Topic #2 in my Ask-n-Blog series: “Can you write about the issues of black men relating to black women (and vice versa) and how media comes into play?”
I should preface this by saying that I didn’t ask for clarity on this question to find out what, specifically, the inquirer might be looking for in an answer. I think my response might be more organic that way. But if the topic-provider is dissatisfied, please get back to me with a follow-up question and I’ll tailor the response to your intent.
The Black dating scene is a junior high dance. “Good brothers” stand on one side of the floor. “Good sisters” are on the other. And despite each group’s claims that they desire to meet the other—and are, in fact, often skeptical that the other even exists—no one is willing to be the first to ask the other to dance. All anyone wants to do is complain about the DJ.
Everybody’s dressed up. We’ve all begun the work of making ourselves “quality partners” to an equally self-possessed party who might be looking for one. We’ve managed our emotions, taking the time between relationships to figure out our role in the failure of our last one. We’ve earned enough of our own money to afford the expenditures of a courtship. If we have children, we’ve arranged an amicable enough relationship with our co-parents to be able to assure a new significant other that there’ll be minimal drama. We have a home in which to privately receive guests and suitors. We have friends, hobbies, and professional pursuits that will ensure that we won’t be all up under whoever we’re dating.
We are disinterested in double lives. If someone were to date us, he/she wouldn’t find errant numbers, clothes, DNA from other current trysts hidden among our things. And if someone were to date us, he/she wouldn’t be on the hunt for this type of evidence.
We are able to trust again.
Now, this is my personal definition of what it means to be a “quality” potential partner. It’s cool if this isn’t your bag. But I’m gonna speak from this space.
“The media” would have us believe that there is no dance. CNN keeps (heedlessly) reporting things like this:
… More African-American women are deciding to adopt instead of waiting for a husband, says Mardie Caldwell, founder of Lifetime Adoption, an adoption referral and support group in Penn Valley, California.”We’re seeing more and more single African-American women who are not finding men,” Caldwell says. “There’s a lack of qualified black men to get into relationships with.”
The numbers are grim. According to the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 45 percent of African-American women have never been married, compared with 23 percent of white women.
Three years ago, NBC Nightly News’ Rehema Ellis interviewed, like, three black women about their marriage-less lives and how slim their pickings were and called those women representative of the black female median. Gorgeous, accomplished sisters are out here writing articles that encourage single Black women to plan for single parenthood, if they want children at all, since it’s totally unlikely they’ll find an African-American man they’ll want to spend the rest of their lives with.
I can’t speak for men, but these are the types of things that keep sisters on our side of the dancefloor. We’re giving perfectly acceptable suitors the side-eye, waiting for their other shoe to drop and fully expecting them to self-fulfill our stereotypical prophecies about how they’ll eventually fail us. We’re paranoid. Between our own failed relationships, our girlfriends’ horror stories, and the propagandist puff pieces network news keeps force-feeding us, it’s hard for us to believe that, among the all-dressed-up dudes across the aisle, there’s someone compatible to us.
But all this is immaterial, really. Every couple’s “issues relating to one another” have to do with their preconceived notions about how a person should behave and their difficulty letting go of those notions, in order to accept that an expectation of a thing is only a hope. How we manage realities different than the ones we’d like is the measure of whether or not we’re ready to invite someone else into the complicated, shimmering mess that is our lives.