Full Exposure

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I have to be honest, I can’t blame it all on my business travel. I had major writer’s block due to second guessing.

I know it has been a while since I have written.  I have to be honest, I can’t blame it all on my business travel.  I had major writer’s block due to second guessing.

I went to a party last month.  I love parties in LA where it’s a REAL party where people are actually dancing and having a good time.  The music was loud, the drinks were flowing, and the crowd had an east coast feel to it.  While I was out on the dance floor jamming to some old school I got a tap on my shoulder.  I turned around and low and behold there was “McDreamy.”  (If you’re not familiar please refer to the original blog post- http://confessionsofaserialdaterinla.com/2013/01/wtf-perplexed-and-confused/).  He was still looking fine as hell.  And he was still with one of his typical video vixen type chicks.  I immediately went into panic mode.  My heart started beating fast.  I tried to inhale and exhale deeply.  I talked to my inner diva. “Relax, there’s no way in hell he knows about the blog.”  He gave me a hug and whispered in my ear.

McDreamy:  Nice blog.

Oh shit.  Oh shit.  Oh shit.  He knows!  I had to think to think quickly.  My wine induced buzz certainly didn’t help matters.  So I did what any mature woman would do.

Me:  What blog?  I have no idea what you’re talking about. 

With that I walked off.  News flash, sometimes I am still that 15 year old trapped in a 35 year woman’s body.  When I started this blog, I knew I was targeting women and gay men.  I figured a few men might find out about it.  But I never thought my subjects would know.  Besides, I changed the names to protect the Foolery.  When I write, I feel protected behind my keyboard and lap top screen.  I called my mother the next day.

Me:  Mommy!  I ran into one of my subjects!

Mom:  (after cracking up for a good 30 seconds) What did he say?

Me:  Nice blog.

Mom:  What did you say?

Me:  I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about.

Mom:  Well why would you do that?  You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Me:  Mom he probably hates me!  I’m mortified.

Mom:  You’re going to have to have a thicker skin.  Just own your shit! 

I hung up the phone with my mom.  I loved her candor, honesty, and support.  But I still called about 4 other friends of mine who pretty much said the same thing.  Two weeks later I was at a networking event.  I was at the bar having a sparkling water.  And just because Murphy’s Law likes to fuck with me to epic proportions, guess who I ran into again… You guessed it.  “McDreamy.”

McDreamy:  I was serious when I told you nice blog.

Me: You were?

McDreamy:  Yeah.  I like how you write.  It’s really entertaining.

Me:  How did you find out about it?

McDreamy:  I just did.

Me:  Are you mad?

McDreamy:  Hell no!  I wanted to frame it.  I liked your description of me.  It was on point.

Suddenly I relaxed and decided to use this as an opportunity.  How often do we as women have the chance to ask man how he really feels?  And what the hell is his problem?

Me:  I am so glad.  I was worried you had put my picture on a dart board.  But seriously McDreamy, you are so handsome, smart, and fun.  Why do you have to be a freak?!

McDreamy:  It’s just a lifestyle I prefer.

Me:  Okay.  Well I have one question for you.  Since you’re into the swinging lifestyle are you bi?

I figured, since he was so open I might as well get all my questions answered.

McDreamy:  When I read that I laughed.  Hell no.  I’m just not into traditional sex.  You should try it.

Me:  Real funny.  Like I said, that’s never going down.  It’s just a shame because we could be so good together but you are into some freaky shit that I just could not ever get down with.  But I really appreciate you being the honest person you are.

McDreamy:  That’s all I ever can be.  Keep up the blog.  I think it has potential to be big.  For real.

Running in McDreamy

Me: Are you mad?
McDreamy: Hell no! I wanted to frame it. I liked your description of me. It was on point.

We hugged.  And it was such a great feeling to really close that chapter.  It’s not like he and I had some deep relationship.  But what was special for me was getting the opportunity to ask any question that was in my head.  And having a man be open and honest.  It felt… GROWN.  “McDreamy” will forever go down in my books as one of the most honest and upfront men.  Oh yeah, and fine too.

So I got over that hurdle.  And then a few weeks ago I wrote a post, When the Boss is Away (here’s the original- http://confessionsofaserialdaterinla.com/2013/03/when-the-boss-is-away/).  That’s when it hit home that men… straight men were reading my blog.  I was at a party and ran into a friend of mine.  He said, Dang you really called old boy out.  I hope his wife isn’t reading your blog.  Then later on that same day I was on Facebook and commented on an old high school friend’s post.  His response.  Watch out… Russell might be coming for you LOL!

That’s when I freaked out.  I called my girlfriend and told her what happened.

Girlfriend #1:  Well guuuurl, I can’t lie to you.  If I was a guy and had someone I wanted to introduce you to, I would probably think twice.  Put the shoe on the other foot.  What if a guy wrote about the women he dated would you want to introduce him to your friend?

Me:  I don’t know it depends on what he writes.  Shit, it’s not like I’m Superhead and writing about some crazy sex shit.

Girlfriends #1:  I know.  But I’m just saying.

Then I called another friend.  Because of course like every good patient you have to get a second opinion.  Besides I figured I would get a married friends take on the situation.

Girlfriend #2:  I didn’t think about that.  But that’s a good point.  A lot of men might not like it.  But I love it.  It’S my weekend reading.  I told you I even showed it to my husband.

Me:  Well what did your husband say?

Girlfriend #2:  (long awkward pause)  Uh…

Me:  Well, what did he say?

Girlfriend #2:  Well, he said, why in the hell would she write about that?

Me:  Oh my God!  Oh my God.  This blog is going to be the cause of me becoming an Old Maid.  I’m shutting it down.

Girlfriend #2:  Are you crazy?!  Why in the hell would you shut it down?  It’s entertaining.  You can’t do that!

Me:  I gotta call you back.

I hung up the phone and went downstairs and grabbed my mega goblet and poured a humungous glass of a 2009 Cabernet I was saving for a special occasion.  I figured this was the best occasion.  Clearly I wouldn’t be sharing it with my second husband because I would never have another husband because I am writing a blog.  I tried to watch TV but still couldn’t concentrate.  And just like clockwork my phone rang and it was my mother.  Sometimes I think that she has video cameras installed in my house.  She always seems to call when I am having moments of major self doubt.  I told her what happened.

