What Are You Afraid of…The Love Below?: Black Female Sexual Agency and the Power/Penalty of Yes

I recently hosted a shindig with a group of 30-somethings at my home. ¬†The group was composed of both men and women, and much of the conversation‚ÄĒalbeit fueled by alcohol and barbecue‚ÄĒrevolved¬†around male/female relationships and of course sex. ¬†One of the men present at the event put forth the premise that¬†all¬†women fall into four¬†hierarchically¬†based categories:¬†marriageable date-able, fuck-able, and untouchable.

This statement immediately sent me to my special place.¬† My anger reached biblical proportions. That is a less judicious part of me wanted to smite him on sight‚ÄĒbut instead I listened. I listened to him rationalize ad nauseam a limited, simple, and rather hurtful view of women¬†and in particular Black women. ¬†I may be biased, but to me a Black woman’s experience and the way she does “womanhood‚ÄĚ is too¬†unique and¬†really too¬†¬†divine to be reduced to arbitrary categories. Yet his premise gives us a point of departure to discuss Black female sexual agency: its power and its penalty.

The fictions around Black female sexuality are dangerous. ¬†From the sexually repressed mammie to the¬†wanton¬†jezzebel,¬†these¬†convenient and simplistic archetypes make me nervous for several reasons. ¬†First, they are symbolic of the greater cultural systems of patriarchy that normalize sexism and more pointedly sexual prohibition for women‚ÄĒand in particular Black women. Second, they subvert Black women’s sexual agency and support constructed myths of the “good girl” and the “bad girl” to the¬†detriment¬†of Black female sexual identity formation. Finally, they treat sex as a commodity within the relational transactions of Black women and men, thereby stripping it of its spiritual and natural origins.

For decades, Black women have had to negotiate a sexual identity against the historical backdrop of slavery that found them the victims of systematic rape and sexual abuse.  From these origins, a range of sexual stereotype regarding Black women have emerged in the larger culture.  We have been portrayed as either oversexed or sexually deficient.  Sadly, the Black female voice has largely been left on the margins of such discussions, particularly when it contradicts mainstream ideas.   Accordingly, to assert agency over one’s sexuality may even today be interpreted within the parameters of stereotypes like the Jezebel:

The portrayal of Black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, White women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty ‚Äď even sexual purity, but Black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of Black women is signified by the name Jezebel.2

Jezebel Stereotype

In the song “She Lives in My Lap”, by Outkast, a breathy Rosario Dawson’s whispers the lyrics: What’s wrong?/What are you afraid of?/The Love Below. I thought this line was very telling about the power differential that sex can cause in modern male female relationships. ¬†I believe that many men are equal parts attracted to and fearful of a sexually confident woman.

All too often, a women’s sexual ego is equated to her ability to please a man‚ÄĒ rather than her ability to derive sexual pleasure for herself. ¬†However, if a woman outwardly expresses her desire for sexual pleasure and moreover asserts agency over her sexuality, she is often reduced to the “jump-off, “the ¬†provocateur”, or ” the heaux”.¬† Categories and stereotypes become a way of managing common fears men have around female sexuality: that they will fail to please their partner, that their partner might commit adultery, or that they will erase men from their sexual experience all together.

The good girl/bad girl construct is another fall out of patriarchal thinking. ¬†¬†Steve Harvey‚Äôs¬†Act like a Woman, Think like a Man¬†is an artifact of this construct. ¬†¬†What’s the difference between a lady and a woman? ¬†Patriarchy.¬† Western society promotes so-called sexual purity in women as a desirable quality for a mate.¬† On its face sexual purity isn‚Äôt a bad thing; I would simply argue that its value is applied inequitably¬†across the sexes. ¬† Black women are well aware of the ‚Äúboys will be boys‚ÄĚ mentality that governs sexual power structures of our community and for that matter larger Western society, but I believe we have been downright complacent, if not content to uphold and even perpetuate this norm.¬† We see and define our own value within these constructs:¬†be sexually desirable‚ÄĒyes, desire sex outside the norms of society‚ÄĒno.

