When I first met Phil, I was preparing myself to really hate men.
Like many women, I'd been hurt in a variety of ways by men. To cope with the hurt, I was shutting down and becoming less available. There were a few relationships in my life that helped me figure out different ways to be self-protective but to not shut off from safe and healthy intimacy. Obviously, marrying Kevin was fundamental. In a different way, becoming close to Phil taught me how to recognize and cultivate nourishing friendships.
On the surface, Phil and I should not have been able to relate to one another. I'm now 33 but at first meeting I was probably 22. I'm white from the 'burbs. Phil is a Black man who grew up poor in Philly. He was incarcerated for the duration of the time we knew one another.
And Phil got where I was coming from. Hell, he was suspicious of most men too! If anything, he taught me how to be more cautious, conscious, and aware. He was clear and instructive in offering me ways to keep myself safe. He always told me to value myself, respect myself, and listen to my intuition.
As he gave me these tools to feel empowered and secure, his example showed me a man who was warm, familiar, and respectful. He treated me like was a close niece. He gave me advice, listened, and offered warm shelter. He was playful and messed with me when I was too serious. He called me to check up on me. He kept me busy when he saw that my mind was obsessing. He painted pictures and drew sketches for me. He gave me attention. He gave me aspects of himself and his experience. He urged me to be close to my husband, Kevin, and told me how much he cherished his wife, Janine. He constantly reminded me to be available to growing in love. He told me to engage love like we would exercise-- to let ourselves get stronger in the practice. To be changed by it.