“So, are you dating anyone?” My brother-in-law came to visit me at work. He wasn’t fully there for me & that’s why it was so perfect. He’s working with a new magazine – galoremag.com — and was officially on work, but he’s never been the type to let work interfere with personal. He’s one of my greatest inspirations. If it weren’t for his confidence, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

       I haven’t had too many examples of true love. My father passed when I was 9 months old & my mother isn’t a big dater. I know it’s bizarre that on Valentine’s Day, I’ve started my post wooing over my brother-in-law, but part of the reason I love him most is how much he loves my sister. I met Nick when I was 11. I’d gone to visit my sister for sibling’s weekend while they both attended Fordham. “Don’t tell Mami I have a boyfriend,” she said before I met him. “She wants me to just focus on school.” My sister’s not been the rebel she pretends to be –she just has the balls to if pushed. Like myself, she accredits much of her thoroughness to coming from where we come from. Unlike me, she was neither born nor raised there –it just happened to be her address. My sister left CF at 14 & we all know high-school defines you. Myself, I am a rebel by nature and by practice. That’s why we clash. I’m the only one who can read her.  My sister’s a tough cookie so, with the 13 years Nick has willingly adored her, he deserves a standing ovation. That said… the man with the strength to take me on will be worthy of a reward… maybe two.


       We’re  a beautiful angry bunch. You should see the pictures of my mom when she was younger. My sister is her exactly, except she replaced the wide Fung nose with the thin Rodriguez. My sister is, plain and simple, gorgeous. She always has been and anyone who thinks otherwise is a pure hater and a certified, professional liar. She’s always kept me up. Since I was 5 and she was 14, she’s been working to buy me clothes, shoes and books. When she wasn’t around, I had the great pleasure of plundering through her clothes. I promise, anything she had, I wore it once to school & put it back before she noticed. Whenever clothes went missing in the house, someone would yell Maaaagggggiiiiee!!! from whereever they got upset and I would have to mentally run through the list of what I had ” borrowed”. My brother, too. Whatever phase that was when I was wear T-Shirts far too big for me, everything Rocawear was also mine.
         My family is terrible at showing affection. Every time I would see my sister, I’d have to force a hug on her. “I’m not a hugger,” she told me, semi pushing back. I know she’s not, cuz I never was. But… I realized that when you know what it feels like to have never hugged someone and never to be able to, it hurts more than anything. I never really hugged my brother. Not for just anything. Our family barely took pictures together. My mom just found one two weeks ago. The truth is, my family had been separated at a crucial time in our lives. We’ve gone through a lot together, individually. It’d be a lot easier if we knew each other’s stories… but when your siblings didn’t grow up like you grew up, you’re practically strangers. Still, family is family. & we’re a small one: My mom, myself, my sister, and my brother who passed in 06, but that doesn’t make him any less part of my unit. 
I know what it feels like to be without love. I’d had a boyfriend since I was 14. My first went to South Carolina for a summer and ended up in prison for breaking and entering. Not sure what’s up with him, but I know I wasn’t #BoutThatLife. After him, I chased everyone’s crush from around the way and fell in love with him for a whole summer. He was too much older than me. So much so he wouldn’t tell me his age or allow me to tell him mine. I was 15 & he’d been out of highschool a while. Still, we both knew there was something fascinating about a 15-year-old girl who could hold a grown man’s attention. I rarely speak to him anymore, but his best friend, Leo, is one of my adopted big brothers –I call him my Fly School Teacher.  Leo’s not the only one who took me under his wing. I’ve got cousins and random guys from random places who have a level of respect for me I’ve never quite understood. Guys have always noticed I’m smart. To make matters better, I played point guard any opportunity I could and refused to listen to anything but Jay-Z.  I was my brother’s little sister. “No one’s been more brainwashed than this one,” my sister once told Nick while were listening to music to pick for their wedding. It’s not that, it’s that I was a little boy. I grew up with my brother. It’s why my music taste leans toward gangsta and I know how to behave around men –men raised me. 
       My brother would have killed for me. Once upon a time, my mother lived in an attic hiding from Immigration. I lived with my brother and his (phony) best friend. This is the same friend who was my sister’s ex boyfriend. Luckily, I had had my first kiss elsewhere because he didn’t leave me with the grandest memories –just the smell of cigarettes and deceit. At 11 years old, I already knew how to dodge men. How to give them a little bit but avoid the rest. How to keep them at bay. I learned how to save myself. I also learned how to have a kind heart for troubled spirits.  My brother would have killed for me and I saved lives by keeping my mouth shut –but holding in the evil of other’s, I almost killed myself. 
