Are we for love or against it? It can't be both.
Without question, real and lasting love is a beautiful thing. It can also be a very difficult thing to find—just ask any single woman you know who is actively on the hunt for a man. Realistically speaking, the dating game is more complicated and exhausting than it should be—we get it!—and that’s why I believe in celebrating big time whenever two become one. It’s just too bad that there's a group of people out there who would rather ruin the moment than cheer along with me. Let me explain…
For the last four years, I’ve had the pleasure of celebrating Black love on ESSENCE.com. As the Relationships Editor, I select each of the couples you see featured each week in the Bridal Bliss and Just Engaged sections, and I do so with very clear intentions—the love story is chosen because it is as inspirational as it is romantic. I share beautiful love stories that highlight all of the ways Black women arrive at their very own versions of happily ever after and what happens next.
Any bride will tell you that her wedding day was one of the biggest moments of her life. These women have experienced the power of love and found worthy partners more than willing to meet them at the altar. They're winning at love, and that’s pretty huge. It's a pivotal moment in their lives that should be celebrated, not just with friends and family but by all women who believe in love and hope to one day have a love of their own to cherish and to keep. Only, that’s not what I see happening online anymore. Whenever ESSENCE posts love stories on Facebook and Twitter, everyone instantly has an opinion to share about how they meet, the style of their wedding or their physical appearance. The trouble is, I see less and less feel-good sentiments like “congrats sis” and “may God bless your union” popping up and more and more hate spewed in the form of commentary that sounds something like, “your fiancé looks gay,” “she must be a gold digger" or “they won’t last!"
It’s shameful. Seriously, it’s like a regular mean girls parade and each comment provokes the next one, and the one after that. As editors, we do our very best to police the comments on these articles and to eliminate anything inappropriate, hateful or crushing for the couples featured, but sometimes these venomous comments are reposted over and over again. (At times even from the same people who shared them before.) It breaks my heart to see sister-on-sister crimes being committed at the click of a button without any sense of responsibility or care for those for which these words are intended. Imagine my predicament. No one wants to see a bride go from being ecstatic about sharing their love story to suddenly horrified by just how awful complete strangers can truly be. Their moment is ruined; just like that.
You remember the wrath of the mean girls in high school, right? When a good day could turn into “the worst day ever” the moment you heard that some anonymous member of the Mean Girls Club passed judgement on something as simple as the style of your bangs? Well, I do. Back then many of us were unfairly judged by some misguided young girl who whole-heartedly believed that popularity and coolness were part of the school curriculum and everyone deserved a grade. Thankfully, most of us grow up, mature and breathe a giant sigh of relief when we look around and realize real life doesn't have to be anything like your high school cafeteria. We have the ability to pad our lives with like-minded people who love us, support us and share our morals and values. That is, of course, until someone posts a wedding photo or engagement story online and suddenly some random stranger (or hundreds of them) decides it’s funny or cool to belittle and insult them or someone they love, and, just like that, it feels like high school all over again. It's sad.
Before you try to tell me that this isn't something that happens, I can assure you that it does. A lot. Sometimes even within seconds after a love story or wedding photo is shared. Sometimes the very first comment shared is obnoxious or demeaning, and then most other commenters follow suit instead of leading by a more positive example.
I see it. I loathe it. And, I just don’t get it.
The brides and grooms may keep quiet for fear of the digital assault mob looking their way and attacking them personally, but I feel it's time someone speaks up on their behalves. This is just an unacceptable way to behave online. No excuses. Yes, of course you are entitled to your opinions, but I’m just curious: What kind of woman would choose such a high point in someone else's life to be so low? It’s mind-boggling to me how cruelty can come so easily when someone is talking to or about a person they know nothing about and have never met before. Especially when I'm quite positive many, if not all, of those same women with nothing nice to say would expect nothing but support when it was their time to shine.
Day after day, I receive emails filled with S.O.S messages from heartbroken readers filled with frantic pleas asking our experts and editors how to meet the right man or make their relationship work. But, how strange is it that many of these same women are part of the same readership that I see digitally bashing another woman’s success at love? A little too ironic, don't you think?
Seriously, sisters, are we for love or against it? You can’t be both. A lot of these commenters will say that love doesn't last anymore, and therefore we're only selling a fallacy here. If you really believed that, you wouldn't be reading the story in the first place. No one can know or say how someone else's love story will end, and you can't take a guess just from seeing a photo or reading a few details. That's unfair and unhealthy. Why not root for something rather than against it?
No one in his or her right mind would stand up and interrupt a wedding ceremony or engagement toast to say, “He’s setting off my gaydar!” or "That's one ugly wedding dress!" But it's totally acceptable to instantly comment on someone else’s wedding photos on their personal timeline with a caption that’s just as heinous? Can't be.
This is by no means a lecture, because we should really already know better, and I think we do. The question is, why can’t we do better?
In the words of my late, great Grammy: “Don’t you go and trample someone else’s garden because you’re too lazy to plant your own.”
How will you feel when it’s your turn to celebrate love and everyone who was with you turns on you?
Think about it.