A Grandmother’s Love Explained

Family is everything to me.

My parents were my first teachers and my brother was my first best friend (besides my teddy bear named… Teddy). But my grandma was different. She’s my rock. I told myself that if ever she leaves our home, I was to move in with her. Can’t nobody take my grandmama away from me! I could go on forever about the sacrifices, love, and care that she has exerted throughout her life, but my words wouldn’t do her justice. If there is one thing you should know about my grandma, it’s that she takes so much pride in her grandchildren (all nine of us).  As her first granddaughter, she doesn’t shy away from talking about relationships and who she believes I should be with; especially now that I am older.

Here are some qualities my dear grandmother expects from my future husband:

  • He has to have a good job. Or as she likes to repeat, “Marry a doctor or a lawyer.” 
  • He has to come from a good family.
  • Loves me unconditionally.
  • He needs to be a man of faith.
  • He must be respectful.
  • HANDSOME (oh, grandma).

This list doesn’t even sound that bad. Actually, I like it. But to put a man through such a list can be a task, because it sounds pretty much perfect. And perfect just doesn’t exist. However, I ask myself why she is so worked up about me having this ideal man. Her answer to me once went a little something like this, “because my granddaughter is worth it.” Of course I wanted to flip my hair and smile in agreement… and I did. But thinking about it now causes my heart to break a little. My worth stands next to a man with a law degree, whose family name is on the Forbes 100, and has a body hot enough to kick Adam Levine off of the “Sexiest Man Alive” throne? My worth is reflected on a person other than myself? I don’t think so.

In Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie’s grandmother (Nanny) has given her a similar list as mine. Nanny wants her granddaughter to marry quick, to a man who is of quality, but Jeanie was confused. She was still so young and saw marriage as a love-relationship, not something that is produced out of a mere list. So when Jeanie did marry she said this, “Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant” (Chapter 3). Despite rushing into her relationship with Logan and doubting her feelings for him, she believed that a marriage built on love can be learned. Marriage ideals take the couple out of the situation and views it as only institutional, perhaps just necessity. It is often seen that women are expected to be housewives and mothers. That because they are given such roles, their companions must also be a certain way. I think that Nanny was aware that these gender roles are inescapable, but what could make it better is having a good partner. Then the goal of getting into a marriage is not for love, but a title.

However, let’s try not to criticize our grandmothers too much. I know they mean well.

My grandmother wants me to be my own person. She wants me to grow. She wants me to grab every opportunity thrown at me. She wants to see me succeed in life. She wants me to be happy. I think her main purpose in giving me her list of expectations is to teach me to aim high. It was never about the ideals, but the reason why we form them. As long as I don’t settle for someone who can pass as a good guy and be with someone who actually is, I know she can live with that. So, she won’t disown me if I marry a writer than a doctor. 

Grandmothers have this wisdom that us grandkids can’t always understand, but need to trust that it’s fruitful. Sometimes they go about expressing themselves to us wrongly, but it is all because they are one of the few people on this planet that have our best interest in mind. We are their successors, whether you feel like you are obligated or not. It’s a component in being family. My grandmother has taught me so many life lessons, that I am forever thankful. But the best gift she gave me is her love. It overflows. Like Nanny, her soul is strong. Because she has been through so much, she wants her grandchild to know that the world will give you choices. It’s about weeding out the bad and picking the one that suits you.

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Relationships Explained.

As a girl in her 20s, I’ve probably had more phone calls and conversations about relationships than those actually hired to give any “professional” advice get. Can you believe that? People are paid to give relationship/love advice. I do it for free! Hm, maybe that’s why they come running to me. But if there’s a job for it, then it must be a real issue. Oh humans and their emotions. 

After collecting my mental archive of advice and recalling the situations expressed to me by my “clients” there is one thing that I believe is a major issue: none of them really understand what a relationship demands. This would make sense, because there are more whys, what does it mean, and how can I change it questions than there are answers. There are more times trying to make it work, than it actually working out. There are more doubts then there is trust. There is more intellect than there are feelings. And if there is anything you should take away from this post, it’s this: A relationship will not work if your mind is the only one calling the shots. No, I’m not telling you to let your heart take the wheel in a relationship, but I am telling you to allow it to be the compass; because your mind will know what to do. They are a team, as are you and your partner. So, when I say don’t let your mind call the shots, I mean you have to be unselfish and let your partner in on things.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be emotionally invested in a relationship. It is not a business deal! You absolutely cannot go into it thinking that the outcome will be exactly as you mapped it out to be. It definitely is a learning process, somewhat contractual, risky, rewarding, and overall crazy, but if your heart isn’t in it… then why are you even there?

Let’s take relationships in Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl for example. Dr. Flint tries to bribe Linda for her affection. Now, Dr. Flint is in no ways a real man. He is abusive and unfaithful. Despite having this “fondness” for Linda, he constantly reminds her that she is nothing but his slave. It is obvious that Dr. Flint wants Linda to be another one of his women, but this also proves that he wants to own her completely, not only physically but emotionally as well. He promises to take care of her and even starts to build a home where she will stay. However, Linda already loves someone else and cannot ever imagine being with a brute like Dr. Flint. Let us again note, this guy is married! Remember when I said you need to be unselfish? Yeah, there is no way Dr. Flint understands that idea. The courtship between Dr. Flint and Linda (if you even call it that) is all a mental game. Seeing it that way messes up the real meaning of a relationship. It’s not about a power-trip or how can you buy one’s affection, it is about unity. Because Dr. Flint lacks a real sense of affection for Linda, she does not even entertain the thought of being with him.

As for Dr. Flint’s wife, emotion is the only thing that controls her. She knows her husband is being unfaithful to her, but still she brushes it aside. Marriage is the most important relationship you can choose. Vows made by you and your partner are not just any promises, but real affirmations of love… an eternal agreement. Because Mrs. Flint cannot allow her mind to make the decision to leave him, she is further consumed with jealousy and no longer love. She will always doubt her husband, feel insecure, and paranoid of what Dr. Flint will do next. I can honestly say, I feel bad for her. She knows that the bond of marriage seals her and Dr. Flint together, but that doesn’t guarantee his fidelity.

Relationships themselves can be seen as a form of submission. It’s just another way to be bound to something, someone. But the most liberating thing about relationships is the freedom to really express how you feel to the person you are with. It shouldn’t feel like an obligation. In the context of the novel, slavery proves to be the evil seed that grows to rip not only individuals, but families apart. Relationships, specifically romantic ones, are rooted in love. This love is not solely an emotion but an action to willing do what is best for another. Slavery rejects this, because it, in no ways, works for the betterment of another. It entraps everyone into misery.

In both cases we see that the relationships lack this sense of love. It’s anything but love that binds these people together. With the story of Linda and Mrs. Flint, I can feel like they are desperate for love. The relationship is so one-sided and all about it being a title, that the most beautiful thing about having one is absent. As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” However, for a tango to be convincing, we need to feel the spark. The partners need to work as one to make the dance complete.