The statistics are against me (45% of Black women in America have never been married, compared with 23 percent of white women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2006).
ABC, CNN, and MSNBC dedicated programming and print space to discussions concerning why it most likely won’t happen for me (Nightline: Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?; Black and Single: Is Marriage Really for White People?; Marriage Eludes High Achieving Black Women).
The question? . . . Marriage!
Any single woman over the age of 30 finds she’s consistently assaulted concerning why she’s not married yet. For African American women, the question is not so much why we’re not married, but why we’re not marriage-friendly? If we dare say that we just don’t want to get married, we face assumptions about our sexuality (“must be a lesbian or bi-“), politics (“must be a liberal, man-hating feminist”) or dysfunctional childhoods (“she was probably molested or treated badly by a man”).
As an ExSuperwoman, I must admit this conversation has simply become intellectually boring, emotional exhausting, and at best, trite! I no longer answer these questions, whether they are overtly articulated or covertly implied. It would be different if the questioner were interested in how marriage might allow me the opportunity to achieve my highest self through the communion of two spirits. But, that is NEVER the intent! When we Black women get this question, it is often inherently implied that we are incomplete or deficient in some way. I’m tired of hearing that Black women are “too much”: too educated, too strong, too independent, too successful, too bold, too powerful, too choicey, too demanding!
Then there’s always the narrative that we are “not enough”: not submissive enough, not quiet enough, not passive enough, not supportive enough, not small enough, not enough of a doormat. No, they do not always use those exact words, but their actions or disregard for our capacity as a human to choose, speaks volumes. Sometimes I just have to ask: am I a human being or a cocker spaniel??? In the face of these nagging questions, the fact that as a human I have the power of choice, unlike animals, is response enough for me. Further, to interrogate my potential marital status, at least for me, begs the question: why should I get married? What is the purpose? Now, that’s a sexy question!
At its core, marriage is a legally binding contract. Whatever else it is lies in our hands: it’s a social construction. An exclusivist view of marriage characterizes it as a commitment between a man and a woman with both embodying certain roles, i.e., male = provider, female = nurturer. It’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that a marriage will produce children. It is this conventional definition that is antithetical to not only who I am, but also who I chose to be in the world. Marriage roles defined by gender deny one the ability to experience the full range of one’s humanity. As well, living out a performance of gender in marriage that has been decided by history flies in the face of my purpose for being on this earth: to experience and give of the fullest expression of the Divine in me.
So, my conversations no longer exemplify answers to the question of why I’m not or don’t want to be married. To respond to those issues would place me squarely back on the road to being a superwoman – and you know I divorced her quite some time ago. Now, I find my discussions about intimate partners and relationships being characterized by exploring the fundamental nature of spiritual unions, fulfilling partnerships. I understand that I’m not looking for my compliment. Even if I found that enigma, that very person would change by virtue of the fact that we all grow and transform along the journey of life. While I don’t see marriage – the legal contract – allowing me the capacity to experience my fullest self, I find the notion of a spiritual union deliciously appealing.
Just think about it….a partnership in which mutual support, encouragement, and inspiration are a reality just feels like the fit of a cozy leather glove. A connection in which each partner seeks to support the other in achieving their best self feels like a soft place to land to me. The wonder and challenge of experiencing each other’s transformational journey through life intrigues me; it’s what I feel every time I learn something new, teach something my students “get” and discover an unexpected finding as I explore the various themes that keep me engaged in scholarly research.
Fortunately, there are a lot of committed relationships that have stood the test of time (20+ years!) without contractual obligation: Oprah Winfrey/Stedman Graham; Kathy Hughes/Jeff Majors; Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell; Joy Behar/Steve Janowitz). Yes, I know these are celebrities and there are also celebrities that have been married 20+ years (Denzel/Pauletta Washington; Samuel L. Jackson/LaTanya Richardson; Jay/Mavis Leno; Tom Hanks/Rita Wilson). What both sets of relationships demonstrate is that choice must be the glue that holds you together. Choice! Not expectation . . .
I do not advocate getting married or not getting married for anyone. All I can speak for is me and what resonates with my spirit. What I do suggest is that we must critically interrogate our need to ask the marriage question of single women, especially us professional, single Black women who are often characterized by what we “should” be in a relationship rather than asked how we want to live our best lives (to borrow a phrase from Oprah). As an ExSuperwoman, whether marriage will or will not happen is not a question that plagues my thinking any longer. What kinds of opportunities await my life in order that I may embody my highest self? Now, that’s a question we can meet over a Venti Vanilla Latte at Starbucks and discuss!
PEACE! – Dr. Kim
Copyright 2011 Kimberly J. Candler