When Keeping It Real (In Relationships) Goes Wrong

March is Women’s History Month. As much as I like to look back at women who blazed trials I also want newer generations to continue that tradition in elevating the status of all women. Now I write about many topics one of which explores ways black women (and others for the basic concepts) can reexamine their thinking and perspectives to make informed choices. That’s empowerment and while it may manifest itself in different ways to me, you and her there are some core concepts that must be embraced. One of them is freedom in determining gender identity and orientation. Another is peace of mind from dead concepts which many have been indoctrinated with. Reproductive rights are constantly under attack. It’s not just about the right to choose but about the quality of life for the lives you may or may not bring into this world. It’s about being able to express yourself as a sexual being without being coerced, under duress or without knowledge of boundaries. It’s about not being violated or used. It’s about having self-esteem and knowing how to choose a good mate. It’s about not feeling desperate and lonely that you settle for the lowest of low. It’s about being free to say no. It’s about having plenty of options that are all good for you. It’s about removing yourself from toxic people and circumstances if they have presented themselves as obstacles to your continued progress. Autonomy in our relationships: with ourselves and external connections (be they personal or professional) will make or break us. 

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Karyn Langhorne Folan’s new book, Don’t Bring Home A White Boy And Other Notions That Keep Black Women From Dating Out and deservedly so. I’ve listened to a few interviews she’s given and she has addressed three key responses: those black women who insist they’re not attracted to or found attractive by white males; those that falsely assume that including all men means excluding black men; those who insist there are an immeasurable number of quality black males available to black women. They ask why would black women seek out other males, ignoring the fact that these males do so freely. I even felt I had to respond to some foolishness at another site from a male blogger who wrote an ill-conceived rant criticizing the concept. I’m rethinking whether it’s even remotely prudent to have any conversations regarding black women making informed choices related to evaluating all men for quality against those deeply entrenched in opposing it.

Specifically the book addresses why black women should date a variety of ethnicities and races to increase their possibilities of finding a mate who’s  and not just okay. Black women raised to think of themselves as protectors and the exclusive mates of black males tend to shut down immediately at the idea if it’s suggested that they include white males in their dating pool. It has never been about an either/or scenario but ensuring all opportunities are pursued. I also find it perplexing why those women who insist they are only interested in black males are really speaking of an even smaller ethnic pool of particular black men not ALL black males. Asian, Latino and other men are more or less excluded from the conversation about interracial dating but I imagine that would change if more black women married them.

While it may be true not every woman wants to marry I do question those who are so firmly resolute in closing doors rather than opening them…and walking through them. I wonder how many women who have had serious relationships that could have led to marriage and received proposals reject the idea of it or whether many are donning a mask to hide behind confusion and disappointment about relationships or don’t want to step outside the indoctrination zones. I’d love to do a survey in a few years on those women (before 30) who adhered to their limited points of view and if their loyalty was reciprocated (after 30). As far as I know dead concepts don’t keep you warm at night or take care of you when you’re sick. This isn’t about individual choices but about forward movement by the collective. We are all free to live our lives as how we see fit. The question remains whether we realize that and are acting accordingly? Many women are going without companionship but don’t want to and are receiving bad advice. We can surmise why black males ignore their double standards by objecting to black women dating AND marrying white males. They don’t want to lose the vital resources they provide. There may also be an irrational sense of abandonment for some which is essentially telling women to not engage in the same behaviors enacted against them. Go figure! Worse many are blocking any message that may benefit because breaking out of a rut requires decisiveness and a greater effort than they wish to expend.

