Single Lady Quotes: bell hooks

From Goodreads

I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.

As a young writer, I aspired to be a poet like Ntozake Shange, who distilled so much of the black girl’s experience in her poetry and a warrior like Alice Walker. Intellectually, I yearned for the freedom, clarity and possession that marked bell hooks’ work.
bell hooks was the first black woman intellectual I admired. I read Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life – a conversation between bell hooks and Cornel West, when I was 13, and never stopped admiring her work. It also allowed me to envision myself as an intellectual in my own right. hooks has written over 30 books.

“To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we want but are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved.”

“Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.”

“One of the major tasks black women face as we work for emotional healing is to understand more fully what love is so that we do not imagine that love and abuse can be simultaneously present in our lives. Most abuse is life-threatening, whether it wounds our bodies or our psyches. Understanding love as a life-force that urges us to move against death enables us to see clearly that, where love is, there can be no disenabling, disempowering, or life-destroying abuse.”

“It is the absence of love that has made it so difficult for us to stay alive or, if alive, to live fully. When we love ourselves, we want to live fully…When we love ourselves, we know that we much do more than survive. We must have the means to live fully.”

“Exclusion and isolation, whether they occur through overt or covert acts, have always been useful tactics of terrorism, a powerful way to coerce individuals to conform, to change. No insurgent intellectual, no dissenting critical voice in this society escapes the pressure to conform….We can all be had, co-opted, bought. There is no special grace that rescues any of us. There is only a constant struggle to keep the faith, to relentlessly rejoice in an engagement with critical ideas that is itself liberatory, a practice of freedom.”

NYT: The privileged Americans are marrying which helps them stay privileged

About 41 percent of births in the United States occur outside marriage, up sharply from 17 percent three decades ago.

But equally sharp are the educational divides, according to an analysis by Child Trends, a Washington research group. Less than 10 percent of the births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while for women with high school degrees or less the figure is nearly 60 percent.

Long concentrated among minorities, motherhood outside marriage now varies by class about as much as it does by race. It is growing fastest in the lower reaches of the white middle class — among women like Ms. Schairer who have some postsecondary schooling but no four-year degree. – Two Classes in America, Divided By ‘I Do.’

I’ve been thinking  about the concept that Stanford professor Ralph Richard Banks describes in his book Is Marriage for White People?  as “white follows black.” He talks about the fact that what happens to black women who may not be following the marital patterns of their predecessors and who face all sorts of social barriers based on their single status, are actually also setting the stage for how life will start to be for white women.

The article above shows that theory might be correct, as flawed as it is. (Side note: I dislike the New York Times’ reductive take on single people, generally, and this piece is no exception).  I have such an odd relationship to privilege, and yet, given my upbringing, it makes total sense. I want enough to do the work that I am passionate about in the world, but I hate privilege because it excludes people who have very little. In fact, I hate most things that exclude people, but that’s the rant of an outsider, and I’ll get to that later.

The article includes some not-great news about single parenthood. Never say never, but I am highly unlikely to be a parent, so I never write about the topic. Also, given the unpredictable nature of marriage and the fact that I have essentially spent my entire life trying to avoid becoming a single parent, it sounds like it might not the path for me. I do find it interesting that the Times notes that single parenthood has gone from being an anomaly to being pretty popular. That also falls in line with Ralph Richard Banks’ ‘white follows black’ theory. I love that single mothers had to be validated by the fact that the last three American presidents were raised by single mothers. Children of single mothers, you, too, can be great!

Bella DePaulo, an expert on singles and cultural bias against singles writes more about the piece at Psychology Today, which she calls deplorable:

Also missing from the Times story is any awareness that stigmatizing stories such as this one are contributing to the disparity in the experiences of single-parent families and married-parent families that DeParle believes he is merely documenting. Go ahead, keep telling the single-parent families how bad they have it because there is no “6-foot-8-inch man named Kevin” and how superior the married families are because they do have their Kev. That sort of mythologizing and moralizing probably nudged Jessica into finding “a new boyfriend, who she thought would help with the children and the bills,” but who had to be tossed out by the police six months later.

Really, “just get married” isn’t the answer to the economic challenges of single parenting any more than “just say no” is the answer to drug addiction.

Cohabitation before marriage is a disaster, study says

Living with the love of your life may not be the best idea if you’re trying to get hitched.

