I’m often told that I’m hard on people because of my tough love approach. Especially when regurgitating my unpopular opinions on the female/male dynamic. I openly admit, I may come across as abrasive, but if I were a man, there’d be barely, if any, qualms with my directness. Why does the truth sting so much coming from a woman?

But, as the old adage goes, when you love someone, you try to warn them.

I’m here to warn you.

A parable, if you will.

I once lived with a man — a friend. Former friend now. In keeping with his privacy — for what it’s worth — we’ll call him Newark. Though we had a years-long flirtation that led to a dalliance of sorts, this particular arrangement was neither romantic nor sexual. Nary the least bit lascivious in nature. We had terribly different standards of living and were not without our issues; but he, in essence, put a roof over my head and didn’t ask me for anything in return. I would get peeved when he wouldn’t at least take some of my money for bills. It was the least I could do as we were not amorously involved, and he was doing me a favor. When I asked why, he said that he knew I wasn’t working at the time, and I could use that money to aid in saving for my future transition. I made sure the house stayed clean. Because I’m OCD. Seriously. Like, clinically. I wouldn’t, however, take out the trash, because that’s never a woman’s job with an able-bodied man around. But the house would always look its best.

I recount all of the above to make a point. Sis, if your relationships don’t, at minimum, start and progress with a man offering you something useful (real support surfaces in myriad ways) in return for your emotional fortification, hardships, time and energy — whether he’s a friend, lover, homie lover friend — he’s useless. And a complete waste of your time and energy altogether. Depending on the juncture of the alliance, wasting your breath or unlimited monthly texts on him is also unacceptable.

I make it a habit not to surround myself longevity-wise with ANY men who don’t benefit me in a way I deem valuable. If you’re in a bind, a man should be able to quell your distress. Men should protect you from actual physical danger; defend you, especially when other men disrespect you or pose a threat; finance you out of a jam (even if only temporarily, depending on your relationship); have a vasectomy when you did all the heavy-lifting of carrying the children, putting your actual life on the line to birth them and possibly dealing with post-partum depression; or do something that will make your life easier. By your standards. Period.

My rule of thumb is. . .if he can’t save you money, or offer you some, don’t fuck him or fuck with him. YOU, dear sister, are entirely too precious for anything less. Your pussy is far too valuable for such nonsense. So is your makeup. Hello! $50 foundation. So is the force behind your first impression game. Because exactly no one is looking forward to you showing up in pajamas.

I learned as a teenager not to bother with any men who beeped the horn for me to come outside when arriving to pick me up for dates. Papa Joe taught me that, and the lesson extended far beyond what probably seems, to millennials, a harmless act. I left a date once because the guy refused to open my car door. Because seriously, what would that have cost him but a few extra steps? I take most everything men say with a grain of salt, unless it’s backed up by action that I have witnessed. While some might consider this pessimism and exercising a “negative” attitude, it’s a smart move and has spared me more heartache and life force than I dare recount.

I have an uncle whom I love dearly, but is (was?) a serial cheater. He’s been married thrice, and probably shouldn’t have been married once. The second time, he ended up marrying the woman he cheated on his first wife with. A man who marries you after cheating with you and actually stays faithful for the duration of your commitment, is the exception, not the rule. And guess what? My uncle was not the exception. He cheated on the woman he had cheated with, then married. . .with another woman. Then, a third woman decided to marry him. While they were married, he once showed up to my house with a woman that I will love and adore for life— but was not his wife. Practically needless to say, he and his most recent wife are currently estranged. What I’ve gotten out of this is three amazing women turned amazing-ass aunts. What my aunts have gotten is a motherfucking headache. You think this favorite uncle of mine would be okay with another man treating his daughter like that, my cousin’s now-husband to be precise? I’ll take “No” for $200, Alex.

As women, we’ve all had our hearts broken. We’ve all been lied to or misled. I know I have. What I try to prevent is women having their hearts broken by niggas who have not sufficiently proven themselves OR in their past lives, have sufficiently proven they ain’t shit and don’t honor women. And I stand by that wholeheartedly. Because that sort of behavior is reckless as fuck and can have irreversible repercussions on us as women. Left Eye didn’t burn down Andre Rison’s house because he was blameless and she was bored.

We’re going to be hurt, but if you ignore signs you’re dealing with an “ain’t shit” nigga, you’re to blame, too, sis. Who gives a damn if he’s fine? Does he have integrity? Who cares if he has a big dick? Does he actually like women — you know, as living, breathing humans — or does he just like fucking us? Does he speak up for women when other men are attempting to invalidate our experiences and emotions?

If the answer is no, do not pass go.

And fuck feeling “butterflies”. That shit is a false positive for endorphins, and a sign you’re probably about to fall for a tepid, indifferent dude who just possesses what societal norms deem “game”. And the only good games are ones like Connect 4, Jenga, Taboo. If your serotonin levels need an increase, seek a therapist, not a fuckboy.

And, FOR THE LAST TIME, a man who doesn’t offer to visit you first or will accept something like you paying for your your own ticket to see him, is, indeed, a fuckboy.

A man who incessantly and unabashedly misrepresents himself, dishonors you, or takes from you without giving back or offering a return on investment shouldn’t have any part in your life and should take up no parts of your time.

Experience taught me.

In 2015, I dated two men concurrently with the endgame being eventual choosing of one to practice monogamy with. We’ll call them Pittsburgh and Lynchburg. The red flags were all up and through with Pittsburgh. I ignored them in lieu of butterflies. And I chose him, anyway. But through the continuum of space and time, the one I did not choose, is still with me. He was (and remains) the better man. He’s in my life until he no longer wants to be. He’s shown me love in a way that I’d never experienced it. I credit him with helping me learn how to love better, stronger, unconditionally. He’s not perfect, but he generally supports and protects women, and he’s taken care of me in all the ways. I love him fiercely.

In hindsight, my previous conundrum became the perfect paradigm for learning to manage my attractions.

If you can’t think of any men currently in your life, or in your past, who think enough of you to be your cornerstone or help a sista out, girl, you been hustlin’ backwards.

An ex-boyfriend of mine once told me that I’m one of less than 10 people on his list of those that he would do absolutely anything within his power to help. This man gave me bill money when I asked for it after I’d lost a job in 2011. We were canoodling at the time, though not in a relationship. Later that summer, we fell in love. But even to this day, if I needed it and he had it, he got me.

Men are supposed to enhance your life. If you deal with, entertain, befriend, date, marry one, what he should never be is a constant thorn in your side, consistent pain in your ass and, well, unnecessary. And if he is any of those things, you need to learn to cultivate and manage your attractions in a way that is more beneficial and befitting of you and your needs.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

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