Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Love and marriage...again

I'm not trying to spend a lot of time talking about marriage and relationships, these things just keep coming up this month.
 
A check of my Google Reader this morning got my hackles up. The Root is at it again. I made clear my annoyance at the recent article by Jenee Desmond-Harris' taking black women to task for their pickiness when choosing romantic partners. Now David Swerdlick is approaching the same subject from a male point of view:

You can't argue with Jenée's thesis: her coterie of pedigreed, upwardly mobile black women have to dig deeper for unseen potential if they're looking for "Mr. Right." 

But if Barack Obama Part Deux is what it's going to take to satisfy them, then her advice is going to leave a lot of women single as hell. 

Personally, I blame Dwayne Wayne. Those endless reruns of your favorite episodes of A Different World get y'all completely twisted when it comes to evaluating a potential mate. But that's beside the point. Here are a few tips to straighten things out:

Stop comparing regular guys to Barack Obama. 

I can only speak for myself—I'm biracial, went to some pretty decent schools and spent most of my 20s in a cramped bachelor pad—but that's where the comparisons to Barack Obama end. There's nothing cool or Kravitz-esque to see here—I'm the other kind of mixed guy, in need of a tan and a fade. Picture Benjamin Jealous after six weeks on Survivor.

If my wife had held me to the presidential standard, I would have never had a chance. 

There's nothing wrong with admiring Obama's style, but if he's "the black Prince Charming ideal" that women are saving themselves for, then it's pretty much a wrap. 

Hopefully every woman finds a successful, well-rounded life partner. But if any of you are holding out for a future U.N. high commissioner who's also won an Olympic bronze in tennis, makes sushi at home and DJs at his own club on weekends, you really need to get a grip.  Read more...

Heavy sigh...really.

It's not that Swerdlick doesn't offer some decent dating advice. It's just that, again, as we discuss the real problem of black-on-black relationships, we wind up battling this straw (wo)man--the unreasonably choosy black woman. Unreasonable, because "Girl, ain't you read the statistics? Beggars can't be choosy!"

Now, one could make the case that, in these modern times, everyone has elevated standards in the romance department and too often those standard relate to the superficial rather than the important. Except articles like Swerdlick's are never about everybody. I don't hear preachers in the black church sermonizing on what black men need to do "catch" good black women. As far as I know, Steve Harvey isn't working on a sequal to his best-selling "teachin the sistas how to act right" book called "Act Like A Man; Think Like a Woman." Conversations about heterosexual black relationships seem always about what black women need to do better. And now there seems to be a popular new class of dating article bearing the message: "Don't go thinking you are worthy of a man like Barack Obama."

See, it is wrong to expect an average black man to be smart, loving, ambitious and a good father. (I wonder why these writers have such low expectations of black men.) Meanwhile, no one is chastising men over unrealistic beauty standards, driven by hip hop videos and King magazine. I particularly love this line of the most recent Root article:

And know your own limitations, ladies. I mean, you're intelligent and sexy and all, but unless you're a female equivalent to the Dos Equis guy—the most interesting woman in the world who smells like Chanel No. 5 24 hours a day—accept the possibility that it'll take more than pilates and a master's degree to snag the next Barack Obama. 

Got that? While you should not be discerning in your romantic encounters, expect that a highly-coveted black man will be discerning--very, very discerning.

And what about this gem?

Black women hoping for a monopoly on black men have to realize that they're like General Motors in a Toyota world—either develop your own hybrid technology or prepare to go out of business. 

Uh-huh...

For the last time, black women are no pickier than any other women (or men). (In fact, Jezebel posted an article about how Swerdlick's piece could easily refer to heterosexual white women.) If there are challenges in the relationships between black men and black women, they will never be solved as long as we are obsessed with heaping all the blame on one party.

I'd like to call a moratorium on all "how sisters need to change to snag a man" articles, especially those written by men whose time would be better spent addressing their brothers (I am so looking at you, Steve Harvey.). You want to talk about black romance? Fine. Let's talk about how the stress caused by racism and marginalization effect interpersonal relationships. Let's talk about poverty and the welfare system. Let's talk about European beauty standards. Let's talk about sexualization of young girls and boys. Let's talk about young black men with targets on their backs in the neighborhood. Let's talk about the educational deisparities between the sexes. All of these things have more impact on black romance and marriage that how picky professional black women are or are not.

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While I'm on the subject of love and marriage...it just struck me this weekend how my life has changed since I got married eight years ago.

Mr. What Tami Said went to visit family on the East Coast last week and my stepson was cruising with his mom in the Bahamas. That left me home alone with the critters. Now, I spent slightly more of my adult years as a singleton than a married person. And though I have been happily hitched for nearly a decade, I have always more strongly identified with the persona of the urban, single woman--independent, ambitious, active, able to enjoy being alone--not so much the suburban soccer mom. I want to talk books and movies and trash TV and new technology, not babies and Little League. (Okay I realize my thinking is rife with stereotype...) But I was surprised to discover that I (a certified introvert, who cherishes alone time) felt a little lonely and bored last week without my husband. It's not that I didn't get out and do stuff. It's just that when I came home, the house was too quiet and the rhythm and energy of our home was off. I missed lying sprawled across the couch, feet tucked under my husband's legs, watching Keith Olbermann or The History Channel. I missed walking outside on the back porch with him after work to check the status of the lillies we've planted in the backyard. I have to say, my identity was rattled by the fact that I was a little lost without my significant other.

It happens that on Friday, I watched a little "Sex and the City" On Demand. It was the episode where Carrie's once-wild, friend Laney, once the toast of Manhattan, throws a baby shower and the women discover that Laney, married now and living in the 'burbs, has become a bit of a pompous Stepford Wife. Laney later ends up crashing one of Samantha's parties and trying to get her single girl mojo working again, but she learns that she can't go back again. At the end, we learn that no matter what your stage in life, there are pros and cons. Single may mean freedom; married may mean stability. Single may mean being lonely sometimes; married may mean precious little "me" time. That's just life. You have to embrace where you are.

So, I'm going to have to come to grips with the fact that I am a slightly different woman than I was nine years ago. And that's not a bad thing. Yeah, I'm married with a kid and I live in the suburbs with a dog and two cats. I'm not a soccer mom, but you can find me in the stands at the baseball field. I'm also still independent, still ambitious, still active and I still hate baby talk. I may technically be a suburban wife and mom, but I'm still cool, right?

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