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When Good Intentions Go Bad

Last week, I’m flitting around on one of my favorite gossip blogs and I stumble across a video of a Black couple getting engaged… or not...
Last week, I’m flitting around on one of my favorite gossip blogs and I stumble across a video of a Black couple getting engaged… or not. I didn’t read the caption. Just saw the freeze frame of a man on his knee before his woman and a crowd of people looking on and I got all giddy. But alas, after the would-be someday groom had his boy come out and serenade his not-fiancée with a love song on the stage of a… well, it was club, not the ideal place for a proposal, but you know it’s the sentiment of the moment that counts, right?  Anyway.  He gets on one knee, says some words I can’t hear over the people yelling in the crowd “I’ll take it!” And she? Just. Stands. There. Shaking her head. She was doing this all along, but I figure? Her man’s proposing. Maybe she’s shocked in a good way, like, “I can’t believe this is really happening!”

Not the case. I can’t make out her words, but if I have any accuracy reading lips (and I do from trying to eavesdrop on the grown folk’s convo when I was small), she said, “This won’t fix anything.” And then she ice-grills him as Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s “You Made A Fool of Me” begins to play softly over the moving image.

That she said “no” isn’t so surprising. Contrary to popular belief, all women aren’t dying to be just married, most want to be happily married. Proposals get turned down all the time, and clearly this man did something so reprehensible that The Grand Gesture isn’t enough to make the situation better.  What did surprise me were the reactions of the commenters, including the actual site, which captioned the video, “poor guy!” Um… what about the “poor” woman, who’s been through something so rough with her (ex?) man that a sizeable rock can’t smooth it out?

From one male commenter: “This video makes me a little upset because black women claim brothers don’t want marriage but when a man proposes she looks like “Hell no”. I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy ends up with a non black woman.”

From another male: “She could have handle [sic] this situation with a little more tact. She knew what the ramifications would be by telling him “no” in front of a packed reception hall. Simply put, she lacks class.”

I wonder, exactly what is the “tactful” and “classy” way to turn down a proposal? Would it really have been that much better if she had placated his ego, lied to herself and him and said “yes” in public, only to say in private, “yah, no, that was for all for show. Sorry!” And is there a sense of obligation to say “yes!” when a man asks you to marry him?

It takes a really “classy” woman to stick to her beliefs and do what’s best for herself, whether it’s declining a marriage proposal, refusing a committed relationship, or even declining to give out her number. It isn’t an indication that women don’t value marriage, commitment, or a man’s interest, just that we value ourselves (and our sanity) more. What exactly is wrong with that?

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE Magazine. Her book A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-To Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life is ON SALE NOW! Follow her on Twitter: @abelleinbk.