Illustration by Sam Liacos. Photos by Kashmir Thompson.
Months before tying the knot, artist Kashmir Thompson (@kashmirviii) and producer Kyle Hayes (@busyworksport) set aside wedding planning–and honeymoon daydreaming–to have a conversation about love. For ILY’s Conversation series, the creative couple gets very real on their fears, how they knew the other was the “one,” and how important it is to create a safe harbor to grow.
Kashmir Thompson: How would you define love?
Kyle Hayes: My definition of love has to do with what I think love isn’t. A lot of relationships that were supposed to help me define things didn’t help me define anything. My definition is doing the opposite of what I’ve seen growing up. Love is respecting your significant other. Love is being respected. It’s me valuing your opinion. It’s me not being afraid to let you have your moments. It’s me listening to you.
It’s all about respect. In order for you to love somebody, you have to respect them because there are certain things that you’re not going to do to a person you love. There are certain things you shouldn’t do if you really love someone.
Kashmir: Love is the only feeling you can’t get rid of. You can get rid of hate. You can get rid of fear. Love is something that can withstand everything.
Kyle: Yeah. You might not even rock with somebody anymore, but you’re always going to have love for ’em–even at the lowest point. You know?
Kashmir: Right. You can fall out of love with people. You can want distance between you and someone, but once you love somebody, that’s gonna be somebody that you’ll love forever. Love is an emotion that can conquer all, at the end of the day.
Kyle: It’s about how much you let that love dictate everything within the relationship. You can rock with somebody or not rock with somebody, but still love ’em. I got plenty of people that I don’t rock with now, but I’mma always have love for ’em–friends, exes, whatever. It’s about how much you let love dictate how you behave towards them and what you tolerate from them.
Kashmir: I agree. How did you first learn about love or from whom did you learn about love?
Kyle: Phew. Again, a lot of the stuff I seen growing up, that was supposed to be love, was turbulent. I first learned about love from reading. I learned about love from seeing how others love. We always talk about how Stevie Wonder can articulate love in such a way, and this is a man who’s never seen, you know what I mean? A lot of stuff that I seen coming up didn’t help. I had to learn and unlearn so much in terms of what I thought love was, what I wanted it to be, and what I needed it to be.
Kashmir: I think I first learned about love from my family–especially from my grandmother. My grandmother showed you that she loved you—of course in ways that grandmas do, but it was different. There was something in the way she loved and the way that she cared about people that was different.
I always think of her, but especially around Christmas time. When my grandma would give gifts, she would give you stuff that would be super cheap, but always stuff that you would use. She would literally wrap dish washing liquid or like…
Kashmir: I’m so serious. I have a little cousin, who I was closest to when growing up, and she loved rice. So my grandma gave her a bag of rice for Christmas. She never had money to go all out and buy extravagant gifts, but what she’d give you, you knew it came from the heart. It was always something that you were going to use. The way she loved and the way that she showed love was a lot.
Kyle: A big part of love is learning how to give thoughtlessly. And, that’s something you definitely pick up from family.
Kashmir: What daydream about love would you like to make a reality?
Kyle: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a daydream, but I’m ready for our honeymoon–wherever we decide to go.
Kashmir: I was gonna say the same, and the wedding.
Kyle: I don’t wanna sound cliché or like I’m laying it on, but we create so many dope moments to where if I’m daydreaming about something, it’s something that we’ve already done or something that we’re getting ready to do. We’ve been blessed to be able to move around and travel together; I think that really strengthens our bond, and again, it gives me something to look forward to and something to look back on. We always have a good time wherever we go.
Kashmir: Yeah, we do. I’m really excited for the wedding and the honeymoon. I always think about it. It’s gonna be a really great day. I’m excited to have all the people that I love in one space. You know what I mean?
I’ll have you who I love as a husband. I’ll have my friends there who I love like friends and then my family who I love like family. There will be so many different types of love in one room–it’s not something that happens too often.
Kyle: Asking somebody to marry you or to accept somebody’s marriage proposal is saying, “Let’s turn this whole thing into a melting pot. Let’s mix families. Let’s do all of it together. Let’s make our whole twosome into a union, and everything that comes with it.” Naturally, I’m going to insulate you from certain things that may go on in my family because even though we are committed, I know there’s certain things you didn’t sign up for and I’m not gonna have you bare an extra burden.
Kashmir: Are you scared about anything as far as being married?
