The "year with bell hooks" Project: Letter #010
All About Love: Romance - Sweet Love
Hello everyone! Today’s “year with bell hooks” letter #010 is by guest writer Ristina Gooden. Ristina has a way of writing that makes you feel seen — what a gift. If you find this guest letter mind-shifting and body-engaging, please consider sharing TCW to spread awareness.
Do you remember that scene in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married when Angela and Diane visit Patricia on campus because they have marriage problems? Patricia hands them each a piece of paper and tells them to write a pro/con list about their husbands. After making a list, they realize they want to keep their husbands.
We often giggle at this idea that we must write something down to fully grasp what we know to be true in our minds. We assume that if we can just off-handly name it, we get its fullness. I think bell hooks proves that this is not the case and invites us to take a moment and reflect on the love we experience in our lives.
In chapter 10, bell hooks is helping us wade through the language of "falling in love." She quotes Thomas Merton, who said,
The expression to 'fall in love' reflects a peculiar attitude toward love and life itself - a mixture of fear, awe, fascination, and confusion. It implies suspicion, doubt, hesitation in the presence of something unavoidable yet not fully reliable.
All About Love - p.171
While I classify myself as a hopeless romantic- loving all things rom-com and never missing a chance to set up the perfect meet-cute, I am clear that loving someone is a choice. I am a single childfree Black woman. I have already worked a whole career and have transitioned into another one. I am weeks away from having a master's degree and will continue to a doctorate. I have a 401k and a savings account. I say all of that to say; I rarely make flippant decisions. Mostly because I can't afford to. The world regularly tries to discard Black women.
Malcolm X said, "Black women are the most disrespected people in America," so everything we do is held under a microscope and is often classified as grounds for dismissal as a human and whole person. So who I love and spend time with is a choice because I have to be willing to put my world on the line for that person.
I have to be ready to change; according to bell hooks,
when we commit to true love, we are committed to being changed, to being acted upon by the beloved in a way that enables us to be more fully self-actualized. This commitment to change is chosen. It happens by mutual agreement.
All About Love - p. 185
I don't take change lightly, so I don't pick partners frivolously.
If I choose a person, know that I have put thought into what could happen and am prepared for what comes next. I understand that life throws curveballs, and sometimes people don't turn out to be who they said they are. That is a tough pill to swallow, and I try to allow it to inform my decision-making process next time. I also honor that these choices may not remain "right" forever.
hooks explains that
true love does not always lead to happily ever after
All About Love - p.181
which doesn't make it any less impactful or beautiful. We can hold on to those memories and be grateful for them as we navigate a new way of being inspired by that experience. Earlier this week, I was talking to a friend about the risks of love, and I told him that we have to be willing to take that risk because the opposite of that is so much worse - it's the choice to not fully live.
I don't know about you, but I want to LIVE LIVE!!!!
My type-A, enneagram 2, logistical brain shows up in my effort to live and make thoughtful decisions. Much like Joanne said in the musical turned movie Rent, I make lists in my sleep. hooks pointed out that
to be capable of critically evaluating a partner we would need to be able to stand back and look critically at ourselves, at our needs, desires, and longings.
All About Love - p.172
She went on to explain that she wrote a list of the ten qualities she wanted in a mate, and then she realized that there was a
discrepancy between what I wanted and what I had chosen to accept.
All About Love - p.173
Whew. That almost took me out.
I decided that I, too, had to write a list so that I could take notice of my own discrepancies. I am providing this list without commentary because Black women always have to explain themselves. This is a moment I am choosing not to. Be reminded that this is MY list. If you disagree with it, write your own. If you agree with it, write your own. Write your own and see what comes next for you. I wish you all the true love that you desire. May it change you in ways that make life feel more pleasurable and possible.
Car/job/place to live that's not a guardian’s house
High emotional intelligence & currently in therapy or was in therapy for a meaningful amount of time
Ability to actively listen & communicate
A spirit of independence
Cultural competence, supportive of all identities (gender, sexual orientation, etc.), and not subscribed to gender roles
Appreciation for family- biological and/or chosen
Willingness to engage in the erotic
Sense of humor
Lover of food & adventure
A dreamer rooted in reality