On Being A Black Woman and Happy With It
So, there’s this thing happening in the black American community (and outside it) where women who look like me are supposed to be grateful for any crumbs that happen to fall into our bleak little lives. Apparently, our lot in life is to be miserable unless some rich educated black man wants us. We’re struggling to survive on our own in a world where we might have to actually be self supporting and self loving, and we don’t even have the good sense to realize that it’s impossible to be happy with ourselves as long as we’re not reflecting the picture society expects. After all, such stellar catches as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan have opted to seek out women of a…lighter persuasion rather than black women.
It’s questionable enough that anyone believes that three dudes who wouldn’t understand fidelity if it walked up to them and sat in their laps being unavailable to black women is supposed to be a clear indicator that black women aren’t valuable. Erm, how to put this politely? Oh right, I’m not in a mood to be polite so I’ll just say flat out I wouldn’t touch any of those cats with my worst enemy’s vagina mmkay? I have standards for the men in my life that include things like trust, respect, and at least a vague grasp of human decency. For the record? I’ve been married twice. The first time was a hot mess in that way that can happen when you’re 21 and too dumb to read the big flashing neon signs that say “Leave this dumb bastard alone” but my current marriage? Loving it. He’s black, educated, and has a good relationship with his mother. It wasn’t hard to find him (I wasn’t even done with my divorce when I met him as a matter of fact) and he has never expected me to be someone else. He loves me for me. I love him for him. That’s our big secret. We’re not unique in this respect either. There are plenty of happy black couples (married or not) out here leading their lives without feeling the need to resort to a Stepford process for either partner. That’s before we get into what it means to be LGBT and unable to legally get married in a lot of places. Newsflash: Not every black woman wants a man. And even for the ones that do? Marriage isn’t necessarily their first priority.
Now, let’s take a second to be real on the topic of marriage. The institution grants certain legal protections and rights, but it doesn’t guarantee a happy couple or even a long lasting relationship. For further proof on that topic feel free to check out the relationship history of the three celebs I’ve already mentioned along with Swizz Beatz, everyone on Basketball Wives, and most of the rest of the modern world. That 50% divorce rate has nothing to do with the flaws of black women and everything to do with the reality that people get married for the wrong reasons to the wrong people everyday. As societal panaceas go, marriage has never really been all that effective despite the hype about the good old days. In the good old days, women got stuck in horrible relationships, men brought home social diseases, and everyone wished they had way out that was socially acceptable and didn’t result in life long poverty. So, let’s drop this idea that marriage has ever been the institution to grant us a stable society. It can’t even grant a stable relationship. And really, if we’re going to harp on the value of marriage? Let’s make it available to everyone instead of offering up expensive substitutes and insisting marriage only has one meaning. If some pop star can get married for 56 hours and the institution still have meaning in the aftermath of that quickie divorce? It’ll be just fine.
This phenomenon doesn’t just rear its ugly head around our love lives though, we’re also supposed to hate our hair, our skin, even the shape of our bodies, and we’re supposed to strive to achieve behavior patterns that are in direct contradiction to our personalities as soon as someone hints that they find us too strong/abrasive/angry/loud or whatever other bullshit excuse they can trot out as part of the effort to denigrate and demean every facet of our existence. After all, we do insist on wearing our hair the way it grows out of our heads, and choosing colors and styles that highlight our skin tones as well as displaying our bodies in ways that we find flattering. I mean, whoever heard of someone wearing a sleeveless top indoors in the winter? Oh wait, I lift weights (and kids) on a regular basis and I also wear short sleeved or sleeveless tops most of the year too. Because they’re comfortable and I like them. And really, what gives anyone the right to police our bodies as though they don’t belong to us? Whoops, I forgot I’m supposed to be begging everyone else for their approval as part and parcel of my experience right? Right.
Except that’s not ever going to happen and the fact that a lot of people are assholes isn’t a reason for black women to turn themselves inside out. It is a good reason to ignore the assholes and keep going about the business of life. Yes, even with “nappy” hair, my natural eye color, and an ass that makes skinny jeans self-destruct I am happy to be a black woman. I love myself, and I love my life even if someone says I’m living it wrong. Instead of finding new ways to insist that to be a black woman is to be miserable, how about celebrating all those unique qualities that are inherent in our shared existence? Oh right, that would require putting down all those ‘ism’s people love to cling to wouldn’t it? I guess if you can’t give up the sexism, racism, and classism then we’ll just have to learn to live with the hate and keep doing our own thing.