Single-Minded: Single Doesn’t Mean Spinster

Yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m occasionally spotted in the company of a man. See: Rihanna.

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In Zadie Smith's new book, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, she writes about author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston: "She grew up a fully human being, unaware that she was meant to consider herself a minority, an other, an exotic or something depleted in rights, talents, desires and expectations." Hurston would often say, "I am not tragically colored." Although anyone who looked at the woman, who was unapologetically black, would call her “colored” in 1937, but never tragically so. So it goes, I would argue, for the single lady. Yes, I am single. I am not married. But I am not manic—or manless—either.

In the essay, Smith explores Hurston’s most popular novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, "'Blackness' as [Hurston] understood it and wrote about it, is as natural and inevitable and complete to her as, say, 'Frenchness' is to Flaubert. It is also as complicated, as full of blessings and curses. One can be no more removed from it than from one's arm, but it is no more the total measure of one's being than an arm is."

This isn’t to say that my single-ness is as “inevitable” or permanent as my blackness. I claim it, sure. The lack of a ring on my left hand makes my marital status pretty obvious for anybody who’s looking, but it doesn’t define my status in life. It isn’t the synecdoche of my existence, a part of me (like my arm) meant to define the whole of me.

Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root. Her book, Bitch Is The New Black, will be released this summer. Follow her on Twitter.

 

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