I guess it was supposed to be some sort of consolation, maybe even a compliment. A male friend with whom I had batted flirtations back and forth during our periods of singleness got engaged. Up until then, I hadn’t even known he was seriously involved with anyone. You know, a man can reach a certain age, hit his target income or professional goal, decide he’s ready to get married and have options at his mercy. Women don’t seem to have that luxury. We have to reflect and hope and wait and pray and self-evaluate and read Steve Harvey books and get hooked up and go on retreats and meditate and all kinds of stuff to prepare ourselves for the journey into holy matrimony. It’s quite a contrast in gender dynamics. But that’s another topic for another blog post for another day.

Anyway, to avoid being a homewrecking skank—the kind I would probably pelt with condemnation in an editorialized rant so, more specifically, to avoid being a hypocritical homewrecking skank—I told him we probably should stop talking and texting, just to be on the safe side. He agreed. But he there there’d me with this time-honored atta girl for single women: “You’re wife material,” he soothed, even though I certainly wasn’t digging for it. “If I wasn’t off the market, I’d marry you.” How reassuring, I thought. I chuckled into my bowl of cookies ‘n’ cream and life somehow went on.

What is interesting is despite the fact I’ve never been proposed to, I regularly hear that I’m “wife material” almost as much as someone asks me why I’m still single, which leaves me baffled about what these general parameters even are since those two statements sort of cancel each other out. If these inquiring minds can compartmentalize my personality and my personhood into qualities that ostensibly make me ripe for broom-jumping—can I cook? Check. Keep a clean house? Check. Reasonably intelligent? Check—then it seems questions about my marital status shouldn’t be aimed at me. And honestly, the older I get, I care just a little bit less. Just let me adopt a kid like I always planned to do, buy a turn-of-the-century fixer-upper home and live the dream, sans the mister by my side. He’s late to the party anyway.

Still, as I spin and twirl through my adventures in singleness, I find that what I don’t like gives me even more clarity into what I do appreciate. The mental picture of Mr. Right has been crystallized by run-ins with Mr. Is He Serious?, Mr. He Thinks More Highly of Himself Than I Do, Mr. His Mama Fell Down on Her J-O-B and Mr. He’s Nice But He Ain’t It.

“The One,” if there is such a thing, would be intelligent with a smart-alecky wit, equipped to feed that sapiosexual side of me with stimulating conversation while also able to crack snarky jokes and fun. He’d be progressive and an open-minded pro-womanist, but a man’s man at the same damn time. Family would be important to him, his and mine and the one we’d build together, and he’d be spiritually grounded. Not a Bible-beating zealot (Lord knows I’m too much of a loose cannon for one of those), but a man who has his own active relationship with God and who regularly harnesses the power of prayer. There are other things too, of course, but those are the heavy hitters.

Fine-tuning my vision has given me ample opportunity to know what I don’t want:

1. The guy who has Wonder Woman expectations

2. The guy who’s more groomed and coiffed than I am

3. The guy who doesn’t hold doors or offer seats to ladies in a waiting room or on public transportation

4. The guy who wears those little man ties when he’s out jogging or working out in public (scratch that—even owning them in general is a problem)

5. The guy who gets pedicures, especially with polish

6. The guy who kisses his pit bull on the mouth or treats his golden retriever like his girlfriend

7. The guy who doesn’t take an interest in what I do or what I’m interested in (that part out of “Brown Sugar” when Kelby didn’t read Sidney’s writing rang so true for me)

8. The guy who tends to be braggy or pretentious

9. A guy who has a newborn, infant or toddler because I know, from firsthand experience, he needs time to iron out his stuff with his child’s mother, especially if the baby is a product of their previous, still-smoldering relationship

10. The guy who treats waiters and bell hops like brown stuff on the bottom of his shoe

11. The guy who doesn’t like to admit he’s wrong and gets all in his feelings when he’s presented with information that proves he’s off base and still refuses to concede

12. The guy who doesn’t like to lose to a girl

13. The guy who litters

14. The guy who has to think too long about the dates of his kids’ birthdays or how old the children even are (deadbeat alert), and the guy who rolls up to holler but doesn’t acknowledge my own child beside me

15. The guy who readily bashes his ex-girlfriend, his baby mama or any other used-to-be

I may be decidedly too rascally to get married anyway, but I think every woman who even entertains the thought should have a clear idea of what she does and doesn’t like, not just the easy stuff about what he looks like and how he puts it down. Those things certainly warrant some kind of reflection because she should be consistently attracted to the dude. But it’s the digging deeper into the habits that drive her crazy, the qualities that grate her nerves and the expectations that would weigh her down that make her conscious of the standards she sets for herself. Just in case, in a weak moment, she starts settling for less.