Categorizing or stereotyping women along lines of their collective sexual behavior is not only damaging to the female psyche, but I would argue equally dangerous for the greater society.  Ironically, as I type this, I am watching the documentary Love Crimes of Kabul. It traces the story of Afghan women who face prison for adultery and premarital sex.  While worlds apart from my reality, I would argue that the sexist ideology that governs such practices is very real in Western culture  and in the African-American community.  Listening to women talk about their lack of power to define their sexual behavior is an apt metaphor for the power struggles Black women face in defining, owning, leveraging, and embracing their sexuality.  Pain and pleasure interplay in this long running narrative.

Ever since Eve and the apple came into our cultural consciousness, women’s power over their sexuality has been compromised.  Women and men need to collectively take the power struggle, and manipulation out of our sexual relationships, in order to get back to its purest state. Sex is natural, spiritual, and beautiful.  When Black women and Black men confront each other honestly about what they are both seeking, the categories become extinct, the myths are debunked, and the stereotypes are confronted.  Love becomes free again. 

Dear Editor: Copy, Cut, Paste, Delete….Writing my Own Story

Funny thing about¬†introspection: it’s just so damn personal! ¬†You see, I had a post all ready written about the perils, trials, and tribulations of dating for highly educated Black women in the DMV. ¬† It was witty, charming, and beautifully constructed. ¬†Trust me. ¬† However, my inner voice suggested that the content was not entirely accurate or perhaps it was simply to simplistic. ¬†I was regurgitating a narrative that I have heard from women like me who are looking for love in seemingly all the wrong places. It was a story of rejection, heartbreak, loneliness, and even shame‚ÄĒalbeit¬†not without its light moments. ¬†Yet, it was a story framed from the point of view of a victim. ¬†I am not a victim, though it occurs to me I have operated as one for way too long.

In thinking of matters of love and life, I am resigned to be the editor of my life.  In this role, I have the power to decide who stays and who shall go.   I can write a better story, by way of smart choices based  first and foremost around loving myself and consequently not based on the fleeting opinion of others.  Within this paradigm, I determine my self worth from a higher truth: I am a person in progress, but I am worthy of  pure and genuine love.  As editor, I can redefine the storyline as I go along, being confident not to settle and faithful enough to take a risk in pursuit of my dreams.  However, this is much easier said than done.

I am the kind of girl that thrives on male attention. There I’ve said it. ¬†For as long as I can remember, it was very important to me that boys and men found me attractive and worthy of love. ¬†I ¬†had a boyfriend pretty consistently since the second grade and let me tell you the melodrama of that puppy love affair could rival that of any daytime soap opera. ¬†I kept boyfriends through middle and high school, and married in my early twenties to ¬†further solidify a pattern of serial monogamy sprinkled in with a few regrets. ¬† Divorced by twenty-eight, I was devastated, angry, bitter, and sad. ¬†The man who was supposed to support me, love me unconditionally, and protect me‚ÄĒlet me down. ¬†Yet in retrospect, I had let myself down. I am my own editor.

A little armchair psychology will easily connect my “boy issues”, as ¬†I call them to my relationship with my father who loved and spoiled me incessantly, but was limited in his ability to provide the real guidance, nurturing, time, and wisdom I craved. ¬†You see my parents were divorced when I was still a little baby and my father¬†remarried raising a family outside the one he created with my mom. ¬†I do not begrudge him any happiness his choices may have brought to his life; I am just realistic about how they colored my experiences in love and relationships.

I also watched my mom move through a series of boyfriends‚ÄĒnone of which¬†ever really¬†deserved her. I know she did this in a failed effort to bring a father figure into my life ¬†as well as to provide the love and security she wanted and deserved. ¬† Yet, as I see this pattern repeating in my life: ¬†toxic relationships, broken homes, anxiety, and depression; I am making an active choice to stop it right here. ¬†The call on my life is too big not to; ¬†I am my own editor.

God is my north star and I always felt very¬†attuned¬†to the universe and what it wanted for me. ¬†I know that I was given a voice, talent, and a passion for living that is worthy of the kind of love that will last a lifetime. ¬†Accordingly, it is not worth it for me to waste the energy and time investing into thin relationships based on my own insecurities, fears, or simply a desire to get the love that has alluded me, thus far. ¬†Yet to say that it alluded me would be somewhat of a misstatement. ¬†I have had great guys‚ÄĒthough flawed‚ÄĒlove me in healthy and nourishing ways. ¬†However, I am learning that I need to come into a place mentally, physically,¬†spiritually, and emotionally where I am able to first recognize and then form healthy romantic relationships.

