“hey, what’s keeping ya’ll from putting a ring on it?
—essence magazine relationship editor demetria lucas. lucas, who also blogs at abelleinbrooklyn.com, included this question in her response to a recent nightline segment lamenting (again) the successful but perpetually single black female of the saks fifth serengeti.
its been almost a month since the helena andrews hellstorm made the ninjanets spontaneously combust. in the weeks since, we’ve seen approximately 150,000 different takes on her washington post profile, with responses ranging from empathy and esteem to surprisingly dogmatic disdain and dismissal.
yet, amidst all of that discussion, lucas’s essence piece was the only time i saw someone (other than my mom, who must be contractually obligated to have this discussion with me at least once every three months) address the cheesing elephant sitting on the futon. her question roughly translates as…
“wait a second. yeah, yeah, yeah. we all know that successful black women make worse decisions than gilbert arenas, and that the chances of a high-earning sista in her 30′s finding a spouse are less than the chance that ann coulter’s adams apple isn’t bigger than her balls, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. but…what about the guys? there seems to be quite a few successful but never married black men as well. what’s keeping you all from the alter?”
i initially scoffed at her implication that many (if not most) young and successful black men were staunchly marriage-phobic. but, a close look at the 25 to 40 year old men i personally know showed that while the majority of the white men were either already married with children or recently hitched, the majority of the brothas were single or doing the long-term wifey/concubine bit with no wedding plans in the near future.
i have to admit that this wasn’t the first time i noticed that many “eligible” brothas seemingly held anti-marriage sentiments, and here’s five possible reasons why
1. the career scare
you know, after i saw that the aforementioned “men i personally know” sample was split along racial lines, i went back and re-examined to see if maybe there was a class or social-economic theme overriding the racial one. i mean, if the white guys were in more lucrative professions than the brothas, it makes sense why they’d be more willing and ready to marry.
anyway, while i found that there was no real difference in (assumed) income, i did find a distinct racial difference in the thought patterns of my friends. the white guys were much, much, much more likely to be settled.
if the white guy was a lawyer, the black guy was a lawyer thinking about leaving law to go teach. if the white guy was an english teacher, the black guy was an english teacher with plans to go to dental school. if the white guy was a dentist, the black guy was a dentist who still has the dates of open tryouts for NFL teams circled on his calender.
basically, the white guys had accepted their lots in life. they seemed to be more willing to realize “hey, if i’m lucky, i’ll be working at this same firm for the next 20 years“, and they acted accordingly while the brothas were still trying to “figure things out”.
mind you, i’m not suggesting that the white guys way of thinking is better or even more mature. some of them have resigned themselves to the types of mind-numbing existences that eventually lead to you pulling a kevin spacey in ‘american beauty’. but, this thought process does lend itself to being more ready to get hitched.
with the brothas, even with their decent jobs and nice salaries, the fact that they weren’t settled mentally most likely affected their willingness to settle down and marry, a sentiment that leads us to…
2. the potential upgrade
“wait…if i’m a social worker who’s convinced that i’m going to own a lucrative chain of upscale barbershop/brothels (where you can get a trim and some trim at the same time) in less than five years, why the hell would i commit to someone now when i know that my soon to be banging bank account will increase my options???”
3. no upside
actually, this is a bit misleading. most marriage-phobic men are very aware of the marriage positives. its just that in their minds, the potential bad from the negatives (losing independence. potentially losing income and custody of their children if it ends, etc) vastly outweighs any good from any potential positive.
they’re basically thinking “why do something that might maybe make my life a little better if it also has the potential to make it much, much worse?”
4. the chip
“the chip” refers to the “f*ck any and all institutions” chip sitting on the shoulders of many brothas. this inherent mistrust of the government, the church, the media, the military, and the NBA also extends to the concept of having the government aware of and involved in your home life – their main reason for being anti-marriage
personally i think this is a bit of a bullsh*t conspiracy theorist cop out, but since i’m discussing “reasons” today and not “my feelings about the reasons“, i’m just gonna move on
5. no incentive
while we can endlessly debate about whether men should need an incentive in order to do certain things, you can’t really argue the fact that, generally speaking, we do. like it or not, its in our nature to do what we’re allowed to do and what’s expected of us.
basically, as long as its not socially unacceptable for successful brothas to juggle and bone multiple chicks while having half-assed fisher price commitments to them, it’s going to continue to happen.
6. they’re ahead of the curve
marriage was a necessity in 1892, when life expectancy was 31 and you needed a wife and at least eight kids to help you plow fields and sh*t so you could continue to live your miserable, lice-ridden existence. things have obviously changed for the better since then, and the only thing that separates the successful black male from everyone else is that he’s the first to realize it.
anyway, people of vsb.com, i’m curious. do you agree that successful black men seem to be marriage-phobic? if so, why do you think this is…and is this a bad thing?
also, for the eligible (eligible = employed or at least employable and still in possession of the majority of your teeth) brothas reading this, why haven’t you put a ring on it yet?