The motherless single

This also serves as proof of life, since it’s been so long since I wrote here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges of being motherless as a single woman. As usual, my friends step in with amazing resources and love-filled everything. But I feel like the Eeyore at everyone’s party this time of year. I dislike sadness, and at the same time, I feel like it can be its own safety blanket. I mentioned it to my married friend and she said that she hates Father’s Day like I hate Mother’s Day. She recommended that I do something that makes me incredibly happy.

Sounds too easy to be true, but… I took myself out to dinner after visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is this heavenly oasis filled with orchid-beauty. It helped a lot to walk in nature. It reminded me that we always get to choose how we’ll look at something like loss or pain. Getting over or getting through is never outside of our grasp.

AnonFlower

I don’t even know what this is.

Orchid1

Some amazing something or another orchid

LBJQuote

I loved finding an Austin-connection & Lady Bird with an inspirational quote (which you know the single ladies *love*)

Orchid2

More beauty

Maybe it says a lot about me, but I like the idea of visiting flowers that I know are not going to die or wilt while I try to overnurture them.

As many of you know, I can be a little emotional around this time of year. I wrote a little about my mom this morning at my new blog. I’m reposting it here, but I’m also blogging more frequently at joshunda.com – so I’d love it if you could we could follow each other over there.

A couple of years ago, while I was in the Bay Area for VONA (which I highly recommend, as does Junot Diaz) I was deep in a draft of my memoir with the help of kind, excellent teachers. It was probably too soon after my mother’s death at the beginning of 2012. It was only May. Mary Johnson, author of the exquisite An Unquenchable Thirst, mentioned that it was brave to try to write about us so soon and I like trying to be brave. But there was something about the time that opened me up – there is something about grief that is special. It is always hard. It lingers. But it offers contemplation and shoring up if you let it. (I wrote about the deaths of my parents, especially my mom, for Gawker in 2013)  I was spring cleaning and found this letter.

 

Dear Mom:

In death, it turns out, there is so much meditation on life. When you know the contours of the end, what it smells like, the hollowness of the trivial, the meaning of a real friend, cleaning feces from fingernails and staring down the terror of the unknown, nothing else feels real or deep or confirmed.

I had to stop pretending I cared about facts when you made your quick transition. I used to think information and data were armor. Armed with facts, journalists and writers can get to feeling invincible and God-like. Omniscient. But all knowledge can feel futile in the face of a wounded soul. A broken spirit.

I have no gifts but being a witness to what life feels like, and that is subjective. It is reading the breeze. It is believing the voices in my head are you, ancestors and God. Maybe it means in my grief, I have become mad. My dreams are canvasses of picturesque beauty and upheaval.

When you were on the planet, living flesh, the story that propelled me was that we have parallel lives. That you had closed the door to a specific kind of joy but to be less like you — less mad, less unstable, less Maggie — I would open that door, stand at the threshold, investigate what it was you were rejecting. The intensity of joy and gratitude and not knowing and being still is an unwelcome bittersweet state. It is like living on another planet, or in another world, where time is not mapped in minutes but in how successful one is at navigating life events.

You taught me how to ignore the world and its milestones. How to follow my destiny. How to treat myself regally, no matter the attire or its cost or its worth. I thought you mad for so long for this disregard, considered you inept at life.

In your absence, I know better. Facts are not truth unless they can be felt. What we feel and what we create with what we feel lasts a lifetime. Everything else shifts, no matter our assessment of the shifts. We can be in our moments, owning them, or we can let life’s moments own us. I miss your lucid moments, maybe once a year, when I could drag your essence out of you for a little advice. I hear you, I feel you — it’s different, worse and better.

I feel you watching.

I will try to grow better and more vulnerable and so much stronger.

Stay there.

Love,

Your baby girl

MomGettingDown

 

On Being Mary Jane and the intimacies of single black women

I love the idea of Being Mary Jane, but I’m annoyed, too.

There are about 4 million viewers of the show. BET is boasting that it’s the #1 show on Tuesday nights — surprise! — among my demographic: All the single black ladies. If you haven’t been watching because you’re not one of the 55 percent of African-American  unmarried women in America, #BeingMaryJane trends globally on Twitter during every new episode.

