There is nothing like standing in the middle of a crowd and feeling utterly alone.
The loneliest I have ever felt has been standing in a room full of dressed up people, my mind somewhere else entirely, my heart aching for something, though I couldn’t figure out what it could possibly be.
A year ago, against the backdrop of other life changes, I started Single & Happy. It was initially called Single, Happy & Free for like, two weeks, but that seemed to be rubbing it in. And the tag line for months was about statistics be damned, because I was really angry about all of the stories in our culture that shame black women in particular for being successful, having standards and yet, somehow still being unfit for companionship.
I didn’t really want to write a book about it. I said I did, but I prayed for different guidance. A lot of people like the idea of mavericks, of people who say the thing that folks think but won’t write or talk about in public, but being one, going against the popular culture stream is something I didn’t think was in the cards for me.
Meanwhile, I had tried all of the online dating sites with the exception of a few, but what I learned after spending money I didn’t have to waste was that while there are all kinds of people who can find companionship that way, it wasn’t for me. I was also angry that no matter where I went — from my therapist’s couch to meetings with supervisors to happy hours and picnics — the world reflected back to me what I believed about myself: I was not enough. I needed to get a partner. Sure, happiness and solitude – yeah, whatever! But you are a shell of a woman without a romantic relationship.
It was an incomplete story. I fleshed out what I was feeling and reacting to by reading books, like Samhita Mukhopadhyay‘s Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life, and Ralph Richard Banks’ Is Marriage for White People? and Florence Falk’s On My Own: The Art of Being A Woman Alone and Patricia Hill Collin’s Black Sexual Politics, among others. I could see how relationships for other black women in the past, the memorable ones, my heroes – Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth – had never been in the foreground for historians.
It turned out that Harriet Tubman was married a few times. How come I had only ever seen her pictured alone?
I learned that there is more than one way to find love, to be happy and fall in love with oneself while also reframing the discussion about what it means to be single.
For years, I had heard that single black women, and later, their white, breadwinning counterparts, were all these things: emasculating, overbearing, too fat, too dark, too much of everything. Those degrees would not keep us warm at night. That weave looked nice on a video hoe, but a man can’t run his fingers through that. Go natural if you want, but for some men, that makes you look too mannish. Too strong.
The message: These black women don’t know how to treat a man. “You don’t know how to let a man be a man.” Maybe you won at life by surviving all the things black women have to. But you have failed at matters of the heart. You have failed at the ultimate prize of womanhood: to be chosen. To be accepted, for life, in marriage.
And this: By succeeding, moving forward, we are making the brothers look bad.
And we are not alone. This year, I took note of the increasing rhetoric of the End of Men debate. What is a man without full ownership of patriarchy, when women are allegedly snatching up all the jobs and the money (spoiler alert: we are not). Why can’t white women, too, have it all – the partnership, the great job, the freedom and the money? Well, white follows black. So, welcome, sisters, to the reality of life as a black woman.
You can have most of “it,” whatever “it” is. But you will get called out for being something other than a woman. Insecure, mean-spirited, disenfranchised, coddled boys will find ways to remind you that you are only worthy when a man puts a ring on it. Which, as we know from the many stories of relationship mayhem, divorce and tragedy that circulate through our headlines, is just not true.
But I created Single & Happy thinking that I would keep it private until I could figure out what I was really trying to say, while I worked on a little book that I thought might actually be of service to some other folks. It turned out that I was right, that I had friends around the world who agreed with me, and when they didn’t, had reasonable arguments to the contrary.
I’m more Eeyore than Pooh or Piglet on any given day, so the Single & Happy title could often be read as a misnomer. But because of y’all, it is almost always true. Thanks for reading and for visiting. Looking forward to another year of sharing and commenting and dancing a little to old songs from the 90s with y’all.