Posts tagged ‘relationships’

Black, Successful, and (not so) Unhappy

It’s taken me a long time to talk about the now-infamous Helena Andrews profile on Black Girl Blogging, because it made me so upset. Not because I think there is truth to how lonely, sad, and unlovable black women are, but because I know that there isn’t much truth to it to begin with.

What really sticks out to me are the lack of narratives about Black women who are happy for reasons other than finding and keeping a man. The “single, sad, lonely Black woman” meme assumes that without a man we can’t be happy and can’t even begin our search for happiness.

My black girl blogger-in-crime Rosetta Thurman has started a “happiness project” of her own called The Diary of a Happy Black Woman. A few nights ago on Twitter, she talked about why she has decided to embark on this new project.

I hadn’t thought about this angle of the story until I saw it mentioned in the above tweet. What really has annoyed me about the whole damn dialog about the poor, single Black women is that it not only paints all Black women as unlovable, but it also assumes that until we find a man we can’t be happy or fulfilled. It even pre-supposes that Black women should be perpetually unhappy.

Yes, there are Black women out there who are sad and who are lonely…and perhaps who are also angry. But those feelings often have very little to do with their marital status (or lack thereof). Many of us  can find ourselves feeling that way even after we’ve found the supposedly elusive relationship with a successful Black man. I should know: I was one of them for quite some time before ending my last immediate long-term relationship (another story entirely).

It’s true that I have since then started a new relationship with a new partner, but I spent the better part of 2009 getting back in tune with the things that make me happy outside of being with someone who liked me and cared about me and took me out on dates and stuff.

In 2009, I lost 42 pounds after getting back in touch with physical activities I love (yoga, dance, walking/jogging), and doing something else I loved too–cooking delicious, healthy meals. I explored new angles and avenues to the media career I have chosen for myself and began to carve my own niche. I traveled to different cities and went to some great conferences. I kept in touch with old friends and made new ones. And I did all of that despite not having  a boo by my side to witness me doing all of this. I did the “brave” thing and started last year without a relationship, having broken up with my then-boyfriend around this time last year. And I regret not one damn second of it.

My soror and friend Cheri had a great response to the profile on Helena Andrews, with whom she happened to have attended Columbia once upon a time:

She said “I’m a successful black woman” several times, listed off the things that validated the statement, and then says she isn’t happy. I know many women who describe themselves this way, and they too end up in that same place at the end of the sentence. “I’m a successful black woman, why can’t I find love or happiness?”

It might be worth while to go back to the beginning of the sentence and see where we made a wrong turn.

What is success? I’ve heard it described a number of ways: having a degree (or two), a house, a car, a job, the right clothes, and/or invites to the right parties. Some women define it as beginning married or having a child. But in many cases, all of this “success” is not accompanied with happiness.

If what you want is happiness, then are you really successful without it?

Someone along the way told us the work is done once you get the tools. We want a cake – so we get the eggs, sugar, and the flour…. but we leave them on the counter and go get ready for the club. We go out, drink, dance, have a good time, and wonder why we don’t have a cake with cute rose petal frosting details when we get back. We want the results but have not done the work.

In this first week of 2010, I’ve had the chance to think about what new things I want to do at Black Girl Blogging this year and in years to come. If there’s one thing Helena Andrews’s new book Bitch is the New Black and the accompanying profile in the Washington Post showed me, it was the need for more Black women telling their stories and having their stories told their way. Stay tuned and join me as I feature and highlight Black women (and a few men) who have made their lives and their work about a pursuit–or several pursuits–of happiness.

Say it to my face!: Anonymity, Sexism and Social Networks

I recently signed up to try the current social network craze, formpsring.me. Formspring takes Facebook’s Honesty Box a step further, allowing people to submit questions to ask you either anonymously or not. I’ve never been into the Honesty Box because I wasn’t that pressed to find out what people think about me; I come from the school of thought that says: “if you got something to say about me, say it to my face.”

But, the straight forward Q&A nature of Formspring really intrigued me. I find that Twitter moves too fast sometimes to allow for a pure Q&A type of discussion. So as other people’s formspring answers showed up on my Twitterfeed, I felt compelled to check it out and see what this particular social network was about.

Most of the questions I got were tame. Lots of people were curious about why I moved to DC from LA, where my parents went to high school since they are both DC natives, what I thought about weaves versus natural hair, what grade I would give President Obama, etc.

Then, about halfway through the q & a, someone asked me my views about pre-marital sex.

Many of you who read my blog know that I support grown adults making decisions about sex for themselves…and for parents to teach their kids the importance of protection and sexual maturity. So I reiterated that in my answer.