This isn’t an interracial dating blog but I support the message from women who encourage each other to put their best foot forward in life and be well-matched in their romantic relationships. That will not happen for those women who shrink themselves and their outlook by limiting themselves or settling. Engaging in uncommitted sexual liaisons with any male who isn’t really into you is wasting time that can’t be reclaimed. I know young women who are in college, work full-time, pay their own bills who date males who have no ambition but taunt them with the prospect of another woman being interested in them to gain control of the relationship. Of course all common sense indicates a woman should leave – or better yet never get involved with such a zero.  As I’ve learned more about the overall conditions for black women in this country post-Civil Rights I’ve felt greatly encouraged to make changes that benefit me. I share part of that journey publicly at this forum and across social networking platforms hoping to reach others, gain allies and identify the opposition. I’ve witnessed the lightbulb clicking for a few women as they start to connect all the dots. This is not about being “prefect” but in increasing odds for success by taking determined actions. We are not an island unto ourselves and benefit from supporting those who seek to enlighten because the oppositional forces are very active.

There was a key moment for me when I was around 25. This came to a head – in my head – when I met the guy (with the closest approximation of what I said I was looking for). I immediately noticed there was something special about him by the way he treated me. It wasn’t what he said it was the immediate feeling I had in his presence that he a) really liked me b) was serious about it. I can’t quite describe it other than to say I knew. He confirmed my instincts by driving 3 hours to see me and he eventually told me he wasn’t dating anyone else. We were compatible in any number of ways and I greatly admired the fact that he was starting his own business. We were both go-getter types and the same age. So why did it end? ME! I got scared because there were no “real” problems.  I had to throw up the flags because he was well-adjusted and didn’t play any games. Now I was still inexperienced when it came to men but a lot of my fear about the relationship was because he was white. I was overly concerned with what my family would think since I was already being criticized for my “lifestyle choices” for living in California away from relatives. I should have focused solely on having my needs met by ignoring them which would have eliminated most of the stress I felt at the time. I wanted approval though and to have a sense of belonging.

If you are a risk-taker surrounded by fearful people there’s going to be conflicts. All of sudden I was on this mad dash to find a similarly compatible black male because I thought familiarity would quell all of that chaos. This is how I really knew he cared: he actually called up his black male friends to set me up on dates with them. Of course none of us had the same compatibility. I only talk about this now to show how utterly foolish some women are in selecting or rejecting men for their race alone. Or in letting their issues with intimacy or expectations of how things are supposed to appear get in the way of their choices. I don’t know if we would have married but I think about him and my reaction as a significant touchstone of indoctrination and how pervasive it can be even as I logically knew I was being irrational.

So books like Karyn’s, Halima’s, Evia’s, CW’s, Khadija’s and others are vital tools of information that women NEED. I wish I had had access to this information years ago for I would have avoided certain pitfalls. Sometimes the message has to be repeated from numerous sources over an extended period of time. Also women who notice the indoctrination may not know how pervasive it is because it’s like an onion with many layers. Adding to the lingering questions are the slew of books by black males who are dispensing very flawed “relationship” advice to black women. Like the one by the comedian. Or the actor. Or the writer who flat out insults women to their faces by stating they’ll never have a “Denzel”. They’re not medical professionals in the area of psychology, adulthood development or social scientists. These males aren’t even in long-term or consistently successful relationships. Would you go to a mechanic for open heart surgery? Yet they’re presuming to tell YOU how to live and saying you don’t deserve what women from other groups have. They claim black women want too much from black males and are otherwise not worthy regardless. They’re telling you to settle for inadequate males. With less than 21% of black males marrying black women and 14% marrying interracially that leaves around 65% –  a VAST majority – who do NOT marry at all. Some claim that means a majority of black males marry black women, but I don’t consider 21% a high number. Some may be perfectly nice guys but they don’t want to make a commitment to one woman because they don’t have to. If you don’t set any or compromise your standards there’s no incentive in place to force men to meet your needs.

