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Why (some) black women are single: My take

2010 May 2
by Free Reeves

Long list… scrubs need not apply

The media is always good for letting you know how little progress black people have made as a cultural group. I’ve expressed my chagrin at how focused certain magazines and TV shows have been on the plight of the single black woman. So smart, education, independent… and lonely. I can chalk up our fear of having a planet filled with single, turkey baster-using black women in pantsuits to institutional conditioning, but when the mainstream (read: white) media takes interest in this so-called problem, we have cause to be suspicious. Is the media as interested in the factors that contribute to this “problem” as they are in the problem itself? With the exception of CNN, has any other mainstream media outlets dedicated a whole hour of programming to America’s flawed and inconsistent primary and secondary education systems or the criminalization of narcotics, which has created the highest number of African American men in prison EVER of any previous time period, including Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era?

While the real causes of the Single Black Woman “problem” are systemic, I think there are reasons behind the low marriage rate that are easier to address. (NOTE: The statistics used to support the singleness of black women are based on marriage rates. There is no mention of how many women are in relationships, but are not legally married or “shacking up”) .

The following is my list of why some black women are single:

  1. Because they keep reading magazine articles/books and watching television shows about why black women are single.

The interest in the single black woman concerns me for another reason. When you start hearing something enough about a group you hold membership in, even the most self-assured person will have a hard time of preventing it from entering their sub-consciousness. Just like messages promoting Euro-centric standards of beauty continue to permeate the consciousness of black women, I worry that these messages will, and have, created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Black women keep hearing and reading about how undesirable they are, they go out into the world feeling less worthy and lovable, they attract men who mirror this self image and we have another black relationship that will not yield marriage, commitment or another else other than bitterness and hurt.

2. They confuse having a list with having standards

We do well in high school, go to college, graduate and enter the working world. We work hard, and rightful demand that our time not be wasted. Our mothers and fathers tell us not to bring home a bum, and to have standards. But as Chili shows in her reality show, having a list of romantic preferences is not the same and is not nearly as important as having standards.

To illustrate my point, I’ll share the list I wrote when I was single. Some of the qualities I was looking for included:

  • Smart, romantic, funny, has integrity, loves me, respects me, attracted to me, kind, good business partner, secure in manhood, supportive, creative, not committed/married to anyone else.
  • Taller than me, listens to hip hop, neat and clean, lives within 30 minutes of me, can cook, stylish dresser.

Notice the difference between the two lists? The first are things that I must have, and are critical to making a relationship work, and the second are just preferences. For example, while I would like my partner to be taller than me, if he’s not secure in his manhood, he may not act like he is. Know the difference between standards and preferences. So now I have a partner. I did make a list of things that I wanted, but I was not wedded to some things, and I was clear about why I wanted others. For example, I said I wanted a vegetarian, but my partner eats meat. And it really hasn’t been the obstacle that I thought it would be. I’ve also learned that a lot of the requirements that we have are actually defense mechanisms, or rationalizations for why other people have not been compatible in the past.

3.They haven’t defined happiness for themselves

There was a moment, after my first serious relationship fell apart three years ago, that the fear of being one of those black women- educated, successful and alone- started to take hold of me. To counteract this, I asked myself:  What was actually to fear about this? My ultimate goal in life is to find happiness but at that time, I hadn’t even done the work to define what happiness meant to me.

When I think of my most happy self, I think about being somewhere warm and sunny, with mild breezes. I think about having colleagues and mentors from all walks of life, living in a vibrant and peaceful community, and being close to loved ones, whether they are family or friends. And I do think about having a partner, one that I trust and one that is ingrained into my life. He is a partner in the truest sense of the word. Our relationship would be more than a friendship fueled by infatuation, and is absent of jealousy. This relationship would be You and Me, Inc. The business would be finding ways to express ourselves and have prosperity together. So, instead of looking at article upon article, saying how difficult it will be statistically to find a partner and get married, I thought about what I wanted, and I looked to see if it in fact, included marriage. After taking inventory, I realized that I did want marriage, but also, WHY I wanted it. It wasn’t to prove to society that I was wanted; it wasn’t because I had the need to have ownership of someone. I wanted someone to share a life with, whether it was legally recognized or not.

So how can black women start the road to finding a happy partnership?

1) Find alternatives to the SBW story, such as this http://clutchmagonline.com/beauty/love-is-in-the-hair-celebrating-black-love-natural-hair/. The blog Black Girls with Long Hair asked readers to submit pictures of themselves with their partners. Not only is this a powerful statement to counter-act the myth that black women aren’t desired, but it is a great visual to point your attention to.

2) Focus on what you want, not what other people think you can get, and;

3) Know that your outside is always a reflection of your inside. What are you attracting? If you seem to attract the same kind of romantic partner and it’s not what you want, clear out whatever is attracting those people to you.

This issue speaks to multiple issues, such as gender and socialization, and I will address these other factors in future posts . Stay tuned.

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