When you’re a New Yorker-wannabe who sports heels in 20-degree snowy weather while attending a college ripe with country-fied hipsters – you develop thick skin pretty quickly. And when those not-so-Southern graces finally land you in city places – that durability only gets tougher.
Or when your job is to criticize and analyze, and thus those around you do the exact same, and your dreamland also happens to be the Land of Hard-Knocks –being resilient is an essential part of survival. It isn’t survival of the fittest, but survival of the wittiest – the ones who can not only take a punch but challenge another one to even try and make them fall.
And while this thick skin has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise and strength that always makes me push forward -the layer of power is actually quite shallow.
They say the first cut cuts the deepest but I’d like to think that every love has the chance to penetrate the most pain. And to be honest – the older I become, the better ability I have to sincerely love someone. Not to mention the better I know myself, so the people I date I’m more compatible with and the relationships, more serious and impactful.
But yet, amidst the qualifications and healthy self-growth, I’ve found myself unable to fully develop that protection against the men who come and often leave my life. No matter how hard I try or how much I hold off on being vulnerable and emotionally open to someone – somehow, if the chemistry and the man are right, they’ll find their way in. Often times, easier than I’d like to admit.
And when that happens – when love gets under my skin – I automatically set myself on guard. I become a protector of my heart like the fragile item it is; a soldier unsure if I’m fighting for the single or the taken team. Because this person, who I let creep in, has this ability to crush me, and if I let them dig their way in deeper – I may never recover.
Because doesn’t everyone have the man who ruined them?
The guy who made our skin tingle in ecstasy, caused us to lose our breath when he pulled away in the middle of an exchange, and gave us what we thought was the gut-feeling of just-right, the ever just-so. But then he left. Or things fell apart. Or he met someone else. Or we stopped being what he wanted or realized we never were close to his idea of a dreamgirl, regardless if he was our image of fate.
I’ve met many men who have broken my spirits and damaged my pride. There have been a few that for a matter of time after we parted, I lost my faith in finding love. I’ve cursed a couple names, I’ve taken all the blame and placed it all away, and there is one I don’t go a day without thinking of. They’ve each hurt me in their own respect, some by their doing and some by my own actions.
And I’ve also been guilty of manipulating and leading-on men who merely wanted to see me happy. My intention was never to be deceptive, but it’s difficult to tell someone that they aren’t what you want, that they don’t give you what you need, and that you’d rather try your luck in singleness instead of sticking around with them. Are these the men who we break? I’d like to think not, but that’s easier to say when you’re the one in control not the one receiving harsh, blunt force to your core.
But regardless of which spectrum I shine or burn out at – I don’t believe I’ve ruined someone. And all of the he’s of yesterday are all the men who neverruined me. The ones of today and tomorrow will never make me damaged goods either. It’s simply impossible.
Will I be hurt? Will I find myself buried in sadness and fear of never stumbling across the love of my life? Will I ache and cry, crumble and fall? Will I allow myself to love and be loved, to give and make love? Will it all be less than and more than I can take?
I hope so.
Because the thing about having thick loving skin is to build up the resistance, to be wiser about who we give enough power to leave a scar – we have to experience the bad. Without the pain, there is no persistence. Without the pressure, hope never develops its place. Skin can’t be durable if it is never tested. Hearts can’t be trusted if they never allow themselves to trust. You can’t experience love until you fall madly and severely in lust. You can’t appreciate a man worth your time if you don’t date a guy who wasted not only your time, but you, too.
And we can’t assure ourselves that being emotionally battered is out of the question if we’re never faced with a love that has the power to destruct. Not only our emotions, but what we think, what we believe, and where we stand. Until we come across a man who will change us for the better, he’ll never have the opportunity to damage us for good.
But even when this love rears is beautifully disastrous head; when we realize the strength someone has over us, the tight grip they hold on our hearts without really trying, and the skin they’re making softer by the hour – we should enjoy it. Savor it. Experience it for all that it offers and all the hope it gives us, even if they are left unfulfilled in the end.
Because there are chances worth taking. Mistakes worth making. Promises worth breaking. Life worth chasing. People worth dating. And at the end of it, if we can remember we’re worth all of those things too, that we’re people worth loving, who are worthy of a chance, that we are the women worth breaking a promise for, and we are the ones with a life that’s worth a great chase- then we won’t find ourselves ruined if something goes wrong. Instead, we’ll find ourselves seasoned, experienced, and with a new man who never ruined us to add to the list of the love we’ve had, lost, and found.
And, if we’re lucky, we’ll also have a little thicker skin for the next one who comes our way.