Like most little girls, I grew up reading fairytales. Most of the stories were about a princess who needed rescuing by her fated love, prince charming. Others were more like lessons about being nice to others and following directions—cautionary tales. My favorite fairytales were the ones about falling in love. Just the idea that someone would see so much beauty inside of me, they’d literally fall into their love for me, was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard of.
I liked that the princesses weren’t always the ones with the best clothes or the nicest parents because that meant that a little girl like me, could become a princess and have my own prince charming see my beauty and fall into his love for me.
I didn’t always have the best clothes and my mom was amazing, even though she was sick and went to the hospital a lot. I grew up knowing my father chose to leave me when I was only two years old. That kind of rejection does something to a little girl. I used to tell myself, “He doesn’t know what he’s missing out on.” Sometimes it made me feel better, most times, nothing could make me feel better about knowing I wasn’t beautiful enough to make my own father stay and love me.
That’s why I held on to all of those fairytales about falling in love. They made me believe that even someone like me—a girl whose own father found her lacking—could still have enough beauty to make a real prince charming fall into his love.
As a forty-seven-year-old woman, I realize – like so many wise women before me – that the act of falling in love is not meant to join two people together. I ran across this clip of Eartha Kitt several years ago and felt like the Universe had opened themselves to pour confirmation into my soul; validating my experiences and understanding of what it means to truly fall in love.
I now understand the truth about falling in love, and it’s never been about the other person.
I’m almost ashamed to say how many times I’ve fallen in love with people, places, things, food, ideas, music … you name it, and I’ve been in love with it. I thought it was strange to be able to fall in love so easily with so many different things, but I didn’t question it because falling in love feels good. It feels like eating my favorite dessert while reading my favorite book and laying naked in the warm, white sands of some tropical beach with the freshest sangria ever made. Oh, and I can’t forget the beautiful men who keep bringing me my sangrias and fanning me with ginormous tropical leaves, but I digress. Falling in love is fun!
The first time I fell in love, I was in kindergarten at Mill Creek Elementary in Lower Richland County. There was a tall nut-brown boy in my class. He wore his soft reddish-brown hair in a small curly afro. His eyes were the color of the beer I’d see my uncles drinking when we had family cookouts. But what I loved most about this tall, brown boy was the way he talked. He’d just moved to Columbia, from New York—Brooklyn. I had only ever heard my older great aunts and uncles speak with such accents. I wasn’t impressed with them because they were old and very proper. But not him. He knew so many slang words and other, more naughty words as well. He wouldn’t talk to anyone in our class, but he always talked to me.
I told my mom that I was going to marry that boy because he looked and talked just like Curtis Blow. I’m in love with him, Mama.
And I was, too. For the rest of my kindergarten year, I fell deeper and deeper into my love for the nut-brown boy with dirty words and Brooklyn, New York accent. I won’t bore you with every account of every time I fell into my love for someone, something, someplace, some thought, or something or other. Just know, I am a master at falling into my love. I will, however, tell y’all about the first time I fell into my love for my husband of almost twenty-three years. I’ll tell you because this is the first time, I discovered the truth about falling in love.
My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We started dating our senior year at Lower Richland High School. It wasn’t love-at-first-sight. I wasn’t some hapless damsel in distress who needed saving. I’d already made my peace with the fact my father was capable of being neither my father nor a husband and he did my mom and me a favor by moving on, as opposed to staying and ruining our lives. When I met my husband, I had become a confident, strong-willed, nonconforming, raging Gen-Xer ready to dismantle the cogs in the capitalistic machine.
Our relationship was the stuff of Disney musicals. We never argued. We laughed all the time. We could talk about anything and everything or just sit and be quiet for hours. We were that couple others said they hated because we so freaking perfect for each other, it was sickening.
The first time I knew I was falling in love was a revelation. It was maybe ten months into our relationship. August of 1993, a few weeks before he was to leave for South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC. We both had summer jobs because we had to buy all of our own dorm room supplies and save money to last until our work-study jobs would kick in. We had just come from Walmart, where we purchased identical steamer trunks. His was navy blue and mine was hot pink. We had also looked at comforter sets, just getting prices for our next shopping trip.
As he loaded our trunks into the back of my car, he looked at me and said, “I’m so damn scared I’m going to lose you when you get up to UNCC in a few weeks. I don’t even know how I got you or how I’ve kept you in the first place.” That was the moment I tripped over my own clumsy feelings about myself and fell headfirst into my love for how he made me feel about myself at that moment.
I’d never in my entire life been able to envision myself the way he allowed me to glimpse myself the day he confessed his fear of losing me.
That’s when I realized the truth about falling in love. All those fairytales, Disney movies, and Romcoms had it wrong. All the Harlequin romance books I’d sneak and read during my middle school years, had it wrong. Falling in love had nothing to do with the feelings one had for someone else; falling in love is about the feelings one develops for themselves as a result of being with another. Confused? Let me break this down with my Falling in LOVE Checklist.
I realized that everything is governed by Universal Laws and one of those laws is the Law of Reflection. In my own words, this law states that everyone we encounter is there to act as a mirror because we are never able to truly see ourselves as we really are.
- Some people show us things we don’t want to acknowledge about ourselves, and we usually hate those attributes in other people.
- Other people show us characteristics we want to become a part of who we are, and we usually admire those traits in others.
- Then, there are people who show us traits about ourselves that we aren’t aware exist within us. We usually receive compliments, accolades, and the proverbial, “…would you stop being so damn modest and accept that you’re amazing?!” comments. Those are the people we have the most difficult time believing.
Anyway, the Law of Reflection is what allows us to finally see ourselves as we really are.
Once I was aware of how this law worked, I started observing with objectivity how I felt about myself when spending time with different people, in different places, and doing various activities.
I was able to validate and evaluate my feelings using a simple syllogism, when/I feel. It didn’t matter what we were doing, or where we were doing it. I genuinely loved who I was when I was spending time with that man. Because he saw me as someone wonderful, worthy, beautiful, desirable, fun, crazy-intelligent (his words, not mine), talented and exciting. I was able to see myself as all of those things as well.
The moment I saw myself in that light, I became that version of myself in reality. That’s when the truth about falling in love became crystal clear to me.
We don’t fall in love with other people, we love and cherish other people because they allow us to see the many reasons to fall deeper in love with ourselves.
I love my husband and nothing he does or doesn’t do will ever change the way I feel about him. Throughout our almost thirty years together, my husband has allowed me to fall in love with myself more times than I can count and I’m looking forward to the next time he holds the reflective mirror up to my face and makes me swoon once again. I have, and will continue to, be the reflective mirror for him that allows him to fall in love as many times as I have.
That’s what constitutes a loving and fulfilling relationship.
We choose to be with people who give us reasons to continue our love affair with ourselves while we do the same for them; in that way, we both get the joy of watching the person we love fall in love with themselves—over and over and over and…well, you get the picture.