You were deprived.
Hungry. Thirsty. You were in want of food for your body and water for your soul. He seemed to be right on time, bearing gifts, and grins that made the empty parts of you wake up from their slumber. So, you got fed. Finally. Fed. You got filled up. Finally full. The time, attention, gifts, and sex…they were pieced together just like a relationship. They were almost reality. They could have been true. They could have been given with sincerity, with honesty, with openness, and unhitched generosity.
But you knew they weren’t given like that (from a naked, true, singular heart). You knew there were strings. There were LOTS of conditions.
You had to keep it all on the low. At first, no one needed to know, because it was none of their business. Soon, no one could know, because it was too much of your business. Too much of your secrets. Too much of your lies. There was too much evidence of your hunger and thirst, out in the open. There were too many eyes that could see your pain on display. So you began to hide yourself and your history with that guy. You hid your whereabouts. You guarded your schedule. You kept your thoughts to yourself. You covered up your feelings. That’s when you started to become delusional. It’s when you started to disappear.
Your delusions went unnoticed and your disappearance was ignored…by you.
The biggest tricks of the Side Chick lover identity are not the infidelity, deceit, and duplicity it contorts into normalcy, even inevitably. All of those developments are too obvious to be tricks.
The biggest tricks of the Side Chick lover identity are the delusions and erasures it manufactures.
As a Side Chick you spent so much time obsessing over your imaginary relationship, you thought you were considering your well-being. You felt humiliated and stupid. Yet, you thought you were smart, plotting a course to take care of yourself, to get what you so desperately wanted…what you thought you needed, whatever it was you believed you deserved. Yet, you weren’t really doing the work. The healthy outcomes you talked about incessantly were not happening. They weren’t coming true. You were delusional.
Unmanaged hunger and thirst do that to a person.
While you were obsessing (yet being deluded), thinking yourself safe and big (maybe even strong), because of your vigilance and focus, you were actually shrinking. You were disappearing. You were losing touch with what made you happy, what made you sad, what made you laugh, what triggered your anger, what made you feel peaceful, for real. You were disrespecting yourself (and her), everyday. You were getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller for weeks, months, maybe years. You were being erased.
Disconnection and dis-ease do that to a person.
Delusions and erasure – the two biggest tricks of Side Chick.
This lover identity can bring shame, seediness, secrets, hushed voices, and many, long, intense crying spells. It can wipe you out and break up families and communities. It can also bring swanky gifts, expensive trips, stolen moments, hush money, hot, multi-orgasmic sex, sweet talk, arguing and fighting, big drama, and high intensity. All of these things made you imagine yourself as alive, heightened, desired, involved, taken. When, actually…all the while…you were embodying more shame. You were being pushed further into shadows, into the recesses of someone else’s imagination (his and hers), in the worst ways.
And you knew who she was.
You knew that guy had a Main Chick.
She was the public figure. You lived in the wings. Even from the shadows, you knew she was known and liked and you were (un)known and hated. Even though you two didn’t meet, you thought about her a lot (just as she thought about you). You imagined that she could be just like anyone from your crew: smart, sweet, funny, and devoted. Holding that image of her, in contrast to the image you had of yourself made you feel even worse. You imagined her as clean, bright, smiling, and new. You imagined yourself as adorned with rootless gifts and on fire with lust on the outside…while wasting away, suffering fast, ugly returns of that hunger, thirst, and self loathing on the inside.
You were deluded about yourself and your life and erased from yourself and his life.
You were deluded about yourself and your life and also amplified in yourself and her life.
You were a Side Chick. A joke. A loser and a liar. You were someone to be pitied. That’s what you became, a problem that needed to go away.
And away you went. When she’d had enough and gave him the ultimatum you knew he would concede to (because he didn’t truly love you and he couldn’t truly leave her), you were sent packing.
Or, you got up and left of your own volition.
When the attention started to be laced with disdain, when the time together lessened, then became stressful and tense, when the gifts stopped, the orgasms wouldn’t come anymore, and you could no longer sleep in the presence of your anger, guilt, shame, sadness, and anxiety, you left.
Somehow, it ended.
When it ended you felt intense pain, unlike any you’d ever felt before. But, you also felt relieved and released. Slowly. You tasted freedom again. You remembered you have a voice of your own. You opened your eyes. Your ears were unplugged. You could feel your skin without also feeling traces of his hands and his lips. You started coming back to yourself. You woke up.
And you realized you were in a prison you had built. That fact, in itself, terrified you. Knowing that you shackled and confined yourself in that sideshow meant that there was something in you that was both sick and strong enough to kill you and you had no idea it was there and you still can’t name or place it.
So, you tore out of that prison with fire, with a vengeance, with power and indignation.
Or, maybe not.
Maybe you dragged yourself out, weak and tired, filled up with those delusions. Maybe you were barely there after all those erasures, crawling on your hands and knees.
The point is, you got out.
Then, you had to rebuild.
You had to pick yourself up off the floor or out of the gutter where you lived for that summer, that year, or that decade you lived on the side. You had to wash yourself off with soap and water you needed to borrow from that friend who was watching and knew what was happening all along. Remember her? She was the one who stood by you, without judging or lecturing. Instead, she prayed fervently and kept watch until you came to your senses…or got kicked out…and she helped you remember who you were before you got sidelined and sidetracked. She held onto her faith in God and in you, despite all evidence to the contrary. She held that faith until you woke up from the soul shattering fantasy you co-constructed, and started to write yourself back into a healthy, honest, homegrown reality. She let you borrow her faith in you as you rebuilt your own.
How do I know all this? I know because I’m a recovering Main Chick. Main Chicks and Side Chicks are so interconnected, we often function as an inverse. Our lover identities touch and sometimes take each other’s place. In my reign as Main Chick, my love and life was once so peppered with dis-ease, I actually lived as a Side Chick twice. So, I learned to read and write the stories of Side Chicks by heart. I know all about you and your once upon a time.
I even wrote a book featuring you and some of your stories. In The Revelations of Asher, I explore Black women’s terror in love. I write about the fragmented selves that get emotionally, psychology, and physically abused, then form concentric ties to build toxic lover identities (like Side Chick).
I don’t stop there though. In the book, I also share a way out and point to a method for undoing Side Chick, Main Chick, Bonnie, Bitch, and Victim.
Whether your once upon a time is over, or you’re still in your nightmare, I can show you a path out of your pain and your prison. I can help you experience the love you lost for yourself and others. Be in touch to find out how and be sure to “Get the gift.”
Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language & African American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, spring 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.
Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.