Growing, I dubbed myself “the late bloomer”
I was late to walking, talking, running, learning and growing.
I was late in my journey into and through puberty
And I was late in understanding both the importance and dangers of my skin and its hue.
The older I became, the clearer it was that I was also late in my understanding that I was never the late bloomer I thought I was.
It wasn’t that I was late for anything
It was that I was, for some divine reason, always left behind.
They all fell in love first; fell out of love first, had their hearts broken first
Grew into their skin first
Found themselves first, graduated first, embraced independence first
Created families first and succeeded first
While I remained.
Left behind, not to suffer, as I’ve oft lamented
But to learn; to understand the depths of my strengths and abilities.
To prepare for the coming tides, because they will come
The love, the heartbreak, the family, the success, the fulfilment
It will come
And when it does
I will shed this moniker
And wear a new one
Because I will no longer be left behind.
Hello, my name is Andile Cyprian Shabangu, and I’m afraid of relationships.
Maybe I should explain myself before the very few family members who read this thing (hey guys, thank you for the support) take this as some rage against marriage and a foolish ploy to become one of those forever bachelors. I don’t think I have the constitution to juggle that many intimacy partners, nor do I think I have the energy to try and look that good all the way into my fifties. At some stage, I’m going to want to let go and let gravity perform its voodoo.
What I meant by ‘I’m afraid of relationships’ is that…I’m afraid of getting into a relationship.
I feel like I should have opened up with a disclaimer of some sort, like “WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS IN NO WAY THE PRODUCT OF AN EMOTIONALLY HUNGUP MAN. WITH NO KIDS. AND A CAT”. Maybe that would have eased tensions.
But I digress. The point of this is to share with you fears that I honestly believe are shared between myself and millions of people around the world.
I’m not crazy. I have a legitimate fear of entering a romantic relationship because on a basic level, I don’t think I can trust another human being with my wellbeing. Particularly, with my heart.
Cue the violins, sure, but it’s not uncommon. Some people will call it commitment phobia; where someone has relationship anxiety that presents itself as commitment issues.
This is not me. These are people who have a difficult time staying within a long-term relationship even though they long for them.
My fear is somewhat similar, but entirely different because on some level, I am afraid of entering a relationship with a commitment-phobe.
For context, I need you to know that I have never been in a relationship with anyone. Sure, at some stage I assumed I was in one, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. I’ve either mentioned this before or it’s a tale for a different moment. But in my years, however short they may have been, as an adult, my fears grew.
I’m afraid of a litany of things: I’m afraid of being cheated on because I’ve seen what it does to someone’s spirit and I don’t know if I’m strong enough to not turn ugly because of that. I’m afraid of being made a fool of, of being used and abused, of being with someone who is emotionally unavailable and ultimately being hurt.
I’m a bleeding heart, so if I’m wounded, I.AM.WOUNDED!
Guys I watch ‘Cheaters’, I see how people treat their “lovers/partners/spouses” out here and I’d be a fool to think that I would be exempt from something like that. I get it, it’s unhealthy to think this way, but when has fear ever been healthy? You can’t guarantee that the first relationship you’ll find yourself in will be your last and you’ll live happily ever after. I know all of this, but it does nothing to assuage my fears. I KNOW that the road’s long and winding, but I can handle it if I feel like the person I’m with is right here with and for me.
Like I said at the very beginning, I am not alone. There are people out there who are afraid of being in a relationship because they’re afraid of no longer being single, people are afraid that love doesn’t work, afraid of letting people get to know them and every manner of reason, but the point is this is a legitimate fear and like all fears, it can be cured. Or at least managed.
There are people out there, cretins of the lowest order, who will vie for your body. You might find yourself in their grasp, this is okay, this is temporary, this will pass. This I know. You shouldn’t allow that experience, or fear of such experience stop you from putting yourself out there and experience one of the miracles of life…LOVE. I know I should heed my own advice, but I am, or I’m trying to. I will.
My intellectual-self wrestles with the idea of “The One”, but my romantic-self lavishes in the hopes of there being someone designed for me and only me.
I know what needs to be done, I know which thoughts to exorcise and which fears to conquer and I know that if I fall I’m allowed to be upset, but I need to get back up again and hope for the best. Because that’s what we all do at the end of the day; we hope for the best.
So I might find someone tomorrow, it might turn ugly, we might end up on Jerry Springer or on an episode of cops or Cheaters. Either way, I know it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just one less frog to kiss.
Sometimes you have to not see things.
You have to not see the odd wrinkle of his shirts at midday or the smudged collars. You have to not see the passion marred skin, the unworn wedding band and the stolen glances.
Sometimes you have to not hear the secret phone calls, the near silent giggles and the hushed proclamations.
Sometimes you have to not notice the secret smiles, the stolen, lustful leers shared from across the table, room and rear-view mirrors.
You have to ignore light touches, the unfamiliar colognes and fragrances and you have to not see the change.
YOU are still in love.
You have to ignore the growing distance, the gnawing silence or the burgeoning unfamiliarity.
You have to ignore the unanswered calls, the late night arrivals, the even later and more frequent meetings and the unexpected weekend-long conferences.
You have to hold hands, smile lovingly, laugh agreeably and you have to cry yourself silently, secretly, to sleep.
You’ll need that.
Better to purge your frustrations, every night, over tear stained pillows and remain pliable than to hold it all in and become untamed, uncontrollable. That way the sky won’t fall.
But what if the sky fell?
What if the earth shook, the mushrooms finally inherited the earth and the wounded got off their knees?
What if the trenches were dug, the regalia bravely worn and the smell of war burned across the atmosphere?
What if you saw it all, heard it all and finally took a stand?
You are in love.
You’re responsible for your happiness. To not see things, to not hear them or smell them and to ignore the signs would be accepting your role in your own unhappiness.
Sometimes you have to risk your life to own your life.
So yes, sometimes you have to not see things.
You have to not see your own defeat, your fears and you have to brave the storm and admit your strength.
You don’t have to go unnoticed in your own relationship.