Op-Ed: Sophia A. Nelson — Marriage Is for Black People, but Sisters Need to Open up Our Options

Thanksgiving Day Special 2011

Marriage is for Black People, but Sisters Need to Open up Our Options

By

Sophia A. Nelson, Esquire (Author of the Award Winning Book “Black Woman Redefined”)

So it’s that time of year again, when the holidays are upon us and those who are single often feel lonely, and left out.

Essence Magazine dating columnist, Demetria Lucas had a good article, “Single for the Holidays?” on this very subject via Essence.com offering some constructive ways in which we can cope with the loneliness and serve others during the Christmas Holidays. Yet, I want to take this discussion a step further. The holiday blues are just a symptom of a much deeper and disturbing trend particularly as it pertains to black love and relationships: Too many well educated, loving, kind, beautiful, god-fearing, sexy, successful sisters, without the baggage of past marriages or kids are still going it alone around the Holidays and beyond. Too many black men treat black women like they are not to be valued. Are we to be toyed with, should we be happy to be part of a harem of other women, and then wait for black men to figure out when they are ready to date us exclusively? Sisters it is time for us to change the game!

What Sparked this Column:

I had a series of conversations on Thanksgiving eve with no less than ten of my girlfriends who are single black professional women, who are alone, and feel very depressed this Holiday. In that vein, I decided to share a recent experience I had with a long-time male friend, fine brother, never married, a tad younger, has a great career, and we travel in the same social and political circles. It reminded me of why I stopped dating black men seriously about 7 years ago.

To be direct this brother has toyed with me for years from a distance with his statements of adoration: “you are my type”, “I like you”, “I made mistakes in my past”, “wish I’d had a chance with you”, “I’d marry you in a minute”, and “we’d be good together” rhetoric. He also knows that I have been romantically involved with a white man on and off for several years. And I think that the fear finally set in that I might marry this man, and he would lose me for good. Up steps brotha man to the rescue!

We spoke recently after I received an out of the blue text (operative phrase, he contacted me) and we got on the phone and had a really adult, meaningful, transformational conversation. I decided that maybe, I should listen to my dissenters, maybe I was supposed to be with a black man, particularly given my interest in the healing of black women & men in America. After all there is no ring on my finger. The brother’s family likes me and I them. All the pieces fit. Not to mention we would not have to deal with the extra burden of race and religion. It’s the age old dilemma: Go with the man you want, or with the man that you need, the man that you can build a life with, versus the one that makes your heart skip a beat. Not to mention this brother is physically attractive, so falling in love with him would not be a difficult leap.

Feeling social and familial pressure I agreed to talk several times a week (he lives in another state), study together, pray together and see where we ended up. But, as is true to form for many of our black men-they are not serious about dating and pursuing marriage. I opened myself to his proposition and he ran so far, so fast, it was sad. He started backtracking, he stopped calling, he got busy, and he got downright mean and rude. He even had the audacity to tell me he might want to date some other sisters so he could not be “exclusive” or tied down. Huh?? Really? (scratching my head). If it wasn’t so damn sad it would be funny. But thank you Jesus, I dodged a bullet. Believe someone the first time they show you who they are!

Sisters hear me: Leave brothers like this alone. Men that can run cold like ice, flip on a dime mean you no good. They have no honor. These are the same men who tell sisters who they well know care for them, that they will sleep with you, but not date you. It’s called DTF, Friends with Benefits, Jump Offs. What in the world has happened to us???

Relationships Require Commitment

Yes, relationship looks good from afar, but when it is time to step up, some of you brothers run far and fast from commitment. You worry that you just might accept the good, when there is someone better to be had. As one sister friend said, “We accept bad behavior and call it acceptable because dating now is so challenging. We put up with the unthinkable because we don’t want to be alone.” And men know this so they take full advantage of the dating climate. Worse, in my opinion, many of our most eligible brothers (and by that I do not mean income or status) are still running around single well past age 35, keeping women in several cities, hanging with their frat brothers, catting around, texting, and breaking hearts instead of building a life, love, and wealth with a good woman who will stand by their side.

