My black co-workers and I were talking recently about all the white women in our office who are engaged or married — and all of them got rings when they were 25 to 28. Most of us can't even find black men willing to commit to a relationship and run at any mention of a ring or the "m-word." Why can't black men commit? What is so wrong that they don't want to be in relationships or get married, or they expect women to wait forever and a day to do so? —F.E.
I'm always quite curious about the women who write in implying that they want to explore relationships with black men, but in their queries they reveal that they don't think very highly of the group as a whole. I wonder if they realize that the negative perceptions they hold of the collective group could be factors keeping members of it from committing to a relationship, or even a second date, much less marriage.
Have you ever had a guy observe about you something like, "You know, you don't have an attitude!" or "Really? No kids? Wow!" like it's some sort of eye-opening surprise for a black woman not to? His ignorance about the diversity of black women and what they do is insulting, especially since he was likely raised by one. If you and your co-workers are doing a version of this to the guys you wish would commit to you, I can't say I'm surprised that they have not.
You're exhibiting red-flag behavior, and the smart guys — the ideal ones we call "good" for shorthand — will encounter you and not charge ahead but run. Fast.
I get where this detrimental mindset comes from. Being single when you don't wish to be and seeing those around you seem to effortlessly find "the One" (as if he's a superhero who rescues single women from themselves) can make the most confident woman have fleeting moments of insecurity and possibly lash out at her counterparts, as you've done here. But so you know, your woe-is-me assessment (it's pretty obvious that feeling rejected is behind the vitriol in your letter) is neither helpful nor accurate.
Guys may not spend the days after a great date dreaming about the theme colors for their Big Day, what tux they'll wear or imagining their partner's first name paired with their own surname, but many do want to get married. Here are the facts: Black men do get married. No, not as early as their white or Hispanic counterparts. By age 35, however, their rate of marriage varies little from that of white or Hispanic men.
In comparison with that oft-quoted stat about 42 percent of black women being single between the ages of 25 and 34, the same study found that 43 percent of black men have never been married. If you decide to see that cup half full, you'll find that the majority of black women and black men do get married, despite all the hype there's been that black folks don't.
For the best of single heteros, there are plenty of women who would like the man to commit to a relationship. But ask anyone who's ever stood at a Baskin-Robbins counter, and you'll find that lots of options don't make a final decision any easier. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Other guys would like to settle down but haven't met the right woman. Some are just fine bypassing the benefits of a long-term commitment to enjoy a life without the hassles of it. And truth be told, they're getting all the good parts — like sex, hot meals and, often, a listening ear — so their logic doesn't really surprise me.
For most men, to commit or not to commit boils down to finances and timing. The notion of a black couple starting out together and building their wealth as a team is almost a distant memory. Many men want to be established in their careers and plentiful in their finances before they take on the responsibility of a girlfriend, much less a wife and a family. And for many, that's just not happening, especially with black male unemployment hovering at 14.3 percent and an unstable economy in which a college degree no longer guarantees definitive job stability. When finances aren't in order, even for the most well-intentioned, want-to-be-married-someday men, marriage tends to go on the back burner.
If you're in a rush to get to the altar so you can be like your white officemates — a horrible reason to want to get married, so you know — change your attitude about black men — or, at the very least, hide it better so you can have a fighting chance at being in a relationship. Also, seek out men who are largely confident in their career prospects and express a desire to get married in words and actions. That won't guarantee that they marry you, of course, but it will tip the odds of finding a man who wants to commit for the long haul in your favor.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.