Can you hear that sigh? It’s the collective sound of women across the globe weeping upon learning that I, Stephen A. Crockett Jr., have gotten married. I know, ladies, and I assure you that there is someone out here for you, but that someone just isn’t me.
Fine. Whatever. No one cares. In fact, my wife and I didn’t really care. We got married only after we visited hospitals where we were planning to have our first child. Upon learning that if I was just the boyfriend, I would have to sign papers and shit, we decided to get married at the baby shower.
We’d been engaged for two years, so it wasn’t like it wasn’t coming, but neither of our families really places an importance on being married, so we weren’t rushing it. The baby shower/wedding was lovely and people cried. I didn’t want a ring. My wife wasn’t going for that. I wear a ring now. I like it. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed. It’s a new normal. I’m getting used to it.
I never thought I would be married. I figured I would live out my life a lot like my uncle Buster. Uncle Buster was the uncle who had a new girlfriend at every holiday. Uncle Buster owned his own house and always slid me money when I was little. He was the one who let me come in the basement when he and my other uncles were getting drunk and shooting pool. I figured my life would play out something like that.
Plus, I was having trouble finding women who fit all of my criteria. Because of my upbringing, I needed a woman who would not only challenge me but also understand the cultural importance of hood shit that I hold close. In short, I needed to see that a woman could eat sunflower seeds and jump double Dutch before I could decide if she was worthy of being my wife.
Don’t get it twisted. Women have these kinds of lists for men, too. I know because I have two sisters, both of whom are picky as hell. My one sister (who hates when I mention her name in my writing) has told me several times that her mate must be able to understand the writings of James Baldwin and Jay-Z. My friend Wes Felton calls this being “jiggy conscious,” or, as he once said, “I want a woman who can wear a headscarf and red bottoms,” or something to that effect.
The point is, I’m not the only person who has a list, but I might be the only person who wanted a few items entirely crossed off before I crossed the threshold into marriage. Below is a sampling of questions I needed answered before I could get married.
1. Did you Jack and Jill?
Yes, Jack and Jill is a verb in this house. It means that you are effectively exercising some elitist blackness, and I don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t want to hear about cotillions, and I don’t want to hear about any group that interviews the parents to decide if their children can play together.
2. Can you make a Steak-umm?
Look, I don’t want a woman to cook for me, since I can cook for myself. But I do need to see your reaction when asked if you can cook a Steak-umm, and here’s why: Steak-umms are a hood essential. They’re arguably a step up from ramen and right below hot dogs. I need to see if your eyes light up with nostalgia at the idea of how you, in fact, hooked up a Steak-umm. I need to know if you included barbecue sauce and cheese or if you went straight onions. If you don’t know what a Steak-umm is, then I need to know that, too, because that probably tells me more about your upbringing, and nine times out of 10 you were in Jack and Jill.
3. Name three games you played growing up without any of the correct accessories.
In the hood, or at least where I grew up, we didn’t have much, so everything we did was a makeshift sort of game that required boredom and imagination. I still think back on my days playing sock basketball because it was a part of my childhood. I need to know how your brain works. I know that a relationship will not always be rosy. So I need to know that if by chance the lights get cut off, you will grab the flashlights and be willing to play “flashlight laser tag” with me instead of worrying about how we’re going to get the lights back on.
4. Have you ever been in a fistfight, and if so, why and what happened?
We are adults, and no one should be fighting, but I think that we can all agree that there are times when someone is asking to have the brakes beat off of them, like this woman.
So this question actually serves two purposes: 1) It tells me whether or not the woman is a hothead and is fighting over an issue that I don’t deem worthy of fistfighting; and 2) It tells me that if we are out and it all goes to shit, she’s willing to take off her shoes and earrings and get it popping. I think all men like a little reasonable crazy, and I can’t be married to a woman who would let someone get all up in her face and not knuck ’cause she bucked.
5. Do you wear a headscarf at night?
I can’t tell you how important a headscarf has become in my life. I can’t tell you how much I’ve come to respect the headscarf. The “Lady Du-rag” is expected in this house. It has become a beacon and a symbol. I know that it’s bedtime when I see it. I know that tomorrow is important. I know that it’s time to settle down for the night. I know that a silk pillowcase will be placed under it. I know that my woman is so black that for over 100 years, this tradition has not changed. I know that we are connected. I know that I am home.