I met my wife, Karean, in our high school cafeteria the first week of the semester. I was a popular and confident sophomore. She was a beautiful freshman who looked lost, so I went over and introduced myself. After talking to her a few times, I realized she was different. Unlike the girls I knew, Karean was focused on her studies and not on how she looked or dressed.
About three or four months after we met, we were a couple and dated about six months. Unfortunately, I was too immature to know how to treat a woman. I was just trying to get as many women as I could in bed. I had little or no attachment to anyone, except her. We drifted apart, but I always found ways to stay in touch, calling her at least once a month. Our conversations would last for hours. I knew I wanted to save her for when I became ready for a real relationship.
But I wasn't ready just yet. Growing up, I didn't see any positive, committed relationships around me. My mother was divorced, and she and my grandmother raised me. What I learned about women came from my older brother and his friends. For me, it was all about telling the ladies what they wanted to hear-and sleeping with as many of them as possible.
Over years of playing the field, several times I got caught cheating. Once I was stepping off a train with a lady friend I was taking to my place. The other woman I was also seeing surprised me at my stop. She wasn't supposed to get home for at least another hour. She was so upset, she threw a brick at me. Another time, a woman invited me over to her place. When I arrived, the other girl I was dating was sitting in the apartment, too. It was the same person who had tried to hit me with the brick!
When I wasn't dodging bricks, I enjoyed the freedom of playing the field. But in 1995 my older brother got shot. His girlfriend at the time abandoned him, and he didn't have that "one woman" to lean on for support. It was rough. I said to myself, I don't want to end up like that. I started to think long and hard; I knew I was ready to focus on one special person.
But it wasn't easy convincing Karean. I tried to talk to her about getting back together, but she brushed me off because she knew I was a player. She was on her way Down South that summer, so she said to me, "When I get back, we'll talk." I felt as if she was going to give me a second chance. That summer was my opportunity to get everything out of my system and live out every possible fantasy so I would be ready for that real relationship.
Karean and I did begin dating again. In 1997 we had a daughter, Dominique Alyssa, who's now 10 years old. First we started living together, then Karean brought up marriage. So did her family and mine. I was concerned about messing up what we had. Our union was stronger than any marriage I had ever seen. I juggled every possible excuse. Then I realized nothing could change our bond.
Our relationship has gotten better since we got married four years ago. It has given me a sense of pride. I love to show off my ring. To me, it's such an accomplishment. It makes me feel good to say, "That's my wife." I get to wake up next to my best friend every day. Since we tied the knot, we've had another daughter, Jasmin Nicole, who's now 2 years old. To have my family depending on me has made me much more organized and financially focused. If you're going to marry, you've got to know in your gut and in your heart that it's the right person, then there's nothing to be afraid of. And you're going to get through everything together. When you know people are counting on you, it turns you from a boy into a man.
Photo Credit: Peter Chin