Top Posts in June: When they only date white girls, Gratitude & the look of too much independence

June rocked my world. I was working on a memoir in Berkeley at my first ever writing workshop & thankfully managed to escape the Texas heat for a couple of weeks, I took a much needed social media hiatus and I finally got a copy of Tracy McMillan’s book to read. Summer’s in full swing, and I’m plugging along, praying that my air conditioner will make it through a series of triple-digit days.

Here were some of the top posts from June:

When they only date white girls and other musings on interracial dating (I have been having a mental block trying to get through Swirling for a number of reasons I’ll mention when I finally finish it and review it here.)

Gratitude for my friends and followers: The 6-Month Anniversary post This could also be called: I feel really lucky that you care what I have to say/write/blog. So, thank you.

I am not auditioning to be your wife & a counter to Tracy McMillan Because people still think that women are engaged in work in the world for the entertainment of men. One word: Sexist.

He did his best: For other orphans on Father’s Day No June is really complete without a Father’s Day moment for me.

What does too much independence look like? I still don’t really know the answer.

Single Lady Quotes: Helen Keller She rocked. I don’t think she liked black people, but she was a woman of her era.

What The Notebook & Ryan Gosling taught me about love

It’s summer and I love being in love in summer and thinking about love in summer.

I never feel like more of a romantic sap than when I see Ryan Gosling in a meme, or just in general. In my brain, he’d be the perfect boyfriend, but I’m basing that silly notion completely on the 500 times I’ve watched “The Notebook.”

You should know that when I was a little girl, I had a thing for Harlequin Romances. Like, the kind with Fabio on the cover.

And so, because I don’t have a Kindle or other e-reading device, and I can’t hide the cover, I don’t really indulge in reading too many bodice-rippers anymore. But something good and sappy like “The Notebook” is totally within my rights! So are all the subplots on “True Blood” related to unrequited love and every other rom com imaginable.

Anyway, I started thinking about the things I’ve learned about love and dating from “The Notebook.” I have no idea if this is good or bad or what, but here goes:

  • Romance never dies: I mean *spoiler alert!* isn’t it the goal of relationships to not have to even die alone and perhaps die in your lover’s arms?
  • If you’re a bird, I’m a bird. Yeah, this is the mind-meld thing that sometimes happens in relationships. And it’s always nice at first. But sometimes I want to be a night owl and my partner wants to be a pigeon. That’s no good.
  • Love letters beat everything. Even if the post office is dying and some hater might hide them all for 20 years in the trunk of her damn car.
  • You want to date someone who will just burst out laughing as soon as there’s a torrential downpour in the middle of a lake and you’re surrounded by haughty (but very very pretty) swans.

I know, there are some of you out there who will never understand what the big deal is about “The Notebook” or Ryan Gosling. But I’m telling you, there’s lots of wisdom there. I totally get it, Gosling. If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.

I am a happy Single American: An excerpt from the book

I have been telling you a little about the book I’ve been writing, and wanted to offer you some excerpts of it while I slowly edit so you don’t have to wait forever for a finished product.

The year I turned 34, I had finished three full and seven half marathons and I’d been teaching journalism at the University of Texas as a lecturer for four semesters. I’d dreamed of being a writer for over twenty years, and persevered for long enough that I worked full-time as a newspaper reporter in some of America’s most scenic cities: San Francisco, Seattle and Houston (well, OK, now I live in Austin, which is much prettier than Houston.)

I owned a home – a huge feat for a girl who had once frequented New York City homeless shelters as a child — a beautiful dog the size of a mini-pony, a reliable car some jerk dented with one of those metal carts at Home Depot and a spectacular bill of health from doctors. After years of therapy for having financial issues, control issues, addiction issues and general issues, by the time I reached my mid-thirties, when my therapist said I was the most mentally healthy person she knew, I finally believed her. I had a rich network of friends around the world who respected my work and writing and emailed me dispatches from Mexico, Barcelona and Egypt.

I believe that we are each defined by the people in our lives. They are mirrors for us. I am probably unnaturally devoted to my friends because so many of them have acted as surrogates for family over the years.

I am also a single American.

“Why are you still single?”

This question has always grated on my nerves, but it’s only gotten worse as the years have gone by. It is what I like to call a back-handed compliment. A guy I met recently called it a slap kiss. It is meant to flatter you as in, “Why are you still single when crazy-as-a-fun house Becky got engaged six months ago?”

Before I did any research, before I realized that the problem was a cultural and social one and before I knew there were over 60 million other single Americans who probably shared my pain, I simply answered this question with the truth: “I don’t know.”