Mom:  Well that’s good, you want people to read it.  I told you some of my friends have even shared it with their husbands.

Me: But mommy, I never thought men would read this.  What if I meet a guy I really like and he finds out about the blog?  Then what?  He might leave me.

Mom:  Why in the hell would you want to be with a man that would leave you over something so stupid.  The right man will support you in all your dreams.  I keep telling you really need to develop a tougher skin. 

Me:  I know, I know. 

After 4 or 5 more phone calls to various people with the same opinions I still didn’t feel fully exonerated.  Over the next week I tried to write.  But I couldn’t get the words out.  I was second guessing myself every step of the way.  Everything I wrote seemed forced all because I wasn’t being true to myself.  You see, when I write my posts I give it my all.  I am fully genuine and authentic.  I do not pretend to be a dating expert because I am not.  I also do not write about any guy I am currently dating or really like.  But the sudden steam I had when I started the blog suddenly evaporated and I questioned whether or not to go on.  There is a point in everyone’s life where they come to a cross roads.  I was at this cross roads.  I could either shut the blog down or finish what I started and keep going down this path of uncertainty.  That’s when my girlfriend called back.

woman-consoling-her-friend

“You need to think of yourself as writing the soundtrack of dating. Get out of your own way.”

Girlfriend #1:  I thought about our conversation.

Me:  You did?

Girlfriend #1:  You have to get out of your own way.

Me:  I know, but I am beginning to question everything. 

Girlfriend #1:  How do you think we came to grow and love Mary J. Blige?  She wrote songs about her own experiences and they were from the heart.  That’s why we love her.

Me:  I never thought about it like that.  To be honest I miss the bitter 90’s Mary J. Blige.  I liked when she wrote about heartbreak.

Girlfriend #1:  Exactly.  Songwriters don’t second guess themselves. 

Me:  That’s true.

Girlfriend #1:  You need to think of yourself as writing the soundtrack of dating.  Get out of your own way.

BLD085240

If full exposure means I am misbehaved. Well damn it, let me continue to write my place in “his-tory” or as I like to call it… “She-tory.” I will continue to stay fully exposed….

I got off the phone with her and began to see a small peak of light at the end of the tunnel.  I thought back to when I was dating my ex-husband and our marriage.  At that time I gave up a lot of things to make him happy.  Things that were important to me.  And here I was about to fall into the same pattern over an imaginary man I hadn’t even met!  I was about to sacrifice my creativity and something I was truly enjoying just so that I could be more “appealing” to someone who didn’t quite exist.  How many times have we as women done that?  How many times have we sacrificed our own needs and our own desires all so that we could appease someone who wasn’t worthy?  That when I made the decision to keep going.  I would never ever allow myself to not be true to who I am.  Some people may read my blog and say, “This bitch is crazy! Why is she writing about this?  I hope she doesn’t tell everything.”  There might be men out there who are secretly reading this and think, “I would never let my wife/girlfriend have a blog… I thought she was cool but I don’t want to date her because she might write about me.”  Well damn it; don’t give me shit to write about!  Perhaps read this and learn what not to do.  At the end of the day I am going to finish what I started.  All I can do is be honest, genuine, and authentic.  If it entertains, great, if someone learns something or it just makes them laugh through a difficult time like a divorce or a relationship ending then even better.  All I can say is that Confessions of a Serial Dater in LA is here to stay.  I recently came across a quote.  “Well behaved women rarely make history.”  If full exposure means I am misbehaved.  Well damn it, let me continue to write my place in “his-tory” or as I like to call it… “She-tory.”  I will continue to stay fully exposed….
Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+

The Return of The Vapor

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The Return of The Vapor

Runyon Canyon is one of my favorite places in LA.  Aside from the big ass dogs that are off their leashes and the smell of dog shit the views of the city is amazing.  The workout is also intense.  Afterwards I always feel like my head is cleared and I have a greater appreciation for LA.  I had just gotten in my car and was putting the top down to continue to enjoy the amazing California weather.  If you can’t appreciate having 75 degrees weather in the heart of the winter than you have issues.  I was heading to Whole Foods to pick up my Emerald Sesame Kale salad for a post workout snack when my phone rang.  I typically do not answer calls if I do not know the number.  But it was Saturday and the number looked vaguely familiar besides I was in good spirits and in a Zen mode.  I picked up the phone and to my astonishment it was…  “Gary.”  (Refer to previous post: case of the Dating Vapors  http://confessionsofaserialdaterinla.com/2013/02/case-of-the-dating-vapors/ )

Gary:  Hi there.

I made a mental note to myself to stop deleting numbers after a guy pisses me off for this very reason.  At least I could have been prepared if I knew it was him calling.  Back in my 20’s when a guy pissed me off I would change his name to Do Not Answer so when they called I would see that flash up as the name and know not to answer.  But that didn’t work because those times when I got tipsy I would still send a text or call them.  By the way, side note… Friends should never let friends text drunk.  It is the number 1 killer of dignity among women from the ages of 22-33.  Anyway I digressed.  I had a few options.

1-      Hang the phone up in his face.

2-      Give him a “sista girl” response with the head roll and all and check this fool.

3-      Act like nothing happen and be pleasant.

4-      Hear him out first and determine if 1, 2, or 3 is the appropriate response.

I went with the 4th option.  Besides I was in such a peaceful state.  I would be damned if I gave him the power to change my mood.  I didn’t realize how long I had him waiting.

Gary:  Hello?  Are you there?

Me:  Well hello there.

Gary:  How have you been?

I really wanted to say, “If you had bothered to pick up the damn phone two months ago when we were supposed to go out you would know. “  But instead:

Me:  I’m wonderful…  What’s going on?

Gary:  Things have been crazy for me over the last few weeks.  I finally ended up selling the house and me and my ex were able to reach a settlement.  It’s been a hectic couple of weeks.

Me:  (waiting for an apology)  Mmmmm.  Hmmmmm.  I was wondering what happened to you.  I’m glad everything worked out for you.

Gary:  Yeah me too.  How’s your week looking? 

Me:  It’s pretty hectic, but I’m free Wednesday or Thursday evening.

Gary:  I would love to meet up with you for dinner.  How about Wednesday?

Back in the day I probably would have went off on him for standing me up or I would have been a total bitch made plans for the date and stood him up just to get even.  (Yes, I was once that petty and I am not ashamed).  However, with age comes wisdom.  So I decided to be honest with him.