But the anonymous questioner didn’t stop there. He (as I am sure this was a man) also began a line of questioning and judgements that would be what many call “sex-shaming”…better known as “slut-shaming.”

Do you think you’ll marry your current boo? (too early to tell…and if I knew I wouldn’t tell someone who insisted on being anonymous)

Oh but you’re already giving it up? For shame! (I’m grown, son. you don’t know my life)

He needs to put a ring on your finger…you need to learn some self-respect!

[Note: this was edited/paraphrased as the original dialogues/questions have been deleted so as not to give power to sexist, judgmental, and dogmatic behavior]

Wow.

I was hurt… I was being triggered. I felt like my relationship was being questioned by people who don’t even know me nor my partner. And I was being bullied for no reason at all.

I am not the first woman to experience sexist attacks on the internet and/or social networks. One thing about social networking platforms that allow for anonymous or semi-anonymous posting/reactions….and some people use these spaces for more harm than good.

from The WareHouse (@carolinaware):

We all type things that others may not want to see sometimes. It happens. Now you DO HAVE THE OPTION NOT TO HAVE IT STREAM to your Twitter/Facebook and not to answer all the questions. The only problem with the latter is that you have some people who LOVE TO START SHIT and will be asking questions they shouldn’t. You don’t answer and ignore it, then they step from behind the shadows..Now if they had to ask you behind the mask, then they probably shouldn’t have been asking anyway and….well…you get the picture right?

This all very true indeed. But I still believe that this issue is complicated by gender. What learned from my own experiences and observation of the way Formspring works is that women are more likely to be asked rude and/or offensive questions than men are. In fact, one of my male followers made the point that most men would never have to to deal with the kind of questions and implications that I or other women (cis or trans) would have to deal with in online spaces.

Too often we are told that the internet is a playground for boys and a dangerous place for girls…but as long as we have d-bags who are using the internet in sexist, racist, and/or misogynistic and transmisogynistic ways, I worry that we still have a ways to go before the telling of this story changes.

So what do you all think? Does the anonymity of the internet allow more room for sexism and other forms of oppression? What can be done to change this?

Baby, let’s get tested

…before we get busy.

Prior to dating my current partner, I was in an almost 2 year relationship with someone else. One afternoon when we first started dating, my then-boyfriend asked me if I had recently gotten tested.

At first I got scared. Oh no, I thought. Is he going to tell me he has something? I didn’t want to be rude and ask him the very question I was thinking. I also knew that he was asking for the safety of both of us, and I admired him for that. This was my first relationship after college and while I had gotten tested while in college and also a year prior to us dating, I had never had a significant other ask me if I wanted to get tested together, or at all for that matter.

I let him know when I was last tested. That’s when he said, “I just got tested last week and I wanted to let you know that my results all came back negative.” He even showed me the papers to prove it. For him, getting tested was a good habit, one that he took seriously.  He took my hand and told me that if I was umcomfortable going by myself then he’d go with me. I agreed and the next week, we headed to the clinic.

We actually made a date out of it sorta, which put me at ease since it cut down on my stressing out about what the results would be. As is the case with many people who get tested, you sometimes become nervous right before getting the results. I have always protected myself no matter what, but yet and still I was still racking my brain trying to rememebr if there was any situation that would make me worry that my HIV test would come back positive.

We were in and out of the clinic in an hour if that long, so to take my mind off of my jumpy nerves we ended up spending the whole day together–going out for breakfast, window shopping at the mall. I received my results the following week, all of which came back negative.

I tell this story to let people know that getting tested with your partner isn’t nearly as scary as it seems. If anything, it taught me about trust, and about the power of monogamy. It helped me bond with my partner in a way I hadn’t before.

I absolutely think everyone should take the time to get tested whether they are coupled up or not. But hopefully, getting tested together becomes more of the rule and not the exception, and that more couples catch on to it as a good habit.

If you love them, get tested together. If you like them–or even if you like them like them–get tested together.

Play safe out there, folks.

Follow Up: Steve Harvey, dating and the Quarterlife

A few months back I wrote this post about the Steve Harvey relationship book, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man. I got a lot of comments, a lot of my friends talking about Black women and men and relationships, and a lot of retweets on Twitter.  I also got some pretty interesting comments:

from Anthony C:

One of the hugest disconnects between men/women these days is that we’ve gone away from the fundamentals of properly dating someone and “vetting” them for a potentially serious relationship. Harvey utilizes a lot of common sense approaches that really are a hallmark of the over 40 club, but you know what? That stuff really works.

from Wise/d.l. chandler:

I’m glad you were able to gleam something from what I found to be pretty rudimentary writing. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. Harvey’s intellect (and humor, if one can call it that) is pedestrian at best. I think the blunt and ham handed approach of advise this man is schilling to the public is both deplorable and laughable. In fact, I dare say it’s going to cause more damage than add on to the wealth of the world.