A couple of months ago, the Journal of Family Psychology detailed a study about cohabitation before marriage (h/t The Awl ) and this is what the site LiveScience wrote about it:

Quickly moving in with your honey may be the kiss of death for some couples. New research indicates that couples who move in together before they get engaged or married are less happy and less likely to stay together than couples who wait.

The researchers contend that couples who eventually get married after living together are armed with a double dose of arguments — those from the early relationship (like jealousy) and from the marriage (household chores and bills) — that eventually can tank the relationship.

“In lots of ways, moving in together makes sense; why wouldn’t you want to live together and test it out? But the process to test makes it harder to end the relationship,” which in turn makes it more likely that the unenthusiastic couple will just slide into an unhappy marriage, study researcher Galena Rhoades of the University of Denver told LiveScience. “We need to find some ways that couples can have that test without making it harder to break up.”

I know from personal experience that testing the waters of something like marriage that really isn’t can be catastrophic. But again, I wonder how many of the more than 1,200 couples surveyed were people of color. I also wonder how many of them are privileged enough to live on their own if their relationships don’t work out. As we all know, the wedding/marriage industry in this country is off the hook expensive, but then, so is courtship. Conservative Christians: 1, Secular paramours: 0.

Pseudorelationships, Availability and Accessibility

LOL, I love having long heartbreaking conversations with you via text.

I get that we live in a texting/tweeting culture, but I’m not sure how partnership is going to work for me if this is the future.

A huge benefit to being a happy single lady is that I have my freedom to do as I please. But one of the drawbacks is that I sometimes end up limiting that freedom by somehow meandering into situations that look a lot like relationships, sound a lot like relationships and take up all of the psychological energy of a relationship in real life. But I’m still single. Because they are not actually really relationships. They are emotional affairs orchestrated almost entirely remotely.

Has this happened to you?

My first indication this might be a thing popped up a couple of years ago.

I met a guy I really liked. We spent some time together in real life, but most of our communication was public. Basically, he only wanted to connect with me on Twitter.

No email. No texting. 140 characters, 24/7.

Lest I be labeled one of those impossibly demanding women with unreasonably high standards, I endured this way of communicating via direct message for way longer than I probably should have. Because I love Twitter and social media. I enjoy interacting with my friends and making new friends online.

That said, sometimes I need to log out. Because I’m not a Twitter bird. I’m human. (But I do think it’d be great to have my very own #fail whale.)

More than that, even though I had access to Twitter guy all the time, he was basically unavailable. I could always contact him, I could never really connect with him in any meaningful way.

Later, I reconnected with an old flame online. He is online a lot. I am online a lot (except when I’m writing, so that I can actually put some sentences together that don’t use LOL, OMG – you know, little stuff like that).

Well, he was accessible all day long. I could always reach him for a funny video or a shallow conversation. But he was also unavailable. Talk of feelings, the future, fears, love, intimacy never happened except in the confines of texting. I told him that I needed a dynamic that allowed for full expression of all of my feelings. He proceeded to suggest I was dumping him, which was news to me, because we weren’t in an actual relationship.

And yet, it made total sense, because part of what makes dating difficult these days is navigating the way you communicate with the people you want to get closer to and foster intimacy with without completely compromising your identity in the process. Ideally, independent people who are also heavily networked can also find ways to interact with each other and be fully present with one another.

But is it pessimistic to wonder if that’s even still possible now or does it just take extra effort?

Single Lady Quotes: Ann Friedman

Ann Friedman says what we are all thinking. As usual. (Source: The Hairpin)

If you haven’t heard of Ann Friedman, Happy Friday! As you can see from the lovely pie chart above, she’s witty and like me, she pretends not to know what OKCupid is when her married friends ask.

Also, she’s hilarious. Did I say that already? Here’s her fantastic blog, and a post on International Slutty Women’s Day: A Story in GIFs, which I adore. Continue reading

100 million single people…and it’s still rough out there.

A book excerpt from Single & Happy:

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, because 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. The insinuation that singles should be coupled or something is wrong with them doesn’t make it any easier.

Not just a little bit rough, honey. It is incredibly hard to find like-minded people with true commitments to self-awareness and 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.

The book I wanted to read and kept waiting for was one that would inspire other single people to slog through the ridiculous maze that comes with being alone in a culture that devalues single people.  I wanted to create a space online for others who were uncomfortable with the dominant cultural narrative in the United States that continues to profit those who constantly tell singles that we are incomplete, not enough, not worthy and amoral if we are content to live, travel, dine and go to the movies by ourselves.

