From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

I Owe You an Apology

If we don’t learn to manage pain by dissolving it or letting it go, it infects the future.

Bishop T. D. Jakes

As I sat with my sistah-friends relaxing, relating and releasing, we began to speak of all the men we had dated or “kinda-sorta” dated. As usual, we segued into an energetic comparison of our “R.D.—relationship drama.” We were sharing the woes brought on us by our black men, and I was leading the pack with my male-drama, historical reenactment of “Heartbreak Hotel.”

I began with the fact that at age sixteen, I was afraid of their smooth-talking ways and their quick unrefined moves, but by the time I was eighteen they intrigued me; ultimately, they piqued my curiosity. When I was twenty-one they were using the word “love” to spend the night at my house, but I never could get them to stay for breakfast.

We were on a male-bashing roll. “Yeah, girl, he ain’t worth a two-dollah bill . . . ain’t that right . . . gimme a high-five on that one!”

I went on to add that by age twenty-five we were both in “the game”; they were out to get theirs, and I was out to get mine. “You betta believe, girl, we gotta teach ’em a lesson,” one of my diva sistah friends retorted.

Feeling like I was putting it down and keeping it real, I then mentioned, “When I was thirty, they were saying that they were not looking for Mrs. Right, they were simply looking for Mrs. Right Now. Then they would mention that I was ‘too nice a person’ for them and that they didn’t deserve me. . . .Yeah, right!!! What the heck does that mean? That ole too-nice thing has gotta go!!”

Then it happened, out of the blue something came all over me. I couldn’t see straight. I felt a churning in my stomach, a queasiness that was indescribable. I felt a strong distaste in my mouth, like I had been given a spoon of castor oil! I was becoming sickened by this conversation, for what we were saying about black men, our black men. My head was spinning, my mouth was dry, and for some unknown reason I could not continue the verbal judo and image-shattering of black men. In that moment, I was convicted with guilt and personal accountability. My head was screaming at me, What have you done to them, Lisa? What is your role in your miserable B-movie? What should you apologize for?

This was not cool. I’d been leading the pack! I could have won the “pity party” award with all of the junk I’d thrown out about the black man. Now what? I sat with this internal struggle for what seemed like forever, but was actually about five minutes. I was still, completely consumed with frustration, disgust, confusion and conviction. I began to ask this voice—or was it a feeling?—whatever it was, I asked it for direction, took a deep breath and held on.

What happened next blew my mind. I expected the next words to come out of my mouth to be something like, “I’m strong without them,” “I don’t need a man anyway,” or “They’re just intimidated by our strength,” but to my extreme surprise and to the astonishment of my true-blue sistah-friends, I broke the “sistah code” and changed directions mid-pity party. I began to apologize to black men, to my black men.

My mind was screaming, WHAT!!! Why are you apologizing to them? It’s them that should be apologizing to you!! Remember when that guy . . . ? Remember the time . . . ? But my mouth was on automatic pilot and could not be turned off.

“Black man, I apologize for putting you down when I get around my girls and forgetting to lift you up as you deserve to be lifted up.

“I apologize for allowing my insecurities about my shape, my hair or my skin tone to be projected onto you and blaming you for my lack of self-love.

“I apologize for expecting you to teach me how to love myself.

“I apologize, black man, for judging you when I should have been providing you with unconditional support.

“I apologize for pressuring you to adapt to corporate America by my standards instead of allowing you to find your own way and encouraging you to keep going.

“I apologize for not hearing you when you said you just wanted to be friends, assuming I could change your mind, then blaming you for misleading me.

“Black man, I apologize for loud-talking you and making you feel disrespected and unappreciated.

“I apologize for prioritizing my career and business over you, causing you to feel devalued, dismissed and hurt.

“I apologize for talking and yelling at you more than listening to you and allowing you to fully express what’s on your mind.

“I apologize for not being that one safe place where you can let down your guard, stop fighting the world and just be you—with me.

“I apologize for forgetting that you are a king, a descendant of royalty. A survivor, a builder, a confidant, a creator, an entrepreneur, a friend. And that I am your queen—acknowledging you, supporting you, encouraging you and loving you.”

I ended my apology by saying, “Black man, you are my partner in this journey and I owe you an apology for forgetting your importance to me. I am honored to be by your side. Any other message I give you is simply untrue.”

When I finished I looked around the room into still-glossy eyes fighting to hold back tears. Without speaking a word, we began to embrace each other, one by one, as the tears flowed more freely. We were all ready to stop struggling with the men we loved, our black men, yet not knowing how. We sat, we rocked, we cried, we prayed, we laughed and then cried some more.

Then, as if by magic, our cell phones began to ring one by one.

“Hey, Baby.”

“Hey, Honey.”

“Whatz up, Boo?”

“Hi, Sweetie.”

As if in unison, we all said, “You know, I owe you an apology. . . .”

From that day on, our pity parties changed to just parties and our “R.D.—relationship drama” changed to “R.D.—reminiscing and dancing.” And most of all, we began to bring our black men with us.

Lisa Nichols

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