...when love creates purpose
Dating someone significantly younger than you can be a challenge. Will they be emotionally mature enough to date me back? Do our life goals align? Are they too inexperienced? Am I too far ahead in life for us to be able to relate to one another? And most importantly, will I run them away knowing that I am ready for more a lot sooner? These are the types of questions Carmesha asked herself when she first approached her partner of almost three years, Simena. But within months of dating, Carmesha not only realized that her hesitations were unwarranted, she learned that she had met her life partner.
A lifelong student, Simena was both mentally and emotionally beyond her years, and ready to stop letting life live her and start living life for herself. And even better, Simena was neither scared or turned off by the type of next steps Carshema was looking to make in her own life, creating a passionate dynamic between them that neither could ignore.
Watch parts of LBH’s conversation of love with Simena & Carshema above or read it in full below where they talk with LBH about exploring your sexuality, coming out to your parents, religious beliefs and the community they will create for their future children.
How did you all meet and how long have y'all been together?
Simena: I was going to a Halloween party and a good mutual friend of ours didn't know that we were friends until she showed me. She was like, “oh, I have a friend and I think she's interested in you.” I was getting out of some bad situationships, so I was like, “ah, no, not right now, but she's definitely cute.” Then two months after they were at a birthday party for you—your birthday party—and she looked so good, I was like all right, I got to follow her now. Then after that, it was back and forth emojis heart eyes, [until] one drunk night, when she sent me a heart eye emoji, I was like “(send me heart eyes) one more time [and] you got to slide in my DMs because I'm tired of this. We're not gonna keep doing this back and forth.”
Carshema: You said “you got one more heart eye emoji before you slide in my DMs, unless you're scared.”
Simena: That statement was sponsored by Hennessy, but—then that happened. After that, we talked on the phone one night for the whole night, until five in the morning?
Carshema: Yeah, I was working the overnight shift and she stayed on the phone [with me] for the whole entire shift.
Simena: And then she got off work and we still saw each other after so, I think we were on the lesbian timeline pretty clearly.
Carshema: Yeah, so it's been about two years that we've been together in total. Like, two and a half, something like that.
Simena: But it feels longer because when we first started talking and dating, we went through like all the major holidays together. We had Valentine’s Day before we were even together officially. Then we got together, we had 4th of July, Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, all of it. So, it feels longer. [But] I mean, I wouldn’t have any other way.
Simena, I understand that this is your first serious lesbian relationship, what was the process of coming out like for you? And was it difficult?
Simena: I've always been interested in women. I never really thought that I’d hit it, but I think I subconsciously did. I would talk to girls from high school and in college, you know, flirt and be physical with them, but never anything more. I think because I was like, oh, how is a woman going to love me like the love that I thought I was chasing after with men? And once I met her, everything started to feel so different, to the point where I was like, I don't want to fight the feelings that I have and mess it up for me because it's actually going great. You know, when something's going too well, and you're like, “yo, what's about to happen because stuff is going too good?” [But] nothing bad ever happened, and I was like, wow, this feels great to be in and I want to be comfortable and open with that. I want to be able to show people who I love. I just started posting her more and basically [told] everyone on Instagram how I felt. I [also] started posting on Facebook and bringing [her] around my family.
It was a little difficult [for me at first] only because I think my family has a certain type of expectation for me; I have a masters and I am always doing stuff with school, so they probably just assumed that I was going to be with a man. [Though] I never brought anyone around so I was like, “how did you think that?” And [when] I brought her around, at first some people were like, “okay, cool, cool” and then you have your in between people [who were] like, “ah, this is different, maybe it's just a phase” and then you have, people were just like “eh.” So, I had to work my way through a lot of these relationships. And we eloped, [but] I didn't feel bad that I didn't tell all of my family, because I [didn’t need] to be validated by my family in order to be in love. A comfortable and free love that makes me feel amazing.
I understand that there's a 10 year age gap between you all , Carshema, did you have any hesitation dating someone who was both inexperienced and significantly younger than you?
