As a man, it can be fully liberating, and often damn confusing to ask women for advice regarding relationships. It is, however, one of the only ways one can fully assess what the other side of the gender aisle is thinking. Although our good comedian turn relationship guru, Steve Harvey offers advice to women, I found that women need to hear or read from other women just as much as men do. In this effort the discussion can be lain bare without the sensationalism that comes from those seeking career advancements. In that vein, I’ve asked four women of Asylum to record their thoughts regarding relationships. The second of these four perspectives is proffered by an up and coming strong Asylum supporter @EarthenStar. As always, these are not necessarily the thoughts of Owl, but they are the thoughts of Asylum. Please respond with the same respect you would any member of Asylum.
This goes out to all my brethren who have ever sought my counsel or even just a warm, listening ear when it comes to being involved with other women. Quite often, I have found the assumption of the man to be somewhat off course, in their interpretations of what a woman wants, what she is feeling and why, as well as her motivations toward relationships pr a relationship with them at all. The following is based on opinion, experience, observation, the concerns of others who have always sought my counsel, their experiences and then also study I have done on heterosexual relationships between Black men and Black women. There will be some things generalized, downsized and oversimplified. And, of course much of it will sound very one-sided and not many concessions may be made to show objectivity. It’s not really supposed to.
Natural selection and tradition
Natural selection as it manifests in a human mind is always in effect. That is probably the perfect basis for understanding why women choose certain men or why they enter into a relationship at all. These points take on a special spin given both heritage pre-slavery and post emancipation, on into Jim Crow and today. Now our own men have also become tools of the white racist patriarchy making matters monumentally worse. But, either way you slice it, relationships and marriages are now for more emotional needs than practical, since the old gender roles are not necessarily needed anymore. Romantic relationships are seen by some as tools of the oppressive system, imposed upon women which result in a relinquishing of rights and individuality. But it’s what is expected so many do it regardless. We come from a heritage of communal ethnicities. We have always formed relationships and families, even including extended family networks.
In general, women want a man who is attractive (natural selection at work: looking good means attractive offspring), is relatively intelligent, affectionate, good in bed, protective, supportive and stable. Those things vary depending on the woman, more or less. Some women want a provider while some only want a companion because she is confident about sustaining herself. But then, this is also where the myth of the black superwoman comes in. While we juggle our professional and romantic lives along with family and whatever else may come, what we desire is the ability to have a safe haven away from the craziness.
In times when we enjoy relinquishing some of our power to men purposely, what we want as a whole tends to be simple. Openness, emotional availability, things in common, affection support that isn’t necessarily monetary, effective communication and effort in communication, to be treated preciously or rather uniquely, understanding, patience, acceptance and MOST OF ALLLLLL we want to know that you care as much as we do. Point blank, period. We want you to care or at least seem as though you care as much as we do. If I get annoyed because I overboiled the pasta, damnit I need you to be supportive of me in that moment. Don’t just keep on playing Xbox, especially if you were the cause of my “mood” in the first place. Then, damage control makes all the difference. I can bet that 97 times out of 100 that a woman has ever been angry with a man had something to do with that simple fact. I promise if you just consciously do that u could prevent a majority of the arguments or problems.
Of course, there have been and remain forces that impact our socializations as Black men and women as a whole. This is made ever clear by the arising video debates using real people, characters and video cartoon characters depicting our warped views of one another there is much that can be said about the socializations imposed upon us giving us all skewed visions of reality. The truth of the matter is that we have all fallen victim to what society has told us to want. There are also many women who still desire what women desired a long time ago and arguably, we all enjoy these things deep down: security, financial support, a provider, etc.
