“Right around the time I reached my goal weight, I met the man that I would marry”, begins “Chubby, Skinny Accepting”, writer Cole Kazdin’s Modern Love column in the New York Times’ style section. Promising enough, right? Wrong. Kazdin’s goal weight was 90 pounds.
At 5’3, Kazdin was a lifelong anorexic/bulimic, with a great, high powered job, and cool friends on whom she’d skip out right after dinners in swanky restaurants to go home and puke. Horrific as that may sound, Kazdin was feeling good in her life at the moment she met her future hubby. She describes herself as “beaming with accomplishment”. She was (overly) thin, and successful. She’d met the perfect guy. But also, she was afraid to take off her clothes in front of him. She was severely ill.
Instead of running, Kazdin decided to come clean, and get healthy. She sought the support of not only her family, but her guy. It helped that when she was around him, she didn’t even think about not eating, or throwing up. She didn’t cut out on him after dinner, like she did her friends. His attention? Love? Companionship? Presence? Something about him calmed her enough to get her out of her anxieties and craziness, even for the space of a date. The last line of the article reads, “I couldn’t love myself until I fell in love with someone else”. Imagine that.
Most “smart” dating advice dictates that you have to be whole to be in a relationship. You’ve got to heal your hurts. You must love yourself before you can love someone else. Here, we have a testimony to the opposite.
What shall we do with it?
Imperfect women, confused women, overweight women, women with personality flaws, immature women, angry women, and even eating disorders find love, and maintain relationships everyday. Perfect doesn’t exist.
A post I once wrote on black women traveling was met with following comment from one reader: “As soon as my skin is perfect, I’m gonna head out to Spain!” How much do you wanna bet that woman (any financial issues notwithstanding) still hasn’t bought a plane ticket? I’ve known women to say they wanted to put off dating until they were at the perfect weight, had the perfect job, the perfect bank statement, were rocking the perfect natural hair that framed their head like a halo, because then they’d be the perfect angel with wings tucked into their bra straps. Anyone stepping to you in this utopian state of existence had better be a billionaire, with a full head of hair, 10 degrees, and no morning breath. As if any man is flawless. Not even billionaires with perfect hair. Trust me. I was engaged to one.
Don’t get me wrong; Belgian Bill (we’ll call him) was funny, so handsome, and very generous. But also, he had his insecurities having grown up rough, and never finishing university before making his first million. And in the most important ways, he didn’t get me at all. I’d venture to say that though our tastes and personalities were similar, our problems didn’t mesh. He couldn’t help me through my mine. And I couldn’t help him through his.
Take that time I ruined Christmas. He’d left his child and traveled across the world with me, (mostly, because the important holiday in Belgium is December 6th, the day Sinterklaas and his sidekick-in-blackface come to town). Still, it was his first holiday away from her, and he was depressed. I took it personally, and made the trip a nightmare. I was immature, and I knew it. I just couldn’t help it.
Neither of us could. He was constantly annoyed that I’d stay up all night writing. In his mind, “we” already had everything. I crave the nomadic existence, film festival weekends, spicy food, and professional achievement. He’s travel packages, early retirement, Saturday nights bowling with his kid!, and “should I buy a yacht and take the same trip every year that ends in the French Riviera?”
I learned so many crucial things about myself through him. I leapt off the cliff at which our relationship ended, and into an incredible adventure in Spain, more love, and more love affairs that taught me more things. Perhaps I wasn’t “ready” for a relationship when I met Belgian Bill. I was inexperienced, kind of angry, and nowhere near whole. But I thank God that (like Kazdin) I didn’t let it keep me from trying.
Let me be clear: seeking out relationships in order to escape the pain and disappointment in your life is very different from understanding who you are, accepting yourself as imperfect, and going for what you want anyway. Going for what you want in terms of health, success, achievement, peace, healing, love–all of it.
Nota bene, the Modern Love writer was feeling all glowy, and in the throes of I’m-the-shitness when she met her love, even though she wasn’t perfect. She had an awareness that her feelgood was founded on an unsustainable sickness. However, she did tap into something that I believe in wholeheartedly: Relationships are opportunities for growth. They teach you, change you, stretch you, challenge you, and heal you. You don’t need to wait until….to deserve it. You were born deserving it, don’t you think?
Weigh in! Can you date through your issues? Should you? Are there any issues that are so serious that one should keep to herself until it’s solved?