I want to talk about Akon. Anyone with ears has probably heard his latest single, “Don’t Matter.” You know, that staple of Top 40 radio in which the self-proclaimed “Konvict” warbles, “Nobody wanna see us together/But it don’t matter, no/’Cause I got you.”

I have a Pavlovian response that mimics a petit mal seizure when I hear the first few bars of that song, and I’m considering boycotting the Grammys next year because I know he and Sanjaya Malakar will probably sweep every category, while “first and foremost” thanking the Baby Jesus for their musical gifts.

But Akon has forced a realization on me, and it’s not just that talentless musicians can make bank. He has, in roundabout sort of way, taught me that it does matter. It really does! When I hear that song, I picture a couple torn between their friends and family who are mouthing silently (so as not to interrupt the soaring instrumentals), “Don’t! Stop! Your boyfriend/girlfriend is a manipulative, unsightly burger flipper with no social skills who fantasizes about slicing off Dave Matthews’s skin and wearing it as his/her own!”

Here’s what it boils down to: love is not some secret thing that only people in relationships can understand. If you feel like you and your significant other are fighting everyone around you in order to continue getting busy, something’s rotten in Chucktown.

Plenty of us have spent our lives since high school defending our mates to our friends and family. Does this sound familiar? “No, Mom. Schmoopy is just working at the Milkshake Shack until he can pay his way through graphic design school. He wants to create album covers for his favorite band, Cannibal Corpse. He’s very creative!”

I’ve mastered this technique. My spin skills are so tight, I could work P.R. for Don Imus. The worst part is admitting, post-breakup, that my folks were right the whole time, and yes, Schmoopy was a dirtbag who was never going to leave our small town or his minimum wage jobs. Looking back, the only boys worth a damn in my life were the ones who could stand up to the Spanish Inquisition that is my family dinner table. And really, there’s been only one.

If everyone in your life, or the majority, has a serious problem with your little lovebug, it’s time to take an honest inventory of the relationship. Best friends and homeboy hate each other? Time to move on. If a person is worth your time, the people closest to you will agree. It’s often difficult to realize what a dire situation your love life has become while you’re still involved.

I spent a year defending someone who was damn near impossible to defend, and I’m still repairing some friendships damaged by the emotional shrapnel. There’s not enough room on this page to list the reasons why I should have run away screaming when I became involved with him, and detailing them for all of Charleston wouldn’t get me much more than a lawsuit. The one irrefutable truth about that year from hell is that the only positive thing I gained from sticking around was the promise to myself that I will never, ever, settle again.

I apologize, still, to my friends for ever questioning their judgment. If my boyfriend had been a decent guy, it would have been apparent. No person is so incredible that only you can tell.

Looking back, I can’t believe the things I overlooked, all in the name of “love.” Now, I realize that someone who loved me would have loved my friends, because they’re incredible people who have enriched my life beyond measure. He would have made conversation with my family, because they’re hilarious, welcoming people. He would have made my life better, because that’s what love does. Love is a gift that should only increase our joy, and if your “love” doesn’t, maybe it’s not love at all.

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