Folks will try to make her feel like she’s being picky, especially as a gal careens into her 30s and then her mid-30s and then, God forbid, her 40s and mid-40s and hasn’t yet had that magical piece of finger candy slipped onto her hand. But most of us aren’t nearly as desperate as statistics and relationship experts think we should be. I’m real about mine. I’m flawed. I’m a single mama. I’m short and stocky and have a spare tire. And I have the audacity to have standards.

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  • Ask_ME

    “Women don’t seem to have that luxury. We have to reflect and hope and wait and pray and self-evaluate and read Steve Harvey books and get hooked up and go on retreats and meditate and all kinds of stuff to prepare ourselves for the journey into holy matrimony.”

    The biggest lie ever told. The world is FULL of men. If you insist on focusing your attention on one very small group (in this case I’m assuming African American men) don’t be surprise when you keep coming up with the short end of the stick.

    Next, I do think some folks on this site need to be a little bit more practical with their demands for a ring. The reality is if you are a SINGLE MOTHER you are going to have a harder time finding a mate. No amount of shaming is going to make a black man (if that’s your only cup of tea) who is not feeling it take on your ready-made family.

    But again, the world is FULL of men. Get out there and meet them.

    • __A

      Yea. I agree with having standards, but people have to let some things go and be realistic. He may not be six feet tall. Heck he may be shorter than you. He may not be college educated. Some women live in Disney World. They chase after unavailable men and waste their time with unavailable men. I remember the author wrote a story about her long time boyfriend never proposing. Women need to stop thinking men think like them. If a man wants you and wants to marry you, he wouldn’t wait years and years. If a man tells you up front that he’s not ready for a relationship, believe him. Women try to turn these FWB relationships with unavailable men into relationships and start thinking of these men as their future husbands which usually ends with them being hurt.

      Single mothers have to bring a lot to the table to overcome a ready made family. Good conversation, good looks and in shape, and a good attitude put you ahead of many single women but you can’t have big character flaws that you don’t work on and expect a man to just take you as you are.

      I do agree with the author about having standards. There are just some things in life that people are supposed to do and just because a woman is 30 years old or has a kid does not mean you should settle for anything.

      I saw that ABC Sherri Shepard special about BW being single and the Oprah special as well. Many of those women needed to work on themselves a lot. In the ABC special, many of the women in the audience were overweight. Some of them expected a man to be just as spiritual as them. They had height expectations too.

      I think it’s okay for AA women to date other black men or outside their race, but some of them need to set some standards, and stop dealing with unavailable AA men. If you don’t have some standards when it comes to what you will accept from an AA man, then you will probably screw up with other non-AA men.

      I thought most of the author’s wants were okay. I’m sure men have a lot of wants out of women. I can already see the men flocking to this article to say what they want in a woman and how BW have none of these things and shouldn’t be picky.

    • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

      I have agree here!

    • Lady P

      @ Ask _ME “The reality is if you are a SINGLE MOTHER you are going to have a harder time finding a mate” ~ this is true.

      When I was dating, I would come across some men who didn’t embrace my son and some men who did. One area in which I remained consistent with and refused to steer away from was trying to make it work with a man who did NOT want to involve your child/children. During that time, I would make it clear that “we” were a package. I hope single mothers don’t become so desperate (even though it’s hard) to just date anybody (accept in their circle) and neglect their children. They just have to wait just like I had to. It is so much better being with a man who loves your child as much as he loves you. The children can feel that rejection as well.. Great advice!!!

    • Lady P

      Oh no ma’am! During my dating days, that was a [complete] NO-NO! This is also one of the reasons; I would not hesitate to bring up the subject. If there were any objections, it was cool with me. And it was perfectly understandable.

    • Mike

      How soon into the relationship are you recommending women introduce men to their kids?

    • we aren’t that small of a group. not as small as the group that doesn’t litter or doesn’t mind losing the girl. Who doesn’t mind losing the girl? That ish hurts.

