I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and it’s actually the reason that’s pulled me away from a very well known, predominantly Black women writing group.

There are an abnormal number of books written about women falling in love with gangsters – with the story usually revolving around the idea that these women can either learn to change their man, or join him on his clearly paved road to hell, because “that’s love.”

I cannot stress the monumental pile of bullshit that this plot enforces. Romanticizing the life of gangsters and their girlfriends and wives, only stems to enforce the idea that gangsters are sexy.

I know from up close and personal experience, that gangsters are dangerous. They are dangerous, and they are stupid, and that is a very scary combination.

They take unnecessary risks, and make dangerous choices because they don’t understand how to deal with their emotions in a healthy and positive way, and that usually means that everyone around them, has to suffer the consequences of their actions.

When you love a gangster, everything about your life is about him. Protecting his secrets, protecting his reputation, making him look good. You are not a partner in crime, you are a fucking accessory. You are there to make him look like he has everything you’re supposed to want when you’re a gangster. You are there to complete the image, not because he thinks he’s going to ride off into the sunset with you one day.

The John Dillinger story, Public Enemies, is incredibly romantic. He meets a woman, claims her as his own, and does everything he can to show her a world she didn’t know she’d ever see.

In reality she ended up on a farm in the middle of nowhere with a child, and a suspected father who was killed by the cops.

The truth of these stories isn’t beautiful and shiny, it’s not safe and wonderful, it’s not a dream come true. It’s an unholy nightmare.

Your behavior, and the behavior of those around you, is judged by the men, and if you are found wanting, then rumors are started about you that are just embarrassing enough to force you to walk away. If you’re unlucky like me, and you decide you want out of that life, you’ll be gang raped and “claimed” by the entire group, just to remind you that even though none of the guys want to date you, you still belong to them.

If you step one toe out of line, people will legitimately try to have you killed, either by spreading rumors to usurp your power, or their perception of your power, or they will actually shoot at you, just to take you out and to put the world on notice.

The cops might not know who shot someone, but you can bet your ass every fucking person who lives the party life in your town, will know who shot that person.

The entire gangster lifestyle is about survival, and you become the darkest, worst, laziest, most afraid version of yourself, and as a result, you treat everyone around you like crap, because people are afraid of those who aren’t afraid to be an asshole, and there is power in that.

Power is currency in the world of gangsters, and it doesn’t matter how you get your power as long as you get it. The moment you do, suddenly people are afraid of you, suddenly people “respect you”, because you’re the top dog, so to speak. It doesn’t matter if you cheat on, beat, rape, and torture women, because no one talks about that.

We keep that to the shadows, because if you’re capable of doing all that, what else are you capable of? What else are you willing to do? Who else’s lives are you willing to destroy to prove that people should behave according to rules that you set, but don’t actually share with the collective?

There is nothing romantic about hiding guns under your bed, or having a black and blue face, just so your boyfriend or “husband,” can look like a badass to everyone else around him. Which isn’t really like looking like a bad ass, and is utterly about looking like an asshole that people are too afraid of to stand up to.

And that guy who is your “husband?” yeah he’s “wifed up” four other girls, all of whom have babies that the mothers of claim to be the same man you’re with, because he’s the guy in charge, and they want their kids to be off limits.

And the women who are your friends? Yeah they’re ALL sleeping with the guys you like, in an effort to deliberately get pregnant, so they will be taken care of for the rest of their lives, either by the man or the government. Either or works, as long as their needs are met, and their existence recognized as the “baby mama.”

It’s exhausting, it’s a mental mind fuck that destroys everything about the person that you could be, and turns you into a soldier in the middle of a war that has nothing to do with you. I know this shit for a fact, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

I have witnessed the pain and trauma that comes with loving men in gangs, I have seen with my own eyes, the pain of loving a man who you know is probably going to spend the rest of his life in prison, in an institution, or in a grave, while you give up the rest of yours, because moving on with someone else would be considered an insult to the man who went to prison or died, or both, while he was supposedly trying to build you a better life.

