What I'm Learning About Love
If you have never watched Love and Basketball or Love Jones, there are spoilers ahead.
I love romantic movies. I especially love classic Black romances. Discovering them was a game-changer. The Notebook was great, but The Wood, The Best Man, and Love Jones offered me visions of a life that I could actually live. They showed me what friendship, young adulthood, and, of course, love could be like for a Black girl like me. These movies showed me that all of the parts of me that I never saw in a Nicholas Sparks’ film could be loved too.
Black love films mean everything to me. I’ve watched them so many times that I know the scenes by heart. I know that when Monica finally reunites with Q when she visits him in the hospital in Love and Basketball that Tyra Banks will come in and ruin the whole thing. I know that Dre is making a huge mistake when he chooses to marry Reese instead of being with Sidney in Brown Sugar. I know the heart-wrenching moments are coming—every time. I see them coming so early in the movie, I can’t even enjoy the process of the characters falling in love anymore because I know the heartbreak these characters will endure in the scenes after. And even though, these are just characters in movies, I feel for them—every time.
I was watching Love Jones (again) the other night. From the opening scene when Darius performs “A Blues for Nina” all the way to when Darius and Nina (Nia Long) are dancing and finally back together, I could only think about the break up scene in Darius’s apartment. I couldn’t fully enjoy the thrill of their romance because every moment that the couple fell deeper in love, I winced and braced myself a little more for the heartache that I knew was coming.
The stories have become almost too familiar to me. I’ve realized that I see the same thing happen in real life. Although not every romance ends with a kiss in the rain, when people fall in love—it seems—heartbreak will certainly follow. Sometimes, like in the movies, the heartbreak isn’t enough to keep the couple from finding each other again. Sometimes, it does work out, but no love story is perfect—in movies or in real life. I know that much. The hard part is figuring out how to enjoy the build-up, the falling in love part of the relationship, without expecting or preparing for the heartbreak part.
Opening myself up to be excited about the possibility of love requires that I make myself vulnerable to the possibility of being disappointed, hurt, or heartbroken. Too often I find myself (and my friends) giving up on a relationship before it has even started. And it’s because we’re scared.
We’re terrified of the idea of being hurt—especially over a man. That’s not what we do. We’re stronger than that. A boy isn’t going to make us feel any type of way and shouldn’t be able to make us look stupid. That’s not who we are.
Except it is what we do, we’re not always stronger than that, a person who we’re falling in love with will make us feel some type of way, and we might end up looking stupid because we’re not perfect.
And that’s okay. We—as women—as Black women—have to learn to forgive ourselves for feeling something other than pride or happiness or confidence. We are strength and resilience and magic, but we are also human. We love and we hurt. While we don’t need to let one person ruin our lives forever, blinding us from the all of the good that exists in our life, we cannot deny ourselves sadness or grief when it comes. We have to recognize our full humanity—understanding that people will make us feel things—sometimes awful things—especially when we love them. But in order to fall in love, we have to be willing to let love work—and fail.
I want to know what it feels like to fall in love. I want the nervous, exciting, butterflies in the pit of my stomach feeling of falling in love to be as familiar to me as those movies, which means I have to stop bracing myself for the heartache and enjoy the show.