An Excerpt from LIFE, LOVE, & LONELINESS
by Crystal Lacey Winslow
“I will never date a married man! Not because of moral issues,” I laughed, “I’ll never be second to number one." I remember saying those words when I was straight out of high school. Seventeen years ago, I was talking to a good friend at the time, who was dating our former math teacher. We both graduated with honors from the High School of Performing Arts. I was valedictorian; Stacey, salutatorian. Not bad for two girls from the ’hood. I had applied to Syracuse University and Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College and I was accepted to both, with full scholarships. I still hadn’t decided which to attend.
“Lyric, can I borrow your Gloria Vanderbilt jeans?”
“No,” I retorted. That was the end of that subject.
I was half listening to Stacey drone on and on about sleeping with an older man. I studied her for a while. Stacey was extremely jovial. She beamed with enthusiasm. I remember how much I ridiculed her for making such a compromising decision.
“He'll never leave his wife for you,” I continued, looking at my perfect French manicure. "I mean, she's sophisticated, beautiful and the mother of his three children.”
Stacey had come to get ready for their date at a secret meeting place. I can still remember how her cheerful mood turned sullen in a matter of moments. She looked aloof and despondent as I hammered her unmercifully. Her cherubic face, despite her age, was distorted and showed visible signs of stress.
I was lying across my bed, watching her adjust her outfit in the mirror. She had on a pair of Lee jeans and a fresh pair of black and white Pumas with thick pink shoelaces. What can I say? It was the ‘80s, when Reaganomics had money rolling in for everyone. It did not matter what side of the law you were on or what color you were painted.
“He's just using you for sex,” I volunteered.
“It's more than a sexual relationship. We are soul mates and he loves me,” she reasoned.
I looked at my naïve friend and thought about how inexperienced she was. She committed the faux pas of giving herself too much credit. Therefore, I opposed, “How intelligent is your situation? The wife gets the house, car, and pension while you get . . . an occasional bouquet of roses, or candy, or some other gesture of sentimental crap.”
“It's not about money either, Lyric. It is about love. I love him.”
“Whoever said anything about love? Besides, love doesn’t pay your bills.”
“No, I pay my bills!”
“As if what?”
“As if you’re saying something!” I snapped. Then continued, “Independence is overrated. My dream is to marry a millionaire. Someone powerful, as Jacqueline Kennedy did.”
“Jacqueline Kennedy was the exception. Not the rule.”
“Princess Diana,” I countered.
“Lyric, come on, you’re far from naïve. These white women are from astute, prestigious backgrounds. They are groomed for success. Their lives are pre-planned,” she reasoned.
“And so is mine! By next year, the whole world will know who Lyric Devaney is.
“Can’t you see you’re already handicapped by poverty? Look around you . . . you live in the ghetto. There’s no getting out of here. No sleeping your way out! No marrying out! No acting, singing, or modeling your way out! So play your position and find somebody nice who can take your mind off your grim reality, like I did.”
“So I should settle?”
“If that’s what you want to call it, yes.”
“Settle and love someone who’s in love with someone else?”
“He doesn’t love her!”
“He loves me!”
“Lyric, not everyone can be as noncommittal or nonchalant in relationships as you are. When I fall in love, it is the real thing. Not some meaningless escapade,” she retorted.
Had she just taken a stab at me?
“Not everyone has the confidence to do what I do,” I countered. “If you were smart, you’d use his married ass like a credit card and discard him like yesterday’s trash when you were through. But, of course, that would make you one of the smart ones, and you’ve already established you’re a fool in smart clothing!”
“Now you’re acting childish! That’s what I like about dating an older man. The conversation is mature. If I didn’t know how snobbish you were, I’d think you were jealous of my relationship.”
“Listen and let your mentor speak. ‘Jealous’ is an adjective that women use too loosely. To be jealous would mean that you are able to obtain something that I cannot. Have you created this misconception all on your own? Or, is that faggot of a man feeding this into your narrow little mind?”
“You heard he’s gay?” Stacey exclaimed.
“I don’t know. Is he?” I questioned.
“Look, Stacey, you’re talking apples and oranges. I’m going as far as my looks take me, and my talent will do the rest. I’m street smart, intelligent, sassy, and classy. I’m beautiful, ambitious, and determined to get in the game. All I have to do is create the opportunity. Love is not an option. Nothing is going to hold me back! I just feel sorry I can’t take you with me. You’ve become stagnated. You want to be handicapped by love!”
I refused to feed into the “you’re handicapped” nonsense. I believe there is a way out of here and it’s not rocket science. It’s just good old-fashioned magic. You have to create an illusion. Smart people are dumb in a naïve way. They can be gullible. All you have to do is fool people. Leave the ghetto slang in the ghetto and speak eloquently. Leave the street gear to the urban kids and dress classy. But, most importantly . . . lie. Lie a lot. But lie just enough to remember all your lies. I swear on my unborn children, when opportunity knocks . . . Lyric Devaney will be ready!
“Lyric, please!” she whined, throwing up her hands in surrender.
“Lyric, please!” I mocked. Her whining was galling. In fact, her entire disposition was irritating the hell out of me.
“Lyric, you must be scorned because you put a damper on all things that are wonderful and fulfilling in love. Your superficial remarks hurt me. Then I say to myself, something must have really gone wrong somewhere down your lifeline to make you guard your heart like a fortress. So even though you can be mean, I always end up forgiving you because you have no control over yourself.”
“Control? I have enough control not to sleep with someone else’s husband. You are a hypocritical, selfish bitch. And make a mental note that this is the last time you are invited to my house. I am trying to help you out, and this is what I get? Do not come running to me when he breaks your heart. See if I care!”
“I’m sorry . . . look, Lyric . . . this type of love you can't understand, unless you’re in a similar situation.”
“I will never be in a similar situation because I will never allow myself to be used by a man in the name of love. All you are is an extra piece of pussy. Remember, you heard it here first because my mother taught me love don't love nobody!” I exploded. By this time, she was near tears, but I did not care. Actually, I thrived off weak beings. I really was not as upset as I was projecting myself to be. Her words bounced off me and were stuck somewhere in the atmosphere. I hopped off my canopy bed, pushing past her, murmuring, “Never will I love a married man.”
"Never say never," she warned. I just looked at her disapprovingly and rolled my chestnut brown eyes in despair.
I never did call Stacey after that incident. I just erased her completely out of my life. I was good at removing people, without regret, who were not of use to me. I learned that from my mother.
Thinking back on that day should make me feel like such a hypocrite, but it does not. My mother always said, “Only those who never sinned should cast the first stone. Everyone is always judging folks. Judge yourself first.” Was that a quote from the Bible? Mother was always taking Bible quotes, revising them, and making them her own philosophy. My philosophy is . . . life . . . it is what it is! That is how I have always looked at it, blocking out any aspirations of ever falling in love. When you are in love, you are vulnerable. When you are vulnerable . . . you are weak! And, anyone who knows Lyric Devaney, knows I am not weak; nor will I ever, ever, be left lonely. I may live alone, die alone, but loneliness is for simple people. I am too charismatic for that!
Unfortunately, seventeen years later, I was in a difficult relationship with a very powerful, very rich, and very married man.