It wasn't until my senior year of college that I finally acknowledged I had a problem.
I'd started hooking up with a friend that I had been crushing on for a semester and a summer. Hanging out always involved music in some way, and we were watching a Kid Cudi interview when he exclaimed, “I like Kid Cudi, man. He’s a regular dude, just like me!”
I agreed with him, but I was chuckling inside. He didn’t know it but my fascination with him, and the unshakeable crush that followed, developed at the exact same time that I was obsessively listening to Kid Cudi’s debut mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi.
I can actually pinpoint the precise moment my conflation of music and relationships began. I wasn't allowed to listen to secular music freely until middle school, the same time I started caring about boys. Back then I was all about B2K. J-Boog was my favorite, but I also welcomed Lil’ Bow Wow, Mario, and Lil’ Romeo into my heart. My allowance money was constantly wasted on Right On! magazine for the free posters. When you stepped into my room all you saw were cornrows and matching baggy outfits.
I wanted to find a guy who could move me the way Omarion did when he sang, “Girl you messed up when you let me in,” in their debut song “Uh Huh.” I blossomed from a bookworm into a colored-contact-wearing mall rat. My friends and I prowled the local mall in our tight jeans, gelled-down hair, name belts, and name jewelry.
I think I took B2K’s lyrics too much to heart when they crooned, “I'm the thug in your life/That'll treat you right,” because a thug is exactly what I got.
You couldn't catch my attention if you didn't have braids or 360-degree waves, and cubic zirconia(s) in your ear(s) to set your hair off. You had to have the newest Jordans, Air Forces, or Timberland boots paired with an outfit bearing the names of the urban brands du jour: Ecko, Enyce, Sean John, Rocawear, et al.
Tyrell (all names have been changed) was older than me, had a scar from being shot in the leg, and had been jailed for selling drugs. I later found out that he was still selling drugs when we dated and I felt like I'd been gypped. The boy tried to get me to buy my own movie ticket on our first night out and completely ruined my idea of a perfect date in the process! (Yes, I took dating cues from a music video.)
Obviously I don't advocate selling drugs, but, seriously, you'd think a drug dealer could do better than a movie ticket. And he probably should have been able to afford a car. I quickly tired of catching buses to see him.
I met my next boyfriend Terence in a teen club. He was a good dancer, but he never broke out into a choreographed routine as if he was B2K’s missing fifth member. He did not sing, but he wrote a rap for me, once –- if that counts for something.
He had an amazing head of hair, but, sadly, I could never grasp the mechanics of cornrows so I was never able to live out my fantasy of braiding it on my porch. One day, he disappeared and stopped returning my phone calls. I went to the teen club with friends and saw him for the first time in weeks. You lose them how you get them, I guess.
There was a dearth of pretty boy thugs at the prep school I transferred to my sophomore year of high school. I could count the viable black men on two hands, and those guys had too many girls to choose from.
Luckily I discovered Teddy Geiger in an issue of Seventeen magazine. After downloading his album I was completely taken by his sensitive, beyond-his-years lyrics; his sexy, husky voice; and his mastery of multiple instruments. I was never completely sold on the line, “I could fall asleep in those eyes/like a water bed,” from his debut song “For You I Will (Confidence),” but good Lord, that is exactly what I would have liked to do in his soulful, cerulean eyes. I adored his shaggy brunette haircut and I started having daydreams about playing in some of my classmates’ equally overgrown hair.
Once I opened up to the possibility of trying something new, I finally started accepting invitations to what I called "the drunken lovefests" from the white boys at my school. Everyone was much bolder under the influence of alcohol, and I always got hookup requests. A guy called me a “Dark-Skinned Beauty” once.
So I was prepared when I found out Dan had a crush on me. I could admit to the fact that I had to catch my breath a few times whenever he approached. He had a model’s height and features, his eyes changed color depending on the shirt he was wearing -– sometimes blue, gray, or green -– and his light brown hair was the perfect length for me to run my fingers through.
He told a friend, “Janday is the type of girl you would marry,” and it is a fact that we would have had beautiful children; alas, we only shared one kiss. Another girl sunk her claws into him, but at least I had Teddy Geiger tunes to console me.
Then there was the brief interlude in which I rediscovered the African music that I grew up hearing and started hanging out with and dating a lot of Liberian guys. There were also some genres-less boys in my life, lest you think I only dated based on music.
But my next obsession with a music artist started my junior year of college. It was a prime time for listening to angst rap and A Kid Named Cudi was my every day soundtrack, one of the few records I could listen to from beginning to end at the time. Each song was super eclectic, but they all somehow complemented one another. I loved Kid Cudi's “fuck it” attitude, his adoration of a certain leisure activity, and his laidback, yet chic T-shirt and slim-fit pants style.
I swear I only saw Gabriel on campus once my freshman year, so how serendipitous was it that I was officially introduced to him at the precise moment that I was in the mood to crush on a cute, slim, slightly oddball black man?
Like Cudi, Gabriel is a black man who is unfettered from the world’s expectations of the way a black man should dress, speak or socialize. Thankfully, he doesn’t rage like Cudi, or exhibit some of the dark emotions Cudi expresses in some of his songs. But like Cudi, the man can rock the shit out of a cardigan and Jordans. Someone once referred to us as a hipster couple and I was slightly miffed but at least that’s another thing we relate to Kid Cudi on.
Gabriel has been my boyfriend for more than two years now. Even though I've been crushing on the unbelievably soulful Jesse Boykins III for a little while now, love won in the end. My boyfriend is pretty lucky that I decided I can never date a guy with longer hair and a prettier wardrobe than me.
Have you ever pursued romantic relationships based on little more than the names on your iPod’s "Top 25 Most Played" list? Or were you ever disappointed to find your favorite singer’s doppelganger was nothing like the real thing you imagined?