This is 2011, neither 1811 nor 1911
Women nowadays need and want for men to stop understanding our relationships and gender roles in terms of the ancient ways. The sense of entitlement, authoritarianistic rule and patriarchy are no longer valid. Now, the role of power that a man takes is more so relinquished to him by the woman. We no longer live in a hunter/gather society or agrarian society, nor any other type of society of antiquity that required those gender roles (held mostly by Europeans anyway, which kind of barred black women and men from adhering to them, while in bondage. Both the black man and woman had to step up as main bread winners and providers and protectors in their own rights. There is also the fact to consider that we often times never had the same gender roles, based on many African cultural practices). We no longer need men to cut wood. Men no longer need us to sew their shirts. Our society itself has updated. Women no longer have to get credit in their husband’s, brother’s or father’s names and so on. We can be completely self sufficient individuals. Therefore, that notion is still in many men’s heads and needs to be done away with. We are your companions. Not your help-mates (as it says in The Bible). We relinquish to you what we choose. In a world that demands us be superwomen otherwise, we often enjoy relinquishing power or control to our man. Do not take that for granted. Coming at us with that notion in your head that u know what women want, strips away her individuality. They also have the audacity to think that whatever women want, they are it. We are all individuals. We need men to quit trying to understand us before they meet us and simply give a damn. Give a damn means: give a damn enough to ask, give a damn enough to respond, give a damn enough to try, give a damn enough to comfort, give a damn enough to build with your woman and gain an understand of her and all that that means, as best you can, from cradle to now. If you dont think you have the time to do that, then either she’s not worth it enough to you or you’re not mature enough yet to do what it takes to get what you claim u want.
we need men to finally come to that realization.
Sense of Entitlement Part I: Bag man, not Bag lady
With that realization comes further understanding that all that hurt and baggage and scars you have balled up (which the majority of men have) inside is unfair to throw at any woman. We don’t have to take it and remain loyal although many of us do. Because we don’t live in the stone age anymore. We can go find another man who is more well-adjusted, or remain single.
We want and need also, for our men to understand that not only they have pains and simply to say “yeah, I know black women have it hard” is not enough. A deeper understanding must be achieved to the point where a man truly understands how hard we have and still do have it and treat us as such.
Stop judging us or handing us rules based on Quanda, Aisha and Latifah from before. I am me. Period. Take the time to heal yourself and deal with yourself before trying to snatch another one of us up.
Not all women are trying to be your mama but we aren’t a disposal bin for your trash either, and will hold you accountable.
One very crucial carnal reality: your penis is not the only one. Matter of fact, there are billions… you hear? BILLIONS of others who’d line up to please any one of us or at least give it their best shot. KEEP THAT IN MIND!!! Some women are okay with you approaching them with coconuts swinging and texting dick-pics. Some are not. For many of us, that’s not the least bit impressive (it’s actually insulting and disgusting)… neither is your wallet. Come harder!
What we have to deal with: Sense of entitlement of men Part II
There are many brothas walking around with the assumption that even Fat Albert deserves a Beyonce. I mean it goes without saying that that is ridiculous. However, unfortunately, many men actually think this. How many times have you heard some busted brotha say some mess like “yeah I only mess with dimes” and he looks like a whole sack of quarters? Yeah. We would like some honesty with yourselves in that regard.
Two can play at that game
Many men seem to lack the ability to fathom that women can be better at their own game than even they are. Many of us smell the game through and through from across the room. Sometimes we choose to go for it. But, I promise you, game is not necessary and is often times laughable.
Women are also able to have feelings for more than one man at a time. I just need that to marinate.
Ride or die chicks and the myth of the black woman as superwoman
Women are very, very forgiving and always see potential in our brothers whether it truly exists or not. I would argue that the majority of us love our Black men. We have a deep love and passion for our Black men that can be surpassed by nothing else, except perhaps a love for God for those women who have it. A lot of us would love nothing more than to be super supportive and super loyal to a beautiful black man. Some of us have the instinctual love for tradition and doing the cooking and cleaning and so forth. Those women would love nothing more than to express her love in part, in those or similar ways.
This is a very complicated topic because not all black women (or women of any “race”) have the same perspective.
Here’s where it gets personal:
Women like myself who grew up as tomboys with all male friends, with the occasional female friend have strict boundary lines that just come naturally. For me, male friends are just that: MALE FRIENDS… FRIENDS WHO HAPPEN TO BE MALES. That simple. I am also a very sensual person who is very in touch with my sexual self. I LOVE Black manhood. BUT: Sensualization or sexualization is never switched on from the beginning. Till this day, it shocks me when or if a male friend confesses feelings or attraction. Male friend = brother. A man with whom I am completely honest, even about the men with whom I may consort, and vice versa. A man who depends on me, confides in me deeply, as they often do and seeks my perspective/counsel. I have what many would consider mannish sensibilities when it comes to some things. Then, there may be the instance of getting to know a young man or “talkin”. No clear direction where it’s going or if it’s going anywhere at all. But he is no simple friend and I do not call him “friend”.
