Written by Jaclyn M. Watlington

Dating has always been an uphill battle for me. Maybe it's because I never got over my daddy issues, or the teasing by my male peers from grade school but nevertheless, I continuously fail at the dating game. Recently, I took a risk and got onto my social media soapbox made a somewhat controversial Facebook status, saying "I stopped dating because black men are so judgmental honestly. I could not be my free and authentic self when I was dating. I had to always hold myself back. I couldn't be honest or transparent because black men would look down upon me. They would say things that my mind couldn't get past. However, I still love black men." By being a black woman, I thought black men would cherish me and love me more than any other man could. However in my experience, that was not always the case.

In 2016, I went through a whirlwind of depression, panic attacks, and heartache. However, I didn't want to go through the battle; I didn't want to go through the trauma. I would rather navigate around it instead of taking it head on, which has always been a mistake of mine while healing from trauma. So in late 2016 and early 2017, I started serial dating like a maniac. It was very unfulfilling for many reasons. The men I dated never wanted me to be who I was, rather the person they wanted to mold me into. I could never have a conversations with them because the sexism and misogyny would seep from their pores. They would judge my tone of voice, my mannerism, and my unwillingness to "submit" to them. As well as lie to me about their interests and desires so they could have a chance at having sex with me. With time, these men realized I wasn't with the shits and would either fall off by themselves, curse me and call me "thot," "mean ass bitch," or whatever other demeaning term they could spit at me, or they would try to befriend me in hopes that they could slither their way back into my good graces.

There is a quote from Maya Angelou that I live by which is "if someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." It took me a long time to implement this quote into my dating life, but after being emotionally scarred time after time, inputting these words into a plan of action became simple.

Even though the dating scene was an absolute fiasco, I cannot completely blame my male prospects.  Loving myself and truly taking care of myself has always been something I could not fully grasp, therefore I would allow toxic relationships into my space because that was all I thought I deserved. As I started to take time to truly see my human form instead of trying to portray myself as a superwoman, I realized I couldn't save everyone, and that all the mean, nasty ideas from the past that fester in my head were not true.

I still struggle with the idea of accepting myself for who I am; however, I am not a hard person to love. When I came to terms with the idea of being an easy person to love, it felt as if a revelation had burst into my whole being. There could no longer be any person in my life that halfway loved me. In order to show that I could no longer be a victim of being put on the back burner by my mate, I had to choose myself and voice the wrongdoings that were continuously being done to me.

Choosing me has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. Even though it has its consequences such as sometimes feeling lonely, my mental health is more important than continuously trying to mend and love potentially good men. Dating good men on paper or the potential that a man possessed rapidly wore me out mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As a black woman, there has always been the "ride or die chick" trope ascribed to us, where we would stay with men even when he was not on the same level as we are, this was something I felt I had to be in order to obtain a strong and prosperous relationship with a black man. However, these black men were not able to withstand me going through episodes of anxiety and depression. Black men would judge me and call me lazy, crazy, and that I needed to pray my mental illness away. If men were not able to love, care, and understand me while I go through a difficult phase in my life, I cannot allow them to be a part of my self-care and self-love journey either.  The lesson that I learned is to never ride for someone that is not willing to ride for you.

Now that I have chosen myself and my feelings over being in a relationship or dating, I've gotten backlash from a friend that told me that I have "no soul" and I am "heartless."  Sometimes, not everyone will agree with the decisions you make to save your life or to be at peace with yourself and in this case, my friend would rather settle with someone than be single like myself. Perfection is something I have never asked for in a partner but hard work, dedication, understanding, transparency, consistency, kindness, and compatibility were some of the traits that I did require. If my prospect did not have any of these traits, why would I continue to harm myself by "seeing where things could go?" This is a version of self-harm that I am no longer willing to take not even for the sake of the acceptance of my friend. If this means that I must be single forever, that is what I will be because I refuse to backslide into old detrimental habits.

Loving me and taking good care of myself will always be a work in progress as I evolve into the woman I am supposed to be. My advice for anyone and everyone who feels as I do or has nightmare dating issues is to understand that there is nothing wrong with being alone. You must learn how to be alone prior to being with someone else. It is also acceptable to love yourself so much that you step away from certain relationships. No matter what kind of relationship it is, how you feel about yourself trumps the way others may feel about you. Lastly, be selfish, daring, and bold by choosing yourself over the judgment and perception of others. I am currently in my late 20's with no children and not an inkling of becoming engaged to be married to someone anytime soon. Being a parent or a married person is not suited for everyone or it could be that the lifestyle is not realistic to certain people at that certain time. Until then, love abundantly and be your true self.