. I wanted that same attention. That determination was magnified by pop culture, media, and our dear friend “Society” telling us that not following the typical love life script deemed me as failing, or having already failed. Everything should be set in stone: engaged and married in your early 20s, career peaking and a family starting in your 30s, and by 40 *insert whatever else could be even more condescending than the former*. But that is no longer the standard.
I spent time in and out of therapy and talking with people online to figure out this dating dilemma of mine. As someone who does desire a romantic partnership, the struggle remains to uphold my wants and needs over the pressures of “the timeline”, and arbitrary ages for the wedding, the house, the kids, and everything in between.
On TikTok, there is a ‘late bloomer’ hashtag where young adults are coming out to share their stories and feelings on being seemingly “behind” in finding romance—there are videos from users revealing that they’re 23 and have never been kissed, 27 and never held hands, 35 and never had sex. #SingleTok is full of fellow soldiers in this battle we’ve found ourselves in, including comedic skits to give us some relief,
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There is a large community of “late bloomers;” we are not alone, and as soon as I realized that, my anxiety became easier to manage. It was not just a shower thought that kept intruding, I found that literal universities like Rutgers-New Brunswick, had published a study in Socius regarding field research done on Gen-Z populations. The rate of young women having casual sex, defined by the study as sex outside of long-term committed relationships, dropped from 31% to 22% for the Gen-Z generation. Social considerations were made, like attributions to the state of the economy or the rise of cyber-relationships, still, I found an odd sense of comfort in knowing that what seems to be impossible to me is in fact an existing truth already.
What I now struggle with most is fully understanding that my lack of romantic experience is not by my doing. Do you think I haven’t shot my shot? I sure have. Only to be met with ridicule, being laughed at, or, worse, being ignored. My biggest insecurities lay in the fact that I know how fun and compassionate I am, yet still, no one looks long enough to see. I would be remiss not to include society’s beauty archetypes in this or “pretty privilege”. Growing up, even though I was athletic, I was chubby due to a thyroid problem that went undiagnosed. I kept being told to lose weight instead of being given a blood test so most of my formative years were spent plus-sized. It didn’t matter that I was witty, passionate, and knew fun facts, those who I desired just didn’t see me as desirable.
By now, I have mostly accepted that this is just the path of my life. At 25, I have no exes and no ‘almosts’. I have little hope that my personal desire to have and raise a family will come to fruition—but the Nigerian in me has found a way to look at the bright side, wipe my tears, and look forward.
I look forward to having an established career before I enter a romantic relationship. I look forward to knowing myself better than I might have if I had spent my formative years molding my life with and through someone else. There is nothing wrong with that, and I do not deem myself better than my sister who, at 23, was living with her boyfriend, or my best friend who, at 24, was buying a house with hers. It is not about that. I have simply found a way to look at the upside.
My first heartbreak may be catastrophic. I may do things that people have already navigated through in their teen years. But I’ll do it with the emotional, mental, and financial stability to see a way through, and do some retail therapy along the way. I am still where I was years ago in terms of lack of partnerships, but I believe my self-reflection has gained me light years of growth and personal acceptance.
This is not to be mistaken as a belief that I have to love myself more before someone else loves me. I love myself quite enough and I wouldn’t change a thing.
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Brikitta Hairston (she/her), an investigative victimologist, is a graduate of the University of Iowa with a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Criminal Justice. She is a Title IX and Civil Rights Investigator by day and opinion writer by night. Her words are in OffColour Magazine, Better to Speak, Carefree Magazine, and Giddy Magazine.