Carshema: Not that I was hesitant, I was just a little bit cautious because I have been with the other women [like that] before, so I was not trying to repeat a cycle. So, I'm like, okay, let me feel her out you know, figure out what's what, but then when talking to her, her maturity level was like, wow. She had all these things going for herself and she still was able to balance a healthy work schedule while going to school, while partying, [and] while being a social media queen. I was just like, “wow, she has it all.” After we met it felt like I knew her forever. So, age and all [those concerns] went out the door. Sometimes I see the age coming through, but for the most part like we balance each other [out]. She completes me, you know what I mean? She brings that younger side [out of me].
I know you guys recently got married, congratulations! Carshema did your age influence your decision to get married sooner rather than later?
Carshema: When it came to marriage—well, before that. When I met her, I already made up my mind how I want to live out the rest of my years, not that I'm old, but you know what I mean? I told her straight from the door, “Listen, I'm having a kid with or without you, you could rock with it or not rock with it.” She was just like, “whoa, kids, hold on, what's going on?”
Simena: I am children.
"She just makes me feel like I no longer have to look for that purpose in life, even though I know I have other purposes, being her wife is the best purpose and the biggest purpose of my entire life and I would never change it."
Carshema: Right, so she's just like, “oh, okay” but it's like, when you know, you know. So, when I made the decision to propose to her, I made up my mind that I didn't want to be with anyone else, just her. We talked about it before I knew that she was on board, I wasn't scared that she wasn't going to say yes, but it's just, I knew that it was a big leap for her. But when we talked about it before, the fire in her eyes was just amazing, So, I mean, it probably has something to do with my age, but at the end of the day, I knew this is where I wanted to be. I didn't see any other way, so why wait?
Simena, did you feel any pressure having those types of conversations?
Simena: At first I was definitely like, “wow, I never met anyone who knew what they wanted in life like that”—like a lot of people were like, “I'm just vibing” and I'm like, I can't vibe any longer. When she was the complete opposite, at first, I was like, whoa, am I ready for something this serious? But [then] I was like, let me see where time takes us? And time started to let me be more open to being like, I can start a family. I've actually made it farther than I thought I did. Because you're in school for so much of your life and you go from school to school and you're like, “wow I haven’t really lived my life” but then I think about it, and I did, but I wasn't paying attention because I was surrounded by school and I was like, oh, well, this is kind of like I'm in my career and you know? I never thought about marriage until her. [Now] I’m definitely okay with being married and it feels right to say this is my wife. I correct people all the time now, I'm like “my wife.” But it was light pressure and then it was just reassurance.
Do you think having those very serious conversations earlier on changed the trajectory of how your relationship played out?
Simena: I think that we would have gotten serious, but I think it might've been more conflict because there's certain expectations that you hold one another to. But when you start talking about spending the rest of your life together you want to fix yourself up to become the good counterpart to your person. I was working on a lot and am still working on some things, but I think that if we didn't have that talk that maybe it might've taken us longer to get here.
In terms of dealing with conflict, we are taught that life experience, age, just generally going through things helps you deal with conflict better. Do you guys feel like the age difference ever impacts the way you all deal with conflict in your relationship?
Carshema: In regards to that, I think that sometimes I feel like I'm the older one, right? And then sometimes—it depends on the situation [where] she will be the older one. She'll have more experience on the topic than I do. And I think that also it's in the way that you communicate with each other, the way that you say stuff, it's the tone that you use because all these things play [into it] and you want to make sure you're sounding like a partner and not a mother or a father, you know what I mean? It makes me more conscious of what I say and how I say to her and I think vice versa, you know, we always go back and forth, but then we're just like, listen, we got to communicate effectively, but where I want to shut down, she's like, no, you need to speak to me, you know? So, I think it comes out sometimes in conflicts.