He wasn’t trying to build you a better life, he was partying, getting high, having sex (and spreading his germs) to as many women as he could before one of his friends “got there first”;

and selling dope so that he can continue to show the world that he’s a made man. He won’t go to fancy restaurants without security guards, (if he goes to them at all) he won’t go to the theater, he won’t find himself standing next to politician’s trying to change the world that he lives in. He’s too busy trying to destroy the world in his quest for power and comfort.

And let’s be clear, power and comfort, are his only goals in this life. Everything else on the planet, is secondary.

If he takes you anywhere to eat, it’s probably going to be a Subway or McDonald’s, it’s sure as fuck not going to be the fancy schmancy hotel restaurants in the big city. There will be no hand holding as you walk by the ocean and talk about your futures. This is not going to happen, when you date a man who wants to spend his life being a gangster.

He drives around in fancy cars, (if he’s lucky, or if they are stolen, because his ass is far too broke to actually afford a car of his own,) or whatever they can get their hands on at the time, and he’ll always have a driver, because he of course is far too important to drive, his “friends” will take all the risk, while he plays the tough guy, and should he end up in prison, then everyone around him will call him a hero because his massive ego fest was destroyed by the police officers who legit only chase these guys because they love the thrill.

You know what cops and gangsters have in common? They’ve never grown the fuck up. The same people that become cops and robbers, are the same people that played that game as a child, and couldn’t get enough of it.

The gangsters love the thrill of being chased, by women and cops in equal measure, and the cops and the women love the thrill of the chase. It’s the never ending love triangle from hell.

And more often than not, it’s the women that get caught with the drugs, the money, and the guns, and the women, who go to jail and then get called traitors or suckers. There is no winning.

I couldn’t be more pleased to be away from that life, I feel like I am in a complete and total state of recovery from years of pretending that I understood the rules, or cared about the rules, or liked the rules. I am legit traumatized by the experiences I had with people who were cops, robbers, gangsters, and gangster lovers.

I know of a girl – not someone I’ve ever met before – who died in a hotel room, while her “husband” (read boyfriend because Gangsters don’t do “weddings” anymore,) sits in jail on his umpteenth appeal to go through.

He will never see her again, and while I believe he loved her, I don’t believe that he loved anyone or anything, as much as he loved the lifestyle.

And the worst part? THE WORST part of all of this is that these assholes actually convince themselves that they are miserable living this lifestyle. They tell you – when you’re a woman, and on the rare occasions to each other – that they are actually heavy with guilt and shame of the lives that they live, when in reality, this is just another fucking way to sucker you the hell in, so that you fall for the “he doesn’t really want to be here” line.

IT’S BULLSHIT. He absolutely wants to be there, he absolutely wants to be strapped with a gun, he absolutely wants to be hanging at the back of the strip club, he utterly wants to grabs women’s asses without their permission when they aren’t dating you. They absolutely want to make you feel small so that they will feel good, all the while saying “I’m trying to do better baby, but I just can’t get out,” because we all know you can’t walk away from gang life without consequences.

They totally in every single way, want to be seen as someone who is powerful and terrifying, because yes they have been hurt in the past, but rather than deal with that hurt, they will use it as a weapon against everyone who comes close to chipping their armor.

They want you to believe that they are these deep soulful poets with hearts of gold that just want to “do this until I can afford to get out,” except they can never afford to get out, because there is always someone bigger than you, who will do whatever they can to keep you in the game, because the game is all that matters.

And again, it absolutely is a game, because they are children, who haven’t grown up. Yes they have adult responsibilities, like rent, food, power, children, but none of this matters as much as showing off your best Godfather impersonation. No I don’t mean that literally.

Stop behaving like women falling in love with gangsters is sweet, cute, and fucking adorable. It’s not, it’s devastating. Falling in love with a gangster can literally be like choosing between life and death.

I can always tell when someone who writes this shit doesn’t actually have any experience with it, because if y’all knew what it was like to love a gangster, you wouldn’t be turning it into erotica. It’s not sexy, it’s traumatizing.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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