Emotionally Undressing: A Letter to My Love

Hey Q.

It’s been quite a ride since we started talking late summer/ early fall of 2018. At the time, I was being harassed at work and my trauma response was sky high. Besides my physical safety, the gaslighting and isolated feelings triggered the confidence outta me, reuniting with the ghost of Niqueys past, former forms I thought I had evolved from.

I had just given you my phone number, trying to keep our initial conversations flirty and fun, fighting my nosy gene to start asking about your childhood secrets. I held you at arms bay, not ready for the emotional vulnerability I thought a new relationship required but unwilling to let you go entirely. Or explain what I was going through, made to believe suffering was meant to be silent. Between my weeks of no communication and half answers, I still found a soft solace in you enthusiastically picking up where it left off. I read stabilizing energy, a dependable constant. Or maybe it was your practical nature revealing itself: it takes time to unpeel someone’s layers. How many people open up immediately and to what extent do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable around newly not strangers?

Either way, when we first met in-person seven months later and you asked me to be your girlfriend, I wondered what about me intrigued you. My mental state still fractured by harassment, the manifestations in my physical space embarrassed me. Did you see, could you tell, this wasn’t my final form? That part of my tapestry of becoming whole had started to fray at the ends and unravel, threatening to curl around itself until I was completely undone? Was my fight for wellness that obvious to you?

The sideways samba already accounted for, edges sweated out and your salty wetness barely showered off, I mentioned to you the morning after that I had been intentionally celibate for 2 years. With that kernel of knowledge, the layers rapidly melted off, all my insecurities, abuse, disowning, how existing exhausted me till any other exertions seemed too effortful, dreams, accomplishments and setbacks, how the little girl in me still threw tantrums from time to time, begging to be seen.

You saw me.

It was almost 2 months to the date you told me you loved me. I loved your determination, hearing you talk about the everydayness of being an active father, the way your smile crept up on folks, the beam of light in your eyes a surprise at the end. How much you loved birds and talking about birdwatching.

I held on to your quiet proclamation when things turned sour, and abruptly poor communication skills left a rancid taste in my mouth. As quickly as I felt appreciated, it seemed there wasn’t enough space for me in your life. I had learned over a decade prior to shut down before someone else shut me up, to remove myself from the situation first when I felt someone slipping away. Don’t give em a chance to hurt you, just go.

I ended up hurting us both, a 3ish month period where I wondered how. With that brief stint from September to December 2019 I worked on understanding how one of the most challenging relationships is the first healthy one after a toxic one. With so much to unlearn (my voice is a nuisance, my beauty tied to you) and relearn (I define me), I had been stuck somewhere in the middle. I had communicated my past, but lacked self-awareness around if I was leading with intuition or past trauma.

I restarted longterm therapy while we were apart, cautiously tiptoeing into past neglect:

  • Felt silly sharing my opinion and having a conversation on current events because exes made me believe my input wasn’t valuable;
  • Caregivers didn’t allow me to be angry or loud in any emotion, so I rarely spoke up when I was hurt;
  • Too many people, romantic and platonic folks in my life, invalidated my emotions. I craved intimacy but was uncomfortable with it.

I came back to you with a purpose, an intentional deep dive into what my inner girl needed to heal.

It’s felt different this time around, more transparent. Raw. Plus, your beard had grown out over the last few months and I couldn’t deny the primal passion. My love for its tickling on my skin, from neck to thigh.

Other pieces began to fall into place as I explained what I needed in a relationship: someone to have compassion for my pain and to appreciate my interests and weirdness. Be curious about my complexities. Hold space for me the way I held space for them.

You do all that naturally, from I love you texts at the end of the day, to encouraging me to submit poems to different outlets, unfiltered conversations about therapy and mental health. Accepting without pause my proclivity to make words up, remix Disney songs on the weekends, to roll with my anxious habits. Eye rolling and wtf-ing at basic and willfully ignorant (ignant!) coworkers, knowing when a 2 word (lack of a) response means all is not well. Immediately and empathetically recognizing my fear, anger, defeated resignation unique to being Black in a country founded on anti-Black racism that existed because of my Othering.

I feel safe around you because you hear me when I’m quiet: by listening with empathy, validating experiences, valuing honesty, showing up so I can show out, investing in your own personal growth, not negating messy emotions.

You allow me to come into my purpose more by giving me space to thrive as a flawsome human being.

Love you long time,

Nique

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