Dating as a Single, Black, Female: The Myth and the Reality
Dating, relationships… these are sensitive topics for me. They strike a chord in my heart and cause me to react — sometimes wildly — on those feelings. This is because, like many of you, it is a difficult aspect of life. I sincerely believe that we all have our own hopes for our futures. For me, that is a future filled with love. I do not want to end up alone. However, it is a very real fear that I struggle with because dating as a young, African-American/Black woman in America is exceedingly difficult.
I researched the topic, and was bombarded by articles that site the plight of dating for women of my demographic. The statistics are not in our favor, and it rattles me to the core to think that I may end up alone because of something so far out of my control. For example, A well-meaning friend told me once that, “only 26% of Black women have ever been married,” meaning there is 74% of those who have never been married. Now, this friend, who is one of my dearest and sincerest friends, shared this information with me with the best of intentions. He wanted to show me that, I am not alone in my difficulty. That there are plenty of other Black women who share in my struggle.
You see, dating is hard enough as it is. Dating while being single, African-American, and female is harder. But it is my reality, and it’s not always an easy pill to swallow. Especially when I am one of those hopeful romantics, who wants to believe that she can and will find a true, endearing love. So, when I was told that three-quarters of my fellow peers have never been married, while it was meant to comfort me, it instead had the reverse effect. It left me feeling even lower because it validated one of my worst fears: that there is a very real possibility that I will stay alone; and all because I am a Black woman.
In the past I have come across articles that address the topic of being a single, Black female in the dating pool. Many of the articles attempt to explain why we are not viable partners by listing all the things that are “wrong” with us. I even came across one article that blatantly stated that Black women are less of an option simply because we are not White women. Some have gone on to list other reasons as to why we continue to remain single. However, what hurts most is that often these articles are written in a tone that would suggest that we are entirely to blame for our circumstances.
Needless to say, after my conversation with my friend, I had a good long cry that day. Yet, it also inspired this post. After reading article after article, I noticed a few common points that were addressed time and again, and they inspired other — I call them “myths” about the single, Black female that I felt I wanted to address. Below is my take on a few of these:
1. We must accept that we may just end up single for the rest of our lives.
My grandmother buried a child, and raised two children alone. My mother raised myself and my sister, alone. Many of the women in my family have been raised by their single, struggling mothers. This is a common occurrence, and one I simply do not want to repeat. The fact of the matter is that is not the life I want or envision for myself. Being told that I should be accepting of it because that is what the majority is going through, that just does not sit well with me. I feel like I’m being told to give up on love or on ever being loved, because that’s just the way it is. Is it wrong of me to shake my head stubbornly in outright rejection of this destiny? I reject that I will be alone because other women who are similar to me are alone. I reject that a loving marriage is not within my frame possibilities. I reject that my personal dream must give way to a large reality. I reject being that 74%.
2. I am strong, but it does not mean I am unbreakable.
A common misconception about Black women are that we are strong — and we are — but because we are strong it is assumed that we neither want, need, respect, or desire a man in our lives. This is simply not true. We are strong, yes. Many of us have to be because we come from difficult backgrounds and were raised in harsh, unforgiving environments. This, however, does not equate to never wanting a man in our lives. We are as fragile, delicate, and as vulnerable as any other woman. We just live in fear of showing it because we have been told we must not show any signs of weakness. As humans this is impossible. We have learned to be strong without our men, because circumstances have often left us no other choice. Nevertheless, many of us want to break the vicious cycle of loneliness that many Black women are reluctant to admit.
3. None of us are interested in dating outside our race.
This is simply untrue. While many Black women would prefer to date and marry within the Black community, there are plenty — myself included — that have not placed this limitation on their prospects. In our current day and age, interracial relationships and marriages are increasingly becoming a commonplace occurrence. My truth: love — real love — knows no color, and I refuse to place that as a restriction on myself. However, dating in this way can lead to a few draw backs. Which takes me to my next point…
