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I’m not sure what the impetus was for me to throw away my harlequin romance books and declare: “ain’t no prince riding on a white horse in the ghetto down 52nd St., not even on a ten-speed bike, to save me.”  I then promptly threw all my romance books in the trash. Perhaps I need to consult my old diaries to find out what shook me out of my Cinderella fantasies. I just remember being mad and empowered at the same time. It was for this reason that I never introduced my daughter to Cinderella, Snow White or any of those “fair maidens” from my childhood. Not only did they not look like me, but the narrative damaged my psyche with the belief in a dream that someone will rescue and take care of me. The damage was already done; because even though I threw away the books, I did not totally dismiss the possibility of the fairytale coming true.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love—love. I have never given up on love; it just needs to be focused in some concrete reality that does not require me to give up myself. Whenever I shifted from this truth and slipped into a fairytale, I found myself in relationships where I was scuffling back to reclaim me or short changing the dreams I had for myself. The fairy dust made my eye sight blurry. I couldn’t see what I gave up by letting someone else take care of my needs and not my wants. I lost the focus on me.

My favorite book after I left Harlequin was James Baldwin’s If Beale St. Could Talk. I could wrap my mind and heart around these characters who found love in the midst of urban decay. Their love was a ride or die kind of love made from struggle and one which let each person grow and discover the self. Once I made it to Spelman, I was turned on by Paule Marshall, Rosa Guy, Toni Cade Bambara before falling head over heels for Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I wanted Teacake. A man so sweet he wasn’t afraid to let me discover and to kiss myself. I wanted a man who did not want me to show up as someone else or try to change me into his ideal once he believed he claimed me. I needed to be whole like Janie grew to be. A self-actualized woman, which is why I love me some Sula.  I teach this novel by Toni Morrison every year for my young women to learn the importance of loving your sisters and loving yourself and for my young men to learn why it is important for women to learn this lesson in order for men to be loved. I want to encourage them to be like Ajax, a free man who loved a woman he believed to be brilliant and did not confuse love with possession.

I gave my daughter both of these books. I informed her possession is antithetical to love and that a person must be free enough to love themselves to have some love to share.

Love is not a commodity to be bartered or bought. Once love is up for sale then so is the self, which means the purchaser reserves the right to dismantle or decide to return it if it does not act right. I let her know: I don’t come with a return label or any other kind of label or warranty. I am too valuable to be bought, which is why I had to disallow any thoughts of knights in shining armor.

So when my daughter decided to marry, I informed her and her husband that in order for their marriage to work a space must be created and respected for her to become a self-actualized woman. I let her husband know that his happiness rested on her knowing she is more than a mother and more than a wife. It means, before either of those roles emerged, the Creator put her here with a plan and a purpose which exceeds those roles. It means it is her duty to find that thing that brings her personal joy beyond a man or a baby. It is a mandate for her to live on purpose in order to earn her space on this planet. She has something unique to bring that has never been seen before, and I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for her to discover it and to share it.

I made sure from the time she was born that she had all the “paints and clay” she needed to paint and mold her world. This is not to say love is not necessary or needed; it is to say, loving up on her is mandatory and everything and anyone else that comes after is what makes the best fairytale.


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