I also wanted to celebrate the beauty and community available to a vast network of singles that did not rely on anything but a community of singles and our allies for exposure.

I’m not interested in being the anti-Steve Harvey, the new Oprah or any kind of New Age guru, relationship expert or life coach. I am just one nerd in a big world who does the best that I can to make sense of an influx of information, social cues and daily life. The narrative that casts single people as the avatars of loneliness, as Michael Cobb has written in his new book, just happened to get stuck in my craw as I was making a lot of transitions in my life. As other journalists will tell you, sometimes you can’t just let a story go.

My motto is to take what is useful and leave the rest. I hope that the stories and information here will be applicable across gender identities, sexualities, ethnicities and economic backgrounds. My intention is to celebrate and document the moment we are all in. While I bring my own biases to this predicament as someone who has been self-reliant and a loner since I was very young, I wholeheartedly believe there is something valuable her for most dating adults.

And we are a huge tribe. In 2010, almost half of all American adults, 100 million, were single – the highest rate in recent history. While those singles spent $2 trillion a year on consumer products, according to Boston Magazine, marketers were still marketing mostly to a culture wedded to heterosexual relationships. But outside of the blogosphere, aside from isolated examples of singular (pun intended) narratives of single people and their journeys, there are few stories that contextualize single life in a positive way.

The stories I found lacking are those that express the fun, joy, humor and moments of serenity that come with single life. The Boston Magazine story was one and Kate Bolick’s now-infamous piece in the Atlantic was another. What are some of the positive stories about single life you’ve seen?

Mother Jones on the federal Healthy Marriage program: Thanks for nothing?

The age old relationship conundrum seems to be that if you were raised poor and out of wedlock (hey, that’s me), then it seems pretty likely that you’ll continue the cycle. Naturally, those of us who are products of either or both types of relationships don’t have to succumb to what our parents did or what our families once looked like. But if you don’t continue the cycle, it will be considered a miracle or a non-noteworthy accomplishment.

The point of the Healthy Marriage Initiative was to offer close to $100 million in federal funding to teach poor people how to be married so they would have better families and better lives, presumably. The only problem is that it doesn’t seem to be working. (Hat tip to Jezebel for this Mother Jones piece):

Launched during the Bush administration at the behest of evangelical Christian activists and with the aid of congressional Republicans, the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative was designed to help low-income couples put a little sizzle in their marriages and urge poor unmarried parents to tie the knot, in the hopes that marriage would enhance their finances and get them off the federal dole. Starting in 2006, millions of dollars were hastily distributed to grantees to further this poverty reduction strategy. The money went to such enterprises as “Laugh Your Way America,” a program run by a non-Spanish speaking Wisconsin minister who used federal dollars to offer ”Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” seminars to Latinos. It funded Rabbi Stephen Baars, a British rabbi who’d been giving his trademarked “Bliss” marriage seminars to upper-middle-class Jews in Montgomery County, Maryland, for years. With the help of the federal government, he brought his program to inner-city DC for the benefit of African American single moms.

The marriage money was diverted from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (formerly known as welfare), and much of it went to religious groups that went to work trying to combat the divorce rate in their communities by sponsoring date nights and romance workshops. In some cities, the local grantees used their federal funds to recruit professional athletes to make public service announcements touting the benefits of marriage. Women’s groups were especially critical of the marriage initiative, largely because it was the baby of Wade Horn, a controversial figure who Bush installed at HHS as the head of the Administration for Children and Families and the administration’s official “marriage czar.”

…Studies show that relationship classes can be helpful for white, middle-class couples, but when the federal government started dumping million of poverty dollars into marriage education, there was virtually no research on how such programs would fare with poor, inner-city single moms. Now, though, the data is in, and it doesn’t look good for proponents of taxpayer funded marriage education. This month, HHS released the results of several years of research about the performance of the marriage programs, and it indicates that the Bush-era effort to encourage Americans (straight ones, at least) to walk down the aisle has been a serious flop.

I have a few guesses about why this happened. As someone points out in the piece, if you don’t have the money to put a ring on it, you’re not likely to spend what little money you have on a relationship class. Also, relationships are hard work. Marriages are also extremely intense, from what I’ve heard. They need societal support to thrive – intact families beget intact families. And if you don’t own things, generally, there isn’t a huge cultural or even economic incentive for you to get married. I write a lot about women, obviously, so I’m talking about them mostly. But this also strikes me as being particularly true for men of color who are not wealthy or middle class.

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.

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.

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