Despite all the gains women have made in modern society it is still a patriarchal world under which we must operate. Does it make any sense to tell certain (hetero) women to act against their best interests by choosing males who cannot cut the mustard? This is the drumbeat of indoctrination being reinforced. Doesn’t that deserve an evaluation about who benefits from blocking the progress of others? This comes full circle when you recognize they’re actually speaking of their inability to advance the collective. It’s a nice obfuscation tactic in attempting to cover up failure. It’s not as if they’re going to write books to other males about holding each other responsible. They’ll talk around it but they won’t directly confront the real problem. It’s why they focus on women as the sole protagonists of dysfunction and use manipulation and intimidation in responding to female critics.

Not all black women experience difficulty with dating a cadre of men though. This is a mostly African-American population of women of a certain age group and class structure. There was a time when more resistance may have been a greater issue overall due to miscegenation laws but it’s not as pervasive as people may think – read the Ebony and Jet articles in the 1950’s. While I’ve always existed around various forms of integration externally, internally certain themes have been reinforced. I hadn’t realized how pervasive it was because logically it makes no sense. Like all brainwashing though it just takes a trigger to invoke the message. I don’t want to idealize the situation I wrote about or castigate myself forever. I’ve gone on to met other men since that time and I’ve learned my lesson. It’s just I was at a crucial stage when I should have been actively pursuing a mate with marriage in mind and done whatever I needed to do to clear my mind of negativity and be focused on my elevation.

So many women think they are making autonomous choices that reinforce their non-reciprocated loyalty and indoctrination without realizing it. They say they aren’t attracted to certain men or those men aren’t attracted to them. They say there are still “good” black men out there that they need to be available for. They claim their preferences were formed rather than chosen and reinforced by others. They don’t realize they are all saying the same things and drawing from the same unoriginal mentalities. Pointing it out only makes them dig in their heels further. The question one has to ask if whether these choices work and are these women getting the love they deserve. Are they marrying – especially if they have children and are they supported and protected? Or are they settling for lowered standards and expectations? We see the results of plenty of other women who have added to the out of wedlock child rearing, who never marry and worse who have HIV but many see that as an extreme as something “those types of women” do not them. They know better than that. Is waiting the answer? Is thinking of interracial relationships as a final resort the answer? I never had an issue with the attraction I didn’t know how to just accept it without feeling a certain anxiety of where it was coming from. So I don’t know who these women are keeping it real for but we already know black males have no problem dating non-black women. They are more than happy to do so in fact but when they do it lacking racio-ethnic pride or tools for engagement those relationships tend to disintegrate as well, leaving behind confused and resentful offspring.

We often hide our fears and insecurities from others when we need to embrace them, deal with them and move on. I pushed away a man who I clearly saw great potential for a serious relationship with because I was young and stupid! Having a sense that another person gets who you when you’ve only just met is exciting and unexpected. You cannot plan for that type of connection. Then I let a few years go by traveling and following other pursuits but not connecting in a significant way with other men who were as compatible. It’s not too late but I’ve let a lot of time pass me by that I can’t get back trying to “find” myself. Which was really about freeing myself from indoctrination.

The recent reports about the average fertility rate of women and how it sharply decreases after the age of 30 is nothing to sneer at.

Egg quality and quantity are together known as the ovarian reserve and at any particular time, two women of the same age may have very different statistics in terms of this ovarian reserve. But, in general, it has been found that the pregnancy rate begins to decline when people reach their the early 30s while the percentage of infertile couples starts increasing as follows:

  • By age 30, 7%

  • By age 35, 11%

  • By age 40, 33%

  • And at age 45, 87% of couples are infertile

Even if we’re happy being single and/or child-free the fact is – we don’t have forever. Watching reality shows like Millionaire Matchmaker even as they highlight certain dysfunctional males one scenario replays itself over and over. They are looking for women 25 and under. They want young women in the prime of their fertility to marry (and likely to control as well but that’s another story). Fair or not that is the case and it’s best to accept that and instill it in younger women to not waste unnecessary time and energy that won’t yield the results they may want later in life. It’s why we have so many educated, interesting women who’d make wonderful partners “withering” on the vine. It is very easy to get into a routine and develop non-beneficial habits.

