July 11th, 2008 - Vonetta Young
No man had ever loved me, not even my father. So, on July 11, 2008, my fingers hovered above my keyboard, trying to decide what to put on my OkCupid profile. I was 22 years old and desperate to finally start dating. I needed to know I was loveable.
I’d had crushes, but all of my pining went unexpressed and unrequited. When my mom said I could start dating when I turned 15, I circled my birthday on my calendar, praying someone would ask me out that very day, but to no avail. I went through high school and college without going on a date. What was wrong with me?
On OkCupid, I said I was big into reading, dancing, and Jesus. My heart thumped in my ears when I got a match and arranged a date.
But, he stood me up, further confirmation something was wrong—with me.
Then a friend set me up with a guy who’d messaged her on Yelp. He liked to dance, so maybe he was my type. She helped me craft a message to him.
A week later, we met at the chicest nightclub in DC. He bought me a drink but had water himself, health conscious and frugal. He was a socialist, which was fascinating. When I said I was a capitalist, he grimaced, jokingly. We danced until morning, when the lights revealed us both as sweaty, but attractive. He walked me home, and we kissed in front of my building.
It wasn’t love, but a man I was attracted to was attracted to me: a dream come true.
He took me out almost every weekend that summer. During the week, we emailed; he lived with his mother and didn’t like to talk on the phone because she might hear. I admired that he was saving money to buy a house. My rent was too damn high, anyway, I joked.
“Why don’t you just move somewhere cheaper,” he snipped. This made sense, but his tone grated me.
At the end of summer, he emailed explaining why I’d never dated: I was too concerned with dressing nicely, cared too much about what he thought of me, was too politically conservative, believed in Jesus and capitalism, had credit card debt, drank too much, gave into peer pressure, didn’t exercise, and wanted to spend money traveling.
I blinked at the screen. If these things were the problem, the only thing I’d done wrong was be myself.
He apologized for judging me, but I told him to not talk to me anymore. It was the end of my first relationship. It’d lasted only two months.
I am loveable and someone is going to love me for me, I told myself.
But I spent fall and winter enraged, wondering if being me would always be insufficient.
One spring Friday, at a bar, I saw a guy, Rustin, who’d gone to my university. We danced and talked until our friends left us. We drank water because we’d both given up alcohol for Lent. We exchanged drunk study abroad stories. I confessed my shopping habit; Rustin laughed, saying he’d happily overuse my Banana Republic employee discount.
When Rustin called me on Sunday, I hesitated. Then I recalled how he’d shared his flaws and didn’t shame me for mine. It was like he’d wanted me to be me. I answered the phone.
Now, we’ve been married for six years, traveled the world, paid off our debt, drank too much, exercised, shopped, and debated intelligently about politics and religion. Rustin has gone out of his way to prove I am worthy of love, even on those days when I can’t quite believe him.
Vonetta Young is a writer based in Washington, DC. She is currently writing a memoir about finding a sense of belonging after father emotionally abandoned her, as well as a short story collection and novel exploring the messy collision of race and class in African-American families. Her essays have been featured in/by Catapult, Ozy, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, Blavity, Levo League, and The Billfold. Vonetta is twice a graduate of Georgetown University.
Vonetta invites you to donate to Street Sense Media, a multimedia organization that amplifies the voices of Washington, DC’s homeless population through writing, theater, film, photography, and other media. Visit their website at www.streetsensemedia.org.