Like a lot of scripted (and unscripted) dramas featuring single black women, while the show’s creators point out that Mary Jane doesn’t represent all of the single women mentioned above, there’s such a dearth of single black female characters on television whose love lives are a significant part of their narratives that it’s refreshing to see a show offer that.

I really miss the other one, Olivia Pope. Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is the lead in Scandal. The ABC hit show is based on a real-life problem solver inside the Beltway. Her power and stylishness is what makes Pope iconic, but her Achilles heel is the small problem of the fact that she’s in love with the very married President of the United States and his dreamy compadre. (Please read: Is Olivia Pope the New Sally Hemings? for a little insight into why this seems a little far-fetched and hard to digest for black women.)

Anyway, ‘Scandal’ isn’t back until late February. I figured I’d check out Being Mary Jane to fill in the big gaping void.

I don’t think it’s working.

So, both characters offer uncommon and refreshingly humane portraits of unmarried black women who are generally stereotyped as martyrs or hood rats and very rarely viewed as anything in between. Good on you, television, for trying to give us life.  Enuma Okoro writes at the Atlantic, “Comparing Being Mary Jane to Scandal obscures one of the great strengths of Gabrielle Union’s new series: the relatability of its protagonist. Part of the brilliance behind Brock Akil’s work is that she uses a black lead character and a primarily black cast to appeal to women of all races.”

Does this about sum it up?

It’s a good effort. Better than good. I’m not optimistic about a wildly diverse audience for the show, though.

I watched the movie before the premiere earlier this month because I was intrigued by all the trailers showing Gabrielle Union submerging in a sea/bathtub littered with quotes on Post-Its, which I am fond of writing inspirational quotes on myself. The movie was good. For Gabrielle Union, who hasn’t had roles with the most, um…gravitas…in the past, it’s fantastic.

In the movie, we first meet Mary Jane baking at two in the morning. We rarely view black women doing domestic work for personal comfort in popular culture (looking at you, The Help), so as unlikely as it might be, it’s still nice to see. Her drunk boo, Andre (the excessively fine Omari Hardwick) arrives unexpectedly and cajoles her convincingly enough that she sweeps all her single lady things under her bed, empty wine glass and all.

She discovers Andre is married when she steps on his wedding ring accidentally. She responds by assaulting him with a steady stream of garden hose water. I don’t know if I squealed from pain watching this or glee? I couldn’t imagine this ending well in real life, I guess, so maybe it was a mixture of both.

Things with her family and at work are not any less messy. Mary Jane’s mother calls her all the time to vent, usually when MJ is at work. This is reminiscent of Whitney Houston’s character in Waiting to Exhale in almost every way, but in MJ’s case, the whole family follows suit. Her older brother seems to show up in every scene asking for money. Her little brother flips signs and sells weed for cash. Her niece is pregnant. She tries to get some retail therapy by buying incredibly expensive and fugly shoes, only to run into Andre and his wife, whom she later confronts at the pet store.

Yes, that’s what I wrote. Mary Jane goes to the pet store where Andre’s wife is buying kitty litter for her bereft friend and corners her. Since the one unmarried black woman everyone on the planet knows is Oprah, it’s not surprising that her name comes up. Andre’s wife immediately recognizes MJ from TV and tells her that she’s brought her so much comfort, especially after the talk show queen’s show went off the air. Mary Jane responds by saying, “Did you know I’m sleeping with your husband?”

Oh. Is *that* how that works?

Fast forward to MJ having an emotional night — she was baking a cake for her niece’s baby shower and had a nervous breakdown over a cute baby commercial. She has successfully delivered a story about women stealing sperm in what she calls the “rapey Africa story.” Mary Jane proceeds to steal and store the sperm of David, an ex that she has been labeled “Never Answer” in her iPhone.

Look, if she can’t bother to change the man’s name in her phone or actually meet him for dinner right after she said she would, does she really care enough about him to keep his sperm in a baking soda box in her freezer?

Proof there is a God.

At a party at her house where there are strippers (just because) when everyone is drunkenly confessing their dirt, she busts out the frozen sperm she stole instead of confessing that she’s been doing it with a married man. When she texts him later in what must have been the thirstiest string of texts in modern television, he doesn’t answer because after having an explicit conversation with his wife about why they’re divorcing — along the lines of: “No one likes to put a dick in their mouth first thing in the morning” — these two end up having make up sex.

