Go ‘head sista, lower those standards
I was at work the other day, minding my own business, when I inadvertently overheard a conversation between two of my coworkers. The (married) speaker was relating some advice she gave to her (single) sister, who is a lawyer. She said that her sister needs to lower her standards; every man she dates doesn’t have to be a lawyer. What about a garbage man? A mechanic? These are good men too, the speaker rationalized. Her sister was being too picky and that was why she was still single. I sat there, heated, trying to ignore their conversation and yet irrationally taking their words personally. How many single black women have been told to lower our standards in order to be in a relationship? How many of us have been blamed for our single status, as if it’s a situation that has an assignable fault? Why doesn’t anyone factor in men’s attitudes toward relationships? And why do we, as women, continue to internalize this criticism and blame ourselves for not having mates?
Speaking for myself, I get tired of this ‘give a brotha a chance’ rhetoric. Regardless of a black woman’s socioeconomic status, we are encouraged to ‘date down’. Now I am not judging a man’s worth as a person based on what job he holds. I’m sure there are good, traditional men of value who work at blue-collar jobs. But at the same time, no one ever tells a black male doctor that he should ‘give a sista a chance’. He’s encouraged to date other doctors – not cashiers, medical assistants or bus drivers. He’s encouraged to create a Huxtable family by marrying an attorney, or excused for marrying a non-black woman by references to negative stereotypes about black women.
Its as if us single gals are pushed toward single men, no matter what our preferences are or, in some instances, the condition of the men. We’re just supposed to lower our standards, run to the man with open arms, and embrace him. No matter what wrongs the brotha has formerly committed? No matter what state he’s currently in, no matter his goals and ambitions in life, or his willingness to actually commit to a long-term or permanent relationship? If the black woman would only help prop a tired, trifling brotha up… if only she would look at his potential and give him time to develop into the responsible, committed, enterprising man he is *supposed* to be… if only she would recognize the heavy burden of racism that has weighed down his actions in life (even though black women carry that same crushing weight, along with the equally heavy burden of sexism, that black men often inflict on us as well)… and, often, if only she wouldn’t be uppity and instead choose a black man outside of her socioeconomic status, just because he’s black… black women wouldn’t be lonely/single mothers/unmarried/fill-in-the-negative-blank…
It may sound like I exaggerated my way through that last paragraph, but I promise you that I didn’t. I know women personally who are not only encouraged to date men who are not on their social, religious, economic or ambition levels, but have seen attempts to set friends up with these men, and seen friends encouraged to stay in relationships where they have outdistanced their men. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that man,” they’re told. “He’s a good man! Stick with him, give him a chance!” Or how about, “all you really need is….[fill-in-the-blank]. You can’t have everything you want. That doesn’t happen to black women, but to other women.”
Oh, that’s right, we’re not supposed to blame anyone but the black woman.
Once they’re nice and low, stop ‘overlooking’ Mr. Nice Guy
Another surprising contender in this blame-the-black-woman game has emerged (surprising to me, at least): Mr. Nice Guy. If only single black women would stop choosing Thugs and Bad Boys over the Nice Guys, they say, then there wouldn’t be as many single sistas. If only black women would stop overlooking these Good Black Men, the state of our community would be so much better, they say. Maybe its just me, but I feel that Mr. Nice Guy Black Man is a myth, a figment of the black community’s imagination. If I’m wrong, then where is he?
Because for every Good Black Man, there is a Good Black Woman who does not date Thugs or Bad Boys. For every Good Black Man who is crying into his Xbox or Playstation controller at night, there is a Good Black Woman (or 2…or 3) who’s tired of being alone. There are two things I see with men who claim to be Mr. Nice Guy: they extend absolutely no effort in pursuing women and they are not really that nice. I’ll address the first point here, and the second in Part Two of this post.
There was an article in Essence magazine last year (one of the issues with Beyonce on the cover) that caught my eye. I can’t remember the title of the article, but it was written by a black man who claimed to be a Southern gentleman. In the article (I didn’t read the whole thing… Essence is on some bull and hasn’t received my money in years), the author shared his woes as a Good Black Man who gets overlooked. Maybe I’m being insensitive.. maybe I’m making generalizations.. but if that isn’t a load of crap, I don’t know what is. GTFOOHWTBS..
