It was 3 o’clock in the morning on a Friday night. Kenya, her boyfriend Ez, my boyfriend and I had just left Hurricane on 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville. We danced so hard I sweated out my perm. There’s nothing like the DJ’s down south who know how to make a party pop. (I miss that being in NYC where in 2011 they play Joe Budden in the club. Really NY DJ’s?) I was hungry. We hugged Kenya and Ez goodbye nearly skipping to the pizza shop on the corner. One slice of pepperoni pizza was just what I needed.

On the walk to the car the beau and I chatted about how cool Kenya and her Ez were to hang out with. We were totally giddy over their cuteness as a couple. As I was devouring my pizza, my knee length form fitting black dress was slowly rising due to my new weight gain that seemed to hit my thighs and derrière the most.  There were three fat guys on the corner looking seemingly bummy. Halfway between reaching the car and being nearly 20 steps past the random guys, my dress was still misbehaving. I couldn’t pull down my dress fast enough before one of the guys yelled: “Nice ass.” I mumbled something to the effect of go to hell, not really loud enough for any of them to hear. Chris remained silent.

“Nice ass, and your boyfriend ain’t gon’ do nothing about it,” another screamed.

I, dumbfounded, waited for my boyfriend’s response. Silence.

“Just like I said, he ain’t gon’ do nothing about it. Bitch ass nigga,” he yelled.

I’m now livid, and can’t help to think this would have never happened with any of my exes. Not only would it not have happened with any of my exes, but years prior in my reckless years it wouldn’t have flown with me either.

In an attempt not to emasculate Chris I looked over at him expecting him to at least acknowledge what was happening. He said nothing. [1]

My anger hadn’t subdued by the time we reached his apartment. I lashed into him with a number of questions.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Were you scared?”

“You’re supposed to be a protector!” I screamed.

Admittedly he was scared. He froze up and didn’t know what to do. After 45 minutes of my temper tantrum I realized this was nothing new to him. He had been called gay, tested by other men and considered weak his entire life for being short, skinny and light skinned. My anger quickly turned to sadness. I cried for him. The man I loved walked around with fear in his heart. Something I just was not used to.

Months later he would reveal that said incident was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

“You never looked at me the same after that night,” he said. “You didn’t respect me as a man.”

He was right.

It is said that women need to feel like their man is the protector and provider for any relationship to work. Eh…provider not necessarily, especially with the influx of independent women. Although, for me, there does need to be an indication he could be the provider if he had to. But protector is a must.

After that night my own issues of how I viewed manhood and masculinity would find its way into our tough conversations. Prior to Chris I had only been in love with men who were 6’1 and taller, dark skinned, and at least 205 lbs.[2] Yet there I was dating a man who was the antithesis of the exes, which was great, until the night I knew he couldn’t protect me.

I don’t know if that incident ultimately ended our relationship. I’m actually sure it did not as there were a myriad of other issues that basically boiled down to timing and compatibility. But after him I was left asking myself, how important is it to feel like your man can protect you?

I decided it’s a must. And it’s not something I’m willing to budge on. Not even a little.

[1] In retrospect expecting him to do something could have gotten both of us seriously hurt or killed. But I didn’t expect him to walk up to them, start an argument or kick their asses. I did want him to at least acknowledge that they had disrespected me. Later there would be other incidents that I didn’t feel he could defend himself or me if something happened.

[2] The incident that happened would have most likely never happened with my any of my exes or best male friends because they don’t carry themselves in a way where they look like they could or should be tested. More than anything, it bothered me that Chris looked like he wouldn’t do anything so they tried him. And he proved them right.