4. I am not an exotic, plaything to fulfill your fetish or to be a check off your bucket list of life.
Never dated a Black woman? That is fine. However, if you ever do, please remember that I AM A WOMAN — may I be black, white, indigo, or magenta. I am a woman first, and I desire to be treated as a woman — as a self-respecting, self-loving LADY deserves to be treated. Not all of us are the overly sexualized, booty shaking, video vixens glorified on television. I can be a sexual, sensual woman, but I am more than the sum of my lady parts. I also have a brain, talents, hobbies, skills, goals, aspirations, and, yes, I can also cook and I’m great with children! Not to sound like an advertisement, but my point is that like any woman, I have many faces. I cannot and will not be confined to the stereotypical boxes society would have me stay in for its comfort. If you seek to date a Black woman because you want to see if she can, “make her booty clap,” (and yes, I’ve had that request made of me) then you are in it for the wrong reasons. You are looking for a caricature. You are being insulting, disrespectful, and rude. You never saw a woman, or a person, and I will not be dehumanized.
5. Black women have bad attitudes, are b*tches, are erroneously loud, obnoxious, etc.
My retort to this… why am I b*tch when I speak up for myself while women of other colors are simply being empowered, feisty, fiery, etc? All women, not just Black women, are capable of being all the things I’ve stated in point five, and then some. The problem is that society has conditioned us to take it as a negative thing when placed within the context of a Black woman. However, it does not help that in our community we wear this stereotype like a badge of honor. It only validates the generalization, and tells the larger masses that it’s acceptable to think of us in this way. I, for the record, am not a b*tch. But, I can have that sort of attitude if rubbed the wrong way, much like any other woman out there… see where I am going with this?
6. Gold diggers… need I say more?
Shallowness is a vice of this world, it is true. In this society we glorify the idle rich and their luxurious ways, look at any reality show for mountains of evidence. Many seek to emulate these grand lifestyles, even living well beyond their means to pursue it. It’s no secret that there are many women out there who marry men for their bank accounts more than anything. This is something I do not condone. However, it is most upsetting that it is usually assumed that if you are a Black woman, then you must be poor, come from a poor family, or are looking for a man to get you out of the poor house. Being a Black woman, it is assumed you have nothing to offer. Then it is assumed that to be attracted to someone from a higher socio-economic background must mean you are only seeing dollar signs. We are guilty of the infraction without getting a fair chance, and all because of what we look like on the outside. Let’s be practical, money should not be the driving force, but is it wrong to want to be with someone who has a little financial stability? It’s amusing to me how, a poor woman who marries up must be a gold digger, while a wealthy woman who marries wealthy is not suspected of any ill will at all. Couldn’t it be more likely that a woman who is used to a wealthy lifestyle would be more of a “gold digger” because she is not willing to let that lifestyle go? Even for love? While a poor woman, who happens to marry wealthy, may be the best thing because she knows how to cope in both lifestyles?
This makes me think of a quote from the 1953 classic film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marilyn Monroe plays Lorelie Lee who argues with her rich lover’s father as to why she, a girl of no money or status, should be allowed to marry his son. He suspects that she is in it for the money, to which she (Lorelie Lee) responds:
Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You may not marry a girl just because she is pretty, but, my goodness, doesn’t it help? And if you had a daughter, wouldn’t you rather she didn’t marry a poor man? You’d want her to have the most wonderful things in the world and to be very happy. Oh, why is it wrong for me to have those things? ²
“You Don’t Sound Stupid to Me”: The Proto-Feminism of Marilyn Monroe Film in American Popular Culture. Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture, Mar. 2003. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Needless to say, she wins over the dad and gets to keep the son, whom she actually did love the whole time.
By no means do I have it all, and my background is not unlike anything that has not been heard before: single parent household, raised by a hardworking mother, an infamously rough neighborhood, living on less and uncomfortably close to the poverty line, one of the only college graduates in the family… it is nothing new. I’ve worked hard for a long time for a better life situation, and I still have work to do. Yet, despite this background, my intentions are good. I want nothing more than to love and be loved for exactly who I am. I seek acceptance and understanding, but even more so, I wish to give it in return.
I am the single, Black female, and at the end of the day my heart bleeds like any other woman’s heart.
I am no different.
To read more of my writing in fiction, personal styling, and more visit my personal blog, Darling Afflatus.