Ladies: ¬†I ardently¬†urge you to do a mirror check. ¬†For all the complaining we do about the foibles, fumbles, and general fuck ups the men in our life enact upon us, it is important that we don’t lose sight of how we are contributing to our own destiny. Of course this not to say that the guys out there don’t require¬†their fair share of¬†introspection, healing, and calls for accountability. They surely do. ¬†The relationships between Black women and Black men are ¬†plagued by historical consequences and cultural baggage. ¬†Accordingly, it is that much more important that we become more¬†intentional about recognizing and valuing the love within ourselves and others.

I say all this to say, I am taking a break to be with myself. ¬† That is right folks‚ÄĒyou heard it here first. I am pulling myself out of the game. ¬†I am sure that with this bold proclamation that every guy I ever wanted will come knocking down my door‚ÄĒthe universe is not without a sense of humor. ¬†However, my dating¬†sabbatical¬†isn’t about self-denial, but more about self-actualization. ¬†I am taking sometime to embrace the skin I’m in and to learn to love myself fully‚ÄĒflaws and all. ¬†I am taking some time to know the God within me, to tap into my full¬†potential, heal a few wounds, jump over a few hurdles, knock down some road blocks, and most importantly write my own happy ending. I am the editor of my life. ¬†More to come…stay tuned.

My Girlfriends….There Through Thick and Thin

I am a girl’s girl‚ÄĒthrough and through. ¬†My relationships with the women in my life¬†have been sources of inspiration, strength, and motivation. ¬†I consider these relationships simply invaluable, from the loving counsel of my mother and grandmother to the laughs and tears shared among my girlfriends and Sorors.

The women in my life hold me up, listen to me bitch, moan, cry and complain.  At their best these friendships are an education, they challenge me and push me to the next level. Therefore, it saddens me when I hear Black women talk about how they are immediately distrustful or suspicious of other Black women.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of the parody and misrepresentation of Black women and our relationships in popular culture has been internalized. ¬†This creates an insecurity that extends to our relationships with each other in our everyday interactions. ¬†It lessens our ability to love ourselves and our ability love the reflection of ourselves‚ÄĒour sisters (and brothers too). Mainstream society has taught Black women in many ways¬†not value ourselves and this collective sense of inadequacy threatens one of the most valuable cosmic connections in the universe.¬†If we think of friendships as living things, I would argue the relationships and friendships between Black women are created and bound¬†by a unique DNA of shared experience.

As Black women, I believe our human experience throughout history has been and even today remains unique. ¬†How we do and define womanhood is special and beautiful and we need to embrace the magic of it. ¬†Our relationships need not be fraught with jealousy, pettiness,¬†malicious competitiveness, and distrust. ¬†When I see my sister, I see the God manifest within in her. ¬†I see her capacity (but not¬†necessity) to be strong, her Grandmother’s wisdom, her courage, and creativity.

I believe one of my purposes in life is to interpret and voice my experience,  and more importantly the collective experience of the Black women around me.   I see so many parallels in the lives of  my sister friends, from the well-worn narrative around the perils of singleness to the weight of negotiating identity in the workplace.   I rely on my girlfriends for advice, to help me frame an experience, heal through hurt, and to make me laugh until my belly aches.

Toni Morrison said, “The loneliest woman in the world is the woman without a close woman friend” and it is in this spirit that I encourage you to treat the women in your life with love and understanding. ¬†Be a friend and to make a friend. ¬†Love your sisters, encourage them, and treat them with the kindness, respect, and devotion we all deserve.

‚ÄúBeloved, you are my sister, you are my daughter, you are my face; you are me‚ÄĚ
Toni Morrison

Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend was Fun Like Me?: On Being the Life of the Party

I’m writing this from home tonight. ¬†I am at ¬†home‚ÄĒon a Friday night. This isn’t supposed to happen to me……

You see: ¬†I’m the life of the party. Eddie Murphy could have dedicated “Party All the Time” to me. I’m the queen of charisma and my cup runneth over with personality. ¬†I am am off a scales extrovert, a maverick, and a some may argue a certified wild child. ¬†While I’d push back on that last moniker‚ÄĒadmittedly‚ÄĒI like to be on the scene. Shaking hands and kissing babies is my thing. I got it honest. Both my parents were parties and growing up we were always celebrating life. Because I get my energy by engaging with others, and I am an awesome dancer (you should see me hit the dougie), I have always embraced the intrigues of night life. ¬†What’s better than getting all glammed out in lashes and stilettos, and tipping on the scene with your gal pals? Not much!