Me:  You know, last time we made plans I never heard from you.  You never called to let me know you couldn’t make it and you never even bothered to apologize.  As a matter of fact, you still haven’t apologized.  My time is valuable and I expect a man to respect it.  I wouldn’t be honoring who I am if I allowed you to treat me that way and think its okay.

Gary:  I’m really sorry.  I had so much going on and I forgot we had made plans.

Me:  You forgot?  Really?  Come on Gary.  You’re a smart guy.  You can do better than that.

Gary:  You’re right.  That’s not the kind of person I am.  I don’t want you to think that way of me.

Me:  I don’t have any other frame of reference Gary.

Gary:  Please let me make it up to you.  Let’s meet Wednesday at 6 at Laurel Tavern for drinks.

I was suddenly feeling empowered.  It felt good to just be… me.  I wasn’t playing games and I wasn’t worried he was going to run off if I told him about himself.  To be honest I really didn’t care if he did.  I had nothing to lose.  I had also lost a good 8 pounds since the last time I saw him, I cut my hair into a short sassy cut, and I was really in a good place emotionally.

Me:  Okay Gary.  I’m going to give you another chance.  Don’t let me down.

Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon… The best place to clear your mind…

Wednesday rolled around.  I decided on a pair of skinny jeans, knee high boots, and a fitted low cut belted sweater.  I got to Laurel Tavern Grill 10 minutes late.  I walked in and looked around and I didn’t see him.  I went to the bathroom to give myself a once over.  By the time I came back out and I saw he still wasn’t there I went into panic mode.  Oh shit… here we go again.  I was certainly not going to wait on his ass.  I pondered walking out.  I didn’t think my ego could handle being stood up by the same guy twice!  My phone buzzed in my bag.  It was a text from “Gary.

Sorry I’m running late.  The traffic is bad.  I’ll be there in 15 minutes.

Phew!    At least he was coming.  I ordered a glass of White Haven Sauvignon Blanc and took a seat.  When “Gary” finally showed up I must admit the initial attraction I first had with him was not as strong.  Don’t get me wrong.  He still looked good.  But often times when a man has pissed me off I can’t stand the site of their ass.  Perhaps this was it.  His smile lit up and he gave me the tightest hug.  When he let go he was still holding my hands.

Gary:  Wow!  You look good.

Me:  Why thank you. 

We were off to a great start.  Since the last time I saw “Gary” he had travelled to China and Barbados to “clear his head.”  Apparently he was a wreck after his divorce, which I could certainly understand.  I had a feeling his divorce was not something he wanted.  Things were going really well.

Gary:  I thought about you a lot over the last few months.

Me:  Really, I can’t tell. 

Gary:  Was I that bad?

I looked at him like he had two heads.  Did he really want to revisit this conversation?

Me:  You stood me up and never called.  That’s pretty bad.

Gary:  I must admit.  I was a little taken aback with our last conversation.  You took things so seriously.

Was this man stupid or just plain retarded?  Perhaps I didn’t hear him correctly.

Me:  What do you mean?

Gary:  It kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

Me:  How?   

Gary:  I was going through a lot at the time.  And I felt you kind of jumped down my throat.  You could have been more understanding of my situation.

I counted backwards from 10 to 1.  The last thing I wanted to do was cuss his ass out.  Besides, I wanted to hear him out.

Me:  Gary, let me say this.  I’m not going to apologize for what I said because that’s how I felt.  But if it came of wrong in how I communicated it, well, I can work on that.

Gary:  Thanks I appreciate that. 

I waited for an apology to come out of his big stupid mouth for being a rude, inconsiderate ass hole.  I really wanted him to at least acknowledge his part in this.  But again, men can’t read minds.

Me:  And?

Gary:  And what?

Me:  Nothing Gary.  Never mind. 

And that’s when it hit me.  This was “Gary.”  He WAS a rude, inconsiderate, ass hole.  My new haircut, weight loss, and clear communication wasn’t going to change that.  It didn’t matter how beautiful I looked, how low cut my sweater was.  This was him.    I thought about how I felt when I didn’t hear from him after our first date, when he stood me up after that and didn’t call.  I also thought about how I felt moments earlier when I walked into the restaurant and he wasn’t there.  I thought about how I panicked thinking he wasn’t going to show up.  I can tolerate a lot of things in relationships.  But what I cannot and will not tolerate is inconsistency and a man who isn’t reliable.  I knew if I continued to date “Gary” this was who he is.  The audacity of him to try to check me for being honest with my feelings!  I wanted to smack myself for giving him a second chance.  We finished our drinks and he walked me to my car and gave me a hug.  I knew I had no intentions of ever going out with him again.

As I drove off from that date.  I had a similar feeling to the one I had that past weekend when I finished my hike on Runyon Canyon.  I suddenly couldn’t stop smiling.  For the very first time in my adult dating life, I was true to me.  I was honest with my feelings and told a guy how I expected to be treated and let him know I wouldn’t settle for anything less because I was worth it.  I wasn’t fearful that he would get turned off.  I knew my worth and I would never allow someone to come into my life that didn’t honor me.  Granted I didn’t get the response I wanted.  But I realized I had officially reached a dating pinnacle.  Being true to who you are and honoring who you are is the biggest dating high you can possibly have.  This was the new me!  And I would never revert to my old ways.  I headed home and turned up my radio and jammed to Cheryl Lynn’s song Got To Be Real.

