“Hey, sis. I am standing here in the parking lot with a nice gentleman who said that he’s watched you in church for years and would like to meet you.”
Intrigued, I began to ask the requisite questions that all single women ask when the unsolicited, “I have a nice man for you,” proposition occurs. I inquired about his sexual orientation, time spent incarcerated and employment status. With ease, the suitor passed my pre-test, so I allowed my brother to lead the phone-number exchange.
For three months we dated, prayed together, traveled and attended large, local events. I felt certain that we were on a long-term path, especially when he expressed to my dad that he was ready to settle down and explained all the reasons why I would make the perfect wife.
Still, I could never shake a soft, nagging feeling that something was amiss.
Was I simply being jaded from previous dating experiences?
Yes, his home was decorated like that of a 60-year-old woman, which he explained by saying he had an overbearing mother who insisted on decorating his home. He said his parents lived out of town, so I easily made that an allowable story, because most of Charlotte’s residents are transplants.
Finally, the day came when my gut-whispers became as loud as an African drum, and I decided to put on my detective hat and began my Google investigation.
Mo, the sleuth
Name searches led to social media pages, which led to a biography, which led to owned properties. My wide net was now cast, which resulted in the ultimate discovery – that he had a wife.
In that moment, I understood every word of Jazmine Sullivan’s song, “Bust Your Windows,” because every cell in my body was enraged. He had selfishly brought me into a world that I had not agreed to enter – a world that could have cost me my soul.
He had been married for years. His parents lived in the same city, and the overdecorated house I had visited so many times belonged to his parents, who traveled frequently. His wife’s social media page was flooded with wedding photos and well wishes from friends on their 10th anniversary.
His explanation was simple. He needed a friend and I made him feel alive. But his need to feel alive had deadened a part of me.
It’s not uncommon
We see it on reality TV and overhear it in the locker room at the gym or while sipping wine with girlfriends.
A few months back, Charlotte was abuzz about a proposed TV show that would put local mistresses, a.k.a. “side chicks,” on display. The backlash was fierce against the women. They were called homewreckers, trash and every other derogatory name imaginable.
Meanwhile, the heat was mild against the cheating men who broke their marriage vows and threaten their own homes by taking on these mistresses.
When cheating occurs, the women far too often are left to explain a man’s infidelity — placed on a whipping post while the husbands quietly fall back into the shadows, only to find their next prey.
The reality is that most singles are not interested in dating someone who is married, and we are often blindsided and broken when the truth is discovered. But new love is exhilarating, hot and romantic, so we miss the subtle signs.
Recently, while doing some early-morning grocery shopping, a well-dressed man approached me and said, “I always see you in here. You must really know how to cook!”
Small talk ensued, and he asked if he could take me to dinner. Oddly, though, his only time available was Monday through Thursday, because, he said, he had to care for his sick mother Friday through Sunday.
I knew that story.
I dryly asked, “So how long have you been married, and does she work out of town, or do you?”
His face was full of shock as he pushed his cart as far away from me as he could.
Over time, I have learned to recognize the signs.
· a tan line where a wedding band should be
· a preference for the word “separated,” but never “married”
· a sudden illness on special events
· dates scheduled in secluded places
· dates during happy hour
· get-away trips within the first weeks of meeting
· everything paid in cash
· social media sharing off limits
· reluctance to take selfies
· no touching in public
Some men misread a woman’s independence, single status and accomplishments as a mask for loneliness and desperation, and we become targets for those seeking a “friend” or new experiences.
So watch for the signs, and ask lots of questions. The last thing you want is to kiss the frog who is already someone else’s prince.