However, while my outgoing  personality and reputation for being out in about is great for creative work, awesome for networking, and fantastic for reality TV shows, sadly it is not ideal for landing Mr. Right.  I am finding that being  Ms. Champagne Life is busting up my dating life.

I never really thought of myself as a party girl, but I’ve noticed, as my friends have begun to settle down that my latent post-adolescent desire to hit the streets is pretty remarkable amongst my set. ¬†As many of my peers are picking out china patterns or pushing strollers, ¬†my attentions are drawn to much lighter diversions. ¬†Sure, I am striving towards my professional goals, and busy with community service, but nevertheless the streets keep calling. Perhaps, it is because I got married and divorced by like twelve, but I’m¬†definitely¬†on the scene now harder than any other damn near thirty-year-old I know. ¬†Ten years ago, while my girls were in the club, I was cooking, cleaning, and doing the best impersonation of a young Claire Huxtable I could muster. ¬†Since my divorce, I have done plenty of ¬†healing, growing, maturing…but¬†I’ve¬†been doing a whole helluva of ¬†a¬†lot¬†of¬†partying.

I’m having a great time living the champagne life, the only problem is when the party is over, every one wants someone to go home to. A guy friend kicked some knowledge to me on the whole matter that was really a revelation. ¬†You see it turns out, a lot of guys don’t really go for the so-called party girl ¬†or at worst we get stereotyped as the good time girl. ¬†Here are a few reasons why getting to wifey and/or girlfriend status is a herculean challenge for a girl like me:

  1. Men assume you have someone or a lot of someones
  2. Men are intimidated and or overwhelmed by your confidence and won’t approach
  3. A certain kind of guy isn’t willing to share the spotlight and will opt for quiet eye candy or vocal charisma
  4. Your awesome is generally misunderstood

Here is where I’m come out on this whole analytical¬†conundrum. ¬†For a brief moment, I really considered ¬†being less: a bit more quiet and adopting the homebody swag, under the misguided hope that prince charming would¬†gallantly¬†ride to my door atop a white horse, my size Louboutins in hand. ¬†However, like lightning it occurs to me: ¬†I am not willing to CHANGE ¬†for any dude. ¬†I’ve been there done that, and bought the t-shirt. ¬†I will never go there again. ¬†I was only a pale and less¬†interesting¬†version of myself, when I lived that way and all in all life is too short to be something you or not. ¬†I figure, the right guy will be handle me and all my awesome no problem. ¬†Better yet, he’ll want to party with me! ¬†So here it is: ¬†They say life is a party, so we might as well dance! ¬†You with me?

Balls and Strikes: Boy versus Girl in the World Series of Love

Single Ladies: it’s cold outside and as the¬†Celsius drops you might find your stock going up. Seemingly out of nowhere, men you have not heard from in months are contacting you ¬†just to sayhello”, “what’s up”, or “would you like to accompany me for a week-long, all expenses paid vacation to the Cayman Islands” (seriously dude I haven’t talk to you in like 5 months…we are not going international…that is how people end up on Snapped).

Basking in the glow of this onslaught of attention, you might assume that you suddenly got more gorgeous, intelligent, and¬†charismatic¬†than you were in say July or the fella(s) in question finally wised up to how awesome you are. ¬†However, sadly this is not likely the case. ¬†This time of year many men are simply looking for‚ÄĒand I’ll put it delicately‚ÄĒa winter cuddle buddy.

All my¬†professional¬†daters know that ¬†the end of August through Thanksgiving represents peak hunting season for the men folk. ¬†I will guess that first chilly nip in the air marked the return of some long-lost friends for many of you ladies. ¬†That said, this sudden shift in your dating fortune may present some challenges for the choosey lovers among you‚ÄĒthose who have no real desire to jump from bed to bed, but are seeking intimacy and daytime activities along with the passion filled nights of winter. ¬†¬†So how do you keep your winter snugfest alive through the holidays and past the darling buds of May? ¬†¬†Suffice it to say, you are going to want to be strategic about whose tree you tinsel this year.