I’m sorry sistas, but some of us have low standards. Like I stated above, sometimes we’re blamed for our own singleness and told to lower our standards to the point where we actually do it. I don’t care how gorgeous, accomplished, talented, or financially well-off a sista is, you will see a black woman with a man you perceive to be below her level and think “how’d he get with her?” In our fear of being alone (which is constantly nurtured by the black community’s urgings to ‘give a brotha a chance’ and only date black men) we accept men who are not only incompatible, but who don’t really have a black woman’s best interest at heart. The only ones who really care about a black woman’s chances at finding a healthy relationship are, for the most part, black women. But we put our desires, and ultimately, our hopes for successful relationships, on the back burner in order to Have A Man instead of having the man that’s right for us.
So when I see men like the author of the Essence article bitch and moan about being overlooked, I don’t feel sorry for them. I joke that all a black man has to do is go outside… he doesn’t even have to iron his clothes – he’ll find a black woman who’ll iron them for him and make him a sandwich while she’s at it. To me, the real issue is not that these men get overlooked – but that they get overlooked by women they consider to be ‘dimes’ or the creme of the supposed crop. The women who are the female equivalent to the Thugs and Bad Boys they blame for their loneliness. To these men, they overlook the Good Black Woman and only have eyes for the Hot Black Woman.. and then blame the GBW and average sistas when they didn’t have time for us in the first place. For example, a few years back, Essence ran that same type of article written by a financially successful black man. In the article he noted his accomplishments in his career, some of his material possessions and the fact that he’s a ‘mover and shaker’. Then, on the same page, he wrote about his frustration with meeting women who were only after his money. But those were the types of women he repeatedly chose, and then had the gall to blame us for his singlehood. That doesn’t make sense to me – if you constantly pursue women who are into material things, you can’t get mad at those women because they want your material things. That just doesn’t add up.
On the flip side, I know several men who claim to be Good Black Men, who put absolutely no effort into meeting women, then express bitterness toward black women for not choosing them. Call me old-fashioned, but when did this expectation of pursuit fall to black women?? What kills me about it is, black women who pursue men are accused of being emasculating.. again, we can’t win for losing and this is another situation that turns out to be our fault. I know at least 3 men who never go out, who put no effort into how they dress or into grooming themselves to be noticed by women. When I point out that they are black, live in DC, have advanced degrees, above-average salaries and are attractive, highlighting their chances of dating success if they would just go outside (see joke above..lol), they pout that that’s too much work. They refuse to enter the dating game and play by its rules. They also have stringent criteria and only want to meet certain kinds of women, no matter how much effort they extend to do so. When this happens, then another Good Black Man has been overlooked. When it happens to a black woman, then sistas need to stop being so picky and get out there and meet men. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
How Mr. Nice Guy Won’t End Up Last
What women admire in Thugs and Bad Boys is their ability to be bold, to make the first (and subsequent) moves, to literally charm the pants off them and provide a feeling of security. Sorry fellas, but women don’t admire timid men. If you don’t pursue women, if you wait for women to notice you, of course you’ll get overlooked because there are other men (regardless of good intentions and criminal backgrounds) who have the balls to go after what they want. If a man packages himself for meeting women and proceeds to show women attention, he will get that attention returned. If not by a certain type of woman, then by other types. Face it fellas, water rises to its own level, and dating is like that too. Blaming women who don’t return that attention is a waste of time and contributes to the situation I describe: men who are bitter toward women who are out of their league, and subsequently remove themselves from the dating game altogether. That is not to say that women don’t play a significant role in the dating game, but most of us accept that role and know how to play it.
Every black man who I’d label as a Good Black Man is off somewhere, actually being good to a woman. They’re married or in committed, long-term relationships, being honest and loving to their women and present in the lives of their children. That is how I measure the level of goodness in a black man, not by his level of fiscal responsibility or his lack of a criminal record. Now if my definition of goodness corresponds with the man you are, then holla at ya girl 😉 I have a few good, single black women for you to meet.