Kyle: Oh yeah. I don’t want you to get sick of me. And, I don’t want to get sick of you. As much as we like to think that’s not a possibility, we never know. Me personally, it would suck, because I know how much sweat and equity we’ve put into this, and there’s stuff that you’ve seen and heard from me that I’ve never told anybody; it just comes out.
And it’s wack to think about starting over. My biggest fear is having to start over. I look around on a daily and think, This is some cool shit. People really respect how we move. It’s not like we’re trying to be a “thing.” I don’t want us to be a “thing,” but if people respect how we treat each other, that’s all you can ask for.
Kashmir: What have you learned from love that you’d want to teach me?
Kyle: [Sighs] I trust your judgment. I think if I could teach you anything per se, it’s to listen. Just listen, and not in a way where I’mma end all opinions. I’m older than you, and even though we’ve both been through things, nine times out of 10, if I’m trying to express something to you, it’s because I know what I’ve been through and I know what I’m trying to say to you. I’m not trying to hurt you or let you get hurt.
Love requires a certain level of understanding. In order for me to sit here and say I fully love you, I have to be willing to understand you; I can say that’s definitely something that you’ve taught me. I know that I have to make a better effort to understand you. I watched my mom be misunderstood or totally shut down. You can really push a person to a certain point if you’re not willing to try and understand them, especially if you know they’re not doing you any harm or harm to themselves.
Kashmir: One thing I would want to teach you that I learned from love is that communication is key; I know that’s kinda cliché. I’m not even trying to say that you’re bad at communicating, but that’s one of the biggest lessons that I learned myself.
Kyle: Communication is so fluid. There’s so many different ways to communicate. I have to audibly understand you. I have to be able to physically understand you, your body language. I have to be able to read you as a person to then determine my next move. Great ships get sunk by the smallest of pinholes and that’s the number one cause of people falling by the waste side–miscommunication. I know that if I’m willing to understand you, ultimately there’s no way that we can’t communicate because my heart is open and my ears are open and my eyes are open. I might misinterpret something, but I’m not beyond asking for an explanation. Pride might get in the way, and it might turn into a thing, because that’s just how things go sometimes. But, ultimately, I’m willing to understand you.
Kashmir: What about me revitalizes you?
Kyle: It’s the way you treat me. I think you have no quarrel with uplifting me or listening to me or trying to help me. You’ve done a well enough job, a helluva job with undertaking the process of what it is to know me. I know I’m not the easiest person to deal with and I know I have my days, but knowing that you’re always going to be there and you haven’t let me down yet, is enough for me to stay on course.
Kashmir: I think the thing about you that revitalizes me was the fact that..
Kashmir: Well, is but, it’s kinda past tense because it’s a hump that I got over.
Kashmir: But, and we talked about it before, me trying to take myself more seriously–as a woman, the way that I carry myself, and the way I present myself to people. It’s something I’m still working on, but I feel like I’ve grown so much from the time we met to now because of some of the things that you’ve taught me and showed me. You revitalized me as a woman.
Kyle: And to me, I think that’s a helluva trophy to have because you don’t need me for anything. You’re highly capable on your own, as you are. You were already who you were the moment I met you. It was written, and for you to take in anything that I may have imparted means a lot. I mean, is that a decision you make? Like, “If I’m going to be with this person, I gotta…”
Kashmir: Yeah, that was definitely a decision.
Kyle: What about me made you make that decision?
Kashmir: We needed to match to a certain extent and even though on the inside we matched, there was still something about us that was missing, some type of cohesiveness. I don’t know if it’s because I’m younger than you, but I had to make a conscious decision and effort to, for lack of a better word, step up my game up so I’m not with you looking like a lil’ girl.
Kyle: Like you know, I think you’re beautiful and I’d love for everybody to see you how I see you. I mean that in the most respectful way. I’m not saying you gotta dress like this or that. I would love for everybody to see you how I see you, and that’s important to me. It’s not for pictures or any shit like that; it’s about two people having a good vibe between them.
For what it’s worth, I’m glad to be a part of your evolution. When you’re trying to level up or make a change, you really need somebody there to ride it out with you. It’s hard because you go through life and know there’s changes that you have to make. You know there’s things that you have to do and not everybody’s going to understand certain decisions. It’s the best thing in the world to have somebody with you that understands those decisions. And even if or when I don’t understand 100%, I trust your judgment and know you’re going to do what’s best for you.