I am sorry brothers, I have checked myself and the sisters in my book, Black Woman Redefined I invited you in, gave you your say, but someone has to say this out loud-it is time for you to cut the shit! Your ‘playa playa’ ways are embarrassing you, your race, and your family that raised you to be more. You are missing life. It is passing you by. You are empty, void and don’t even see it. You have great role models like President Obama, Colin Powell, Will Smith, Rodney Pete, Bill Cosby, and Attorney General Eric Holder and more; you say you want to be like them but no you really don’t. They figured it out early: A successful man has a good, successful, loving woman by his side, not ten ‘ho’s! He has one woman, for life, till death do they part. That is what life is about when all is said and done; not how many notches you have in your belt, or how many numbers you have in your I phone.

Ironically, I had lunch this afternoon with one of my long-time mentors, an older white man (Jewish) in his mid 60s. He marched during the Civil Rights Movement and he married someone outside of his race. He was lamenting to me how disappointed he is with what he sees in the black community. He said that the danger of what ails black America, has less to do with a wealth gap, and finances and more to do with the complete destruction of the black family, and too many black women are being left alone by black men to fend for themselves. He said someone has to get black men back on track and understanding the value of marriage. I could not agree more.

My Journey with a Rainbeau Man

To be candid, I have been wrestling a lot lately over my love interest because he is a white man. And his career is not exactly great for spending quality time together. I suspect all sisters deal with this when dating and marrying a man outside the race. For the record-I do not care about his race. But America still does, families still do, social groups, and workplaces still do. And that is a reality any inter-racial couple has to confront and decide how to handle.

But, let’s have some grown folks talk can we?

White men, who date black women, particularly as they are just starting out in their lives or in their careers, can face career limitations, family scorn and worse. I have heard the stories from friends who have gone that way, and I have seen the struggles these couples have in my own family. Black and white cultures are vastly different. And while we know most people marry people who look like them, are educated like them, who are socialized like them, interracial dating is becoming more en- vogue. Yet, every sister’s deepest fear is that a white man only wants her so he can to “try it out”-or so she can be his “chocolate fantasy”, and then drop her when it is time to get married or take her home to his family. This is real and it is what keeps most sisters away from white men.

I can tell you unequivocally, however, that my “white boy” has never made me feel anything but valued. He may not travel in my world, nor I in his. He may not have my same level of education or achievement, but he is a success. He may not be what I imagined growing up as my Knight in Shining Armor, but I feel safe when I am with him. I can write him love letters and talk to him for hours. He has never ever told me he wants anyone but me. We’ve been through a lot together, and I feel like he is home for me. Shame on me for being willing to throw that away for someone safe and more socially acceptable! Lesson learned. God tapped me on the shoulder and snapped me out of my stupidity.

Here is my point sisters: The time has come for us to open our hearts to love wherever we may find it. The man that finds a wife finds a good thing. Stop letting myths and stereotypes keep you from valuing yourselves and more importantly keep you wedded to putting up with bad behavior from men who don’t want you for real. Yes, marriage is for black people too. 92% of black men, who get married, marry black women. 96% of black women, who marry, marry black men. Yes, there are good black men! The problem is that most of those men are already taken by the time they are in their late 30s and 40s (even in the 20s).

So sisters at the end of the day let me say this: It is okay to want love. It is okay to get lonely. You are human, you need touch, you need partnership, you need support, and you need a protector, helper, and lover. Period. I am tired of folks always telling us to do without, put up with nonsense, “work with him”, or worse. Brothers, many of you will not like this article, but if you are honest you all know men who fit exactly what I am saying. Wonder why sisters are mean, don’t smile, seem walled off, cold, aren’t as “fun & open” as white women? Because black men who they once loved and trusted violated that trust, treated them with contempt (with a smile), played with them, strung them along and made them feel less than. None of this is helping our families, or our communities to do better. Sisters, you have options. It’s time for you to change the game and redefine the rules of love so that you can win.

 

 

 

The Man Myth