EDITORS NOTE: JULY
Two years ago, I would not’ve been able to write this. I still believed that “man” was a term reserved for those who fucked the most and told the best stories about it. To be masculine meant to be stoic and commitment meant rationing just enough “I miss you’s” to keep ‘em guessing.
Then came Yari B - the flyest girl I ever did see…
Her style coaxed me first. I’ve since realized that it is a reflection of her soul - she wears her heart on her sleeve. Yari has something the others didn't, though she says what they said and does what they did. Her “I hope your day is going well” texts are no longer a signal to run. Her late night clinches demand a synonymic reaction. Her demand for unfiltered, and honest communication is no longer taboo. Her “I love you” carries a different meaning.
She has the finesse of my mother yet the conviction of my stepfather - the confidence of my father and the swag of my grandfather. She is the embodiment of what I have always understood to be Love - and she is the vessel through which God created for me to receive it.
Let me explain…
Though I sometimes question the validity of what my institutional faith considers law, I am still a Christian. I pray that if you’re reading this, and we do not share the same beliefs, that you're able to understand my words and intent through the lens of your faith.
Before you say “Rell is getting too deep in this traditionally light-hearted, monthly column”, hear me out…
From my readings, discussions, experiences and personal [practice of] spirituality, I have gathered this: God and the idea of God is not new - It has been with us forever - but, till this day no man has been able to resolutely define or quantify what It is.
That said, I feel as though humanity’s countless attempts are interpreted through a collective of manuscripts, monuments, memories and metaphors. For Christians, specifically Baptists, our vice is the Bible and within our Bible, the attempt can be summed up in 1 John 4:8—9, which reads:
"Whoever does not Love does not know God, because God is Love. This is how God showed his Love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him."
I [literally] interpret this as God = Love, and Jesus is the vessel through which God expressed It and an example of how boundless It is. I believe this means in order to personally receive God, we must first understand how we personally receive Love, because they are one in the same.
I root this theory in my faith, experiences and the fact every time I’ve ever felt Love, others have likened similar experiences to the feeling they had when they felt God; therefore, who is anyone to tell me that God is not Love? No scholar, nor book, nor opinion can tell me otherwise. My book is simply validation that people before me have felt what I feel and wrote about it for others to discover its power and diversity for themselves.
My personal, personified Love is a product of having enough faith in It to let down my emotional barbed armor often associated with being a black man in America. It is a product of losing the trust and respect of past women by accepting their unrestricted Love but not offering it back in return. It is the product of parents showing me an example of how beautiful and raw Love can be. It is a product of unsubscribing to the institutional, stereotypical and ignorant definition of masculinity, and understanding and accepting the strength that comes with being vulnerable. Basically, my Love - how I give and receive it - is a summation of my experiences, relationships, heartbreaks and sacrifices, because it was not until I experienced what Love meant to others and how they expressed it, that I was then able to accept it - in its purest and most delicate form - and reciprocate it equally.
So, as countless men have tried before, below is my unworthy attempt to cast my personified Love into the ether in hopes that someone who reads this can relate:
Love is kissing bae in the mouth before brushing your teeth at 8am.
Love is driving 4+ hours to and from Syracuse to watch your child play college football every weekend.
Love is not about sex.
Love is sitting on the toilet, while scrolling IG and smiling at bae's photos from 2015.
Love is working 2 jobs while pursuing a degree full-time and supporting 2 kids.
Love is boundless beyond commandments and laws.
Love is relevant.
Love is being homeless in ’95, but making sure your children never missed a meal.
Love is colorless.
Love comes in many forms.
Love is respecting, uplifting, encouraging and empowering your partner.
Love is 100% vulnerability.
Love is knowing bae's cell phone password.
Love is waking up at 4am to make sure your kids make it to school on time.
Love is feeding your child while you go to bed hungry.
Love is the voice in your head that tells you to do nice things.
Love is moving your family to another country so that they could have a different life than you.
Love is staying close to home so that the grandchildren never miss grandma’s birthday.
Love is sacrifice.
Love is having no secrets.
Love is making countless road trips so that your son can workout for different colleges.
Love is your glow.
Love must be nurtured to grow.
Love is scary.
Love is expressing yourself even when you know no one will understand.
Love is unapologetic.
Love is your magic.
Love is a feeling.
Love is 100% transparency.
Love transcends time.
Love never stops growing.
Love is sharing the last piece of chicken.
Love is not a stereotype.
Love is more than money.
Love is raising a child that is not your own.
Love is not of this world.
Love is for you to understand.
Love is taking your son to the barber shop every other Saturday.
Love deserves your protection.
Love is too powerful for some people.
Love is for you to define.
Love can not be quantified.
As a man, specifically a black man, too often we are groomed to believe that to be a man is to reserve emotion because emotion suggests vulnerability and to be vulnerable is to be weak. And, the armor we must adorn in order to endure the seemingly obligatory onslaught of bias and prejudice associated with melanin in America validates the case for its use. From my experience, Love does not weaken this armor, it strengthens it - holistically - and makes it more complete. The preservation of toxic emotion is something that weakens our armor from within and affects the Love we give and receive. In order to free ourselves from this toxicity, we must coat our armor in Love and faith - it's essential to our maturation of masculinity.
Ultimately, what I am trying to say is Love is God and God is Love, period - this is what gets me through! It is not of this world, and should be treated as such. Find it for yourself. Define it. Live in it. Exude it. Give it - but never let someone else define for you what only you can define for yourself.
former advertising producer, now a chef @99eats find him @rellycrocker