I’m sure there lies good intention in his work, but having read a good portion of it, common sense and age should lead one to these so-called “insider” revelations far easier.

from Sweet Potato Brown:

I understand that Steve Harvey’s book is for the strategist, but people should be more reflective about why they think they want to marry. Otherwise, marriage will not bring them what they wanted, and they will hurt lots and lots of people, including themselves, for lack of self-awareness.

From Faith:

And yet you bought the book. And that’s all Steve Harvey married 3 times, cheating on his wife jerk trying to tell a woman how to act wanted. [editor’s note: LOLz]

Finally, from Elizabeth:

Thanks for calling out Mr. Harvey for suggesting, if not fully recommending, that women should be something other than who they genuinely are in order to ‘get’ a man!

You are fully self responsible – keep loving yourself first. And yes, pacing at any stage of a relationship is enjoyable.


Here’s the deal y’all:

Yes, I bought the book and read it because I don’t believe in making a judgment about things like this until I research it myself. One of the reasons I read the book is so that I could review it and let my readers know what I thought–a lot of people seemed to want to know and it only made sense that I gave the people what they want, right?

…I wouldn’t have paid full price for it though. Borders Reward card FTW!

But I digress.

A lot of people on the blog and on Twitter had wanted to praise my initial review. “Hell yeah! Who wrote this crap anyway?” But here’s the thing: I don’t think all of it was crap.

Yeah, you heard me right. I don’t think most of Steve Harvey’s points were total BS. I think it’s important that women and men have standards for the way they are treated and an handle on how to treat the people they date and have relationships with.

I think my biggest issue was the fact that it was decent message with a less than stellar messenger. Steve Harvey is a yellow suit wearin comedian who has been married 2 (or 3?) times with a mediocre morning show. Not sure how I feel about his positioning himself as a “relationship expert” when most of what is written in the book I’ve heard from my aunt, my moms, my sorors, and even my Dad. Aren’t those the people who can guide you in a better direction (hopefully) after all?

There was absolutely nothing new said in the book. Outside of the fact that the author(s) were Black and not white, it was really no different from He’s Just Not That Into You, a collection of things women “should know” about the way men act.

Which brings me to my final point:

Women are clueless about dating–and men are just as clueless, especially when they are quarterlifers. So why are only women given rules on how to act or think?

I’ve been single for 6 months and kind of back in the dating scene for 3, and I have to say that I sometimes feel as though I have no idea what it is  I’m supposed to do or am doing when it comes to dating. I only know that eventually I want to settled down get married and raise a family. I can’t always tell if a guy is “into me” or if he wants to date me, and even if he does I have no idea if he is thinking long term or one night. There’s never a clear way to tell what men actually want (beyond the bedroom–but I think everyone wants that at some level). No matter how many relationship books I may or may not read, this will pretty much be the case. All I know is that I deserve to be with someone who really wants to be with me, who makes me laugh, and who I can build a deep and meaningful relationship with. And I know I have the capacity to give someone else that in return.

On the flipside though, most men don’t know what to do or how to date or treat their partners either. Especially not in their 20s. So why is it that they aren’t told how they should act or what they should think or say? Why is the onus on women all the time? Also, with all the rules:

Is dating just strategy? Are we just playing this big game of chess until one of us wins the game and, apparently, the wedding ring? If so–then what the hell happened to dating being fun?

I agree wholeheartedly with the Sweet Potato Brown in the comments above, that Steve Harvey’s book apepars to be for strategists, for women who are approaching dating like a game of chess. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a husband or a life partner at all, but I think sometimes we try so hard to be a man’s wife that we take the fun out of learning about both ourselves and about the people we date. Yes we should have standards and be aware when things are awry and how to handle it, but we should also remember that things happen when they are meant to happen and not after achieving a certain number of chess moves in the  “game.”

In any case, I wanted to clear the air and bit and let everyone know that I really didn’t think the book was a whole bunch of crap. There was some good stuff in there. Too bad I learned it from my momma first instead of Steve Harvey. He doesn’t get he distinction of  “pioneer black relationship guru” in my book.




The Only Steve Harvey Post that Matters

Okay, I’ll admit it.

This Saturday afternoon, I bought Steve Harvey’s book, Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Latoya Peterson from Racialicious can attest to this. She ran into me in Borders while I had the book in hand.

Anyways, I read the book in its entirety this weekend. And as a womanist, I felt so very inclined to write about this book as it pertains to single women of color. Before I begin: SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing some things the book that are not fully discussed in his TV appearances, namely Oprah.