 
Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+

The Missionary Position

Women in Bed

The Missionary Position

An acquaintance of mine was having a mixer for her clients.  She insisted that I attend.  I reluctantly headed over to Nic’s in Beverly Hills after work.   I was all about new adventures and breaking out of my comfort zone these days.  As soon as I walked into the door my friend ran up to me and gave me a big hug.  As she hugged me she whispered in my ear, “There’s someone here I want you to meet.”  Okay.  I didn’t mind getting set up.  It’s always nice to meet someone that came with references.  I would have preferred to get a heads up.  I might have gotten a little more dressed up for the occasion.  First things first, I headed over to the bar and got a Lemon Blush martini that Nic’s is so famous for.  As the bartender handed over my martini, my friend was leading a guy over to me.  He was probably about 5”9.  He was one of those guys who worked out… too much.  He was too damn buff/borderline stocky.  I could tell if he stopped working out those swollen muscles would turn into flab.  He wore glasses and had on a pair of slacks and a tucked in button down shirt.  He wasn’t unattractive but he wasn’t my type.  He was what I would call… Beige.  Meaning he didn’t do it for me, he was just plain and uneventful.  When I saw him my mind didn’t automatically think about him tearing my clothes off and throwing me on the bed and having his way with me.  But I wasn’t repulsed or turned off.  What most men don’t realize is most women know whether or not they want to fuck you within 5 minutes of meeting a guy.  But one of two things happen:

1-       We meet and are turned on by you and figuring out ways to hold out and then a man will say or do something so stupid they lose their chance of getting any

2-      We meet and there isn’t an initial connection but within time you sweep us off our feet that before we realize it we are in a vertical position in the midst of passion.

“Warren” was definitely in category 2.  My friend introduced us and she was grinning from ear to ear like she won a pageant.  “Warren” was in finance and had recently started his own financial consulting company.  He was 38, never married, and no kids.  We made our introductions and I politely excused myself and had a one on one with my girlfriend.  I was always leery of a single girlfriend introducing me to a guy.  My first question was if he was so great why in the hell didn’t she date him?  Her response was the typical response I get when I asked that question.  “Girl, he’s like a brother to me.”  I looked her in her eyes took a sip of my cocktail.  Mmmmm…hmmm.  A brother?  I read through her bullshit.  He was too short, too stocky and too nerdy and she was pushing this man off on me.  I looked around the mixer and didn’t see anyone worth getting to know.   When I saw “Warren” sitting at a table by himself drinking a beer I decided to go have a conversation with him.  The traffic was still heavy heading back over the hill and I certainly wasn’t in the mood to unleash my road rage by sitting in traffic.  I took a deep breath, ordered another martini and went over to “Warren.”

Me:  Is anyone sitting here?

Warren:  You are.

Me:  Are you having fun?

Warren:  It’s alright.  You know your girl threatened if I didn’t come here tonight I would be losing one of my testicles.

Let me find out Mr. Stocky had a sense of humor.  I sat there and talked to him for the next hour.  He had a great sense of humor and was somewhat charming.  It was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Warren:  I would love to take you out this weekend.

Me:  Really?  Where? 

Warren:  Let me surprise you.  What’s your favorite kind of food?

Me:  I love sushi. 

Warren:  Say no more.  I’ll pick you up Saturday at 7.

Me:  I don’t usually let strangers pick me up.  You could be a serial killer or some shit like that.

Warren:  You have a reliable reference.  Besides I’m kind of old school.  I like courting a woman.

Before I knew it I was giving “Warren” my address and cell phone number.  Saturday rolled around and I found myself meeting “Warren” outside of my home in his silver corvette.  YUCK!!!  I always considered Corvettes to be the poor man’s Porsche.  I hated them.  They were so… common.  But whatever, I got into his pride and joy.  I could tell he really thought he was doing something.  Then of course, as usual I had to talk to my inner diva.  “Stop being a bitch.  Give the guy a chance.”  I found myself constantly having to tame my inner diva these days.  I rolled my eyes and decided to make the best of the evening.  While we were in the car his mother called.  Instead of taking her off speaker phone Warren answered it.

Warren:  Hey mom!  What’s up?

Warren’s Mom:  Just checking on my baby.

Warren:  I’m good.  I’m heading out to dinner with the young lady I told you about.

What the fuck?  He told his mother about me.  I wasn’t ready for all of this.  Even worse, was this man a momma’s boy?  I was married to one of those and the thought of being with another momma’s boy sent me into panic mode.   I wanted to jump out of the moving car.

Warren’s Mom:  Well hello there!

Me:  Uh…. Hello.

Warren’s Mom:  You all have fun now.  Take care of my boy.

Me:  Uh…Okay.

I looked over at “Warren” and he was beaming with joy.  This is why I take my own car to dates.  I was officially stuck with him for the rest of the night.  When we got to valet and went up the elevator we were greeted with a spectacular view of downtown LA.  He took me to Takami Sushi.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Perhaps I was rushing to judgment on “Warren.”   Suddenly the stocky framed nerdy guy was automatically elevated to possible boyfriend status.  When the waitress came up to the table he ordered a bottle of expensive Zinfandel Red Wine.  I was impressed.  He knew his wines.  Sometimes great things are discovered in stocky packages.  The conversation ensued.

Bad Date

This was the only thing I hated about dating, that awkward conversation that must happen. You know the typical. Why are you single? What are you looking for? If I could skip over that shit, dating would be so much easier….

Warren:  I hope I picked a good spot.

Me:  You picked well.  I’m so used to trying to control things so I am pleasantly surprised.

Warren:  Good!  So, what’s your story? 

Oh shit.  I hated that question.  This was the only thing I hated about dating, that awkward conversation that must happen.  You know the typical.  Why are you single?  What are you looking for?  If I could skip over that shit, dating would be so much easier.

Me:  What do you mean?

Warren:  You’re obviously a beautiful woman.  Why hasn’t someone snatched you up?

I became an expert at diverting those kinds of questions.

Me:  Why hasn’t someone snatched you up?

Warren:  Who me?  I have no idea.  I know I’m sexy…

He then leaned back in his chair and simulated the act of tweaking his nipples.  He thought he was being funny.  But I was disgusted.  I came close to throwing up in my mouth.  I took a chug of my wine.  Looked out the window at the beautiful skyline of Downtown LA and tried not to run out of the restaurant.  I think “Warren” sensed my disgust and tried to back pedal.

Warren: There was once a time when I was so pressed to get married.  It was all I wanted.   I found myself getting depressed because I couldn’t meet the right woman.  Then I made the decision to let go and let God.

Me:  I can certainly understand that.  So you’re a very religious man,

Warren:  Absolutely.  I love the Lord.

Me:  Okay.

Warren:  I’m very active in my church.  Many people think I have the gift to eventually become a Pastor.

I took another chug of my wine.  I had been around those super duper religious folks who judged everyone and were the most hypercritical people you could ever meet.  I knew I wanted a man who was a Christian and who was spiritual but I had no intentions of being trapped by one of those super duper religious men again.  I had just gotten out of that and realized that wasn’t for me.  But I decided to hear this man out.  I couldn’t assume that all people were alike.  I was keenly aware that I still had left over crumbs from my marriage and I didn’t want to let that baggage ruin it for the next guy.

