By Natasha Adiyana Morris
I don’t want to lose myself – this thought used to stifle my conception of love – it was not a fear of being hurt by my significant other but a fear of losing myself in love; in the pursuit of love.
I’ve always been a daydreamer, living lavishly in my head (which explains why I’m so often quiet). The juicy fantasies that floated to the top of my adolescent mind included: rehearsing my acceptance speech at the Golden Globes; imagining how the Love and Basketball strip down game would pan out with me against Iverson (sequel?); or hosting a talk show interviewing my favourite celebs. But when it came to boys I wanted to fast forward the highs and lows of young love and skip to the stability of mature relationships. In the prime of my youth it seemed like the ‘old time love’ was being phased out by psssssts and running missions to see a dude halfway across town only to have him not even bring you back to the bus stop.
Can I get a witness!
My outlook on what was a dangerous versus secure relationship was widely shaped by hip-hop culture.
Hear me out.
The emergence of the “Ride-or-Die” chick philosophy became relatable to me after the epic release of ‘Love Is Blind’ by Eve ft. Faith Evans. That joint was raw and definitely hit a nerve. Although I was only in middle school, I knew there was a heavy truth to the lyrics. The song starts out with, “Hey yo, I don’t even know you but I hate you / See all I know is my girlfriend used to date you / How would you feel if she held you down and raped you? / Tried and tried but she never could escape you.” The calling out of domestic violence in this song started a contrasting dialogue to the glorified Ride-or-Die anthems.
Were women actually dying at a cost of being ‘loyal’ to their men?
What caused a man to lose respect for a woman?
What caused a woman to lose respect for herself?
While Jay Z and Beyonce’s ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ track had everyone up in their feelings I was thinking ‘yeah, but she crazy in love.’ The protest of my soul was so resistant because I could see no reciprocation in this arrangement.
Why are women, who are already perceived as the weaker sex, asked to now forfeit their values, their beliefs, and their WELL-BEING for a man who chooses to live on the edge?
Digging deeper, I was raised by loving parents who taught me to prioritize my education and left out the discussion of marriage and having kids. In my mother’s eyes having a boyfriend meant having sex – which is a fair concern but it left out the bigger conversation on how to cultivate healthy relationships. My mom also conceived me at a young age and it was important for her to make sure her children did not follow in her footsteps. So I feel the push for doing well in school was essentially so that my sisters and I would not have/desire to depend on a man for livelihood or just get sidetracked by ‘boys’ period. But up to this day my parents still never bring up marriage or children and I’m a big ol’ 27 years of age. Surprisingly, my grandparents are happy to talk about relationships – mom and dad take notes.
During high school and my early twenties I felt surrounded by girls my age – friends, friends of friends, and stories of so and so, all sub-consciously adopting Ride-or-Die realities. Dating guys who sold hard drugs, getting slapped around, visiting their man behind bars, aborting twins from unprotected sex, threatening other women who flirted with their boo, etc. We’re not talking Winnie Mandela love, although that’s another story…
Then came my lived experience.
My love was blind. I didn’t even know my boyfriend at the time was selling crack. I didn’t visit when he went to jail. I couldn’t love unconditionally. Another boyfriend asked what would I do if he hit me. Another boyfriend heavily gambled, an addiction to fast money by any means necessary.
That’s the briefest summary ever, but those moments stuck out at the height of when I felt most compromised. Each man made me feel as if I failed at being loyal because I had boundaries. Limits. Love for self.
The glorified term of Ride-or-Die has since downgraded to the classifications of: side-chick, main-chick, wifey and the occasional jumpoff. On the lower end of the Ride-or-Die spectrum you don’t even have to be a pimp to call a woman a bitch in substitute of her given name, although you may have to hyphenate for a bad-bitch depending on her categorization. Yes I am mainly putting this in the context of the mental, physical and spiritual health of black women, and no I will not soften the political relevance of COMMERCIALIZED hip-hop as a large influence on the minds of kids and young adults. That is not to say that I don’t proudly bump Nicki Minaj, Meek Mill and Tory Lanez – artists I enjoy more for entertainment than substance. And with that being said, I give huge praise to hip-hop legends (to each their own) and current culture visionaries – Kanye, Kendrick and J. Cole to name a biased few.
All in all, if I didn’t lose you, my paranoia is being lost in love; the fear of willingly staying in a relationship for the sole purpose of proving my loyalty. I guess the oldest Ride-or-Die testament is in wedding vows…until death do us part. Though I will always believe in love, and open to building a meaningful relationship, I am sanctified in vowing to love myself first.
Adiyana Morris is a junior theatre producer and performing artist based in Toronto. She loves: asking questions, phenomenal comedians, and the endless richness of black culture. Recently recognized for founding the PIECE OF MINE Festival, a platform for black theatre artists to present work-in-develoment, Adiyana is all about infusing powerful voices into the theatre scene. She spends her days interning as an Arts Manager, a challenging but highly rewarding position funded by the Metcalf Foudnation’s Performing Arts Intern Program. She thanks her family and theatre mentors – ahdri zhina mandiela, d’bi young anitafrika and Philip Akin – for providing water, sunshine and shade for a budding plant of abundance.