Happy New Year!
If you are over 30, highly accomplished and yet still single, perhaps you are breathing a sigh of relief at having survived another holiday season of prying questions, inappropriate remarks, and even, loneliness. This year, all of my aunties informed me at Christmas that they needed to know if I had a man, because they were diligently searching for one for me. Lol. Sigh. Where’s my drink?
Even as a New Year dawns and a brigade of single sisters marches forth declaring boldly that “this is gonna be the(ir) year,” I am easing in, like one dips a toe into potentially frigid water, hoping to find the dating scene warm and inviting, but fully prepared to bail if conditions are not favorable.
I really am an optimist, and I have never wanted to be a bitter black woman. But [you knew it was coming] after having my feelings hurt for the umpteenth time at the end of last year, I’m struggling to stay open.
I want to give brothers a fair shot, because I want them to do the same for us. And I definitely believe there are some good brothers out there, just like there are loads of excellent sisters.
The problem, of late, however, is that good guys seem to be my problem. Take my most recent prospect:
We met in graduate school, but lost touch after he moved away. When he found out I was in town for a conference, we met over dinner. At dinner he revealed that he had a huge crush on me in grad school, a fact to which I was totally oblivious. This interaction led to months of text-based flirtation (initiated by him), good phone conversation, and a very sexy rendevous the next time I was in town. For several weeks after, he texted me every morning, followed by mutual texting throughout the day, long phone conversations on weekends—conversations in which he revealed deep hopes, dreams and goals. Conversations in which we talked about negotiating gender roles because he’s a self-avowed feminist. I thought we were moving in a particular direction, not because of the sex, [we had agreed that the sex did not equal commitment] but because of all of the emotionally intimate interactions, which followed it.
Like a sucka, I began to feel something. And because we had a renegotiation clause in our verbal contract, I broached the subject, only to be quickly, if sweetly rebuffed. Dude did not want a long distance relationship, was emotionally incapable of it, he claimed.
What then was I to make of all his conversation about marriage and relationships, and personal likes, needs, wants?
When I explained that I felt misled, he was quick to whip out the terms of our verbal agreement. He cared about me, yes. But our deep emotional interaction should be understood only as friendship, not intimacy. When it came to anything more, he had stuck to our agreement. In fact, he had been explicit about the terms, because he didn’t want there to be confusion. He didn’t want to be in his words, “that n*gga.”
He’s a good brother. A good brother who suffers from what I call Good Brotha Syndrome. I have encountered two types of it.
Type A manifests in the dude who has degrees, a stable level of income, material means, and decent conversation. He knows that he is a commodity in this dating market, and based on the above assets alone, he feels that Black women should do his bidding. Since he holds a job, can take care of a household, and can be taken to professional outings without fear of embarrassing one’s colleagues, he does not believe that he should have to do much in the way of emotional work. He wonders why sisters aren’t falling all over themselves to be with him, although he might be totally emotionally effed up. He reasons that he’s a good brother and any woman that doesn’t want him has unreasonable standards or is herself emotionally effed up. This dude looks good on paper, but his fatal flaw is that he tends to believe his own press release.
Type B manifests slightly differently. This dude recognizes and doesn’t want to be a brother with problems. He acknowledges sexism, claims to like powerful women, and surrounds himself with a fair amount of them. He’s thoughtful, understanding, and can offer a certain level of emotional support. This is a brother that you can call and commiserate with, and he will listen, affirm you, and generally offer good reasonable advice. He’s fairly self aware and gives the appearance of being introspective. Because he’s committed to being “one of the good guys,” he often becomes decreasingly self-reflective, mistakenly believing himself to be incapable of the immature sh*t dudes often do. So when this dude engages in actions that are clearly problematic [treating you as a conquest, jumping ship in the middle of the ocean, blurring emotional boundaries and invoking y’alls “agreement” when he’s called on his b.s.] he refuses to acknowledge it. Why? Because he’s a good guy and good guys don’t do ish like that. So, in his mind, the problem must lie with you or your interpretation. This dude puts you in the mind of the classic white liberal do-gooder type who abhors racism, so much that they can’t see when they themselves are being racist.
My former “friend” is definitely a type B.
Reader, I know that I am not without responsibility or agency in this matter. I recognize that I agreed to nebulous terms and that I allowed the emotional engagement to continue long after it was productive for my needs. I have rectified that. But the problem does not lie entirely with me.
I love myself. I know I am worthy of being treated well. I didn’t play games, but communicated my specific needs and desires to this brother explicitly. I think there are good guys out there who I can reasonably expect will treat me well. I, in turn, treat brothers well, am thoughtful, willing to grow, emotionally generous, respectful of boundaries, etc. And I have enough sense to walk away if I’m not getting what I need.
I have done and am doing the work.
And yet, I’m still a magnet for knuckleheads. So before I don my blind optimism and charge boldly into the New Year, I need some help figuring out what to do differently.
In the words of Iyanla Vanzant, “What’s the lesson when you think you have figured out the lesson, and you really haven’t?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts…