Thursday, September 24, 2009

Running from Skeletons: Does your relationship reputation follow you forever?

Relationship week continues with a look at those pesky skeletons tucked away in your closet. How long do those bones rattle anyway? I personally believe that people have the right to padlock that closet and take their secrets to the grave. Unfortunately, now that your life can become an overnight YouTube sensation and one stupid phrase can be dissected and circulated through a million people on Twitter in less than five minutes; your reputation is not always your own to protect.

I distinctly remember standing in the Eagles' Nest (my high school cafeteria) while one of the fellas proclaimed in a loud voice, "Oh! You dat siddity girl. You dating H? When ya gonna get off them cakes, girl?" And just like that, I had the reputation of being the hard-to-get bougie chick who would not "give up the cakes." At the time I was mortified but in retrospect, there are probably far worse things to be called. The funny thing is that I ran into that guy about a year and a half ago (we are well removed from High School) and he said, "Hey, it's the Good Girl." I just rolled my eyes. Really, what good comes of sharing that the halo has gotten a wee bit tarnished over the years?

Throughout my college and post-college dating life, I developed an almost Jane Bond persona for keeping what business I had out of the streets. I was never happier than when people would say, "I think she's seeing So&So but I don't know." A few years back I ran into a male friend of mine who gave me the side-eye and said, "I know you got something going on, but I'm never quite sure what." Exactly. I also have the reputation of only dating very wealthy men (not true), men over 6'0" (not true), and men chocolate of complexion (not true). Those are preferences, not Chele commandments. Yet, the reputation persists. I actually once had a guy say to me, "I always wanted to ask you out but didn't think I was up to your standards." Hmm. On the one hand, is he sure he knows what my standards are? On the other hand, if he isn't confident to step up to plate and take a swing… probably not my cup of tea. Anyway as far as I know, my relationship reputation isn't so tainted that it affects me negatively. Not everyone gets off this easy. Embedded below is a funny clip from Eddie Murphy Raw about those skeletons:

After yesterday's response to the Cheaty McCheatersons of the world, I wondered… does a cheating man always carry the "cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater" tag or does he get off the hook one day? A girlfriend of mine recently started dating a "nice guy." They just got around to the "ex" discussion. She asked him why he and his previous girlfriend broke up and he admitted that he had cheated on her. This gave her pause. Talking to me about it I was reminded of the old saying, "If he cheats once, he cheats twice." But is that true or an old wives' tale? Is it fair to judge the future from the past? I'd say it's worthy of a side-eye and a deeper conversation. So yes, he gets man points for honesty but now has a "CAUTION" sign hanging over his head.

So let's take the case of the person with a checkered past. We already know that the standards for men and women vary greatly. A man with a history of promiscuity is often considered a stud while the woman who does the same is often called a slut. Ya'll already know how I feel about folks (of either sex) handing it out like the midnight blue light special at Kmart. I'll start with the ladies. Some fellas I know speak of "passing the plate of cookies." Now it took me a minute (I was sheltered people!) to figure out what that meant but I did know that it wasn't good to be considered one of the cookies on the plate.

What happens if you were THAT chick? The one sneaking out of the football players' dorm at 4:00am (and coming back in a few hours to ask which room you left your panties in)? The girl who walked in the frat party and all the guys had the "been there, done that" look on their faces? How do you outrun that? Another male friend of mine got married a few years back. He brought his wife to a party and after they left, everyone was just a-buzzing. "What?" I asked. Apparently his wife used to be that pass-around chick on a southern college campus back in the day. Knowing him, I doubt he knows this. The fact that they met 3000 miles away from Texas probably had a lot to do with her ability to land him. Leaving me to wonder, can you move away from your past or in today's wired society will it just follow you? As for the fellas, is it as big a deal if a man was known for sleeping around? Or is it the context? If he was a serial monogamist as opposed to a hit-it-n-quit-it guy, is that a better reputation to have?

What about if the man has a reputation for being abusive or a liar or cheap or really bad in bed? What if a woman has a reputation for being a stalker, super-jealous or a gold-digger? The possibilities for reputation ruin are endless. Do we ever get past them? I think so. I think it's like crime and a statute of limitations. You can only be held accountable for a crime for a certain period of time, and then the law enforcement agency has to drop the case… unless you're still out there committing crimes. The more serious the crime, the longer the statute of limitations. If someone bounced a $5.00 check to 7-11 fifteen years ago, no one is worried about that rap sheet. But if you have graduated to knocking over banks, that's a whole different story. So no, I'm not holding a 35-year old man accountable for stepping out on his girlfriend when he was 22… but I will file it in my "things that make you hmmm" file. Now, if he was slapping folks around, no bueno.

Similarly, the 32-year old woman singing in the church choir only gets the raised eyebrow when she talks about dancing nekkid on a table top one Mardi Gras weekend when she was 18. Now if she's still showing her bare behinds in public 14 years later… that gets taken into consideration. Isn't everybody entitled to teenage-young 20s tomfoolery? Folks are supposed to mature, grow and do better, right?