Anyway, it’s nice that Mary Jane leans away from the Tyler Perry-model of shrill, psychotic and materialistic black women with standards that are too high and unrealistic, but she’s not that far away from that archetype. When she’s working, for instance, and tells David “Never Answer” she can’t go out, she calls him back two hours later to see if he can come over now that she’s finished working. She has a nonsensical hissy fit when she learns that he’s headed out on a date with someone else and she lies to him about Andre.

It’s the desperation that irritates me. That in every other area of a black woman character’s life she is together and in control and measured, but when it comes to intimacy, romance and love, she loses will power and totally becomes undone. [For a better and fuller explanation of popular culture narratives about single black women and how they are damaging in real life, I recommend Ralph Richard Banks' book, Is Marriage for White People? I wrote a review of it here. You can buy it here.]

At least with Pope, we see her make an effort to date a man who is available, she just backslides (like all the way back through history) regularly. With Mary Jane, we continue to see the message that black women are content to be sloppy seconds no matter how successful we are — because our loneliness is so deep and broad that it makes us morally corrupt and reckless like nothing else.

On one hand, this resonates. On the other, I don’t watch TV for a mirror or a reminder as much as for fantasy and inspiration. So to see Mary Jane as eviscerating and judgmental with everyone but herself is painful, even if it’s glossy and there’s lots of eye candy.

I might just wait for Scandal to come back on. Have you been watching Being Mary Jane? What do you think?

On anger and loving the ones who love you back

From Centric TV.

D.L. Hughley thinks black women are the angriest group of women he’s ever met. Oh, and he’s writing a book that’s probably as unoriginal as he is, and those sentiments are probably laid out with more substance. But probably not.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. He defended Don Imus when that dude called the women on the Rutgers basketball team out of their names. Bros before hoes, I guess.

Hughley is the latest example of a black man with a platform using it to chastise and generalize about black women for profit. While Hughley’s book is not strictly about black women or dating like the ones you’ve heard me rant about and those published recently by Ray J or Musiq Soulchid or The Very Smart Brothas, or the ones to come like the co-authored book by Tyrese and Rev. Run, it riles me for reasons I wrote about in Bitch Magazine for an article called “Ill-Advised.”:

The reason I am riled up about the runaway success of these books—why I refused to pay money to see Think Like A Man (besides Chris Brown’s casting)—is that the messages embedded within them demean the success of black women. Doubly oppressed by race and gender, black women continue to succeed academically and economically  – but they (cue violins) are still stumped in matters of the heart. What, no celebration over the academic degrees? We didn’t get to learn how to read legally for centuries. Where’s the bestseller-turned-blockbuster about that?

Instead, popular culture narratives leveled at black women – particularly those penned by black men – are typically demeaning, snide, childish, humorous at the expense of successful black women…

These works debase black female readers by way of black male condescension. It’s a kind of intellectual bullying and a Catch-22: If they consume it, they are under black male control, if they dismiss it, they are fulfilling the stereotype of emasculating, hard-headed black spinsters who don’t know how to treat a man, which is why they can’t keep one.

What happens in the black community tends to set cultural trends. Maybe women of different races feel like this isn’t even about them, the same way that black men consider it quietly humorous to continue to support a guy like Hughley or name-the-relationship-expert-this-week. But women around the world who have been juggling successful careers while also trying to stay sane know that any woman who is deemed “too independent” — and God help her if she’s also unmarried — are implicated in these kinds of cultural narratives.

It’s not as sexy, I know, to say: I’m really sad. I’m going through it. I’m so disappointed. I’m so hurt. More convenient for marketing purposes to read melancholy as anger, to reinforce the notion that women of marrying age who are not coupled are inflicting it on themselves by being unjustifiably upset at the world.

The inability to see black women as capable of more than rage or sass, but also fully capable of being disappointed and hurt absolves black men who hurt them of taking responsibility for some of the pain that black women internalize. And hurt and disappointment turned inward, of course, turns into anger.

