Updated: Nov 1, 2019
I used to love Robert. Ask my college roommate. She'll tell you. Robert felt like home to me. Chicago's lakefront in summer, 79th to 111th, an open and inviting portal into worlds unknown, because I was a church kid. The purity movement caught me early and the absolute worst thing I could ever let a man do was penetrate. And nobody was teaching the proper way to deal with sexuality in Sunday School.
So there was Robert. With his sack of sensual synonyms and similes offering my vivid mind a world of ideas. Teaching me how to move my body like the slithering creatures that deceived the mother of mankind. Sounding like the guys on the block who tried to tell me I was ready before I really understood what to be ready for, but it made me feel good and sometimes, they'd give me rides to school so, I never said anything. Caressing my curiosity with intimacy, my brain a playbook of scenarios I would share with my husband alone.
But then Robert showed up. I was 15, he was 26. I wanted safety and freedom from what I believed was a tyrannical home. God only knows what he wanted, but late nights and books of poetry bearing my initials made me feel it was me. This wasn't the first time I'd met a Robert. Robert taught me how to kiss and grind before I knew how to multiply. Robert taught me how to flirt while I was in the lunch line with other 1st-grade girls. But this Robert, I'd chosen. I somehow sought him out, and he obliged. What 15 year old me could have said to make him take me seriously, I don't know, but he did, and he almost walked away with my most prized possession. Thank God for meddling mamas.
But Robert returned. I was 16, he was 31. I wanted safety and freedom from what I believed was a tyrannical home. God only knows what he wanted, but dates to the movies and shopping sprees provided much of what I needed and more than I ever wanted, so I knew it was me. Molding me until I was 18 to be the woman he needed, and I felt like I was winning. Playing with fire without getting burnt had become a pastime and I needed him just as much as he wanted me. How would I get my school uniform? Or new shoes when mine had worn? How would I learn to caress a man's ego and speak to him with love and kindness when the world was crashing over him? Robert provided for me. Robert taught me. How could I ever turn my back on Robert?
I met Robert again at 17, he was 33. I wanted safety and freedom from what I believed was a tyrannical home. I found out rather quickly what he wanted. Exclusive excursions to fine dining, exploring parts of my city I'd never known, I was a woman now. I knew my boundaries. "No sex", I told him. I was saving that for my husband. Never mind that all these Roberts had screwed my mind in a way that my husband and I are still working through. Never mind that purity is more than not having sex, which I was fully aware of. Never mind that I was teaching myself to use men and be used by them, instead of loving men and allowing myself to be loved by them. I chose to play, like a child, with Robert. But Robert saw a woman. Robert assumed consent. Robert walked away with my most prized possession. I'm still not sure if I offered, or if he took. All I remember is several no's and a bunch of guilt.
More Roberts came, and left. I became a woman, masking the frightened heart of a little girl searching for safety and freedom. I got married. I have 2 little girls now. They are feisty, and smart, and gorgeous. No doubt they will be labeled "advanced for their age". I look at them and I am amazed. And disgusted. With men who measured their manhood with the manipulation of my innocence. I look at my baby girls and want so much more for them than safety and freedom. I want them to know their value and what true love really looks like.
But I sit here, in the midst of a movement, wishing I could go back and tell fast-ass, fatherless, five-year old me:
YOU ARE SAFE.
YOU ARE FREE.
YOU ARE EVERYTHING YOU NEED.