Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happily Unmarried Black Woman is Not an Oxymoron

“So you’re twenty five, no kids, no husband? Do you have a boyfriend or is that just not your thing?”

-Intern coordinator at my current job

I can’t recall the countless number of times that people give me this quizzical look when I tell them that I don’t have children, or a husband or even a potential husband. Something about me must by default be wrong or off. People look at me like they want to ask me questions about me but are a bit afraid to come off as insensitive. When this happens I tend to smile at the awkwardness and open up the uncomfortable conversation that goes along with being single. (As in not married) As Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks states “Black women are the most segregated group in our society when it comes to relationships.”

When given the opportunity to dialogue about this labeled “catastrophe”, three ringed circuses occur, like the one in which occurred in 2010 in Atlanta with an” all-star” panel (Steve Harvey, Hill Harper, Jimi Izrael etc.) The panel in essence summed up that the problem Black women are facing is Black women. So “solutions” have come about to help aide Black women in our conquest to be “happily” married like everyone else. From books like Steve Harvey’s “Act like a lady, think like a man” and even more gut wrenchingly hilarious is Tyler Perry’s “Don’t make a Black woman take off her earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life” (And please don’t even get me started on how twisted it is that he is writing from his alter ego Madea).


Black women not being married is becoming a means for a new market of the exploitation of Black women. (Women all together, but Black woman in particular) After all and according to The Economist “Seven out of ten Black women are single. Of the others many are forced into man sharing.” Steve Harvey even goes as arrogantly far as to say in his book that “Men respect standards, get some” (Harvey & Milner, 2009) thus concluding that single women have no standards? Run that by me one more time Mr. Harvey!

I’m sorry I didn’t think that we were all trapped in a 1950’s Good Housekeeping article telling me that I need to be able to have dinner on the table when my husband gets home and what to do in case I have an emergency when too many of my husband’s associates come over for a dinner party. (Though I must note this leisure was not as afforded to Black women as it was to other women, but that’s an entirely different spiel all together!) Women now are more concerned with being educated, getting a degree, and then maybe (Yes I said MAYBE) getting married. And then there are those women who may never want to get married. Furthermore, does anyone take into account women who are lesbians?

With the bombardment of media images, movies, and even love songs as a constant reminder of one’s constant need to be loved and or married, it is quite understandable how women can be forced to go into panic mode when not married by a certain age or at all. All throughout my undergraduate years of college statistics were thrown into my face about Black women not getting married and especially about educated Black women not getting married. I’d sit in classrooms, at IHOP and even at my apartment having discussions with my peers about being single (The few times that I was). Singleness was looked at as being undesirable and or unlovable. As a woman it was asked if something was wrong with you.

I began to grow into myself and my definition of happiness began to evolve I realized that my happiness was not contingent upon being married or being with someone all together. I’m not at all trying to knock my married friends’ lives, I’m just coming to realize that for me that is not something I’m ready to do just yet. I want my masters degree, I am wrapping my mind are obtaining a PhD possibly hereafter. I’m currently on an internship working with indigenous women and women’s rights. Marriage therefore is on a permanent backburner until I’ve achieved the goals I’ve set for myself. While I’m in a relationship, I can’t begin to wrap my mind around the big M word. Maybe someday, but not now. Regardless of all the statistics stacked against me, and all the images flooding into my brain and conscious on a day to day basis, I am sticking with saying that my happiness is not contingent upon marriage or even the promise of it.


References

Harvey, S., & Millner, D. (2009). Act like a lady, think like a man: what men really think about love, relationships, intimacy, and commitment. New York, NY: Amistad.

Unmarried black women: Down or out. (2011, October 15). The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/21532296

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