I read on another blog recently about men trying to turn "a ho into a housewife" and whether this was viable or smart. The consensus was split. Some people seem to think that a female ho is a ho until she becomes a wife but a male ho is a ho for the rest of his life. No one (of course) wanted to knowingly marry a ho (male or female variety).

What do you think? If past is prologue and "those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it"; how much digging in closets should we do to determine what a person is really like today? When do you ever "let the past be the past" and move on? IS this even possible? I am curious to hear the responses to this one.


Velinda Miller said...

I do believe the saying is "let sleeping dogs lie". I think that if you go digging for trouble you are sure to find something. In some points in life we need to just let the past be the past. I don't want anybody judging my on who I used to be, because I am so not that person now. Everyone has done something at some time in their life that they wish no one knew about and if they could they borrow that flashy thing from Will Smith in Men In Black. Heaven knows sometimes I wish I could wash my own memory sometimes, because the things stored in it aren't always picture perfect and beautiful.
I don't think once a cheat always a cheat, every one has their reasons and circumstances, not that cheating is acceptable but if a 16 year old boy cheats on his girlfriend because he struggled with insecurities is it right to say he will cheat at 26? Now some people do have a red flag on them and you need to run as soon as you see them coming but to each his own.
Remeber, "One mans trash is anothers treasure". To each his own.

AngelaM said...

Yep, what you said - depends on the size of the skeleton and how long it's been rattling around in that closet.

Bailey Quincy said...

OneChele you are hitting it hard this week. Just had a situation where I found out some stuff about this guys past. We are only on date two but now I'm looking at him like - i'm.Not.Sure. He swears it's in the past but... I guess we'll see.

ASmith said...

I think there are some things in a person's past you have to let go because of how long ago it was. People do change.

However, I think one would be foolish to hear their current boo say "My ex broke up with me because I cheated" and not at least store that little nugget in the back of your mind. This is dangerous territory because you don't want to start accusing them of cheating right away and you don't want to have to be suspicious of everything they do. But should the signs ever legitimately present themselves...well... then you know the deal.

I truly believe the past is a good indicator of the future, sans some serious changes to one's self and/or situation.

Troy said...

Anytime I find out that a girl I'm tryna date has that rep, I move her to j/o status

BB Waite said...

I saw something on TV about this woman who was missing. Her husband had been "suspected" of killing his first wife. And I thought- you found out this guy might have killed his first wife and you said= I'll give it a try anywyay?! That kind of skeleton (like a literal skeleton!)  you can't ignore!

Guest said...

You said it right ASmith - the past is a great indicator of the future though you do have to allow for the possibility of people changing (hopefully for the better)

Guest said...

Well I've certainly made some mistakes in my past and I'd like to think they won't be held over my head forever. But I do understand that unless I act differently, people will always see as the same old person

Kayla said...

I like the idea that it's like crime with a statute of limitations! Tomfoolery should get a pass after a little while but major issues (especially that haven't been resolved) need to be addressed

Tiffany Nicole said...

Good brain food...I like to think that I look at a person based on the evidence that I see now at this present point. I can give you the benefit of the doubt untill you prove otherwise. I try to go into everything slow and easy. I kicked it with a guy who was fresh out the joint after a 10 yr bid. Some of the best I have ever relationship status but we super cool. He still talks to this day how he respects the fact that I didn't judge him for his past but gave him an opportunity. Lawd knows I have acted a FOOL at some point in my lifetime. We all have past actions we are ashameful of, but the key point is what are you doing now...

true2me said...

I think past stuff should remain in the past. Especially if it wasn't done to you. You have to give a person a chance with you. Maybe they learned from that experience. Besides, what matters most is how they treat you now.

I guess this is coming from a person who has done some stuff. Oh well...

bcopher said...

If the person you're dating has a history that repeats itself like heartburn after a spicy meal, you need to run for the hills. A former friend of mine is now engaged to a man who has cheated on every girlfriend and wife. She'll be wife # 3 soon. SMH. He has also cheated on her several times, at least twice with the same ex-gf. When you put up with some drama like that, you kinda get what you deserve.
I understand that we all have our issues. However if the person seems to keep beating the same drum, it might be time to use your brain and let it burn. If it's something small and forgiveable, give it a go.

Jane knows Jane said...

Cool post, gives me a few things to think about. I think some people outgrow their "youthful" indiscretions, others never do. It's a judgment call

uglyblackjohn said...

Some women are dumb as hell and think that they can change a man.
Back when I was a ho, my friends and I would warn any girl with a good reputation (If they were a ho too, they shoulda' known the game.) that I was still in my ho stage.
But the odd thing was that many women from good families and a nice level of social status thought that they were the one who could tame me.
After their feelings were hurt, my friends would just laugh and say that they tried to warn the women.

But there are women who I desired but thought too much of to ever be more than just friends.
I've slept in the same bed with these women (while crashing after a night out) without anything ever happening.
These women also warn the potentials without success.
It seems that being with certain women can raise one's "Resale value" in the eyes of other women.


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