It took a lot of meditation, therapy and soul-searching for me to understand that as a survivor of trauma and stress, I carried the burden of not wanting to ever appear angry in public. Repressing my feelings led to a lot of darkness and ugliness in my life. God forbid, that on top of being successful and self-sufficient, I would also be pissed off once in a while.

I had to practice allowing myself to be tired, sad and/or angry. It comes with the territory. It’s called life. Anyone perpetuating the notion that black women or any women, really, are the angriest, ever, is untrue and unfair. It is just a disappointment, heaped on layers of other disappointments.

To add insult to injury, D.L. Hughley is not even funny enough for me to care about. The black men I count as my true friends know how to treat women, so this is not about them. I’m still allowed to be sad about and tired of the universal acceptance and passive invalidation of any defensiveness on the part of black women about old tired tropes of black-women-as-a-monolith-to-sell-products.

Kimberly N. Foster wrote thoughtfully about giving up the fight in defense of black men for For Harriet, which I totally get and can relate to. I’m at a point in my life where I am learning to surrender battles that are not mine, since part of what makes me gloriously happy is leaning toward my life’s purpose, writing, speaking and reading books that are not written by men who don’t know how to use their platforms for good and not evil.

The place where I get stuck is that I don’t think anyone wins when we only love the people who love us back. At the same time, we don’t have all the time in the world on this planet, so it seems wise to just ignore or give up on people who give up on you. I’m not an angry black woman as much as I’m a disappointed and weary one. Hurt, tired and self-protecting, maybe. But not angry.

There are more of us than any sound bite would lead you to believe.

I think it’s helpful to remember that our attention is our currency. I don’t choose to pay attention to the demeaning crap anymore, because it’s not worth the drama. It’s not exactly a boycott, and it doesn’t always feel as empowering as I’d like. But it is what keeps me moving toward happiness. And sometimes that’s all we need.

Contemplating hook-up culture and female empowerment

If women are so powerful now, why is there so much angst about their power?

This is the first thing I thought about when I read the article adapted from Hanna Rosin’s new book, The End of Men, which I thought I wanted to read at one point. In the Atlantic’s September issue, she writes about the rise of successful women and ways in which women now have the agency – financial and otherwise – to plan for temporary intimacy in lieu of waiting around for love. The article is called “Boys on the Side” and here are some passages that jumped out at me:

Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s, the same age as the women at the business-­school party—are for the first time in history more success­ful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.

It’s important to note a couple of things here. Rosin is specifically writing about the white middle class and upper middle class experience.

This is one of the things that riles me about writing and popular culture about single women, generally – in order for a case to be made for a strong story pitch, these stories are only considered universal (like the HBO show Girls, which is referenced in the story later) if they center around the white middle-class and upper middle-class experience. The reason that’s important is that it leaves out huge swaths of women of color who, culturally and sometimes out of necessity and cultural allegiance, make totally different decisions. I don’t know any women of color who could be described as cannily manipulating hook-up culture on college campuses to make space for their success. I don’t know any working class or poor women of any race or cultural background who would do that, either. There is, too, the underlying idea that hook-up culture is a white thing, not unlike marriage, ironically.

This article made me think a SPIN article published in 1998 while I was a sophomore at Vassar. The story, “Sex Ed,” featured at least one black male classmate I was friends with at the time, but it was essentially a story about the fact that for men on campus, “hooking up was as easy as ordering a pizza.” The reason hooking up was so easy, as explained by SPIN, was the fact that women outnumbered men on campus (the ratio was reportedly 60:40) and a large percentage of the men and women on campus were gay, which meant that heterosexual women had to be more aggressive if they wanted to hook up with men on campus.

I bring that story up because it points to an old idea: that for women to participate in the full secular college experience and have a little fun, they have always had to do more work than men. I was the exact opposite of the college girls that are characterized as dismissing overly serious suitors to make space for my success, so maybe I have a hard time understanding the sentiment. This strikes me as a dangerous corollary to the Having it All debate – where the narratives of women who suddenly act like men have traditionally acted are a new sociological puzzle.

Cultural, racial and class differences are key here, too, to say nothing of people who fall into non-gender conforming categories; the narrative that has been bought and sold to black women in particular is that we cannot afford to let go even of casual relationships with our black male peers if we seek marriage because they are so rarefied in academic and corporate spaces that if we act like some of the women Rosin highlights in Boys on the Side, we will be Forever Alone.

