**Disclaimer**: I am not married, my mother sometimes questions my taste in men, and — like many women my age — I can testify to failed situations. (But it was never my fault, though. Ha!). Thus, you should not take my advice regarding matters of the heart. But, opinions are like assholes — everybody has one. And, if the random chicks who write How to Catch and Keep a Man and Everything in Between about Love posts on Madame Noire and Clutch Magazine are entitled to share their opinions then, dammit, so am I! So, here goes…
Recently, while perusing Madame Noire, I came across such an article, titled “Can You Marry Someone You Don’t Love?”. Intrigued, I immediately linked to the blog post the author references, where a disenchanted Folu, who chased after Bode for over two years — a man who made her heart flutter, knees weak, and gave her butterflies, but nonetheless did not want to be caught — settles down with the stable, predictable, will-put-her-second-only-to-God Tayo. She confesses, however, that she is not in love with this man to whom she will soon pledge her life-long devotion. As it turns out, this tale — though representative of an admittedly extreme dichotomy — is not too far off base. Or, at least it isn’t for a number of my friends who have found themselves facing their own Bode and Tayo a time or two (as my sister writes, “A. Great guy who doesn’t give you butterflies. B. Asshole who makes your heart flutter.”). In reality, the situations are more complex, but you get the gist.
People — men and women alike — have their gut reactions about whether or not Folu settled, whether or not they would themselves ever settle, what it means to settle, how they feel about Folu’s sense of self-worth, how they feel about Tayo (the lovestruck, and ultimately swindled innocent bystander), and everything in between. For our purposes, I want to briefly interrogate the courtship of President and First Lady Barack Obama (which I, admittedly, have no details about beyond what has been made public), to ponder what exactly it means to settle. President Obama makes our knees weak, his smile lights up the room and our hearts, and watching his 50-something year-old body dribble a basketball down the court for a smooth layup brings out the inner groupie in us all. First Lady Obama is gorgeous, slender with bodily accents in all the right places, and effortlessly exudes grace, confidence and inner beauty. Their respective love for each other makes us swoon and post pictures on our Facebook page of them gazing longingly into each others eyes.
But, would you give the pre-catipillar-to-butterfly/ugly-duckling-to-elegant-swan Barack and Michelle Obama the time of day?
To be fair, I don’t think they were quite as challenged when they met each other, but the point still stands. Notwithstanding fancy degrees, intelligence, professional promise, and good old-fashioned niceness, many demand something more — for women, this is usually captured by those feelings of butterflies you get when you think about a man. But, from all accounts, it seems that the Obama courtship began with a very measured and grounded mutual respect and admiration for each other based not on education, earning potential, or even physique. Instead, the First Lady is quoted as saying she admired his respect for the women in his life and his sense of humor. Is this not so different from Folu’s admiration for Tayo (okay, maybe it is — Folu seems to find nothing redeeming even about Tayo’s personality). The bigger takeaway is that First Lady Obama never seems to insinuate that initially, in President Obama, she found everything she was looking for in a man. Maybe many things? Maybe the non-negotiables? But nowhere in this saga do we hear about these damn, pesky butterflies.
This brings me to my next point…
Is having it all — this elusive and mysterious centaur/unicorn of a man or woman who is perfect for you and to you in every way — a hoop dream? Is Barack the Magic Negro, idolized by so many women — both single and married — as the perfect companion, a myth? Have we been sold a half-truth by the White House Press Corps photographers, who capture these priceless moments that turn our hardened hearts into mushy goo? Don’t get me wrong, a United States Senator and leader of the free world is easy to love — or so I would imagine! How about that slightly awkward, big-eared, goofy looking junior associate at your firm? Or that less-than-your-arbitrary-height-cut-off guy who works in a profession that makes you wonder how he could ever provide for your family, let alone satiate your appetite for the finer things in life?
I recently reread one of my friend’s list of 100 qualities she’s looking for in a mate (which, in many ways, is simply an exercise in prioritization) and it drives home the point that we do want it all, at least in theory. And we do deserve everything we want in a mate, which I think is the bigger point that pushing-30, anxiety-ridden-because-she’s-not-yet-married Folu forgets. Whatever my personal non-negotiables are (to each her own), I would much rather be single than compromise my principles and potentially sabotage some innocent man’s life in the process — a man who could surely find a woman somewhere who genuinely loves and is in love with him.
At a minimum, Folu’s story is useful in that it prompts us to seriously consider what we value. And, like the women who offered up these responses to the oft-asked, but terribly loaded question, “Why are you still single?” (or, “Why are you not married?”) — a question that is compounded by a bazillion for Black women, who are the central characters in the over-hyped narrative of the Black marriage crisis — everybody has their own reasons. And I would imagine it’s mainly due to an unwillingness to settle according to their own standards, which may or may not align with your and my standards.
Meanwhile, the Sex and the City fanatic I am, Carrie Bradshaw’s (or, err, the producers and writers of the series finale episode, An American Girl in Paris: Part Deux) words ring true:
“Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”
Cupid, over and out
This week, I decided I’d try my hands at stuffed peppers. I came across a delicious, somewhat-diet-friendly recipe that includes ground turkey, turkey Italian sausage, and parmesan, topped with mozzarella (with rice, onions, peppers, and tomato sauce mixed in).
Finished off with made-from-scratch apple pie.
Overall, a great meal!