Sometimes the answer was different. “I don’t want to be in a relationship.”

The truth, more often, was a bit more nuanced, as any single person can attest. Dating, as I will write about here, is like everything else in the world that the Internet screwed up – incredibly rich with potential, totally, incredibly time-consuming and randomly ludicrous. I could not believe no one had written a first-person account of dating as a single woman in the 21st Century and how to cope with all the shenanigans that come with the package – no matter how brilliant, sexy, big-boobed, erudite or compliant with societal norms a woman is or is not, it is really rough out there for single people.

Not just a little bit rough, honey. It is incredibly hard to find like-minded people with good credit, self-awareness or goals that are scheduled beyond a calendar date in the next couple of weeks. There are books on weight-loss, getting your money right, how to be more devoted to God, and of course, how to get a man. What I really needed for a good decade, though, was a book on how to be happily single.

Marie Claire on single women: “We’re living through the invention of independent female adulthood”

I’m late getting to this, but I thought I’d share this piece about the Single Girl trend by Rebecca Traister. I didn’t think she broke a lot of new ground here. But I did like that she stated plainly that we are currently “living through the invention of independent female adulthood”:

For legions of women, living single isn’t news, it’s life. You know, eating, sleeping, working, cleaning the refrigerator — just doing it all while not being married to a man. But to others, waking up in the morning husband-free seems to be some kind of affront. In March, Rush Limbaugh, fresh off his tirade against unmarried law student Sandra Fluke, laid into a 35-year-old female journalist, asking, “What is it with all these young, single white women?”

Limbaugh isn’t alone in his anxiety about maritally uncommitted broads. Comedian Steve Harvey has spent years urging successful black women to ratchet down their standards and just get married already, while Lori Gottlieb’s 2010 book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, conveyed the same message to all professional women. Meanwhile, television writer Tracy McMillan’s viral blog post, “Why You’re Not Married,” now expanded into a book, makes Limbaugh sound downright chivalrous; her damning explanations for extended singlehood include “You’re a Bitch,” “You’re a Slut,” and “You’re Selfish.”

What exactly is so threatening about a woman without a ring on her finger? What’s she done to you? It’s not like a failure to marry by 30 is the end of the world.

Except that the world as we’ve known it for a very long time — one in which a woman’s value was tied to her role as a wife — is ending, right in front of us.

A recent Pew Research Center study found that barely half of American adults are married, a historic low. More striking: Only 20 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are hitched. It’s now standard for a woman to spend years on her own, learning, working, earning, socializing, having sex, and, yes, having babies in the manner she — and she alone — sees fit.

I would go further to say that as this traditional sense of women’s identity being tied to marriage and children ends, it’s effecting women from different cultural/racial/economic milieus differently and maybe not at all. As a black woman, societal expectation has almost always been that I would at least be a mother by the time I was out of my 20s, but not necessarily that I would get married. In fact, the opposite has become true, where people expect black women to be unmarried, childfree or not. So the rules are different depending on a number of factors, including class. But if we’re just talking about the traditional construct of white femininity, yes, that is shifting. It’s almost like middle and upper-class white women are now acting like women of color have been acting for decades, huh?

O.P.P. 2.0: How other people’s perceptions of singles will keep you from happiness

I love the person who made this, but I don’t know who that is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Fear of Missing Out, also known as FOMO, and how its connected to being an unmarried person.

For people whose entire identity is shaped around being in a relationship, people who are satisfied with whatever their marital status is, (particularly if they are single) represent the ultimate missed opportunity for self-actualization.

Have you ever heard from a friend, “It must be nice to just do whatever you want and sleep in. I miss those days.”

Or, “Wow, you’re always on the go. Do it now before you settle down”?

As a solo person in life, people have an easier time projecting their fears, beliefs and regrets onto your experience. I learned this as I was grieving my mother, and I continue to learn it in the dating process. Meditation helps me to clarify, with my intuition, what emotions/thoughts/actions belong to me and which are motivated by the impressions/thoughts and beliefs of others.

The reason I love the sign above is that it is a perfect reminder to disregard other people’s perceptions about you in order to be great. One of the most fulfilling and amazing aspects of the single life is that it gives you space to dream, explore and build the life you want. You can become the person you admire most, the one that you’re hopelessly in love with and perhaps, along the way, attract someone who appreciates you as you are.