ME:  A Pastor?  That would mean if you and I ended up together I would be a first lady?

Warren:  Yeah.  I would expect you to become active in my church as well.  I run the youth ministry and Sunday school.  It is definitely a calling for me.

I immediately had flashback to being forced to go to my ex’s church and living short of his expectations.  As well as the hypocrisy of what was preached and what was being practiced.  Don’t get me wrong.  I go to church every Sunday and I know I wouldn’t be where I was if it wasn’t for my faith.  But the idea of being with another man who was blinded by his “religious beliefs” freaked me out.

Me:  I already have a church home of my own that I love.

Warren:  You’d like my church. 

Me:  So you’re looking for a missionary type huh?

Warren:  I never thought of it like that.  But I am looking for a woman of the cloth.

ME: So once you become Pastor of you church.  What if one of your congregants came in here and saw you and I sitting here having a bottle of this wine?

Warren:  That wouldn’t happen.  Once I dedicated my life to the Lord in that way, I would no longer give in to the flesh.

I suddenly envisioned myself wearing calf length skirts, white gloves, and a big hat.  I thought about the idea of never having wine.  Or worse yet, sneaking it when my “husband” was preaching at his church.  I thought about once again being in the bondage.  And I freaked out.  I literally had a hot flash.

Church WOman

I suddenly envisioned myself wearing thigh length skirts, white gloves, and a big hat. I thought about the idea of never having wine. Or worse yet, sneaking it when my “husband” was preaching at his church…

Warren:  Are you alright?

Me:  (fanning myself with a napkin) I’m sorry Warren.  But I just got out of a situation where I was with a “religious” man and it was complete hypocrisy.  I’m not a missionary.  I like my wine, I like to party, I like to live life on my own terms.  Don’t get me wrong.  I go to church.  I pray every day.  And I know if it weren’t for my faith I wouldn’t have made it to where I am now,  But I could never be a preacher’s wife or a Missionary.  Is that what you ultimately are looking for?

Warren:  (long awkward pause)  Well, yes.  It is.

Me:  Then I’m not the one for you.

We left dinner and the ride home was uncomfortably silent.  “Warren” walked me to my door.  And suddenly he grabbed for me and kissed me and shoved his tongue down my throat.  I pushed him away.  And he looked at me completely confused.

Me:  What is your problem?!   I don’t know you like that!  This is our first date.  I thought you were a man of the cloth!

Warren:  I’m not yet.  Can I come inside?

Me:  Are you serious?

Warren looked at me confused.  I went into my house and slammed the door in his face.  I realized I probably over reacted. But I could not ever put myself into a situation when I was boxed into the ideology of someone else and their wants.  And again, I don’t want to come off like I am a heathen.  But I am not a missionary.  The idea of become a Pastor’s wife was not for me.  I realized “Warren” was one of those guys who had a picture of what his life was supposed to be and any woman who came into his life had to be willing to fit into his picture.  More importantly, that wasn’t who “Warren” was.  I never wanted to be in a situation where a man was conflicted between who he really and truly was and what he thought he was supposed to be.

Praying

You don’t have to be a Missionary to realize that at the end of the day this dating thing and meeting Mr. Right isn’t in your own hands. You had to be willing to ask for help and guidance. And I was finally at peace….

After I washed my face and put on my pajamas.  I couldn’t sleep.  I was tossing and turning.  So I got out of the bed and went into my meditation room.  I got on my knees and I prayed.  I prayed that I would find the husband God wanted me to have.  I prayed that all the residuals from my broken hurt were cleared.  I prayed that I met the man who was right for me.  More importantly when I met him I wouldn’t mess it up and he would be ready.  I finally reached a point where I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.  After I finished praying, I got back into my bed and I fell to sleep right away.  I knew I had faith that I was going to get it right.  I surrendered and acknowledged that it was no longer in my hands.  You don’t have to be a Missionary to realize that at the end of the day this dating thing and meeting Mr. Right isn’t in your own hands.  You had to be willing to ask for help and guidance.  And I was finally at peace….

Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Who “Nose” Best

Ugly Man

If I’m going to date a man who I’m not attracted to…. He better move mountains!

After my Ghosts of Dates Past (see last post) I was still in dating purgatory.  I was still in “beat my self up mode.”  So I decided to open myself up to dating and not be so quick to turn a “good” guy down.  Enter “Andre.”  We met at a party of a friend of a friend.  What I appreciated about “Andre” is he saw me from across the room and walked to me and bought me a drink.  A man walking across a room was unheard of in LA.  And buying a drink?  Priceless.  “Andre” was 41, single, no kids, 6’1, with a great body.  He was a successful business owner who invested in a chain of fast food restaurants.  However, “Andre” was not good looking AT ALL.  He had the biggest nose I had ever seen.  The damn thing went from one side of his face to the other… literally.   And don’t get me wrong, my nose isn’t exactly petite.  But shit, this man had a HONKER!  We exchanged numbers and 3 days later I found myself sitting across from his nose… I meant him.  At an organic café in Venice called Gratitude Café.  He had a great sense of humor.  And he was easy to talk to.  I really tried to focus on his eyes and the great conversation.  But I found myself continuously focusing on his nose.  I already know I sound like the shallowest bitch you have ever met.  But I couldn’t help but think about my future children.  What if I had a daughter, who was a spinning image of her father?!  I couldn’t do that to my future child.  I wasn’t about to mix my good genes with just any gene pool.  And you already know, if you have an unattractive son, as long as he is smart and has money making potential or is great at sports, he’ll be okay, but an ugly little girl?  She doesn’t have chance.  And as usual I had to have a heart to heart with myself.  I said, “Alright now, you just ran into two former guys you dated that you let get away.  Don’t fuck this up!  Give this brotha a chance!  You can take your daughter to have her first nose job when she turns 16.  Stop tripping.  Besides, this man will adore you.  He’ll give you the world.  It’s always better to have a man that loves you a little bit more.”

black-woman-meditating

And as usual I had to have a heart to heart with myself…

I figured, this man would be so happy to be with me he would pull out all the stops.  It was a win-win situation for me.  Clearly this man was going to give me the world because he knew he had a prize!  With that, I put my shallow inner diva back in her place and decided to give this man a chance.  After our initial date “Andre” called me every day.  He would text me throughout the day to let me know he was thinking about me.  It was refreshing.  He was smitten and the Leo in me enjoyed the attention.  I was beginning to understand the Beauty and the Beast Dating mentality.  When you are a beautiful woman dating a man who isn’t super duper fine those men tend to dote on you and really give you their all.  He asked me out on another date immediately.  And the next week, we were out at a The Lobster at the Santa Monica Pier.  I decided to really get to know this man.  We talked about our childhood and how we grew up.  We also talked about some of our favorite places to travel too.

