In 1986 I was graduating from high school, waiting to join the Air Force starting my “adult” life. That year my mother told me to watch a movie she enjoyed by Spike Lee “She’s Gotta Have It”. It was an experience. Was it groundbreaking? Not for me, I had been having my friends and their friends over to my home for over a year (when my mother was at work) by then and we were precocious to say the least. We would smoke mostly marijuana, put porn on the main television, and have sexual escapades with each other. I didn’t learn until much later in my adult life that people called what we did “sex parties”, go figure. We just wanted to live in the experience of it all. I didn’t know that later there would be so many labels attached to what we did. We were exploring our sexuality, we were “being grown”, we were so confident in our choices back then. Forward, many years later and Spike Lee does it again.
Ms. Nola Darling is back in my life. When I was 16 and met her watching the movie, she was me, she was my friends, she was my people. Fast forward, now Nola is my child, she is my client, I think we’ve come full circle. As a mother I often talk to my son about his connections with others. My son is a 26-year-old gay male, which is neither here nor there, but he feels Nola. He tells me that when one of his relationships tries to attach “real relationship” string aka “monogamy”, he feels panicky. He says “mom, I know me and I’m either in just a little to enjoy the experience or I’m obsessively in and I would rather just not”. I feel him, when you know that in your sexual life development you are not ready for anything other than feeding your passion, then do that, as long as everyone is aware, and they understand that they are choosing what you are offering. Nola, beautiful soul that she is, was doing the same. Where she was in life spoke to her. She needed the breadth of experiences that her different love interests gave her. There wasn’t any one person that was able to satisfy her needs and she was transparent in letting them know how she felt. Did Nola sign up for a label of “polyamorous”, no but she was very clear on the label “freak”, she didn’t like it and told her three male lovers so. Although it took her a few episodes in the series to assert that boundary, she was able to do it.
Nola, comes into my office daily. In many different skins but daily. As a mental health professional, I see a variation of Nola who wants it all and feels that they can have it just the way they want it. Then they must deal with a reality smack. That person they crave no longer wants to deal with their drama, their rules. Nola learned that lesson with her female lover Opal who Nola ran to when she was taking a break from the drama of her other three male lovers. Nola wanted it to work with Opal but, as an escape not as a primary choice which is why Opal chose to not continue their romantic ties. Nola was not offering enough of herself. As in any relationship there is a give and take and each person has the right to say, “I don’t want this”. Nola was hurt by Opal asserting this boundary in their relationship, but so was Opal.
Nola was never confused about how she wanted to be seen, what she wanted to be called, who she was, labels like polygamous, or freak, those are other people’s issues. She was clear that not any one person can satisfy her. She was clear that she didn’t want to place herself in a confining monogamy construct. Nola struggled with the way of it all, not the direction. That is the struggle that many of us who don’t conform to an accepted norm deal with. The how of creating the life we want, as we bull headedly move forward with zeal, and at times like Nola, misstep. “She’s Got to Have It” means sex, yes, love, yes, success, yes and one day if we keep moving ….we will “have it!”.