Simena: Yeah, me being the younger one, my temper is very short and I have to learn how to curb that, she helps me by trying to simmer down the situation. So if she feels like, “okay, she's on like level 10, we're not going to get any type of resolution, I have to remind her that we need to calm down before we talk.” And we take that time, take that space, and then when we regroup, we're able to have an actual adult conversation. And it's something that I really appreciate because I feel like I never really experienced that in friendships. So, you know, a lot of our communication is through friends and family. So family is more authoritative because they know you forever, but friends, you're supposed to teach each other that kind of accountability and awareness of yourself. [And] that's the reason why I feel like our partnership is like a friendship as well, because she teaches me things and I'm thankful for that.
Carshema: You teach me things too.
" I felt like I won the ultimate prize. And even though I see you every single day, I swear, I still can't get enough of it."
Let's go back around to you guys’ decision to elope. Why did you guys decide to elope? I know that we talked, before the interview, that you guys both came from very religious backgrounds. Is that the root of your decision to elope?
Simena: So, we were engaged and we were like, okay, what are we going to do about the wedding? I don't think it was a lot about religion, she's way more religious than I am. Even though I came from Seventh Day Adventist background and it's completely different than what she's taught, I didn't let that be the influence. I think it was just about time and feelings. I didn't feel the need to wait until next year to be able to be [in] a joint union with her. We wanted to be able to have things in our names together, be a part of each other legally. There's no point in waiting. We don't know how much time we have left and the pandemic proved that to us. Being able to just do what we wanted to do and walk in that light of us being together as a unit, it just made us go, okay, next year we can have the celebration of our dreams, but I want the union now. I don't want to put a hold on a union with the person that I want to be with for the rest of my life. I can't wait a year just to say I'm her partner.
We've talked a lot about Simena's journey with sexuality, but what about you Carshema—considering that you are so deeply religious, how did you become comfortable being out to your family?
Carshema: I grew up in a church where they knew me since I was a little girl. They saw me grow up to who I am, [and] they really didn't give me a hard time honestly. It was mainly my family, not really my church family. My church family loved me no matter what I wore, because they saw the transition. I'm this little girly-girl with a purse and got to wear everything that her sister wears, but when they saw me grow into this, I guess, masculine presenting woman, they're just like, oh, you’re still fly, I like that. They really didn't give me too much of a hard time, but my family was a whole different story. I never spoke about it, I never said anything about it. It wasn't until we got married that everything—not until we got engaged is when everything came out, because then it was big. It was all over social media and then my mom—she's the one that raised me—she got a little bit upset and like, “wait a minute, why didn't you tell me, let me know something?” And I'm just like, we never spoke about me even dating women so how can I tell you now when I am engaged? It was kinda like don't ask, don't tell—she never said nothing, I never said nothing. But the church I'm with now, my pastor, she is so supportive of me, she loves me through and through, and she told me at the end of the day, you have to be true to yourself.
Do you regret not telling your family sooner?
Carshema: Actually, I think it turned out to be pretty good. At first it was a little
hard, you know, they felt some type of way, but my family situation is a whole other story, but my mom is our number one supporter. She's all over every single comment. “I love you, daughter-in-law ” My mom is like a hundred percent, but as far as my other side of my family, it is what it is. And just this Saturday, I think I was on the phone with my grandmother and she actually said to me, “what is your wife's name?” And I said, wow. She said, my wife, like that alone was just big to me. And the fact that she was actually curious to know her name. I'm just like, I would never think that you would say that, you know what I mean? So, I don't regret it, I'm cool with the way it turned out to be.
Considering how deeply religious you [Carshema] are, and considering that you [Simena] aren't as religious, how do you guys plan to address that as a married couple raising children?
