By Zondra Hughes
Once you’ve been a Side Chick, you can’t shake that experience--especially if it didn’t end well.
I should know, I was a Side Chick.
Iowa State University can be a sad place when you’re the only brown girl for miles, and yes, I do mean miles.
The few black guys on campus seemed to be in experimental mode, or perhaps they just weren’t into me. So imagine the shock and awe of meeting that one guy who happened to be everything I desired—and then some.
He was a football player, and a scholar. He had southern charm and city edge. This guy could kiss you until your toes curled and your eyes watered. I loved him. Deeply.
Here’s the problem, he wasn’t mine to love, and he didn’t tell me outright that he belonged to someone else. I was well on my way to Happily Ever After until my sorority sister pulled my coattail.
“Isn’t he dating Michelle?”
“What?” I asked, with my heart stuck in my throat. At that moment I realized what Waiting to Exhale really meant. When I received that piece of news I held my breath, literally, as I waited for my sorority sister to save me with a lie: “Oh, I was just kidding.”
But she didn’t save me, she only said: “You better ask him. Michelle is returning to school next semester and I KNOW they’re dating.”
I didn’t want to ask him, after all, we’d been dating for a full year and there was no reason for me to suspect that I wasn’t his girlfriend.
Without warning, I was drowning in my own insecurities. Who was this woman Michelle? Does he love her, still? Does she love him back? Does she know about me? What does she look like? What does she have that I don’t? Am I getting kicked to the curb when she returns?
I ran around like a mad woman getting the scoop on this woman. She was nothing like me, we were opposites in every way. She had short cropped hair, with smooth ebony skin. Someone showed me a photo of him sitting on HER lap. He loved her; I was just a filler until she returned.
A full three days later, I asked him, and I opened that uncomfortable conversation with a proclamation of my love. “I love you. I am in love with you,” I said, as I searched his eyes, and waited for his response.
And I waited.
“Do you think that I love you, Z?”
“No. I don’t. You’re cool, but I have girlfriend. She’ll be here in a few weeks, so…we may have to cool out.”
That old saying, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, is a lie. An outright, punch-in-the-face lie. His words were damn near lethal, and became a dagger that plunged into my heart.
I was so shocked by his admission that I cried, but I didn’t know I was crying until I tasted my own tears.
I don’t know what he said to console me after that, but it didn’t work.
You see, I had built this entire story of us, and how we’d be together after college, and how one day we’d be this incredible power couple with smart adorable kids—and I was so busy building our story that I didn’t ask for his input.
I never asked him if I was his girlfriend, I just assumed.
I never asked him if our relationship was a relationship or something else, I just assumed.
And my assumptions were way off base. He dumped me the moment Michelle returned; a few months later, she dumped him for someone else. Apparently, Michelle had a sidedude of her own.
Needless to say, that experience still haunts me. I don’t say ‘I love you,’ with one iota of the genuine emotion that I had back then. What if he doesn't love me back? That sidechick scar is still there.
Sometimes being a side chick isn’t the role we choose, we’re tricked into it. But in the end, when the main woman is the one he wants, the hurt is the same.
As women, we must be honest about who we are, who we’re with, and where—if anywhere at all—our connections will go.
More importantly, we must love ourselves enough not to settle.
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