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.”

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?

Following up on black women and protection: I’ll be on NPR today

My Target Market piece about black women and guns, which I originally wrote for Bitch Magazine, has started getting some attention this month. It surprised me (is July a big shooting month?) but I’m really excited about it, so that’s no complaint.

The UTNE Reader republished the piece in its July/August issue. It’s a shorter version of the original piece, which was close to 4,000 words.

Then Andrew Sullivan, a popular blogger at The Daily Beast (who I have enjoyed reading since he was at the Atlantic) linked to that story last night.

I’ll be talking on New Hampshire Public Radio in a few minutes about the piece. You can listen on the web, if you have time. I think they’ll have a sound file I can share with folks, and I can post that too.

I’ve also been working on the book and will post another excerpt tomorrow. Did somebody say something about summer vacation?

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?

Single Lady Quotes: Helen Keller

I went back through some of my journals in the past week. I do this every year. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to look back and see my patterns, to see what I longed for a decade ago, and how close my life is to that now, or how far away.

I stumbled upon this quote from Helen Keller that is one of my favorites:

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.

That inspired me to look up some others:

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.

I am not auditioning to be your wife & a counter to Tracy McMillan

Before dream hampton left Twitter, she dropped a couple of gems that stayed with me. The first was, and I’m paraphrasing, but it was the equivalent of:  Men on Twitter need to stop acting like we’re auditioning to be somebody’s girl.

Not that Bey had to audition for anything. She might’ve been married at this point.

Yes, I thought. And this is true in online spaces, generally. There is a line between appreciating a woman in cyberspace, just like in real life, and offering up what hampton brilliantly calls “intimate kites” on a regular basis.

When you are uncoupled and you write candidly about your experience, it opens you up to a lot of wonderful and a lot of weird.

Wonderful, because it is possible to have extensive, consistent and creative community with a larger number of people, not just the person you’re in a couple with. Weird because the Internet is as vast as the globe, and there are a lot of lonely people in it, seeking some kind of connection, wondering if your vulnerability and openness can help them fill a space that nothing else will (or has).

This idea that women in general, black women especially or even people in general who aren’t in relationships are essentially waiting to be chosen is infuriating. It presumes that the main value of your singledom is that it serves as a kind of purgatory between when you were born and when you’ll be in the safe container of a relationship. Gone are any real, thoughtful reflections of the fact that many of the mystics, prophets and great spiritual leaders of our time have not been in couples. Biblically, we can start with Jesus and add Paul. Beyond them, we can talk about Buddha and even the singular avatars of Hindu, Yoruban and other gods and goddesses.

But whatever single women do in real life or online is often viewed as performance. Because of the real and problematic history of black women in America, this is especially true for black women. Add to that the problematic side effect of reality television and media oversaturation and you have a recipe for people taking for granted the presence of women in their real or virtual space. They also take for granted that black women exist as avatars of entertainment, whether they are referring to black women who are real black women or representations of black women as characters (say, when someone like Tyler Perry acts as Madea).

Men make gestures. They are or are not prince charmings. End of line.

Women, though, audition. They are fighting over men that they’ve longed divorced, or they are fighting over men that they intend to marry, or they are fighting over men because it is considered hot to be attractive and well-dressed and fight over a man, whether they want him or not.

They might be waiting to get chosen. Or waiting for a meal.

It is a way of transposing passion for chaos, the most awkward way for us to ask another to love us. “Look at how much I love you! I was willing to pull that girl’s weave out. On TV.”

Anyway, I was reminded of this dynamic while I was thinking about Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s great book, Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life, which I highly recommended. She wrote a fantastic piece, by the way, posted on Jezebel today: Ten Very Good Reasons You’re Not Married Yet. I bet this part will resonate for those of us who are not auditioning for marriage:

6. You’ve got a life and friends that you are happy with.

If a dude shows up that’s cool, but you are not sweating it because every day is an awesome new adventure full of phone calls from loved ones, cupcakes, yoga classes and dance parties. You enjoy each minute, focus on the positive and when you are down (a symptom of life, not just single life) you have 500 friends to call, because you have spent time on all types of relationships, not just the kind that will lead to marriage. Friendship-the realest investment a lady can make.

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

Ebony Magazine on being Single, Saved & Having Sex

Let me not cast any stones, not even the first one. But ranting online this morning about the ways that the discussion of Barack Obama’s changed stance on same sex marriage has cast the Black Church and the Black Community as a monolith nearly clarified for me what I find annoying about discussions related to black everything in popular culture.

If the community is still a monolith (which it isn’t) then no one has to do the work of finding out just how diverse the individuals who make up said community are. It is a way of denying their humanity – collectively and individually.

That said, I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of Christians who do things that aren’t Biblical. But this is a false conundrum because having sex as a single person if you’re saved is explicitly a no-no for Christians. But so is judging others. And not tithing. And a host of other ugly things that folks have no trouble doing.

Ebony spells it out:

Many Christian youths who signed abstinence pledges or wore purity rings reach a crossroad as young adults. They are faced with upholding Biblical principles against sex outside of marriage during an era when the average age of first marriage creeps toward 30. Celibacy may be even tougher for singles who have splashed around in the pool of fornication long before dedicating their lives to Christ. More are asking, “Am I really condemning my soul to eternal damnation by getting my freak on Saturday night and praising the Lord on Sunday morning?” As many as 80 percent of young unmarried Christians have had sex, according to Relevant, a magazine for Christians aged 18 to 30.

So, let’s do some quick math, because you know — that’s my favorite subject.

One hundred million unmarried people. About 12 percent of those are black folks. So, about 10 million black people, let’s say. Eighty-five percent of them identify as Christian. Less than 50 percent are married. What’s that – about 2 million, give or take? (That’s a low estimate. From a journalist. Who doesn’t really like math and never took statistics.)

I guess I wonder about the voices of the single and celibate who aren’t sure they even want to get married. Because if you’re not sure that God is calling you to get married, that seems about as plausible as declaring yourself a practicing and devout Christian and saying you think it’s cool with Jesus if you just let this one thing slip, right? I mean, what is the point of going all in if you’re not really going all in? (I did not mean that as a pun.)

And another thing. Sex is at the heart of so much shame in the black community. Part of the reason that’s the case is because of the shaming of churches around pervasive behavior. You know there are women getting infected with HIV/AIDS in your pews, on your watch, and all you can do is gesture in the direction of what the Bible says? The Bible also says a lot of things that people forget about when it is convenient for them.

Blog at
Theme: Customized Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.