Men want to have sex.  Women want to have sex too.  However, women often prefer a relationship to provide a context for the sex. Accordingly, we seek them out to accommodate this desire for security and essentially love. I mean there are exceptions.  There are many women who are perfectly content to engage in relations with a man with no strings attached; however, a large percentage of us are looking for more.  Accordingly, the idea of casual sex particularly among élite and well-educated Black women is a sensitive topic because so many of us feel bound by our sexuality, when we should feel empowered.

Being a¬†choosey¬†lover is ¬†your¬†prerogative and saying “no”¬†or “let’s wait a while” is a real option. A quality man will actually find this appealing and may even pursue you because you are a challenge. ¬†That doesn’t mean get all Doris Day on them; men are driven in many ways by sex. ¬†Yet, I urge finding a happy space where you are being true to yourself and your needs, while respecting those of your potential partner.

One of my favorite stand-up routines is Dave Chappelle’s ÔĽŅwomen killed chivalry¬†bit. ¬†He humorously posits that as a collective women have devalued their self-worth by being overtly sexually¬†accessible¬†and even¬†promiscuous. ¬†In this way, we have essentially put our sexual agency in a box, wrapped it in Christmas paper, topped it with a bow and turned it over men.¬†¬†Chappelle states, “if p***y was a stock it would be plummeting because women give it away to easy”. ¬†Touch√©.

Our society allows our male counterparts to penetrate ad nauesem every trash-box rocking a cheap Forever 21 ¬†Herve Leger knock-off ¬†without penalty or judgement, while we women often feel bound by certain rules‚ÄĒrules from the Bible, the Koran, Steve Harvey, or whoever. ¬†The extent to which this reality is a result of patriarchy is important, but nonetheless it remains a reality. ¬†While shows like Girlfriends and Sex and the City worked to subvert these rules; they are woven in our Puritan cultural fabric.¬†¬†And it is within this context, men and women become like¬†two nations caught up in nuclear¬†brinksmanship, rather than impassioned lovers caught in an intimate embrace.

Because women are aware or even perceive¬†that men have many options for copulating‚ÄĒ¬†particularly¬†in our large urban cities (like D.C.), we feel a pressure to engage in this kind of relating early on to attract or keep a man. Society tells women to play the game to get the guy by either being sexually¬†inaccessible¬†or overtly sexual. ¬†Both of these behaviors are imposed constructs and I would argue not aligned to really connecting with another person. ¬†MÔĽŅany times the¬†internal pressure to give it up is almost as bad as the external. ¬†We have needs too.

Quite frankly I know many men and women I have talked to are exhausted, by this whole tango. ¬†They are fed-up with checklist, game playing, timelines, dreams¬†deferred, minimal¬†treatment, ¬†and manipulative tactics that we use on each other to get what we want or need. ¬† Essentially…

Men want this…..

Women want that and this…..


Both wouldn’t mind this ultimately…


but as a collective we often end up like this…

Frankly, I¬†find the term casual sex sort of misplaced. The fact that an act so connected to the universe and the God within us can be reduced to khakis and a polo is odd to me. ¬†Yet, I cannot accept the whole¬†puritanical¬†wait until marriage construct as natural, healthy, or realistic for most women and men. ¬†While I know some choose to live this way, many of us heathens cannot. ¬† For instance, many people are not looking for marriage. ¬†Companionship‚ÄĒyes, but marriage‚ÄĒno.

So what happens to those of us in the badlands of dating¬†purgatory¬†where we believe in the possibility of love but are stifled by the dual¬†desires to keep¬†self-respect and dignity and yet find unbelievable passion? ¬†How do we negotiate and balance love and lust in our life? ¬†How do we connect our mind, bodies and spirits to¬†another’s? ¬† How do we begin respecting the God within ourselves and someone else and stop using each other as a means to an end? ¬†Essentially, ¬†I asking how do we make love and not war?

Swagaholics Anonymous: Addicted to the Cool Factor

At best, I’m a glutton for punishment.¬† At worst, I’m a masochist, but when it comes to affairs of¬† the heart‚ÄĒI must admit‚ÄĒI am an unabashed swagaholic.¬† I know many of you will argue the semantics of the now soccer mom appropriated term “swag“.¬† Others of you are simply turned off by it all together.¬† Even though “swag” is a relative term, and is likely going the way of bling bling very soon, for me it describes a ridiculously cool, quiet confidence that I suspect many woman find irresistible.

