Dating the Right Reverend, Part One
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
April 20, 2012
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
Last night one of the young ladies I follow on Twitter was tweeting about her relationship. She said, "I'm tired of crying." And y'all know I jumped right in. Yep! I tweeted, "Fuck a man who can't love and treat you the way you should be. If he can't see the value then he don't deserve you!!" Yep, yep, I told her straight up, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them. Don't explain it away, don't make excuses." Believe it!
I had much to say. I have declared WAR on all these unhealthy relationships. Staying stuck with someone who does not value you or treat you with all the goodness you deserve, we all deserve. If no one has ever told you, then here you go: Waiting for a man to call, waiting on man to do right by you (when he continues to do wrong), waiting on a man to come around, is all unhealthy and you should want more for yourself. God does. But we stay stuck in the madness for fear of being alone, but as long as you are stuck, you will never get the person you deserve.
Now, I don't know any of the details of this baby girl's relationship but from her tweets, I know she is hurting and it's time to make a change. I also know for sure, that change must come from within. You cannot expect people to do for you what you are not willing to do for yourself, and staying in a relationship that sucks the life out of you is giving that person permission to treat you this way. At the end of the day, NO woman should waste her pretty on a man. I know, I know, Lawd, Lawd that is easier said than done. We all want to have someone, I've been there more times than I would like to admit. For Real. Like the time I was dating the Right Reverend.
Good Lawd, the Right Reverend was all of that and a bag of chips with a Mystic, well at least in the beginning. I met the Right Reverend at a training conference for political organizers. Our eyes met a few times across that room, but he was cool as a cucumber. He didn't approach me that morning and y'all know I didn't go there. I'm too much of a lady to chase a man under any circumstance.
But it was the late '80s and I was young, fine and well put together and the Right Reverend had to be blind not see what I saw. Oh y'all, I was also newly diagnosed with HIV. Yep, yep, he could see all the goodness on the outside, but not the danger lurking on the inside.
Sure enough, the Right Reverend made his way to me and introduced himself before the day way over. You talking about charm and charisma he had it all. OMG! I liked everything about this brotha. Our courtship started right then and there and it was a whirlwind.
We were instantly glued to each other's side and as the sun went down and night was sweeping the horizon we made it to his hotel room. STOP! You're right, I had no business in this man's hotel room I had just met him, and ummm, I did have the little detail of HIV lurking, but his charm was all consuming and I didn't have the will power to stop myself back then.
And honestly, I liked the attention, I mean I hadn't really been in a relationship since I was diagnosed with HIV and my God this man was pushing all the right buttons. And understand this era of the '80s people just didn't have those kind of apprehensions, we just went with the flow in the justification of getting to know each other a little better.
Seconds, turned into minutes and minutes into hours, yes Lawd, we were a match made in heaven, same passion for justice and the same passion for Jesus. But ummm Jesus had nothing to do with what was happening in that room. That was just straight up free will. With that first kiss I knew the Right Reverend was working with something. Yep, yep, but I knew that it didn't matter what he was working with I had to slow this shit down. My panties were straight up wet, but HIV was dancing right along in all my juices flowing inside my drawers.
Now don't be confused, there was as much stimulation intellectually as there were with his lips. A man that can carry a conversation with me is a straight up turn-on. That shit is sexy as all get out.
Now let's be clear, NO he never touched between my legs. I decided when I was in my teens, that a man couldn't put his hand between my legs if I wasn't for sure prepared to give him my innermost self.
So I knew I had to shut this down. I just knew I had to, before I regretted this for the rest of my life. I pulled myself away from the Right Revered and sat in the chair at the desk. I said, "We gotta talk. Before we go any further, I need to tell you something." I could feel the butterflies jumping in my tummy. I was scared out of my wits. Scared of rejection.
All I could think about was the other Right Reverend that I was dating when I first discovered that I was HIV infected. He left my house within 10 minutes of disclosure and never looked back. That shit hurt more than my mama's worst beating. I mean, if he didn't want to be with me, maybe he could have shown me some Christian compassion. Ummm I'll table him until next week :)
Anyhoo, I had already been rejected by a minister and I wasn't sure if I was ready for it. I had been accustomed to getting the men that I wanted, but now I had this new thing standing in the way. I didn't think, any hairdo, any amount education, any amount of intellect or any outfit could help make me appealing in the face of HIV.
This was the one thing I couldn't out maneuver could not get rid of or change this fact; this thing HIV that had the worst kind of stigma and lack of understanding. Even the medical community was still trying to understand it. HIV was one scary ass motha back in the '80s. For Real. Mothers and fathers were letting their children die alone and nurses and doctors were refusing to touch people with AIDS. It was an ugly sight to see and even uglier to have to deal with head on.
So I pulled myself away from the intimacy and did what I had to do. I've never been one for small talk or bullshit, so I just told him straight up. "I have HIV." Then I exhaled. Whatever came after that, it would have to be OK. I had to understand that he wasn't rejecting me per say, but rejecting HIV in his life.
Just like a person has the right to date or not to date someone without a dime, or bad credit or another chronic illness, so does a person have that right to decide if they want to deal with HIV up close and personal. I instinctively understood that early on, but it still didn't take the sting out of the possibilities of rejection.
But the Right Reverend proved to be the man of God I thought he was. He looked me straight in the face and said, "OK." We talked and cuddled all night and in the morning there were promises to pursue this long distance relationship.
When I left that conference and headed back to D.C. I thought I had struck gold. For Real. The Right Reverend was all of that and then some. We spent hours on the phone each night. He sent flowers and cards, and wonderful letters. Good Lawd, and it didn't bother him one bit that I had HIV. I was officially in my first relationship after being diagnosed with HIV.
Finally, within a month he came to D.C. for that first visit. OMG did we have fun and yep, we both had condoms on hand, ummmm in every room in my house. Yep, we were well on our way.
Then it was my turn to visit him and he showed me off in every corner of his small town. If he was hiding something you couldn't tell by the way he was sporting me around town. Then I noticed that he didn't really answer the telephone and he started getting calls late at night.
I asked him on that second night, Baby, why don't you answer the phone. His answer was smooth, "Because this is your time. I talk and see those people here everyday." And it worked. OMG, did it work, cause we turned right back to the loving. But it kept nagging at me, especially the call that came at 6 am.
Yep it kept nagging away at me. So on that third morning, while he was in the shower, I answered the phone and it was a woman asking for the Right Reverend. You know my smart ass, couldn't wait to let her know, whatever you think you got, I'm in town so step the fuck back. I did it smoothly, Sweetie, he's in the shower right now, I would be glad to take a message.
To be continued tomorrow ...
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
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