The goal of being single & happy, though, is not to peek through your fingers and pretend you’re not looking for a relationship. It is not about disparaging people in relationships. It’s about accepting your life as it is, striving for what you really want, and appreciating that you don’t have to ask a single other living soul for permission to live a great life.

I know freedom is scary. But it’s also incredibly beautiful.

Scientists say married people are happier in the long run. Really?

That’s the news according to Science Daily.

Married people may be happier in the long run than those who aren’t married, according to new research by Michigan State University scientists.

Their study, online in the Journal of Research in Personality, finds that although matrimony does not make people happier than they were when they were single, it appears to protect against normal declines in happiness during adulthood.

“Our study suggests that people on average are happier than they would have been if they didn’t get married,” said Stevie C.Y. Yap, a researcher in MSU’s Department of Psychology.

It’s important to note, too, that the scientists found that marriage doesn’t cause happiness to spike or anything, it just keeps the happy meter stable. Those surveyed in the same age group showed a “gradual decline in happiness as the years passed.”

I really want to be snarky about this, but I can understand how that’s possible. My married friends who have healthy relationships and truly love one another seem to have a blast most of the time. Growing old with someone who accepts all of your ugly moments and celebrates the beautiful ones with you has to be a major relief.

Naturally, I worry about the death of my potential paramour — a bleak notion, I know. But it’s really just the fear of loving someone so much that I’m afraid I may be broken forever if I lose them.

Maybe happy looks different depending on the marriage, but I have to say, I think I know more single people who are more content with their lives. It’s possible, too, that we all self-select the people in our lives who reflect our reality. Does that make any sense?

In general, similar-aged participants who did not get married showed a gradual decline in happiness as the years passed.

Gratitude for my friends and followers: The 6th Month Anniversary Post

A good mantra

When I started this blog six months ago, I could not have imagined the great conversations and connections I would make with some of you.

I started it to make a space for people who wanted to find happiness with or without a mate, and to cater to a community of people who like me may be lovers and dreamers and truly in love with love, but are also not willing to surrender to the dominant cultural narrative of our time that suggests that all uncoupled people (especially if they are black women) are somehow defective, unlovable and in need of intervention.

I didn’t have a goal for the blog, except for it to be a space where I would share some of the things I’ve been thinking about for the ebook, which I’ve written and now I have to go re-write (I believe civilians call this revision). I was happy to get the news that Single & Happy was voted  One Lovely Blog (thanks again!) twice in a row. I’m really proud.

Mainly, though, I’m grateful that in a blog saturated, 24/7 news cycle, that you take the time to share your experiences and teach me a lot about what it means to be a writer and a happy woman as we parse out some stuff together. Thanks for sharing this adventure with me.

I’m gearing up for my first week-long writing workshop as a full-time writer and wrapping up my 8-week stint of blogging at Bitch Magazine. So the coming weeks may entail erratic posting, but I’ll try not to let things get too janky.

Bella DePaulo on how to answer questions about why you’re still single

She is my favorite author on matters involving single people and she also happens to be an expert. I love reading her Psychology Today posts:

I find the mere question, “So why have you never been married?,” offensive and inappropriate, regardless of whether it is aimed at single women or single men or both, and I have mocked it in previous posts. In this one, I began by noting:

Questions like that push my perversity button, and I can’t help generating Q & A sequences. For example:

Clueless Question: “So why have you never been married?”
My Perverse Answer: So why have you never been an accountant?

Clueless Question: “Why aren’t you married?”
My Perverse Answer: Why aren’t you a Christmas tree?

Clueless Question: “When are you going to get married?”
My Perverse Answer: When did you last have sex?

Clueless Question: “Will you ever marry?”
My Perverse Answer: Maybe if I get hit on the head with a rock and turn into a different person.

If you want my serious answer to the question of why I, personally, am single, it is simple: I am single at heart. Single is who I really am. Single life is the most authentic and meaningful life for me. (If you are interested, you can take the quiz, “Are you single at heart?”.)

I’m afraid to take that quiz. Let me know if you’re brave enough.

He did his best: For other orphans on Fathers Day

My Dad when he was young

It seems fitting that the only photo I have of my father by himself is a photograph of a photograph.

I don’t hate Father’s Day anymore, but now Dad is gone.

I have written so much about my relationship with my biological father because it was so complicated. He wanted to love me, I think, but I represented a time in his life that he could never return to. He was a little mean and reclusive, but he also tried to show me parts of the country I had never seen. Several months before she died, he introduced me to my grandmother. He had just told her about me months earlier. She welcomed me into her home, my high school graduation picture on a side table among all the others of her many grandchildren. She gave me a $100 bill as a gift for graduating high school.