Andre:  I think my favorite place so far was Aruba.

Me:  I heard Aruba has the most beautiful white sand beaches.

Andre:   The beaches are beautiful.  How about you?

Me:  I think my favorite spot by far was Bora Bora.

Andre:  Bora Bora?  That’s like fantasy Island.  Did you go with your girls there?

I have to admit I was a little taken aback.  I didn’t ask him who he went to Aruba with.  Shit, I already knew it was another woman but I didn’t give a shit.  So I had two choices here, I could either say yeah I went with some miscellaneous dude I was dating and open myself up for more questioning or go ahead and tell this fool I went there for my honeymoon with my ex-husband.  I decided on the latter.

Me: (I took a sip of my Cake Bread Pinot Noir) I actually went there on my honeymoon.

Andre: (obviously uncomfortable) You were married?

Me:  Yes.

Andre:  (taking a long sip of his beer) Are you still married?

Me:  If I was still married I wouldn’t be here with you.

Andre:  Is the divorce final?

Me: Yes.

Andre:  Do you two still talk?

Me: (somewhat getting annoyed by the cross examination) No.  I haven’t spoken to him since the day I left.  And before you ask there is no chance of us getting back together.

Andre: I just had to ask.  I was once in a situation where I fell for a woman and she ended up getting back with her ex-husband.

Me:  There isn’t a chance in hell I would get back with my ex.  (changing the topic) What about you?

Andre:  I’m not married.

Me:  I know that.  But what’s your dating situation?  Do you have a girlfriend?

Andre: No.

ME:  Is there a woman out there who thinks she’s your girlfriend.

This is an important question to ask a man.  Some men date and lead women on to think they are in a serious committed relationship.  So I needed to know the Tea!

Andre:  That is a good question (pauses for a moment).  No.  When I am in a relationship with someone it is clear.

ME:  Interesting.

Andre:  I have to admit me and my ex are on and off. 

Me:  Really?

Andre:  Yeah.  I have a tendency to fall into old habits.  I think we get comfortable and before we know it we are back on again.

Me:  So right now you all are in an off situation?  That’s not good for me.  What if I end up really liking you and then you end up going back to your ex?

Andre:  That’s not going to happen.

ME:  But how do you know?

Andre:  I know.

The date ended and “Andre” walked me to my car.  He gave me a hug and made me promise I would text him as soon as I got home.  Which I did, however, I noticed he didn’t respond right away like he did on the first date.  He texted me the next morning (late morning).  I didn’t really think too much about it because to be honest I really didn’t give a shit.  That next week his phone calls and text messages decreased.  I found it so interesting.  I didn’t even like this man; I wasn’t attracted to him at all.  And my non-attraction was confirmed when pictures surfaced from the party we met at and there was a picture of him… and his nose and it solidified if I was going to date this man he was going to have to move mountains!  He certainly couldn’t be put off that i was married before.  Typically when men find this out they are put at ease because they don’t feel the pressure of having to rush things.  But then I replayed our conversation.  And my mind focused on what he said about him and his ex being on and off again.  I kept that in my mental Rolodex

I noticed his typical sweet text messages he had sent during the week prior didn’t happen. He and I did a round of phone tag the next day but weren’t able to connect.   He sent me a text message the following day.

Andre:  I was at Hal’s last night.  Have a great Monday.

Me:  Thanks.  You too.

And he didn’t call me or text me the next day.  I was completely turned off.  Was this 41 year old man playing the “Get out of dodge for Valentine’s Day” game?  Valentine’s Day was the next day and I was curious what his game was.  He couldn’t seriously be playing the disappearing act so he didn’t have to do anything for Valentine’s Day.  I expected that type of foolishness from young guys but certainly not from an older man who I wasn’t even attracted to.  He gave me a call.  At first I wasn’t going to answer, but I was really in the mood to be amused by what the hell he had to say.

Me: (rolling my eyes)  Hello?

Andre:  Hey, how are you?

Me:  I’m good how are you? 

Andre:  Trying to get a new identity.  Tired of being me.

Me:  Wow!  What’s going on?

Andre:  I’m just mentally tired.  The ex, work, family…

So… That’s his angle.  He was going to try to play the sympathy card.  I could give two shits about his ex.  And I certainly wasn’t going to ask him for more detail.  He obviously got back together with her or whatever.  I really didn’t care!  How transparent can a man be?!

Me:  I’m sorry to hear that.  Hang in there.  Things will get better.

Andre:  I’m trying.  Thanks… Well I just wanted to touch base with you.

For a mere second I thought he was going to actually make plans to take me out for Valentine’s Day.  Just for a nano second….

Andre:  Well.  Have a good night.  I’ll talk to you later.

Me:  You too Andre.  Good luck with everything.    

Valentine's Day to Me

I decided I was going to spend my Valentine’s Day with the most amazing person on the planet. I was going to cook a great meal, buy an expensive bottle of wine, and allow myself to take care of my Valentine…