This is one of my favorite scenes from Sex And The City (the last episode of the series before they jumped on the movie train). While I didn’t  agree with certain aspects of the show, Carrie’s pursuit of love in all the wrong places (as well as her rejection of Aidan which ALWAYS bothered me) was a very compelling journey. I was totally digging what she said about love. The bottom line for her was to not settle and she didn’t let the prospect of being alone or starting over deter her decision to leave her relationship with Petrovsky.

8 Replies to “When Keeping It Real (In Relationships) Goes Wrong”

  1. Ditto Zabeth's comment. The time is now for black women to make the right choices in every area of their lives. The younger you start the less trouble you will have to get over when you are older. Learning how to critically think and come to right conclusions must happen as soon as possible before your life gets so complicated and messed up as brutally described in this post. One of the most important decisions you will make relates to romance and marriage. It can be the greatest blessing or the most horrible hell on earth you can experience. Being able to make right decisions that benefit YOU will reduce the chances (may not completely eliminate) of making wrong choices in the romance area. If you are a mess you are no help to anyone else. Do what is best for you so you can be the best you can be and the most fulfilled since you will be doing the things that mean something to you. Be with someone ONLY BECAUSE you want to be with them without any pull from some outrageous mindset that you hate, either coming from other people or from within.

    I was really out of the racial box when it came to romance as soon as I went to college at 17:) I am so grateful for that and I sincerely hope that women, especially the younger ones, will come out quickly in order to hopefully have fulfilling lives. It took me a while before I married my lovely husband but believe me I lived life to the full as a single gal and did NOT waste time with scrubs.

    1. Of course as with anything if you can have guidance and perspective making sound beneficial decisions are easier to make. It's never too late to change course in one's life though. It takes a willingness to follow through.

  2. "I’d love to do a survey in a few years on those women (before 30) who adhered to their limited points of view and if their loyalty was reciprocated (after 30). As far as I know dead concepts don’t keep you warm at night or take care of you when you’re sick. This isn’t about individual choices but about forward movement by the collective. "

    Well said. It appears that there is a disconnect between black women between the generations — strangely enough, young women in their early and mid twenties have large audiences of 40+ women who should know that the younger ones are speaking out of serious naivete in this area.

    Many — too many — young black women are fiddling violins while Rome is burning in their personal lives.

    It is fine for them to burn whatever prospects they have for mutually fulfilling and supportive relationships, but what concerns me is that they encourage each other to do so as well.

  3. I apologize for my absence…Since I have two WP blogs, logging in gets tricky at times!

    "The recent reports about the average fertility rate of women and how it sharply decreases after the age of 30 is nothing to sneer at."

    *CW Slinks outta the room*


    Seriously, I realized around the same age (25), that things were continuously moving in circles…More specifically, no progress…Not even close…Even worse, there is nothing sadder than a 40+ year old woman still carrying on like a fool…

    1. CW -- I hear you about the log-ins. I have 3 different WP IDs and I wonder how their security measures limits some participation when we have to remember them! If I wasn't the eldest of six and surrounded by children that I had to care for I might have considered the fertility issue with more gravity. I just wasn't sure I wanted any and required specific circumstances be in place before I'd consider it. On he other hand I have an aunt who had a child at 43 after not having had any children for 20+ years. So I don't know….but I don't have any time to be wasting either!

    1. Jacquie: Thank you for the info! I'll do a blog post about it but for anyone reading the comments here's the info:

      Mrs. LaVera L. Burnim and the Bowie State University community invite you to join us for a special BSU Tea Time and Book Discussion in celebration of Women's History Month. This year's event features Lillian Lincoln Lambert, author of "The Road to Someplace Better: From the Segregated South to Harvard Business School and Beyond."

      Featured Event: Tea Time and Book Discussion

      Thursday, March 25, 2010
      3 p.m.
      Wiseman Centre, Room 102
      Bowie State University
      14000 Jericho Park Road
      Bowie, MD

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