I reject the term “friends with benefits”. That term is for confused people, in my opinion. I tend not to have confusion in the boundaries. I never have friends with benefits and anytime anyone’s tried to use that term, I’ve been quick to correct them in my Sagittarian way: “Honey, I’m not your friend. Call us lovers or anything else. But we are not friends. We’re more than that. I don’t fuck friends. If ‘friend’ is what you’d like to be, let me know and I’ll demote you accordingly without a problem”.
For some women however, things are not as simple. Let’s face it. Many Black women fall victim to the same dishonesty, disrespect, lack of love and lack of knowledge of SELF. That’s when they might run into that “it’s all fun and games until somebody catches feelings” issue. Men do that, too. Some are aware but just lie. Again, women game, too. Some women say “male friend” to disguise just having another stallion in the stable… or having just acquired one and keeping ‘em warming the bench for now. It is what it is.
Male friends don’t pose as much problem as men may think. They are not as much of a threat as most men think. They are not after your woman. If they were, they have already had her or are having her in the interim and you already make no difference and therefore have no need to get all uptight. Male friends do however pose an issue of security. Trust, he may be just as protective over a woman as her mate may be or even more so.
Having close friends of the opposite sex for either men or women can pose a problem for any romantic relationships because some people don’t know what boundaries of appropriateness are. There is such thing as an “emotional affair”. You may never sleep with the person but if you cry on their shoulder every time or run and tell them every single thing that person does or seek validation with that person instead of hashing things out with your mate INDEPENDENT of other friendships, you are having an emotional affair.
“I need some space”
One of the most consistent questions that men have raised is what a woman means when she says she needs “space”. I’ll be perfectly honest. This is one of the hardest things to explain since it can mean any number of things. In my past experience, I could have used it as a flat out excuse or lie. “Space” can be asked for as a means of (for whatever reason) saying, “there’s a lot going on and you being in my immediate space is NOT going to allow me to sort it out”. I have also used it to mean “I like you but you are coming on too strong and either I am not yet ready for what you are asserting, do not yet want to grant you whatever you are demanding or pushing for so hard, OR I just need you to pump the breaks.” Sometimes it can mean that a woman is between situations and needs a moment to breathe. A majority of the time, men are working out of that sense of entitlement that they have. We understand fully that you like us, want us, and somehow deep down would like to possess us (even though that may not be in a malicious way). But a sense of urgency on your part and wanting a new toy does not constitute a sense of urgency on our part. You want what you want right now, no matter what that is and we simply do not feel we can grant you that at this point in time. I guess it can be boiled down to be that simple. Often times, men need to give women the TIME to actually digest and accept and comply with their wishes, if the women so choose.
While we have things in common, certain women of different socioeconomic standings have different desires. If we can say that a basic need or desire is for a man who can prove to be a provider, then the stakes will obviously be different from Ebony around the way as they will be from Natasha with a Masters Degree. There are certain consequences in life that one is more likely to encounter than the other on either end. Either way, a concern of Black women has always been that of having your beloved snatched from under you by “the system” somehow. Regardless to socioeconomic background, one false move from an arrogant cop can be an ultimate equalizer. However, Ebony is much more likely to run into this problem.
Naturally as time passes a woman’s concerns, perspective, wants and needs are going to change as we are in different stages in life, different levels of maturity and different stages of healing or personal growth. There are archetypes of men that we discuss among each other. The main ones being the thug, the “good guy”, the educated brotha, the manwhore or womanizer, the “ladies man”, older man, sugardaddy. The thug is the subject of the most defense and degradation at the same time. This is a youngish brotha from the inner city. He’s had some scrapes in the streets, maybe some scrapes with the law. He is both misunderstood and known all too well, or at least we assume. We hate to see him coming but his general protective, affectionate and somewhat fun nature can easily captivate the heart of just about any sista. He may also turn out to be the classic “bad boy”. Sometimes “bad” to the point of detriment. Many of these brothas have all kinds of psychological and emotional problems even on top of baggage and lack of legal job stability or educational pursuits. Some of them may even be abusive physically and emotionally. Now I know the next question is: Why does she stay? Well a lot of things are at work there. Simply put, the other “types” of men might not be as fulfilling when it comes to affection or pleasure, but chiefly many women lack proper knowledge of self and self esteem. That’s the bottom line answer. Many women do not think highly enough of themselves. They believe that that is the best they can do and that they are comfortable. The devil they know is better than the devil that they don’t. Plainly and simply, they lack the self esteem. In the event that a man is abusive, note that studies show as well that the abuse usually reaches its peak, even to the point of murder, when the woman either attempts to leave or has just left.