Here, Rosin goes into more detail about a 2004 study on sexual abuse on college campuses:

Women in the dorm complained to the researchers about the double standard, about being called sluts, about not being treated with respect. But what emerged from four years of research was the sense that hooking up was part of a larger romantic strategy, part of what Armstrong came to think of as a “sexual career.” For an upwardly mobile, ambitious young woman, hookups were a way to dip into relationships without disrupting her self-development or schoolwork. Hookups functioned as a “delay tactic,” Armstrong writes, because the immediate priority, for the privileged women at least, was setting themselves up for a career. “If I want to maintain the lifestyle that I’ve grown up with,” one woman told Armstrong, “I have to work. I just don’t see myself being someone who marries young and lives off of some boy’s money.” Or from another woman: “I want to get secure in a city and in a job … I’m not in any hurry at all. As long as I’m married by 30, I’m good.”

The women still had to deal with the old-fashioned burden of protecting their personal reputations, but in the long view, what they really wanted to protect was their future professional reputations. “Rather than struggling to get into relationships,” Armstrong reported, women “had to work to avoid them.” (One woman lied to an interested guy, portraying herself as “extremely conservative” to avoid dating him.) Many did not want a relationship to steal time away from their friendships or studying.

In that research, by the way, two-thirds of the subjects of sociologists’ research came from “more privileged” backgrounds. This idea of cultivating a “sexual career” is one that would offer a variety of side-eye glances from women of color, full stop. I understand the need to frame a story around existing data, but this is one example of just one side of the story.

The absence of women of color and people who are not so privileged from stories like this speaks loudly. It infers that the overarching narrative of white female sexual agency is the dominant story for all women everywhere, which is less true now than it ever has been, considering the growing diversity of our country. The absence of our narrative from discussions about women’s sexual liberation, too, shows that feminists still haven’t found a way to bridge the racial and class gaps that inform our discourse on everything from politics and business to love and relationships.

Washington Post story shares tips on the art of breaking up online

This Washington Post column about digital break ups has some really entertaining comments at the bottom:

With so much of life happening on the Internet — and about 23 percent of couples now meeting online — it’s inevitable that “I’m just not that into you” ends up in our inboxes, sandwiched between bills, notes from our bosses and e-cards from Mom. And it’s not unheard of for Facebook users to get news about their romances when the other person changes his or her status from “in a relationship” to “single” — without talking about it first.

A digital rejection can be efficient and effective: The dumper can control the message; the dumpee can’t interrupt or argue. No body language to misread, no tears to witness, no awkward hugs and no breakup sex. But we miss out on a lot when we outsource uncomfortable conversations to our e-mail accounts. In exchange for efficiency and emotional distance, we often give up a chance for real closure — and to show the other person that you care for them and respect the effort you put into the relationship. A face-to-face breakup vs. splitting up digitally is the difference between ending a romance with a namaste bow or using a karate chop.

I wrote a little about digital communication and relationships in this psuedorelationship post in July. Have you experienced this – getting dumped online or on Facebook? That sounds horrific.

Wait, so you want me to love on you AND clean all the things?

Whenever I think about love, I think about partnership and I envision what it would be like to be married.

Recently, I had a great conversation with a working writer and activist who is also a married mother. “I know how to be single and happy,” she said. “What I’m working on is learning how to be happy with another person.”

She still very much identifies with the struggles of singles who are considered infantile until they are partnered. And I had a lot of compassion for her and some of my other friends who are searching for models of partnered love that do not oppress women who also enjoy little luxuries like freedom and leisure. So, of course, reading things like this are pretty sobering:

Women are a growing part of the American workforce. In the last 25 years, the number of working women has grown by 44.2 percent, while 59.4 percent of working-age women are currently in the labor force. Sixty percent of women are the primary or co-bread winner for their household.

But despite those historic numbers, most women are still left doing the majority of the house work.

A new report out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics details how both men and women spend their days, and it comes as no surprise that women do a larger portion of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other chores:

On an average day, 19 percent of men did housework–such as cleaning or doing laundry–compared with 48 percent of women. Forty percent of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 66 percent of women.

