As I draw closer to the landmark age of 30 this autumn, I often find myself sifting through the many journal entries I’ve written in Triumphs & Tribulations over the years. I look back at entries I wrote in Triumphs & Tribulations I way back in 2000, where I talked about my dreams and the things I wanted to do in life. Those entries take me to years like 2006 and Triumphs & Tribulations VII, where I found myself working towards those dreams and those things I wanted to do in life. Those entries bring me to the current—Triumphs & Tribulations XIV, which runs until September 30th—and how I’ve accomplished some of those dreams and did some of those things I wanted to do in life. It lends the perspective that life—though often said to be “short”—is truly a marathon and that some things take a lot of time to accomplish. One of those dreams and things I wanted to do way back then in 2000 is get married. In fact, it’s on my bucket list and I even made mention of it in this Flashback Friday moment. As I’ve matured in age, I’ve realized that marriage is not one of those “now” events that happen at a microwave pace…it’s one of those “future” events that leans heavily towards patience and potential, a concept that some women from my dating past didn’t necessarily grasp hold of. And it brings me to this 5th contribution in The Single Guy’s Perspective series: the instant gratification girl.
If you look throughout the history of male-female relationships, I’m absolutely sure you’ll come across the 50s, 60s, and 70s, when dating and relationships kind of had a different feel as opposed to what it is in today’s modern society. There was a lot more patience between both parties back then. Women, for all intents and purposes, stood by their men when they were at the bottom with nothing and they both rose together. It seemed as if that old saying of “patience is a virtue” really rang true back then. It’s probably the reason why I take so much enjoyment in listening to older couples tell stories of their 30, 40, 50-year marriages and how they started with very little but ended up with a lot more. They saw better times, a better life in their future and worked towards that instead of settling for what they could’ve gotten in the present. I’m especially amazed at the stories the older women tell about how they loved their men when they “only had a couple dollars and the clothes on [their] back” and how they stood firmly next to them because they knew a better life for them together would come, whether it was a year, 5 years, or even 50 years. Unfortunately, you don’t get that too much out of today’s women. Today, it’s more of an “I don’t care about the future, what can you do for me now” mindset.
The example I’ll draw from for this post takes me back to the Fall of 2004. It was my first dating situation after my first love’s death a year earlier. I was stationed at Moody Air Force Base so I was living in South Georgia at the time. I was dating a sophomore from nearby Valdosta State University. Throughout late September and October 2004 and deep into November 2004, we went out. We had a lot of fun. Over those 8 weeks we dated, we talked a lot about what we both wanted for our respective futures and in some of those conversations, we both envisioned ourselves attached to the other in pursuit of those futures. She knew I was just a lowly Airman First Class and that I lived in the dorms on base. She knew that I spent a lot of time in the lab—my affectionate term for the library—trying to get my first degree and game up plans to pay off that 2001 Pontiac Grand Am SE. She knew that dinners at Fazoli’s and the $1 theater joint on Ashley were all my pockets could afford. She knew that I had to play it tight with those anytime minutes and that the majority of our phone calls would have to take place after 9pm. She knew all of that…and she was good with it. She once said, “I don’t have anything either so we can come up together”. When I thought of her, I thought of Verse 2 off Track 6 of Teedra Moses’ Complex Simplicity album. I remember writing in a Triumphs & Tribulations V entry in late October 2004 that “in the aftermath of losing Valorie a year ago, I may have found someone just as special”. About 3 weeks after that, however, there was a dramatic shift. After pretty much disappearing for like a week, she called me up to tell me that she was ending the dating situation. She said that she had met somebody else. It turns out the other cat was an older guy (23 vs. my then 20) and had much more money, which he was willing to spend on her. She ended that phone conversation with “I don’t want to wait 5 years for you to get it together when I can do it all with him right now”. And that was the end…didn’t see or speak to her until almost 1 ½ years later in March 2006. I happened to walk into one of the old barbershops “across the tracks” and she happened to be in there with some guy. She was pregnant…like swollen pregnant. I didn’t say anything, hoping that she wouldn’t recognize me but she spoke up with a “Hey Juan” and I extended the pleasantry back. When she and the guy left, the barber and some of the other older gentlemen started talking about the guy and how he had been selling drugs in that neighborhood for a few years. Sitting there and taking that all in, I came to the realization that she left me for a drug dealer. Of course the future I was laboring through hard times and paycheck-to-paycheck living to get couldn’t compare to the things he could’ve done for her at the time. It kinda felt like life imitating art in a strange way. That “Meet The Parents” track off Jay-Z’s The Blueprint2: The Gift & The Curse came to mind: the part about the guy who wanted to escape with the woman away from the city life but she loved the thrill of being the gangsta’s girl. That stupid Destiny’s Child “Soldier” track also came to mind, too. It was big at the point she decided to part ways. After that very small talk in the barbershop that day, I haven’t seen or heard from her since. When I visited Valdosta in May 2010—my first visit after leaving in May 2007—one of my friends down there told me that the guy she was with ended up getting busted and is serving a 15-year-bid, leaving her to take care of their 3 kids alone. My friend went on to say that she didn’t finish at Valdosta State, electing to drop out. A very sad story especially when you consider my life track after she skipped off: my meteoric rise versus what could be considered a downfall for her.
One would think that kind of thing, that kind of dating story happens 1-in-a-million. When I was younger, I certainly thought so. But time, observation, and maturity showed me that it happens every day. I’ve spoken to numerous other guys and some of them have similar stories…some of them have worse ones. Nevertheless, it’s pretty much the same story. I sometimes sit back and wonder how many women have left guys who were working hard towards realizing their potential because those same guys couldn’t give them the world at that particular moment. I wonder how many of those same women have regrets about that.
LESSON LEARNED. My experience with the instant gratification girl forced me to adjust my dating standards a little bit. Before I went through it, I figured that all women were gung-ho about standing with their men, through thick and thin, and waiting patiently for future potential to manifest itself. Before her, I had only been involved with 2 women in my entire life (my first 2 girlfriends) and neither of them ever showed signs of wanting to leave because I wasn’t at a certain place in life. But then again, we were all under 20 so where were we supposed to be in life anyway. After the experience with the instant gratification girl, I started asking more questions of the women I dated or became involved with. It was my way of digging a lot deeper into their minds. I have big dreams—always have and always will—and I’d like nothing more than to bring a lead lady along in accomplishing them but I do want to know if she’ll be patient with me, if she’ll be willing to struggle with me until we rise or if she wants it all right now.