Next is the “good guy”. The problem with the “good guy” is that a lot of them are corny or lack substance. The next problem with the “good guy” is that a whooooole lot of brothas are walking around thinking that they’re it. They are sadly mistaken and unable to see their own fatal flaws.
The educated brotha is interesting, too. Some of them are the best thing since sliced bread. However, I have found that many of them while in their intellectual and professional pursuits have somehow forfeit their ability to connect on a deeper level with us. I’ve dated educated brothas, even those who call themselves conscious or revolutionaries who couldn’t give a simple hug, or sounded like I was speaking to my stockbroker every time we spoke.
The womanizer of course knows everything to say to everyone. He loves women. He loves sex. He’s still a human being. He wants love, too. But there’s something askew inside him keeping him in this cycle. He feels good but is ultimately terrible for you. Many women fall in love with this man and possibly have children by him. Huge mistake.
The lady’s man is probably the most perfect of all of them. My definition of lady’s man is a man who is attentive in the ways that a woman would want. He is thoughtful. He is accepting, affectionate, the healthy amount of protective, ambitious and hardworking. He is the Ausar to your Auset, whether you are ready for him or not.
The older man is a sort of mixed bag but the problem with this man is that he may be what a woman desires in status and maturity. It may just be fate that he just happens to be older. However, he may have a pinch of patriarchal mentality. He may also simply be facing a midlife crisis and looking for a young tenderoni to fulfill what he thinks he hasn’t had yet physically, mentally and emotionally. We get into a pickle with this one because even if all the other stars align, he’s still much older than you. How much of a future can be expected from that is not necessarily the brightest. Last but not least, the sugardaddy. He is all that the regular older man is and then some because he is purposely targeting a young tenderoni and plans to spoil her materialistically to get and keep her.
We have reached a point as a people where more women are seeking higher education. More Black women seek higher education than black men. Part of the reason of that is sheer ability, as many more black men are constantly victims of the judicial system (even though Black women make up the highest rising prison population). For many of us, our families instill in our heads from day one “get your education and get a good job so you won’t need a man”. As a result, we women want a balanced man. Balanced in the sense that as we straddle both the home (possibly hood) and academic/professional world, he is able to do the same and therefore relate to us in that reality. In a true mate or companion, all women desire a man who will connect with us and fulfill us on every possible level. We want a man who is going to cherish us for who we are as individuals and who we are as black women. We need you to SAY IT as well as SHOW IT. We want to know that you are happy to walk around with us on your arm. We want you to tell us how beautiful we are and what you love about us. It feels good. Do not fulfill a woman because of the common saying between our folks that “if you don’t, another man will”. Treat that woman right because you simply ought to! Not for fear of someone else “stealing” her as though she is some type of conquest.
These women also seek stability in a different way: as we amass our resources (because let’s face it, single = expensive), a lot of conflict can and will arise over finances, assets and bills. Don’t get me wrong, it has been tradition for Black women to love family but have reached a point where our own fulfillment in terms of growth is just as crucial, if not more. We would like to be able to do both and remain loyal to our men and families. As individuals, we are at varying points of growth. Some of us desire companionship with capacity to grow and nothing more. Some of us desire husband material, outright. Some of us desire physical gratification without the danger of one-night-stands, but don’t want any kind of solid relationship. We also need men to understand that we have pains and pasts that inform our present. Many women (and men) have Daddy issues (and Mommy issues).
We demand honesty. Not only honesty in the act of telling the truth, etc, but honesty in the act of being honest with yourself first and foremost. You must know at what point in growth you are, and who you are. Then know what you’re ready for. Assess your own internal prisons and baggage, insecurities, idiosyncrasies, etc.
We need our men to understand us as assets, not competition. Study has been conducted to reveal that many black heterosexual relationships fail because our men see us, in our newfound socioeconomic mobility, as competition. Together, we could be a force to be reckoned with. I am not your competition, but our worlds together just might be unstoppable.