I hung the phone up and I just started cracking up.  And suddenly I rose above my mini dating depression and I was released from purgatory.  Here I was trying to make something out of nothing with a man I wasn’t attracted to just to prove I wasn’t a person who jumped the gun too quick.  You can’t keep me down for too long!  Here I was questioning all of my past dating decisions and wishing I could rewind the hands of time to relive my dating past.  Then I realized, I know what is best for me.  I will no longer allow myself to second guess if I am being shallow by not giving a man who I am not attracted to a chance.  Here was a guy who was UGLY!  But I was giving him a chance and he wasn’t acting right.  Shit!  I’ll be damned if the ugly man doesn’t adore me and treat me like a princess.  From that moment forward, I made a clear decision that if I am not attracted to a man, I WOULD NOT give him the time of day.  I wouldn’t let my married friends try to make me feel like I was being shallow.  I wouldn’t allow myself to second guess my decision.  Because when you give a man a chance who you don’t even like in the first damn place and he fucks up, you’re left wondering, why in the hell did I waste my time.  When Pinocchio decides he’s not going to treat me like a queen and I gave him the time of the day guess who I am pissed off with?  ME!  I know what’s best for me.  Sometimes, Valentine’s Day rolls around and we start to question our dating and if we really know what is best for us.  Or if our past dating decisions were wise ones.  At the end of the day, we know what we need, desire, and want.  And we must never allow ourselves to second guess that.  Women have intuition for a reason.  Now, if you meet a man who you’re not attracted to but he does what it takes to win you over, well that a different story.  But if he is playing games and not sure about what he wants… keep it moving.  Hell, that applies for the fine men too!  I decided I was going to spend my Valentine’s Day with the most amazing person on the planet.  I was going to cook a great meal, buy an expensive bottle of wine, and allow myself to take care of my Valentine… ME!  Why settle for less when you have everything within you?  You know what’s best for you and if you haven’t found it yet, don’t force it just so you can say you had a Valentine.  Be true to you!  You know what’s best.  Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!

Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+

The Ghosts of Dates Pasts…

sad-black-woman1

The Ghosts of Dates Pasts…

I recently attended a party and had an interesting thing happen.  It was the typical LA Industry party.  The location was great, the people were beautiful, the drinks were flowing, and business cards were being exchanged.  It was a typical Wednesday night in La-La Land.  I rolled to the event solo but upon entering the door I ran into other industry folks I knew and worked with.  I was feeling good.  You know how you have those moments of looking in the mirror before you leave home and doing a double take at yourself.  My recent no carbs, no sugar, no cheese, no diary diet was working.  And my three day 2 hours of work out per week plan was making my recent weight lose and muscle gain evident in the dress I was wearing.  I was finally able to wear the damn thing without spanx or control top panty hose!  I went to my hairstylist the day before and got the mini afro that was growing on the back of my neck relaxed and my haircut was giving Halle Berry a run for her money (in my own mind).  So needless to say I was at the top of my game.  I was currently experiencing what my dad refers to as my “hay day.”    My first stop at any party is the bar.  I went to the overcrowded bar and waited patiently for the bartender to pour me a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.  She handed me the bill and I was reaching into my clutch to grab my credit card when a familiar voice came from next to me. “I’ll get this round.” I looked to my right and there stood “Corey.”  “Corey” and I went out 10 years ago.  We met through a mutual friend and we went out on a few dates.  At that time “Corey” had a propensity to date women who had blonde hair, blue eyes, and wore a size 0.  The few times we went out he made comments about his preference for those women.  And at one point when we were hanging out at his house watching a movie, when he went to the bathroom, my nosy ass decided to take a look at his photo album which was loaded with pictures of him and these blonde haired beauties.  I think the straw that broke the Camel’s back was when he made a comment about my short haircut being too short.  This was shortly after I had finally taken out the Hollywood Starlet weave and decided to follow in the steps of Halle Berry and wear a short sassy do.  That was when I made the executive decision that “Corey” was not the one for me.  Let me be very clear.  “Corey” was not an asshole or a jerk.  He really was a nice guy.  But there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being out with a man when you feel like you aren’t his type, especially at the ripe age of 25.  Fast forward 10 years later.  And here “Corey” and I were face to face at the bar having a cocktail.  He looked GOOD.  He looked accomplished (as I always knew he would be).  He recently left his job at one of the biggest Hollywood talent agencies and opened up his own talent management firm which was thriving.  He was wearing a European tailored suit.  His teeth seemed to be sparkling white when he smiled at me.  I looked down at his left ring finger and saw a wedding band.  “Corey” finally settled down and got married.

Me:  I see you finally decided to settle your ass down.  Congrats Corey.

Corey:  (chuckling as he took a sip of his scotch on the rocks) at a certain point a man has to settle down.  We also just had a baby. 

Me: (giving him a hug) that’s wonderful Corey.  I am so happy for you!

Corey:  I promised my friend I wasn’t going to be taking out my phone and showing pictures.  I’ve become one of those guys!

Me:  Of course you have.  You have every right to show off your new family.  I would love to see pictures.

As “Corey” took his phone out, I took a sip of my wine preparing myself to see a picture of his blonde haired, blue eyed, supermodel wife and his curly haired bi-racial daughter.  He handed me his phone.  And there I stared at a picture of a beautiful chocolate sista, with long hair, beautiful teeth, and elegance that radiated from the picture, holding a gorgeous brown baby and “Corey” with his arms around both of them with a beaming smile.  It took everything in me not to spit out my drink in shock.  “Corey” not only married a sista, but a chocolate, classy sista at that.  I couldn’t believe it.

Me:  What a beautiful family.  I am so happy for you!  Wow!

Corey:  You look happy too.  Last time we ran into each other you had just gotten engaged.  How’s married life treating you?

This happened more times than I wanted to mention when I ran into people who hadn’t seen me since my divorce.  And I answered with my usual PR crafted response.  Then I prepared myself for the look of pity and the uncomfortable response to the breaking divorce news.

Me:  Oh, that didn’t work out. 

Corey:  I’m so sorry to hear that.  You look great.  You actually look really happy.

Me:  I am.  I really am.  And seriously Corey, I am really proud of you.

We gave each other a hug and I walked outside to cool off.  For some reason, talking about my divorce typically gave me a hot flash.  I called them mini-panic attacks.  On my way outside, I wasn’t paying attention and bumped into a muscular man wearing suit.  When he turned around I realized it was “Vincent” a former NFL player I dated a few years back.  His once muscular build and thick neck was now stocky.  He had on a three piece suit and looked like he could be a Reverend of one of those southern mega churches instead of what the sculpted Michael Angelo he used to be.  That sexy football build was no longer in existence.  Instead of his body being ready for those tight pants and football jersey, the long robe of a Pastor would have been more fitting.

Me:  Vincent?!

Vincent gave me the biggest hug and kiss on the cheek.

Vincent:  What’s up?  Long time no see.

Me:  I know.  How have you been?

Vincent:  I’ve been good.  I actually live out here now.

Me:  What?  You live in LA?