Simena: I let her take the lead. I attend church with her, not every Sunday, but most Sundays I enjoy church. Growing up, church wasn't really considered praise for me. It was more like, “oh, you got in trouble so, now I'm forcing you to go to church,” and when it was used as a punishment, it turned me away from it. So, I allow her to open my heart up to it and you know, sometimes I catch myself like, “oh, I wanna hear some gospel music today. Let me put this on,” even though I like the commercial gospel music—you say—I don’t like the real gospel music. So, I think that when we become parents, I'm definitely going to let her take the lead on it; I want both of us to teach our children different things. We're both masters of many crafts and I don't want it to seem like everything is so codependent when teaching our kids. I think that I really want us to be religious, or at least want my children to have a very strong hold on the faith and morals, because I know it'll help them as they grow older.
"You said “you got one more heart eye emoji before you slide in my DMs, unless you're scared.”
Carshema: Yeah, and I don't think that when we finally do become parents, I'm not going to be the pushy type because I’ve seen what it does to people. I've been through the same thing too. Like it's used as a punishment, but I had to find out for
myself. That's what made me go back to Him and what they say is true, you train up a child in the way that he or she should go and when they get older they won't depart from it, and that was my story, you know what I mean? I also believe that you can't change people, only God can change people. And all you can do is walk in your truth, and walk in your life and it’s through you that people witness and they see the truth or, you know, whatever it is that you believe in, you have to be the example. So, I feel like when she sees me go to church and when she comes to church, I'm not forcing her, she does it because she wants to. I'm a firm believer that if you just believe and just continue to do what you gotta do for you, your life speaks for itself and people are going to be drawn to it anyway.
Have you guys thought about how you're going to approach queerness when it comes to raising your children?
Simena: Well I'm a therapist and I'm the number one communication pusher. So, I know that we're going to be that kind of family, where we have open discussions and conversations with no judgments. I want to be able to let my children think and speak freely without any fear of being objectified by their parents and also keeping them very aware so they're in the naive world that thinks, “oh, people love queer people.” No, people love queer people on TV because they try to make it seem like all queer people are just fun and colorful, confident. But queer people are queer people and we all struggle what we struggle with and you can still be yourself [without] having to fit a stereotype just to be liked by your community, [or] by any other community. So, I think as parents—and for anyone raising children, whether you are gay, straight, bisexual, pan, whatever—you need to always allow that space for them to feel comfortable with their curiosities and with them, with their thoughts and don't make them feel bad for it.
Carshema: Yeah, that’s true. And also, we have a community of friends from all different walks of life, so, I think that helps too. It helps to shape the child and they can see for themselves right in front of their face. What a transgender person is or what a bisexual person is. Our community is very diverse. We have everyone on our team, the whole alphabet. So, I really think that they are going to see a world—we're going to be able to give them a world that a straight child is not going to be able to see, from coming from a mom and dad, you know?
"when I made the decision to propose to her, I made up my mind that I didn't want to be with anyone else, just her."
How does it feel to be loved by her?
Simena: Being loved by you makes me feel complete in a way where I [feel] like I made it. I've always wondered what my level of success is for me? And [while] I don't have all the money in the world [and] I don't have all the success that other people would say, I feel real successful being here with you. Coming home to her everyday is like I got one of the most important jobs in the world and that's to make her happy. Sometimes [it’s] pressure because I'm like, “I want to just make her smile every time I can and I wish I could give her the world.” And I will work my ass off to do it. But she just makes me feel like I no longer have to look for that purpose in life, even though I know I have other purposes, being her wife is the best purpose and the biggest purpose of my entire life and I would never change it; I would never change it for anything at all.
Carshema: Being loved by her, being loved by you feels, it's rewarding, you know, I feel good. I felt like I won the ultimate prize. And even though I see you every single day, I swear, I still can't get enough of it. I have an insatiable appetite for you. Yeah, so being love by her is rewarding. It feels great, it's so amazing.
Simena: She was about to go so deep, but like, I do not want to bawl on this camera. My face is so red, I'm sorry. She knows how to get me, sorry.
Photograph credit: Richard Bah, Prince Captures +Sir Moore
Interview by: Kee Simone, LBH Editor-in-Chief (@thebaddiegalore)