The book certainly had some gems. I found the 5 questions that each woman should ask a man before getting in too deep was very informative. I liked the fact that it affirmed what I thought I knew, but really didn’t: which is that women have more power in relationships than we are willing to admit. We can decide what the rules are and how it’s going to go. I had never been encouraged to think that way until I read this book.

I bought the book for a number of reasons. Other than wanting to see what the hype was all about, my primary reason  was that I am newly single, having broken up with my man almost three months ago. I thought I’d read the book and see what kind of insight I could gain from it, since I am re-learning what it means to be single in my mid-20s.

Which brings me to the first issue I have with the book:

1. Steve Harvey’s book, in essence, is not for quarterlife women of color. It just isn’t.

When you are in the quarterlife, nothing is really final. You are still trying to figure out what you want, and what you don’t want. You are even trying to figure out what love really is, what it means, and what it does.

You’re not even entirely sure if you even want to get married and if you do get married when that will happen.

If you ARE in a relationship, you don’t even really know if your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner is The One or what it even means to find The One.  I know this feeling all too well.

So when I read a chapter in the book that discusses how women should tell a man when she intends to be married (ie, the date and the time), it really does sound like bullsh*t to me. Why is that? Is it because I don’t wanna get married? No, the exact opposite. Trust me, one day I do want to be married and raise a family.

What struck me as odd was that, as a quarterlifer, I don’t even know how to broach the discussion of marriage….which frustrated me while reading the book because, well, he gave no instruction as to how the discussion should be had or when to have it. Steve Harvey literally said: “just tell a man when you wanna get married and if he really loves you he won’t flinch at it.” Come on now, Steve. don’t make it seem like it is that damn simple because it really isn’t.

As I told my friends the other day, quarterlife dating and romance means being in a constant state of maybe. Maybe we’ll go out on a date. Maybe I’ll see her at the party. Maybe he’ll make me his girlfriend. Nothing is definite. Everything is a gray area. Yes, even those of you who are boo’d up will or have experienced this in some way shape or form. And more importantly, no book by Steve Harvey will change that.

Because of this fact, I maintain the Steve Harvey’s book is not written for my generation. It is written for single Black women over 35 who have bought into the idea that there are no good Black men anymore.

Yeah, I said it.

This book plays on the idea of the “man shortage” and Black women’s anxieties over finding a good man. And while there ARE some gems in the book, over all Steve Harvey is not speaking to me as a single woman in my 20s.  He is speaking to my mom’s generation, some of whom truly believe that good Black men really don’t exist. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Steve Harvey portrays independent, professional working women as women who are resentful of men who try to take care of them: taking out the trash, paying for dinner, providing for a family, etc.

…which is complete and utter bullshit. There’s no other way to put that.

As a professional womanist I was completely insulted at the idea that every independent (Black) woman out here is angry and resentful of any man who tries to take care of them by doing “manly” things: taking out the trash, paying for dinner, fixing things around the house (or getting them fixed), etc. And what does he tell women to do instead?

“Just be a lady.” A lady to him means never raising a finger if a man is in the room.

I’m sorry….are you a woman? Oh, you’re not? Because I’d rather a woman talk to me about what that means. That’s just me though.

Not only does he put every professional Black woman in a box, but he also perpetuates some very dangerous  stereotypes. I like getting doors open for me. I like when I go out to restaurant with a nice guy and he offers to pay. I like when I can get my computer fixed by my guy friend/companion/boyfriend/etc. who happens to work in IT.  I am as strong as they come…and I know I am not alone.

3. And lastly, maybe these relationship books really are a bunch of drivel. Or: what we don’t talk about when we talk about love.

Don’t misunderstand me here–some books I think are great. And yes, I DID buy and read He’s Just Not that Into You. And I did buy and read Steve Harvey’s latest effort. But…

What if  we wrote relationship books which focused not on finding and keeping a man, but on the idea of love as a concept, as an action,  and as a heart-to-heart understanding?

What if we focused on a love ethic that also tells us that in order to be ready for our mate/partner/gf/bf/jumpoff/etc. we must first love ourselves?

I threw these ideas around on Twitter this morning. @BlueMonarch made a great point: so many of us are taught that our self-worth is built on the idea of finding and keeping a man, making it hard for  flipping the script and talking about self love. I couldn’t agree more.

This might be a tad radical for what we are used to when we talk about dating and relationships, but we need to start really discussing love and what it means. We need to discuss love and its madness, it’s boundless energy. Its capacity to heal, and to teach us how to be softer, gentler, more understanding. But most of all, we need to understand how loving ourselves is almost directly related to the kind of partners we meet and the standards we set for our partners.

Steve Harvey, you made a valiant effort. But you are still missing the mark.