The numbers can be in part explained by the women who don’t work or who have part-time jobs. But the disproportionate burden of housework on women shows that a “second shift” still exists for those who work. While women have earned more rights in the office place (though they still aren’t fairly paid for their work), there is still the burden for them to be the primary housekeepers and caretakers.

There are a dozen reasons why this is no bueno. The glorious benefit to being single, of course, is that I can leave the dishes dirty until it requires a power cleaner to get the hard spaghetti sauce off the plate from my intentional neglect. Underthings can hang from the ceiling fans if I want. No one will see it for days but me.

But the other thing that makes this a rough situation is that I want to take care of my partner, but I also don’t like to do free work. I don’t want the house to smell like the inside of a hamper, but that’s what Glade plug-ins are for. Relationships, I hear, are work. So is marriage. Maybe I’m too tired from the heat to see how this ends up being a good deal for women. Am I missing something?

Celebrating independence

Independence Day has always been my favorite holiday. My most cherished memories of summer center around going down to South Street Seaport with my mother or one of my best friends in New York to watch the fireworks. Something about the multitude of colors streaking and blazing across a clear night sky, a symphony blasting, the crowd buzzing as our heads lifted to catch the most beautiful spectacle of them all.

I fell in love with it because I am a patriot, but more because of what it symbolizes. The freedom to be happy. The freedom to choose your story.

Every other major celebration in our culture is about couples and families. But the Fourth of July seems to celebrate the individual in us all, and what we each choose to do with that.

Even though freedom isn’t free, it’s still glorious, full of potential – a lovely, seductive notion in a world that asks all of us to be more like everyone else, to fall in line and to trade our independence for the safety of belonging.

I started thinking about this when I read this Thought Catalog post, The Single Person’s Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we’ve put ourselves out there on OkCupid and in bars; that 50 First Dates isn’t just the title of some godawful romcom (JK love it), but something we’ve actually attempted in the pursuit of happiness; that we have been subjected to unanswered text messages, and insane exes, and people who pen really great online dating profiles but turn out to be mute or to hate their mothers in unnatural, character-defining ways; and whenever we’re faced with the prospect of settling down with someone we despise to fulfill the long established expectation that we’re young and attractive but not young and attractive forever so could all you single people get it together and quit sleeping around? — it is our right, our duty, to be like… yo, have you seen the divorce rate lately? I mean, we’re trying our hardest out here to find someone we like enough to introduce to our friends, really we are, this doesn’t make us bad people but rather it makes us discerning people who just haven’t found their ‘missing piece’ yet, to quote Shel Silverstein, — And via this document, we come together to explain our non-relationship status and how like, being single is not akin to being misguided or damaged or some nefarious Hitler-type character. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

We were, at some point, in unhealthy relationships that we ended in hopes for a better tomorrow — one in which our friends and families do not gossip endlessly about how toxic our relationship is.

We are not sure what we want and are harmlessly trying to figure that out by taking a few cars for a test-drive rather than like, committing to driving a hand-me-down lemon just because it’s available and basically free.

Read the rest of it. It’s really great. I want to write my own, but I haven’t made time to do it yet. And yet, in some ways, this blog is really just one big declaration of my independence, and that of the readers who enjoy it. So I hope that you enjoy your Fourth of July, that you get some good food and some better company (even if you’ll be spending it alone), that you consider those who literally fight for our freedom and salute those who do it both literally and figuratively.

What does too much independence look like?

A friend and I were discussing some of our dating woes the other night.

We are both in our thirties, confident and yet romantic. She really wants to have children. I am still undecided.

The biggest romance killer for us turns out to be a battle of wills and egos. Not on our end — from a guy’s perspective.

In the abstract, it’s clear that more women in our generation are able to care for themselves economically and socially outside of marriages than in previous ones. In real life, on the ground, in the dating trenches, it appears that men really dislike independent women.

Loathe would be the best term.

Even if a guy says he’s OK with a woman who has had better quality education than he has, the way it appears to assault the male ego emerges in all kinds of crazy ways.  For instance, you might be talking about your favorite kind of cake, and he’ll make a snide comment about how he “wasn’t smart enough to go to a school as fancy as Vassar.”

