Bee-Line Bus, Birthday, Crush #2, Damsel-in-Distress Syndrome, Delusion, Disillusionment, Nice Guy, Oscillating Relationships, Pedestal, Phyllis, Pitt, Self-Discovery, Self-Loathing, Sexism, Sony Walkman, The Untouchables (1987), White Plains Galleria, White Plains New York, Yiscoc Washington
This week thirty years ago was the beginning of the end of my sexist dream of having women recognize me for being “a nice guy.” As I wrote in one of my very first blog posts a decade ago, it was a dream “that had to die.” Precisely because it was a fantasy, a phantasmic display of teenage delusion borne from five years of abuse and oppressive social immaturity. In ’80s parlance, my wack ass had to learn the hard way that I had no game. And, more importantly, that pedestals are meant for smashing with sledgehammers, as people can never live up to their marble or bronze busts.
It wasn’t really women I was trying to impress with my quiet and stoic demeanor. I was all about my second infatuation, Crush #2, my version of Phyllis in the summer of 1987. I’ve outlined in painstaking detail here and in Boy @ The Window my obsession with Phyllis and her smile, and my ridiculously stupid attempts to make conversations with her in the three weeks of my various impromptu encounters at the old Galleria in White Plains and on the 40/41 Bee-Line Bus back to Mount Vernon.
But “the end of the lesson,” or at least, the “end of the beginning” of it (to quote both Kevin Costner in The Untouchables (1987) — which I saw at The Galleria twice that summer — and Winston Churchill), began on my brother Yiscoc’s birthday on the fourth Thursday that July.
I walked around for over an hour after I got off the bus at North Columbus and East Lincoln. I must’ve called myself “pathetic” at least a dozen times on that hot and steamy walk. And I was. I didn’t get home to wish Yiscoc a Happy Birthday until after 8 pm, by which time I missed any semblance of a birthday celebration at 616.
Packing up and moving to Pittsburgh — and my freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh — seemed as far away that weekend as it did during my summer of abuse five years earlier. I was no longer sure that this transformational period of my life would actually bear fruit. I thought I was destined to spend the rest of my days alone, ridiculed, emasculated, and otherwise as a piece of trash.
I was seventeen years and barely seven months old when I had those thoughts. I’ve been married for nearly that long, and have a son on the cusp of turning fourteen. There’s no way that Donald 1.0 could have envisioned either of these experiences, much less worked to make them happen. It wasn’t exactly a miracle that I became a boyfriend, fiancé, husband, and father. No, it was an evolution, with a couple of personal rebellions and revolutions mixed in.
The one good thing I did after Phyllis took a wrecking ball to my delusions of feminine perfection was to talk about it with someone who was willing to listen. This time around, a young woman put up with me griping about something I never had, someone whom was never for me to begin with. As many times as I would go on to listen to women of all stripes about their relationship issues, I needed to be on the rueing end of things this one time.
It would take a lot more talking, a bit more learning, and four more years befriending and dating, before I’d completely give up putting women on pedestals entirely. Women may be beautiful, and Black girls may be magic, but none are meant to be worshipped at altars. Like all other anthropomorphized idols, humans on pedestals will always fail us when we delude ourselves into thinking that we need them to be free. Especially when we need them the most, or at least, believe so.