While Black women continue to soar as college graduates and business owners, the pressure remains on women to settle down. Meet three who have openly embraced their single season.
This feature originally appeared in the ESSENCE June 2017 Issue
Single & Satisfied
Single & Satisfied Loni Love, cohost of The Real and author of Love;Him or Leave Him but Don’t Get Stuck With the Tab
I started the "Single and Satisfied" segment on The Real because I wanted to give a voice to unmarried women. Single and satisfied doesn't mean you'll never get into a relationship. It's just that you're okay with where you are now. As a single woman, be sure to make time for yourself. We can spend much of our time doing a lot for other people and not always focusing on ourselves. People assume because you're not married, you can help with tasks and watch the kids or older people: "Well, you are single and have the time." No, I still have a life. Make time to go out and focus on what you like. If you give too much of your time to others, you could look up and find that life has passed you by.
Our show deals with many relationship topics, and I didn't want the narrative to be that to be happy you have to be married. I truly am happy being single. I'm able to focus on what I want to do with my life. I would not be in my position today if I'd had children earlier. I'm on the road about 40 weeks a year. There's no way I could have left my family that much. There are also realistic downsides. If you don't plan, you can start to feel alone, especially during holidays. That's why it's important to plan. I wish somebody would have told me in my twenties, "Think about what you want to do in your life." I got an engineering degree and always wanted to be an entertainer. The world is big and beautiful. Make good use of your time and value it.
Everybody wants to find an excuse for me being single. I'm like, "I'm single because I want to be." It has nothing to do with being a plus-size girl or not getting a man. Being single doesn't mean you're unworthy. It means you choose what makes you happy. Life is worth living. I am single and so satisfied.
Photo by ERICA PARISE
Getting Off The Get-Married Go-Round
Joi-Marie McKenzie, author of The Engagement Game: Why I Said “I Don’t” to Marriage and “I Do” to Me
After seeing my parents have a strong, beautiful marriage of more than 45 years, I knew I wanted the same thing. I watched Say Yes to the Dress religiously, and as my boyfriend Adam and I approached five years together, I felt ready to get married and started agonizing about him proposing. My sister gave me tips to get engaged, from making a list of traits I want in a husband to making the famous engagement chicken. I did everything to try to get the relationship to a place where we would tie the knot—even obtaining the recipe and a meat thermometer. "Why did your marriage not work?"
I asked Jill Scott during an interview. She replied, "You can hold your stomach in for four hours, but you can't hold it in for the rest of your life. " Wow, that is what I'm feeling, I thought. I was so uncomfortable holding my stomach in—trying to pretend that I was happy—and I didn't want to hold it in any longer. During happier times I had been writing about the pressure to get married, and after our relationship ended I finished The Engagement Game (Center Street) for other women feeling frustrated and anxious. It seemed as if the burden of marriage was solely on me. I still want to get married, but I've changed how I feel about being single. I no longer see it as a problem. In my past relationships, I was afraid to have a conversation about a future early on. With Adam I shifted, pretending that I didn't want marriage, but I did. I wasn't truly being honest. I had a problem valuing myself based on how men saw me: If they saw me as marriage or girlfriend material, then I felt valuable. That is a dangerous place to be. I had to unravel myself from that and become the authority on me. I am a gift and not defined by my love life.
Sacredness of Singleness
Charreah K. Jackson, ESSENCE Senior Editor, Lifestyle & Relationships
I'll always remember June 7, 2016. That morning I got the contract from my publisher for my first book, Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman's Playbook for Love and Success. I was so happy that I cried. That evening I called it quits on a seven-year relationship in which we were discussing marriage. I had no more tears after giving it my best shot. I chose my happiness instead of succumbing to the pressure put on women to grab at the chance to get married—even if they aren't happy—and stressing over what it might look like as a "dating coach" starting over.
I was in the midst of letting go of old heartache from my parents' divorce and making room for my dreams. I returned to the ultimate source of love: God. At Her feet, I surrendered my entire life, including my dating choices, book and future marriage. God took me on amazing dates, such as going surfing for the first time and spending a day in Central Park reading When God Writes Your Love Story (Multnomah) by Eric and Leslie Ludy. I fell in love with myself in the process. I made a list of the experiences I desired with my husband and submitted it to God along with the prayer "Wow me." Months later I went out to dinner with a friend. A tall, dark and handsome man danced to our table. We talked for the rest of the night and have been dating since. I am wowed. And God has remained my first love.