        I saw a therapist once a week for my entire Junior year of college. A rough day and couple of warrants warranted me a nice tote on a supremely rolled jay of Washington D.C.’s finest green. Unfortunately, the smell of that fine green traveled all the way down the hallway. Not something you’d expect from your Resident Assistant. My life on the line, the only way I could return to finish my term was to agree to therapy. So there I was, unashamed because fuck it. The truth is the truth and it hurts. After my first couple sessions, I realized that the true benefit was simply being able to get shit off my chest. Sometimes, we hold so much of our personal lives inside and in secret, it takes a hold of us. We feel so tense because the only way to hold strong in that pain is to be tougher than it. It closes us up. I don’t do that anymore. I met Sharon Rosa last night when I showed up to a fashion show that had been cancelled (on both of us) but I stayed and spoke with her. We laughed. We cried. We vented. We told truths. It’s so freeing to be open with yourself and open up to other because it changes the way you interact and the way you see love. I had met Sharon Rosa for the first time last night, but I am sure I can call her a friend. I know who she is. She told me straight up. I appreciated the respect and did her the favor of being real
8th grade, smh. That’s me on the far right.
         I’ve always been the same person. Seems though, that the outside has changed a little bit. When I was growing up, I felt…black and ugly as ever, however… I’ve blossomed into quite the beauty. I told Sharon  that, not only did I not see myself as beautiful, I didn’t allow myself to be. Additionally, I didn’t know how to be. If you take a look at the 8th grade photo of me included here, you’ll note that everyone is fairer-skinned than me. Most people were. I grew up in a neighborhood full of wavy-haired, light skinned girls.  & then I went home an lived with them. I didn’t know how to do my hair and neither did my mother. I didn’t wear make-up and, if I wanted to, there was none that matched my skin tone in the house. All I knew was basketball and hip-hop –I fit in there. It was a half-mental thing. I was on the outskirts because that’s where I thought I belonged, so that’s where I was placed.
         Relationships are learned –especially the one you have with yourself. It is true that you should be your #1 Valentine. And if you do happen to be involved in something, make sure you’re appreciated the way you deserve to be. Actually, as Sharon  told me last night, “make sure that man loves you more than you love him.”  Even when you don’t deserve love, you should be loved –because you obviously need it. That’s why I love my brother-in-law, because my sister is a stone-cold-bitch –and that’s why I love her. She has the guts to be. She has her reasons. & she’s actually a magnificent, brilliant, caring and passionate person. She’s held my family together. She’s one of the strongest women on the face of this earth. She inspires me so much it outweighs my occasional disappointment in her. But my love, my love for her never alters. 
Love is always the same. If it wasn’t, then it’d have different names. I sometimes wonder why people stay in relationships with people they “fall out of love” with. I’m not sure I understand the purpose. Then again, I don’t understand the purpose of boyfriends/girlfriends. If the point isn’t marriage, what is it? Friendship? But… what about the physical benefits? Obviously it makes it different, that’s why you want to call it something. But no matter how you slice it, a girlfriend is not the same thing as wife –that’s why they have different names. People get so caught up in wanting relationships, they’ll name anything that makes their stomach turn “love”Come this time of year, people are simply looking for validation. Public pressure is tough, but I’d rather have forever love than just this measly day. Valentine’s has never and will never mean much to me. Partly because no boys ever bought me flowers in school and partially because it takes more than flowers on Valentine’s Day to get me. I’d like flowers every Thursday, thanks. 
       I want to be loved forever. Every day matters to me. Recently stopped giving a damn about my phone so I can’t get any calls. No one can call me. No one can text me. No one can “see wassup”. No one can decide that today is the day to start chasing me, because I was damned good yesterday and I’ll be even better tomorrow. Valentine’s Day should be a celebration of love –but so shouldn’t every Thursday. Sometimes people need a reason to make you feel special –usually because they fucked up and want to get in good. But… reasons are unnecessary in love. So if you need a reason or a scheduled day to show me you love me… you’re applying with the wrong Boss. This is full-time, right here. To get overtime, you’ve got to work overtime. I have the bad habit of loving men too much. I give my all when I shouldn’t. I let them see how great it can be without holding back because, when you love someone, your heart won’t dare let you hold back. So… sometimes, you’ve got to disappear for a day or two to test his loyal ground. Keep my dog on a short leash, controlling they growl.
         If you aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day with a “lover” today, celebrate it with those who love you. My mother has been my Valentine for as long as I can remember. Hers are the only stuffed animals I keep. Love isn’t about this one day. It isn’t about who you can curl up in bed with. Love is about showing appreciation to those who care about you on the daily. Those who would give the world to you. Love is love by no other name. The day you understand that, your relationships will grow that much stronger because they will be genuine and pure. Consider yourself fortunate to have the time and space to care and love for yourself. Those who want to show you love and admiration will do so regardless of the circumstance –because that’s what love is. Love is unconditional. Love is immediate. Love is unwavering. Love needs nothing –not even the other person. Love simply is… is always is. & Sometimes it takes knowing what love is not to in order to know what it is.
Happy Valentine’s Day. 
I truly love you all ❤