Before he died in 2010, each year, I struggled with this arbitrary holiday. First, I did not feel I really had a Dad, even if I had a father. Then, after I met him, it turned out that he hated holidays, so he couldn’t be a container for my desire to celebrate him. I knew when I was younger that I picked complicated and often unavailable partners for this reason. It seemed normal and familiar for a man to reject me. Love was suspect.

We reached a truce before his suicide. I was grateful. I sometimes mourn what could have been, but there is no changing what happened between us, and now it’s in the past. What helps is to think about the wonderful surrogate fathers I’ve had in my life, and the amazing Dads my friends have become and are becoming. They remind me that fathers don’t have to be toxic or twisted. They can be incredible, heroic or simply, and beautifully, normal.

Here’s what I wrote in a letter to him that I never sent 12 years ago:

I knew which gifts my mother had given me—endurance, faith and an almost extreme optimism—but there was no telling how much you would add to my life. I didn’t think when I sat down to write you the first letter—which you ignored—that I was hurt by your absence. There were the obvious things that your presence in my life would have prevented: homelessness, constant moving, poverty. But I didn’t seek you out to blame you for my childhood tribulations. To me, not knowing you was normal.

Most of my friends had fathers missing in action, too. It never occurred to me that if you wrote me back or if you called that I would be confronted with my anger towards you, that I might not be able to forgive you in this lifetime. I poured my life out on several pages, including my illustrations, a picture of me and some poetry. My mother prodded me at first, to be honest. It was she, after all, who told me that I should get to know you. And although I rarely listen to my mother, I figured that it couldn’t hurt me to listen to her just this once. I sent the letter and counted the days until I heard from you again.

As the days turned into a year, I made excuses for about a week before I could write you again. I didn’t want to include you in the ranks of the stereotype that says black men shun paternal responsibility. Maybe you were on vacation. Maybe you were busy. Then it occurred to me that maybe, and most likely, you just didn’t want to be bothered. After all, I had taken all of these years to write you when my mother had your address for years. I hadn’t learned, at the time, to surrender and have closure when I had already tried my best.

Instead, I was thinking like the average abused child—it was my fault. Maybe you were hurt and didn’t count my one collect phone call from a subway station in Philly when I was seven as an effort to know you on my behalf. So, I wrote you another letter. I decided, after weeks of mulling over what you might respond to, that the passive, sweet approach might have invoked some disgust in you. I am a black woman to my heart, needing a call and response relationship with everyone I invite into my life—but somehow my call to you had been disconnected.

I’ve been working on a memoir that’s centered around my relationship with my mother and she used to call me every Father’s Day and say, “Wish me a Happy Father’s Day! I was your mother and your father.” She’s not around this year to do that. And I don’t think too often about what my father’s relationship meant to my life. He was a safe harbor for me when he could be and when he wasn’t able to, he disappeared. I wrote more about him at the Good Men Project in March. The only thing I can think, now, is that he did his best. That will have to do.

A letter to the girl I lost, circa 2004

I’m doing some spring cleaning and finding old letters to myself that I think will maybe resonate for some of you. This was written back when I had two cats & was living in the Bay Area. I was in my twenties, about to embark on some life transitions not unlike the ones I’m facing at the moment. More on that later.

You should have learned to ride a bike down the steep hill on your block.

You should have had three or two meals a day.

You were so good, so studious and even faithful when things were difficult. & you made it, girl – through beatings, through slow soul murder, through strange worlds, bad times, embarrassing incidents, so much shame & so much pain.

You made it to the other side. You are free. If you’ll let yourself be.

Blow bubbles in the wind. Have ice cream for breakfast, waffles for dinner, soda and cheese for lunch if you want.

You can run up your credit, you can stay up ’til dawn when you want and sleep your weekend away. Turn off the ringer, hole up in your house with books, the sun, the cats, a soft wind, and so much peace that your heart might burst.

You can dance naked to 80s music if you want. You can dress up in 2 dresses and the Superman hat, jump up and down on your bed, sing as loud as you want in the shower, have a glass of wine, tear up all the awful pictures of you from ten years ago (or not). You can mourn safely the loss of men you once loved, the men you have to now keep at arm’s distance and the old you over the brand new you.

The new you — the growing girl with a stocked refrigerator, a clean car that shines in the 70-degree touch of sun, bookshelves with books you own and did not borrow and days full of more possibilities than you ever imagined when you were six. Life is beginning. And now, the fun starts.

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