It is so strange. Plus, nothing spells sexy like a backhanded compliment. Instead of a man saying, “I feel insecure that you had a better education than I did,” he’s more likely to make a woman feel like crap for having an opportunity he didn’t have, or that he had and somehow passed up.

This is why I often celebrate the single life. When you’re single you don’t have to have these painful interactions.

But that doesn’t mean that I intend to stay single my entire life. So eventually, I’ll have to figure out the best way to cope with this.

In the meantime, I’m curious about the word independence and what it means to be too independent. I did a lot of self-parenting as a child and I have been an independent woman since before Destiny’s Child made it a rallying cry. Tyrese and other self-proclaimed “relationship experts” have made it a point to deride black women in particular for the same qualities that have made it possible for black women to thrive and succeed in a culture that largely dismisses them and rarely celebrates more than one of them at a time.

People seem to confuse independence for lack of desire for company. So yes, I am self-sufficient. But I rely heavily on my friends for spiritual and emotional support. So in the sense that I’m not dependent on them as the sole source of love, affection and money — yes, I am independent.

Through meditation, I can drop some of the concern I have about being too independent. But I have been single for such a long time that I’m set in my ways, I like the freedom to do what I want, when I want, without consulting anyone else. Independence in a mate, too,  is a wonderful, attractive, hot thing. I’m drawn to people who assert their independence, and go off into the sunset to surf or build planes or whatever it is you other independent people do.

But what does it mean to be too independent? How do you know you’ve gone too far?

Top Posts in May: The Best Advice I Ever Got, Rihanna on Being Single and the costs of dating

The summer is approaching for many of you, but for me it’s already begun. I got news last weekend that I got accepted for a writing workshop I’ve wanted to go to for more than five years to work on a memoir I’ve written about five different drafts of over the course of my young life. And that’s just the short version of the good stuff the summer has in store for me, it appears.

Here were the top posts for May:

Pastor pens book with Call Tyrone in the title, encourages black women to stay single, wins this blogger’s heart

The costs of dating

Katie Couric and friends on life advice

One is not the loneliest number: Elephant Journal on feeling loneliest in a crowd

Rihanna says there’s a dating drought and I try not to weep

Amanda Hess on reframing romantic narratives

Wall Street Journal: Wait, you don’t have all this free time as a single person?

One thing that troubles me more than any other about the single life is the assumption that you just have all the free time in the world to do whatever you want. It’s supposed to be a kind way of saying, “I have to leave the office right this second because I have a family waiting on me, but since you don’t have a real life, I’ll just leave this work here for you to handle.”

I was happy to see this Wall Street Journal story about how much more time it seems to take being single than being in a committed partnership:

Much of the research on work-life conflict focuses on harried working mothers trying to juggle everything, desperate for more time, with lots of reasons to leave work early. But an even higher proportion of single women yearn for more free time; 68% of childless women say they would prefer having more time over more money, compared with 62% of women with children, according to a 2011 More magazine survey of 500 college-educated professional women over 34.
“People talk about, how do working mothers do it? But how do singles do it?” says Sherri Langburt, founder of SingleEditionMedia.com, a New York agency that advises brands on marketing to singles and runs a network for bloggers on singles topics.

Without a partner to help, singles must “get the laundry done, get to the gym, buy groceries and get to the job,” plus plan social activities or volunteer work and sometimes care for aging relatives, too.
“No one is focusing attention on those women or men, who are achieving such great levels in their careers, all alone,” Ms. Langburt says.

Many employers have added “work-life benefits,” such as flexible scheduling and personal time off, in an effort to keep all kinds of employees happy, with and without kids and spouses.
But the benefits only go so far. Heavy workloads keep many employees from using them. And for men and women alike, some managers still assume singles don’t have anything to do but work and pile on extra duties and projects, according to research by Wendy Casper, an associate professor of management at the University of Texas at Arlington.

It was a relief to read this. I have never worked as hard in my life as I did when I worked for someone else, in offices where other people had a better excuse to leave their desk at 5 p.m. than, “I need a nap because if I’m going to work on the myth of work-life balance, I won’t be able to go have my ‘Sex in the City’ networking happy hour speed-dating love fest after this AND make a healthy dinner for myself that isn’t from a box in the freezer.”

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