From ages 19–23, I dated a man accused of aggravated assault. Of our four years together, he was in jail for three of them. In order for you to understand how shocking this is, you need to know a little bit about my background. I’ll keep it quick.
I am first generation Indian American. My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. I spent most of my time in cultural Indian dance growing up. I was sheltered and I knew it. I was aware people didn’t have what I had. I felt it was my duty to give what was given to me.
At age 19, I met a man in an AOL chatroom. Yes, I’m from the stone age. We immediately connected. He was sweet and respectful. I enjoyed talking to him. After talking for a couple months, we decided to meet.
I was excited to meet him. Two friends and I drove from our predominantly Indian town in central New Jersey to Queens, NY.
We hit it off right away. He was more handsome than his picture. I enjoyed his company, but most of all I enjoyed the exhilaration I felt in his presence. He was so confident. He was over protective. I liked it. I liked knowing that someone wanted to take care of me.
I went to college in Massachusetts. With a boyfriend in NY, the commute was tough. I took the train to visit often and stayed with a friend so I could see him. I lived for those moments.
One day I got a call from him. He told me something bad happened and he would probably have to serve time. He was waiting to be sentenced. I didn’t understand. I still don’t know the full story. I didn’t ask many questions. I didn’t want to know.
I received the next call the day after he was sentenced. Three years. And since my boyfriend wasn’t a citizen, he would be deported after time was served.
I was shattered. My young mind couldn’t comprehend it. I had finally found love only to have it taken away. I told him I’d stay with him during his sentence. I stayed true to that promise.
For three years, I visited. I sent commissary. For those of you that don’t know, these are items, like prepared foods, you are allowed to receive in prison. I went to visit as often as I could. In that time, I graduated college. I met other men but my heart was committed.
On one particular visit, a woman pulled me aside and told me I didn’t belong there. She said she could see it in my eyes. She said I shouldn’t waste my time, I could do better things. I appreciated her concern. While I knew my relationship wouldn’t last forever, it didn’t feel right to leave when someone needed me most. So I stayed with him. I received calls from jail. I was seeing someone else for a brief period and left him to accept a call from my boyfriend. I’d leave dinners with friends to accept a call. If I missed the call, I’d be upset not knowing when I would receive another.
Reflecting on this, I can’t help feeling ashamed. How did I put someone in jail above every thing else in my life? Why did I do it?
It was exciting. It gave my ordinary, boring life purpose. I could have used that drive for purpose on so many other things. I could have paid attention in college. I could spent time on a new hobby and excelled at it. I could have started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu years ago when my body was more capable. But I didn’t. I gave my purpose to my convict boyfriend.
I don’t regret it. He gave me something no one else could. He is responsible for my confidence. He put me on a much needed pedestal. Growing up, I heard my fair share of negative comments. I was bullied often. This was the first time someone actually wanted to listen to me. This was the first time someone actually thought I was beautiful. It was the first time someone was proud to be my boyfriend.
He taught me to love myself.
So, I am thankful for it. Had it not been for the confidence gained at that point of my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As for my ex, we broke up shortly after he was deported. I went to visit him once and realized it wouldn’t work.
I don’t have hard feelings. We keep in touch occasionally. I sent him a message when his daughter was born and when his brother passed. He has sent me messages in return. I am happy to receive them.
Without having dated a man in jail, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have the confidence I needed to meet my husband. I wouldn’t have the wonderful life I have with him and our two beautiful children. I am living my best life and I owe part of that to my criminal boyfriend.