  • Silent Whispers

    This is an honest article of the romantic life and options of MOST mid 30’s, over 40 year old black women (even if they’re not a baby mama). I don’t know what’s more baffling. The amount of black women in their 20’s, who want to get married, and think they can wait until their mid 30’s and 40’s to find a husband and still attract the same type of men NOW chasing them or these black single over 40 year olds telling 20 somethings how great their over 40’s single life is and how easy it is to find a husband later in life. We know the truth.

    The Ideal man for black women? Successful, smart, good looking, fun compassionate who’ll “just have to accept me as I am.” Yeah, I’ll wait.”

  • JP

    Really, I think this posting is honest and on point. The quote ask_me used is actually the key problem here and not being addressed, regardless of the ethnicity the single women has a preference for. If men spent more time confronting their emotions and issues, like they expect us to have done — lest we be labelled crazy/co-dependent/immature, there would be many more healthy relationships and marriages. Unfortunately this self-evaluation is deemed as “women’s work” so even though there are tons of men out there, most of them are still in denial about their issues and preparedness to honestly be “all in” and do the work to keep a relationship thriving. Men expect us to pay bills, handle our B.I., be emotionally stable, self-aware and have spent significant time working on ourselves and dealing with our “men issues”. Why shouldn’t we expect the same?

    Will say I am also proud of the author for cutting off a relationship that some may view as harmless if sex isn’t involved. Those kind of “friends” often become emotional affairs and threaten the integrity of a monogamous relationship. I just wish more men would be the ones to recognize and initiate the break, instead of maintaining these flirtatious connections and possibly hurting both their partner and the “other” women.

    • LMO85

      Yes JP, your comment is spot on! I truly believe that if more men would mature and again, be held accountable for their own faults, the nature of relationships would change for the better-across the board, not just in black relationships.

      That would also require women to set boundaries for themselves, about what they will and won’t accept from men. Until that changes, we will be having these conversations into perpetuity…well some of us will. Personally, I will be out there enjoying and living my life in the meantime.

  • isolde3

    “2. The guy who’s more groomed and coiffed than I am
    5. The guy who gets pedicures, especially with polish”

    @Janelle, India-Jewel, others

    All you hypocritical chicks going on about not getting with dudes who wear eye-liner and groom excessively know damn well you would try to push up on Aqualad if he was coming your way.


    Don’t front ;) (LOL)

  • JN

    Some of these are rational. Number 1 is ridiculous, Numbers 2 and 5 tend to be traits of a metrosexual, and nobody has time for a man that can’t treat people right (numbers 8, 10, 15). The only one that I felt fell on the nit-picky side was #13. I think a man can learn how to not be a litterbug, just as a woman can learn how to be a better cook.

    I think as you get older, you learn what you need to have in a relationship and what you absolutely can not put up with. For example, I commend the author for even contemplating having a relationship with a man who has kids. In-laws are enough for me, I do not need baby mamas and extra kids. I do not like the idea of “sharing” my man, even over kids. There are some other things would be nice-to-haves but I can live without.

    • Pseudonym

      You think #1 is ridiculous? Perhaps you’ve never seen the downside of those “Wonder Woman” expectation.

      I have a rep of being “so cool” among men and those who have dated me in the past usually asked me out after a year or more of romanticizing me and putting me on this very high pedestal. Then we start dating and they think I’m Wonder Woman and- as awesome as I am- I am not that fictional character. As WW, you are expected to always be strong, and never express an emotion other than happiness or horniness. I’ve had my emotional stability taken for granted and had to endure some tortuous circumstances and- when I brought up the issue later on- was met with surprised b/c they thought I lived in some alternate universe where nothing bothers me. Luckily, some were able to humanize me after that, but I DEFINITELY don’t want a man who thinks I’m going to be WW. I put enough pressure on myself to be as great as I can be; I need my human shortcomings to be met with understanding and support from my significant other and not with their obvious disappointment.

      Just sharing my experience.

    • Pseudonym

      …or do you mean a man that wants a woman to be Wonder Woman is ridiculous?

      It most definitely is. Especially b/c those men demanding such are not Superman.

    • JN

      yes, I meant that a man that wants a woman to be Wonder Woman is ridiculous. I was wondering what you were getting at as I read your first comment, lol