When I was dating “Vincent” he was a diehard east coaster.  As a matter of fact he told me you couldn’t pay him enough to move to LA.  That was one of the reasons the relationship didn’t go any further along with the fact that I hated football.  I knew he had gotten married to a former video vixen and had a baby.

Me:  How is the baby?

Vincent:  We actually have 3 now. 

Me:  3… Wow.

At this point a woman came up to us who had to be a good size 16 with a bad weave hanging down her back and way too much make up.  She looked me up and down and said very dryly, “Hello, I’m Vincent’s WIFE and you are?”  This was nothing new to me.  I had ran into a lot of wives and I understood their insecurity if they saw their husband talking to a woman they didn’t know.  I had mastered the art of putting their mind at ease.  So I gave her a hug and said:

Me:  HI!  IT is so great to finally meet you.  Vincent was just telling me about you and your 3 beautiful children.  Congrats.  You don’t look like you’ve had any children!  You look great.

That lie put her at ease immediately.  She instantly relaxed and had a genuine conversation with me.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her I barely recognized her with all the recent weight gain and I dare not tell her she looked like she could stand a few more hours of sleep.  And in the future to PUT THE FOUNDATION DOWN!

I left that party and thought to myself, “What the fuck just happened?”  Suddenly that extra boost of self confidence I had when I walked into the party was deflated as I waited for my car to pull up from the valet.  Here were two men from my past one who didn’t even like black women who was now married to a damn Ebony Goddess and the other who told me he would never move to LA that was now living there.  I was thrown and confused.  I went to bed that night feeling alone, sad, and regretful.  Perhaps I didn’t give either one of these men a chance.  Someone recently asked me, how would I know if I met Mr. Right.  And I honestly couldn’t answer them.  I had no fucking clue.  I will never pretend to be an expert on dating.  It the blind leading the fucking blind.  I was one marriage down and numerous dates in and I still hadn’t figured it out.  Clearly, maybe I didn’t give these men a fair shot.  Especially “Corey.”  The next day I woke up thinking I would have slept off the mini depression that was sinking in.  But no, I hadn’t.  I decided to make a run to the grocery store.  When I was checking out I was stuck behind a woman who was in her late 40’s/early 50’s.  She was unloading at least 50 cans of cat food.  She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.  She looked tired and drained.  And it hit me.  This could be me.  I could become that 50 year old single woman in the super market buying cat food for my 3 cats.  I quickly left the line and ran to the wine aisle and picked up a bottle of expensive Pinot Noir.  Normally when I was in one of these single girl funks, I would call up a friend and go out.  But on this particular day, I decided I wasn’t going to run away from these thoughts.  I was going to face them head on and just let the feeling come up and not try to push them down.  But I was smart enough to know that I was going to need a bottle of wine for a little company.

waiting-to-exhale-cast

I no longer looked at these women as disgruntled….

I got home, sat on my couch and turned on the TV.  And low and behold Waiting to Exhale Came On.  I remember the first time I saw this movie, I thought these were 4 of the most disgruntled bitches I had ever watched on the silver screen.  But as I poured my third glass of wine, I found myself relating to these women now that I was 35.  Perhaps it was me.  There certainly had to be a reason why I ran into these former men I went out with.  Was it my past trying to tell me what a fuck up I had been?  Perhaps, if I had hung in there instead of running away at the first sign of conflict I would be sitting in the picture with “Corey” holding our beautiful baby boy.  Perhaps I had made his desires of wanting a blonde haired, blue eyed, super model a bigger deal that it was.  With “Vincent” I could have made myself like football and moved back to the cold ass east coast.  All I needed was a good fur coat and I am sure I could have learned to love sitting in the football stand in the winter time cheering my man on.  By the time I poured the last drop of Pinot into my glass, and Waiting to Exhale was over.  I turned off the TV sat on my couch and for the first time in a long time.  I cried.  I mourned the loss of my marriage.  After all, I thought I was done dating.  It would have been nice to be at that party with a husband.  Then I mourned for the bad dating decisions I made.  It’s not always the guy who fucks things up.  I look back at some of the times I was so quick to cut a man off without giving him the benefit of the doubt.  I allowed myself to cry at the fear of ending up alone.  Granted I will NEVER get a damn cat.  But the analogy, I cried over the fear of becoming that lady in the grocery story who only had cats to take care of instead of a shitty baby diaper to change.  I literally cried myself to sleep that night.  It’s amazing what happens when you stop running from your thoughts and allow yourself to be alone and think those scary thoughts.

black-woman-crying1

Sometimes it’s okay for a single girl to have a good cry….

I woke up the next morning.  My eyes were puffy and red.  I didn’t realize in my wine induced state I hadn’t even made it upstairs to my room.  The sun was shining on my tear stained face.  I sat up and took a deep breath.  I couldn’t remember the last time I allowed myself to be by myself and just cry like a baby.  It actually felt good.  You see, at the end of the day.  I always knew I was not destined for an ordinary normal life.  I wanted it all: the career, the husband that adored me, the beautiful children, the house, the vacations, and the great friends and parties.  I didn’t just want a job or just a marriage I wanted something special.  I tried to settle for the ordinary life and it wasn’t for me.  The reality is, here I am at 35 years old recognizing there might have been relationships in the past that I fucked up and I could have done things differently.  I am sure if I would have hung in there with one of my Ghosts of Dates Pasts I could be standing by their side being introduced to their exes or being showed off to a woman from their past on their iPhone as I held my baby.  But for whatever reason that wasn’t the case.  And NO I wasn’t like the women in Waiting to Exhale.  And don’t get me wrong, I love that movie.  Just like many women out there, the scene where Bernadette burns her husband’s clothes and car is one of the best moments in cinematographic history.  However, I would never have an affair with a married man like Bernadette, Savannah, and Robin did in the movie.  And no I am not like the cat lady in the grocery store.  I just know what I want.  I am not sure if when I meet “Mr. Right” I’ll know right away.  But what I do know is when I meet “Mr. Right for ME” that everything will fall into place.  What I do know, is that it is okay for a single girl to have a little pity party and cry every once in a while.  What I know is that sometimes it’s okay to admit when you’re lonely.  But the most important thing when you are haunted by your Ghosts of Relationships Pasts is to always remember that the past is best to be left right back where you left it…. In the past.

Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+