A friend posted a status on Facebook that has brought me back to a debate that I've been having with my male friends for years. A debate that I have had specifically with Black men. His post said basically that women that wear their independence like a badge of honor are doomed to be alone. The only way to get and keep a man is to "submit" to him. Now don't get me wrong, I see merit in what he's saying. Most women that I know, especially single mothers, have learned not to trust. We do it all ourselves with the assumption that if we don't do it, it will never get done. We get so used to living this way that when someone comes along and says they can help, we tend to not believe them. "Get out of my way. I'll do it myself." We wonder what they want in return. The common experience is that men aren't reliable and if they happen to show up, it's because they are working an angle. That's why there's this push to be I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T. We write songs about our independence. We celebrate being single. We tell the world we can do it all on our own with no man. And truthfully, when push comes to shove, we can. The question is, do we want to?
I've spoken to friends that fall on all sides of the spectrum on this topic. The particular friend that posted the Facebook status went with the argument that we are not meant to be alone. He said that women do need men. It's our independence that keeps us single. Our pride that is ripping apart the foundation of Black families. (I'm paraphrasing. I don't have access to his quote.) I've worked hard for the last 10 years to raise my son alone. Yes, he has a father, but he doesn't have a constant male role model in his life. If I'm generous, I'd say the Bear sees his dad for 75 days out of the year. The rest is up to me. The argument could be made that I chose this life. I could have just stayed with his father. And I could have acquiesced and stayed. It's not as though he ever left me, but he was never really there either. When we started dating, he just basically started hanging out at my house with me and my room mates. The only difference between me and them was that I was sleeping with CAB. When I moved into my own place, he just started leaving his stuff there and sleeping over every night. There was no talk about moving in together. There was no decision made. When I got pregnant, he wanted to bolt. He had a job interview scheduled out of state on the day that our son was due. I told him to go. I told him I'd move with him. Or if he wanted to leave, he should tell me. Rather than just say he didn't want me with him, he stayed. He treated our child like something I'd DONE to him. He resented working while I stayed home with our son. He resented that I started caring for another child to make money and help with the household expenses. He resented when I left so he wouldn't have to pay for us any more. He resented that when he decided he wanted to grace me with his company while I was living with my mother, I was busy working two jobs so that I could care for our son. When I decided to move to Texas, he followed. He resented living in San Antonio too. "You brought me here to a city that I don't even like." Truth be told, I didn't even invite him to come with me. He didn't make one single decision. He just sat back and whined about all of the decisions that I made. How does one submit to a man that doesn't take the leadership role? How can I follow him when he doesn't know where he's going? Why should I hold on to a man that doesn't want to hold on to me? On paper he was a good man. He's educated. He has a job. He pays his child support. And he never raised a hand to me. He also never just stood up and acted like the man. So am I to be blamed that I stood up to make the decisions for my son and myself?
I had another male friend tell me that Black men don't step up because we make it too easy for them not to do so. Black women have taken the reigns over the course of the years. We've taken the strong leadership role. But is that what makes our men simply stop trying? Is the solution for us to just drop the basket and hope they'll be there to pick it up? I mean, how are we supposed to back down if they are unwilling to take over. I've taken a hard line that I will not support any man that doesn't share at least half of my DNA. Perhaps this is a bit harsh, but I've seen too many women take that road to look up and realize that not only were they still supporting their family alone, but he, by sheer virtue of being the "Man of the House" still wants to run the household and make decisions. (There are, of course, exceptions once the marriage is in place. For richer or for poorer, so on and so forth.) Again, I can't submit to a man that doesn't want to take a man's role.
I've heard the argument that women, especially Black women, want too much. I've even had it aimed specifically at me. I don't deny that my bullshit meter is very sensitive. But I'm not exempt from having put up with my fair share of crap. I have things that I want from a relationship. I want a partner. I want a role model from my son. I want to be attracted to him. I want financial stability. And everything I ask for, I strive for on my own. It doesn't make sense to me that I should lower what I feel are basic standards for a potential mate. Eliminate any one of those requirements that I listed and the odds of a successful relationship are slim.
I'm guilty of turning away good men. But if I'm not attracted to him, no matter how good he looks on paper, isn't it only fair that I leave him out there for the girl that will be gaga over him? Haven't we all seen a really good man that we could fall for instantly be dragged around by a woman that only keeps him around because they can? I didn't like the prospect of trying to set up a life with a man that I wasn't happy to come home to.
I personally do want to find a partner. I want to find someone to whom I feel comfortable handing the reigns. There just seems that there are so many excuses being made not to love us. I wonder how people expect us to show vulnerability in the face of such distaste. How are we expected to submit to a man, if they seem so unwilling to let us?