I kinda don't want to talk about the Nightline panel that aired late last night. But somehow I feel like it's my Black blogger duty to do so... that and I was assigned to write a reaction essay for my job's website (causing me to skip out on attending the ESPN Draft Party) and I didn't have a chance to write a new post for Belle. Oops! My bad.
Someday, I'll give another try to writing my posts in advance, but they always read dry to me when I do that. They lack passion. Hmmm.
Anyway. Enough about my writer dilemmas. On to the essay, "Commentary: Nightline's Single Black Woman 'Face-Off'"
Confession: For several weeks now, I've been living in fear.
It started when I learned Nightline was headed back to Atlanta for a "Face-Off" debate with the title, "Why Can't A Successful Black Woman Find A Man?"
Before I even knew the line-up (Steve Harvey, Sherri Shepherd, Jacque Reid*, Hill Harper, Jimi Izreal) or the questions (though as The Magazine's Relationships Editor, I guessed most of them), all I could think about was the aftermath of a show they did about the same topic back in December. What ensued was a sort of Single Black Woman hysteria (it occurs everytime mainstream media discusses the topic), an expected reaction when it's repeatedly implied that checking "single" on an application of any kind after 30 means you have somehow failed in life, and that your prospects of finding a great guy to love and love you back are pretty slim. I knew it would be best for me to self-medicate to avoid the PTSD that was to come.Sangria or ice cream? Which has less calories?
Surprisingly didn't feel I needed either as I watched the roundtable in its entirety online. It's possible this topic has been so over-covered that I'm numb. But actually? The segment wasn't as bad as I was expecting. (Jimi Izreal though?) I guess when you bring men and women to a roundtable to discuss relationships--as The Magazine also did in its May issue, currently on stands--you cut through a lot of the outlandish speculation and have a real progressive discussion. All forthcoming conversations about the state of heterosexual relationships should implement this policy as it's never made sense to me why same sex groups are expected to address dual sex concerns.
The panel, moderated by Nightline's Vicki Mabrey, covered the usual fare--interracial dating, Black men with Peter Pan syndrome, and the Obamas. But throughout, the lack of communication between the sexes bothered me. It seemed no matter how many times Sherri and Jacque reiterated what Black women want in a man, a guy with a steady job, who is secure with himself, who can provide a friendship, and partnership, and maybe help them take out their cornrows from time to time, the male half of the panel didn't seem to get it. Instead of listening to the ladies, Izreal told them what they wanted (as if): a Denzel prototype. Steve told the women the simple things they wanted weren't possible (you want a man to help take out your cornrows? Not in his DNA.) If five good and grown Black adults who all work in some fashion in the field of communication--and every man on the panel has a book on relationships--can't make sense of what the opposite sex wants, I wondered what hope does that leave for the rest of us mere mortals?
Something else that struck me was the underlying negativity of some of the responses. Was I the only one who noticed the weak overwhelmingly female audience response when Jacque said she believed good Black men existed? Anyway, when Hill offered the idea of dating a good man, even if he's a blue collar guy (it's not the only solution, but it's one.) Sherri shot it down with a long laugh and an anecdote about why it wouldn't work (it was her experience with one man. Does it apply to all men?) At another juncture, Steve stated a man, at all times, needs to feel like a man. The women took that statement to its most extreme conclusion that a man expects her to spend her waking hours validating his position, which women aren't (understandably) willing to do. I didn't think at all that was what Steve was implying, moreso like, "hey, try not to emasculate the guy." It's was another practical idea that could help us go a long way in re-building Black families, but like other useful suggestions, there seemed to be a mental block, well, blocking them from catching on.
I took away some useful male insight from the panelists--I am the potential link to a man's success, men may be more ashamed of their lack of success than "intimidated" by a woman's accomplishments, and men aren't trying to see me taking out my hair (maybe cause I date men with mother's who rock extra hair this has never been an issue for me. I've had dudes ask to sit in the bathroom with me while I put in my tracks.) But ultimately, what I re-learned was the biggest obstacle to building healthy relationships might be an inability to catch on to the fundamentals like communication and hope. I know it will take more than just that to get us down the aisle and over the broom, but we've got to get a command of the basics if the single 42% of us ever expect to to go from RSVPing for weddings to planning them.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: I went with the sangria. Red.
*Oh Em Gee. She looked straight stunning (cue Gucci Mane) last night. I may be developing a "girl-crush" on Reid.