Swag is of course a slang for personal style appearance or attitude. ¬† An abbreviation of¬† “swagger”, the term was popularized by hip-hop artists¬† several year ago, but it really entered the mainstream cultural moment with the hilarious Toyota Sienna Mini Van commercials.¬† Soulja Boy had a hit this year with “Pretty Boy Swag, you can argue the artistic relevance of his unique genius.¬† You can even like the Swagaholics Anonymous Facebook group, a page for people with so much swag they need group therapy;¬† it only has 43 members.¬† Suffice it to say, swag has been with us for a while and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.¬† The terminology may change, but cool is cool.

Who does or doesn’t have swag is certainly relative, but it’s all about the image one presents to the world.¬† Yet my¬† penchant for cool¬† describes my addiction and it usually finds me head over heels for the¬† classic ladies man.¬† You know the heart breaker; the superstar.¬† He may or not be classically handsome, but he definitely has sex appeal. He¬† is¬† put together.¬† He has¬† his own sense of style, which usually includes a good shoe and a good watch.¬† While he won’t have too many words for you‚ÄĒwhen he does speak‚ÄĒhe commands attention.¬† He is smart, but not pompous about it.¬† His cologne will always be on point.¬† He walks like a ball player or a rapper, but is gainfully employed; who says you can’t have corporate swag? He can match wits with the best of them, and always leaves you wanting more.¬† You want to lock him down because he seems so unattainable, and yet in the back of your mind you know if he gets the best of you; you’re in trouble.

For every guy I’ve fallen for like this, I can see the danger sign flashing above their heads from miles out.¬† Yet, I am like a moth to a flame.¬† The cost benefits analysis in my mind always comes out in favor of playing the odds that this time will be different.¬† It’s not just me.¬†¬† I have met many women like this‚ÄĒswagaholics.¬† We all know the nice guy is the safer route.¬† Dating the one who is crazy about you is the healthier choice in the long run, but the passion and excitement of the bad boy or the ladies man can be very seductive.¬† I would¬† certainly never advocate compromising your dignity for this kind of guy; the first law of nature is self-preservation. ¬† Yet, I’m convinced there is no shame in craving a hot boy.¬† What you do once you get him presents a whole other series of issues, but I digress.

It really comes down to the extent to which one embraces the nice guys finish last aphorism.  In Niceness and Dating Success: A Further Test of the Nice Guy Stereotype, Urbaniak & Kilmann (2003) write that:

“Although women often portray themselves as wanting to date kind, sensitive, and emotionally expressive men, the nice guy stereotype contends that, when actually presented with a choice between such a ‘nice guy’ and an unkind, insensitive, emotionally-closed, ‘macho man’ or ‘jerk,’ they invariably reject the nice guy in favor of his ‘so-called’ macho competitor.”

I suspect that any preference among women for the bad boy is probably a combination of one’s upbringing‚ÄĒa lot of us have daddy issues, what society and the cultural moment values as masculinity, a bit of evolution‚ÄĒthe whole survival of the fittest thing, and the fact that many of us girls like a challenge.¬† A lot of us will say we want a sensitive guy because¬† its the right thing to say, but in reality we crave Mr. Swag.¬† Technically what we really want is a hybrid between the two archetypes, the sensitive and cool guy. Yet, it typically doesn’t work like that.¬† At least in my experience.

But you tell me you swagaholics out there.¬† Is there any hope for us or are we destined for 808’s and Heartbreaks?¬† Who has swag to you?¬† Pharrell? Kanye? Jay-z?¬† Idris?¬† For the non-swagaholics why do you prefer the nice guy?¬† Are these characteristics mutually exclusive, can a sensitive guy be swagged-out?


Number Crunching with Lyfe Jennings: The Problem with Statistics

I’ve never been good at math. Perhaps that is why I find Lyfe Jenning’s “Statistics” so troubling.¬†¬† Several months ago I addressed the issue of the “lonely black girl” narrative and how it is pervading the cultural zeitgeist.¬†¬† Since then this narrative has become even more familiar, as the subject of Black radio broadcasts, editorial pages, and¬† general water cooler conversation.¬† With Helena Andrew’s Bitch is the New Black on bookstore shelves and the sequel to Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale‚ÄĒGetting to Happy‚ÄĒdue in stores this fall, I have no doubt the BGBHS (Black Girl By Herself) onslaught will continue. Into this cultural m√™l√©e, enters Lyfe Jennings, a R&B artist well-known for his gritty urban¬† story lines, with his new song Statistics. While it purports to be an education to help prepare women to find Mr. Right, I¬† suggest that it is a further contributor to the widespread miseducation of Black women in the lessons of life and love.

