First, I considered the source. Leakes's 14-year marriage disintegrated on national television.
She could have bought a B.O.B. and crawled into obscurity after a hurt like that to save face.
But no; NeNe Leakes is proudly back on the market. "I'd date Donald Trump," she tells me. "He has that swagger."
I've come across irresistable swagger, but I've been emotionally detached for years.
The last time I said "I love you," and knew that I meant it, was in December, 1995.
His name was Frederick. I can tell you his name because he knows that he's the reason I've never said "I love you," with such conviction since that day.
Picture this: I'm in college, in Iowa, and the only other sepia toned mammals for miles, are the brownish squirrels--and the athletes.
Frederick was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. He wrote poetry, he read bedtime stories. We danced, dined and dated. He was a southern gentleman with a warm charm that this big city gal found appealing.
In a cold, barren Iowa landscape, Frederick felt like home.
Fast-forward a full year, and Frederick asks me how I feel about him.
My eyes were wide and hopeful. It felt good not to play the dating game anymore, I didn't have to play hard to get, I didn't have to pretend as if I were too busy to notice him, all I had to do was to be honest, and reveal my heart. I was vulnerable with this beautiful, kind, loving man, and I embraced it.
I remember the conversation vividly.
He: How do you feel about me, Z?
Me: I think about you the first thing in the morning, and you're on my mind before I go to bed.
Me: Yes. I. LOVE. YOU. FREDERICK.
I felt warm and tingly all over and I smiled as I awaited his equally enthusiastic reply.
The deafening silence after my confession of love told me that Frederick and I were not on the same page. We were not in the same book; hell, we were not in the same library. ;0/
Frederick looked perplexed, uneasy...his beautiful face drifted somewhere between "I wish you hadn't told me that," and, "Oh damn what am I supposed to do now?"
Finally, he spoke.
He: "Well, do you think I love you, Z?"
My smile had become heavy and lopsided, my lips quivered as my brain registered what he was asking, and how he was asking it. It wasn't "Girl, you know I love you, too, right?" It was, "How could you think that I loved you?"
Me: "I think so..."
He: "Well, I don't. I have a girlfriend, she's coming back next week. I. Love. Her."
I didn't realize that I was crying until I tasted the tears.
I believed the purpose of our conversation was to move on to a more serious relationship--engagement, perhaps. In actuality, it was for me to move on out of the picture. Frederick explained that yes, he cared about me, but for a year, I was the chick on the side, and his Big Momma was coming back to campus. I had no idea this lady existed; he led me to believe that I was his Big Momma. :-0
I changed that day. (By the way, if you're expecting a feel-good comeuppance, it didn't happen. The heartbreak did inspire me to write my first book, and that venture has been successful.)
A woman rarely forgets a slight. We hold on to the pain, and reference it as we meet new people. In extreme cases, we can become emotionally detached in our quest to prevent the heartbreak from ever happening again.
Sometimes, we hook up with B.O.B., throw ourselves into our work, and avoid dating altogether.
That strategy worked well for me--a man can't break your heart if he can't get next to you, right?
But then NeNe Leakes called me out: "Get you a real man."
She was the first woman to tell me that.
My grandmother used to say, accept the wisdom, never mind the messenger.
NeNe Leakes is a reality show spectacle, if ever there was one. But she is also a woman who has metamorphosed from a cash-strapped exotic dancer, to a socialite housewife on one of the most successful network shows in television history, and on to Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice."
She experienced every mind game there is without excluding herself from the possibility of finding love and happily ever after, once again.
And if she can rise above heartbreak and throw herself back into the game, then perhaps there's hope for us all.