Good With His Hands – Stephanie Renée

Written by on September 14, 2014

As with most girls who benefited from growing up in a functional, two-parent household, there are qualities I’ve looked for in a mate that were modeled by my Daddy. My father was a tinkerer. He taught me how to solder wires and other basic electronic maintenance, which has served me well in this build-it-yourself retail world. Before his eyes started to fail him, Daddy was great at minor car repairs and wood working, even building the bar where he entertained our family during holiday gatherings. So I can readily admit that I’ve always been attracted to guys who are do-it-yourselfers, artistically visionary and talented, and handy. But there is a line.

I was finally allowed to attend public school in high school, after years of parochial and private education. One of the biggest changes in making the switch to public school was the social environment. My knowledge of the complex family structures present in my community and the popularity games of my teenage years were dynamically enhanced as a magnet program student at a 99.9% Black school in the ‘hood. And one of the first boys who caught my attention was Ed. He was a senior when I was a sophomore, sax captain of the marching band, and one of the most popular guys in the school. I was invisible to him before he graduated, but over the course of that year, I lost more than 50 pounds and found my lane. So when Ed popped up at the school occasionally to check on his younger brother who was my classmate, all of the sudden I came into focus. We exchanged numbers, we spent hours on the phone and we became an item. I’d go listen to him play. I’d marvel at his talent. Until I learned what else Ed liked to do with his hands.

One of my good girlfriends in my homeroom was dating Ed’s little brother, and during one of our animated conversations about love and life, she asked me if I was scared about dating Ed. When I shot back a very puzzled look, she stated matter-of-factly, “You do know he has a history of beating up on women, right?” WRONG. I knew nothing of the sort, sheltered as I was from most gossip and life stories of the people outside of my immediate circle. I then got an earful about Ed’s history with another girl at our school he used to date, and a well-documented incident (confirmed by his brother) of Ed smacking his mother around during an argument. That was all I needed to hear. I then put together a few moments I’d glossed over emotionally about how controlling Ed could be when we were in public, including a screaming match that got him ejected from one of our band practices and had me pulled to the side by a vice-principal strongly urging me to reconsider my personal associations. I broke it off with Ed immediately, which led to a series of desperate phone calls, a 5-page front-and-back-on-legal-paper letter where he tried to justify the actions I’d learned of, and some unexpected drop-ins at school before he accepted my decision. Thankfully, he gave up and left me alone.

We can all debate about the legalities of the NFL’s suspension of Ray Rice. We can shake our heads at Janay Rice’s condemnation of the public scrutiny, or hope that she finds the courage to leave. But until you understand the gravity and frequency of domestic violence, the ease with which some people use their hands instead of their words and their hearts to settle disputes, you never realize how blessed you are not to have been faced with that situation.

I still want a man like my Daddy. One who cherishes his gifts and uses them. One who values family, even if he struggles with forming the kind of relationships that can nourish them. And, most importantly, a man who uses his hands to build, not destroy.

And don’t forget the link to my September playlist on Spotify…

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