For the sake of the overall polemic, we will leave aside Jenning’s fitness as a teacher on such matters, given his history.¬† But the basic premise of the song suggests that there is only a certain percentage of black men available due to a series of maladies, personal shortcomings, character flaws, and other characteristics‚ÄĒsexual preference‚ÄĒthat makes them unavailable.¬†¬† The song opens:

25% of all men are unstable
25% of all men can’t be faithful
30% of them don’t mean what they say
and 10% of the remainin’ 20 is gay

That leaves you a 10% chance of ever findin’ your man
That means you better pay attention to these words that I say
I’m gonna teach you how expose the 90%
and show you what to do to keep the other 10.

It goes on in similar fashion setting forth rules for the women folk, which include among others “Don’t be a booty call”, “Tell him that your celibate”, and “Be the person you wanna find”.¬† On their face, I don’t have a problem with any of these propositions.¬† However, if Statistics if at all prescriptive, it is a merely chicken soup for what has really become a relational cancer in the Black community.

I have heard people suggests how deep this song is and how Jennings really hits the nail on the head with this one.  Yet to me its more like he is tightening  an already well-driven screw.  Suggesting that only %10 of men are quality/available within the dating pool will only make the situation between men and women more tenuous.  Right now what Black women and men need to hear is a message of self-love.  One that demonstrates how to live a life of experiences and joy, how to leverage their personal power to make a difference in the Black community and society-at large, and how to the heal the historical wounds and mend the discords between them.

The extent to which Jennings algorithm is valid is debatable.¬† So many of the women in my life‚ÄĒself-included‚ÄĒare so consumed with meeting societal norms of having the loving boyfriend, big white wedding, children, and the white picket fence that we fail to acknowledge if this convention is even aligned to what will really make us happy.¬† What would it look like to be beautiful, intelligent, educated, financially successful and completely self-possessed to point that¬† having or not having a partner did not define our happiness?

The blogosphere has been rumbling for months now on the role of the Black church in keeping Black women single.  Columnist Deborah Cooper really sparked the conversation, which has since been picked up on by the likes of CNN.com, with her article The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely. The article basically blames the Black church as an institution for a sort of magical thinking within its Black women parishioners that has left them single and alone.  It goes on to make the argument that Black women should abandon the Black church en masse and focus on themselves and their families.  Essentially, I disagree with this premise because it suggests that Black women and the Black church are a monolith.  However, I do think a refocusing on what it means to be a fearless Black woman is in order.

Many of us our not living our lives to the fullest because we are afraid.  We are afraid of being alone.  We are afraid not reaching our full potential.  We are afraid of tapping the most divine part of ourselves. Many of us are deathly afraid of loving ourselves fully.  We are afraid of loving the God within us.  We are afraid of sacrifice.  We are afraid of failing.  We are afraid of getting outside of our comfort zone.  We are afraid of forgiving.  We are afraid of putting down our bags (baggage).  We are afraid of our creativity.  We are afraid of our dreams.

Yet I am convinced that if we sat aside these fears and tapped into our greatness we would not care about statistics‚ÄĒdaunting or otherwise.¬† We would be convinced that providence has us precisely where we need to be and “with” who we need to be at any given moment.¬†¬† I am tired of seeing the women in my life unhappy in relationships and unhappy alone.¬† I am tired of seeing this in myself.¬† As I grow and learn each day, what has become manifest to me is that life is truly an opportunity to love and be loved.¬† This love will emerge in all manners, romantic and otherwise; it is our responsibility to be available to it in all its forms.¬† This responsibility requires us to learn to accept ourselves as whole, perfect, loving, harmonious and happy‚ÄĒeven if we do not always feel this way.¬† My hope is that in the “knowing” and “accepting” of our greatness will bring love in to our lives in such abundance that the numbers will not even matter.

‚ÄúOur deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.‚ÄĚ

Marianne Williamson
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