Are we socialized to believe having a man in our lives is a necessity or an option?
Early this week, I got an invitation to be on The Don Miller Show, a radio outfit based in Central Florida. He and his co-host, Demica, had read one of my recent articles about single mothers celebrating Father’s Day and wanted to broaden the conversation to discuss what part sisters are playing in the destruction of the Black family, since we want to be so independent and all.
I had to think on my feet to respond to a lot of their observations and comments with some semblance of insight, especially because they also had the nerve to throw glints of humor at what can be a very tense and contentious subject. I had a good time. But the crux of the discussion was this: are we doing ourselves and our daughters a disservice by considering men an option instead of a necessity?
I feel like this right here: if I was dependent on the presence of a guy, I’d be in big, barely functional trouble by now. I’m a single woman who was raised by a single woman, and a man in the household is just not part of my reality. My mother prepared me to be able to live life as if I would never get married, just in case I didn’t. That’s not to say she didn’t want that for me and I don’t eventually want that for myself—it would be kind of nice to have something besides my laptop and unused oxygen occupying the space next to me in bed—but I ain’t beat to just have a boo thang for the sake of having a boo thang. That’s a bigger grocery bill for no real reason.
Black women’s independence isn’t some intentional affront to the value of Black men. Instead, it was born out of a whole minefield of circumstances— some within our community’s control, some leveraged by external forces. You can’t depend on someone who isn’t there. But nothing’s missing from our homes if there’s no man in it just like nothing’s missing from a single man’s home that operates sans a feminine presence. It just is.
One of the most dangerous fears a woman can have is the fear of being man-less. The phobia of being alone and detached keeps them stocked with either an endless supply of disposable dudes who don’t do diddly squat for them or the retention of the same guy who’s proven himself to be nothing more than a warm body and a piece of pipe. They’re so afraid of being alone, they don’t give themselves any breathing room in between relationships, no space to think or heal or reflect. They’re more crazy about the idea of a man than the man himself.
One caller on the show was adamant that she was raising her daughter to look for a husband, and I instantly sent a prayer up on behalf of that baby. I don’t know what kind of statistics she’s been reading or what level of meddling she plans on doing, but the rest of us are out here trying to rub two sticks together when she apparently has a flamethrower in her back pocket. More power to her and the child she’s raising.
I have a daughter too, but I’d rather her focus on being full and whole on her own. Even more empowering than landing a man is learning how to live without one. And, when she does start thinking about a serious relationship, my hope is that she’ll attract and fall for a guy who honors her. Appreciates her. Supports her. Encourages her. Protects her. Listens to her. Positively challenges her. Prays for her. Provides for her. It’s not just about having a man. It’s about the kind of man she’ll have.
You know, we spend so much time dissecting what’s wrong with Black families that our viewpoint becomes too skewed by negativity and fault-finding and too infrequently comes from a place of constructive positivity. Figuring out who bears more of the blame for our challenges is like a Negrodian remix to the Sisyphus complex. After experts have weighed in and personal testimonies have been shared and consensuses have been taken, we still are where we are. My hope is sisters won’t believe they—or their daughters—are going to need a man to make a move.
Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.