My Love Life Through Black Films

Words by Kamaria Gboro.

Some of us are good at very specific things. I can start tons of email threads, connect friends, color coordinate my closet, and plan events, but what have my friends crowned me the queen of? Black-buster films. I don’t run to the theater every time a black film hits the big screen, but if the preview moves me, I may. The common subject in every black film I love is love itself.

My favorite movie of all time is Brown Sugar. I was once obsessed with the story of two childhood friends growing up and apart, but somehow staying in touch—eventually giving in to the romance they had avoided for so long. I dreamed my life would unfold the same way.

I was the most outgoing at 13. This was a time in my life when my crushes knew I liked them, which is very different from now. Rejection didn’t cause anxiety. My best guy friend and I talked on the phone everyday. We talked about our childish fights, our love of music, and annoying teachers. One night we were on the phone and I felt it was the right time to tell him I had a crush on him. I remember standing in my Minnie Mouse adorned room, on the house phone, staring into the ceiling like I was the love interest in a B2K music video.

In that moment, it was all or nothing. What did I have to lose? We were good enough friends that worst case scenario would be that he’d joke and we’d act like I never said anything. “I have something to tell you,” I said. “I think I like someone.”

“Who?” he responded. Me being the girl I am said, “A few people. I’ll tell you if you tell me who you like.” He agreed. I rattled off some names before ending with, “The guy I’m on the phone with.”

His response was similar to mine, but at the same time not what I expected. He named names that had my eyes rolling, all before saying mine. On “Kamaria,” we both laughed. It was silly, but cute. Middle school would create a rift between us for we went to different schools, hung out with different people, and had less to talk about every night.

In Brown Sugar, the thread that kept two friends together throughout life was hip-hop. You hear Sanaa Lathan’s character Sidney Shaw say metaphoric statements like “When did you fall in love with hip-hop?” or “I remember the day hip-hop grew up” in relation to hers and Andre ‘Dre’ Ellis’ (Taye Diggs) relationship with music and each other. Seeing someone you care for grow up and away is hard. We get used to being a certain kind of way with what and who we love. Inevitable detachment hurts, and it’s hard to be honest about wanting to see people grow, especially if that growth means parting ways from you.

Later into my teens and my early ’20s, I went through a serious neo soul moment. I was on my India Arie, Floetry, and Jill Scott flow, writing poetry, and spending too much time at hipster coffee shops and aspiring rapper-laden open mic nights. A relationship like Common and Erykah Badu’s described in “Love of My Life” was always in the back of my mind. I thought being an aspiring poet might be beneficial to my love life, like Nina (Nia Long) and Darius (Larenz Tate) in Love Jones. The way they talked about each other and to each other was magical. They were truly enamored by the thought of one another and their individual talents. Their love was passionate–maybe too passionate.

My neo soul-type moment was a little different. My love life in high school was nonexistent. It wasn’t until the second semester of my senior year I met a guy I deemed special. He had just transferred to my school, was a quick-witted writer, and loved living life on the edge. (In hindsight, he may have just enjoyed the thrill of being reprimanded by his parents and school faculty.) I was attracted to his interest in art and culture.

We hung out a lot and I shared more with him than anyone I had liked prior. We joked about going to prom together, but in true dudes-always-let-you-down-fashion, it became nothing but an empty promise. We bumped heads more often than not because he preferred floating on a cloud than talking to me sober. I was considering attending school out of state, while he toyed with the idea of continuing school. When I finally left, Facebook alerted me he was in a relationship. I wasn’t upset until I received phone call from his girlfriend, saying she was his girlfriend and we needed to end contact.

My artsy phase didn’t have a high return on love, but I appreciated the moment I connected with someone beyond physical and mundane interactions. As I’ve grown to learn and love who I am, this hazy idea of love has become more of a challenge. I have become envious of friends when in the realm of love. I’m a certain kind of chick (a bigger woman with the hips, tummy, and butt to match), and I can count on my fingers how many times a smaller, dare I say “prettier” “friend” has swooped in on a crush of mine. And when your crush chooses her over you, it’s the type of rejection that hurts more than any screened call or Facebook update.

I can’t help but think of Just Wright–A film in which a passionate basketball fanatic meets a basketball star who she hits it off with, but he’s attracted to her slimmer, “sweeter” cousin. The attraction spirals into many dates, a quick move-in, and an even quicker engagement that her cousin was skeptical about but supports nonetheless.

It’s hard to stand on the sidelines and watch someone you love choose someone else. What’s worse is when sitting on the sidelines as a supportive friend isn’t enough, even when your connection with said person, in your opinion, is much stronger than the one you’re watching play out. “How long will I be second best and deal with guys asking me the forbidden question, ‘Why are you single?’ as they rave about what a catch I am?” I ask myself this everyday, each day with less hope. The longing for being loved is one that doesn’t fade away easily, but rejection has a way of making love feel unattainable. And if it doesn’t feel unattainable, it feels like I need to change who I am to find the one.

In the blinks I find myself wanting to fabricate who I am to get someone on my team, I find reason. Hope is low, but hasn’t diminished. If someone chooses to love me, they have to love all of me–as is. My affinity for black films is likely due to the subconscious idea that one day my black love story will unfold like the scenes in those films. It’s a fairy tale world to live in, until that one perfect scene you’ve recited for so long becomes your reality. I can feel it coming.

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