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.