Serenity Sunday: no, we are not a 90’s black rom-com

I remember going to Blockbuster Video at thirteen to rent a couple of movies with my dad. Dad got his action flick and I picked up a new release with a young, attractive couple kissing in the rain on the cover. Instantly smitten, I took the film home and watched it not once, but three times before it had to be returned to the blue and yellow movie store we knew would be around forever. I remember getting home and sliding the video into the VHS player— the opening credits quickly rolled before New Line Cinema whipped in, and I was graced with Dionne Farris’ gentle, melodic opening.

Hello mornin’

when does the fun begin?

Goodbye mornin

sorry it has to end…

(Hopeless, Dionne Farris)

Because of Love Jones, and many other films of the time, my teen and young adult expectations for relationships shot up— sky high. For many years, in my heart and mind, I longed for this enchanted world where dramatic timing was always perfect as was the style of dress and romantic ideals were inflated or made possible by 10-20 million dollar budgets. I now get how Black rom-coms of the 90’s and early 2000’s set a bar for love that not even the most skilled, high jump olympian could reach.

By the time I got to college, I had bought into the narrative of the success-driven Black woman who was in love with the idea of love, but too haughty to get bogged down in the demands of it. In my late-teens and early-twenties, I cataclysmically began filling love-voids partly because of the romantic ideals set by films like Love Jones, Brownsugar, and Love and Basketball. In these fictional and voguish worlds, beautiful, sophisticated Black women were connoisseurs of art, vinyl, wine, and books, got swept off their feet, and never aged. These films presented ideas to dreamy girls like me that grand gestures of love could shift the trajectory of a situationship.

I wanted to be a Nina staring out of a rainy window; a Sidney trying to fit love into some Hip-Hop metaphor; or a Monica waiting on a “double or nothing” moment.

But I was none of these characters. There was no camera, and my life was not a feature film being realized by Theodore Witcher. My story was happening in real time, in South Mississippi, starring a competitive guy and an artistic girl who had their modesty and love of family in common.

Our story spans 20+ years and has its share of ups-and-downs/ make-ups-and-break-ups.

It was 2007 when I received a text message from the love of my life. It came through my Motorola at a time when I was happy by myself, but not my most centered, best self.

We had been worlds-apart, literally, for over a year when he intuitively reached out.

“I still love you.” the text read.

And in that real life, grand gesture of love, faithfulness, and fidelity, I realized that our story wasn’t pie-in-the-sky; rather, it was down-to-earth, earnest, and unfinished.

Real love helped me to recognize my shared humanity with others. I’m not a solo act and what I say and do can have a domino effect. Real love readied me to be the devoted wife and mother I am today.

I am thankful to have realized that real love does not have to come with a price. It does not have to dwell in the ego-mind. It does not always move in the form of poetry interspersed with bass guitar strums; and contrary to what Darius Lovehall says, love is not always “urgent like a mf”. Rather, it is patience that so often sustains it.

I enjoy our anniversary weekends because we usually find ourselves on some sort of quick getaway or staycation to prove ourselves still youthful and intentional; and when the eleven o’clock check-out time rolls around, we no longer feel the depletion of parenthood. It is on these escapes, in the throes of life that we realize chill-time, romance, emotional healing, intimacy, and sleeping in without interference still exists— that we can engage in acts of kindness outside of made-up beds, loaded dishwashers, and mopped floors.

Living for the growth, possibilities, family milestones, and steal-away moments… this is where we have landed— real, grown-up love— and there’s no other place I’d rather be than right here (in it with you).

Clinnesha is a wife, mom, daughter/sister/auntie, literary artist, humanities scholar, and social entrepreneur. Her advocacy work is at the intersection of black/feminist thought, arts, culture, and community.

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