Last Sunday afternoon found me on my knees, waist deep in the corner cupboard of my kitchen, looking for the damned lid for my favorite saucepan. Here it is! … no, too big … finally! … mmm, no—steamer top … aha! … God, I don’t know what this one fits. Eventually, like a real-life, natural-haired Goldilocks, I found the just-right topper, and dinner was saved. That old saying is right: There is a lid for every pot.

That adage is about love and not cooking. In fact, the idea of a woman finding a partner, who uniquely fits who she is, has been lost amid concern (-trolling) about female singleness, especially black female singleness. America’s new national pastime is schooling black women, nearly 46 percent of whom have never married*, on what we need to change to convince some guy to put a ring on it. In other words, ladies: If you can’t find the lid, the pot must need “fixing.”

Often the (heteronormative) suggestion is that black single women need to better understand the allegedly universal needs of men. To be fair, Cosmo and Glamour were telling women how to please men long before Steve Harvey, Michael Baisden, and Tyrese became authors. Blaming women for being single is a sexist problem with a deep history. And the rhetoric is — and always has been — off base:

It sells women short
Relentless criticism of single black women is predicated on the idea that a woman not chosen as a wife is somehow defective. That is not how we view single men. (And, by the way, nearly 49 percent of black men have never married.) Singleness does not equal brokenness. Not every woman wants to get married. Not every woman wants a man. And even women who want to marry someday can have full and happy lives should that dream not come true.

It sells men short
All men are not the same. All black men are not the same. Any romantic advice predicated on men being simple creatures only interested in having sex and being “the leader” in all things is offensive. The men I know are far deeper and more complicated than that.

It’s not the way to a healthy relationship
The other day, I asked my husband of nearly 12 years what he thinks is the key to a successful marriage. He said the best thing you can do to ensure a good marriage is to know yourself, what you need, and what you want; then choose a partner wisely. I agree. (And that, by the way, is one reason of many why I married my sweetie: He’s a smart guy.)

For more than a year, I have been interviewing black women for a book on love and marriage and have been lucky to hear sistahs talk about their real-life relationships and depth of connection with their partners.

Danielle, a married 30-something awaiting her first child, said of her husband, “From the moment we got together, it was perfect. We were very much in the same place. We have a lot in common — a similar mindset and way of thinking.” Recalling the word games the couple likes to play, she adds, “The nerds inside us speak to each other.”

The action plan being sold to black women is, sadly, not one likely to result in the kind of love Danielle describes, based on friendship, mutual respect, and common ground. How can a black woman find someone to love her just as she is if she is constantly encouraged to be someone else — to execute some rote and reductive performance to appeal to the opposite sex?

On a literal lid hunt, one looks for the top that suits the particular contours and properties of the bottom. No one would dream of perching a saucepan lid on a cast iron skillet and expect the fried chicken to turn out right. And you wouldn’t take a hammer to your crockpot to make some random cover fit. But society constantly bangs on black women in an effort to mold us into something allegedly more attractive to potential partners — as if our needs are secondary and as if they don’t really care about healthy partnerships, but just marriage for marriage’s sake.

Committed love isn’t about learning what “men” want and waiting to be chosen; it is about knowing what you want, choosing the right man (or the right woman), and working toward mutual happiness.

*According to the 2010 United States Census, 45.5 percent of black women, age 15 and over, have never been married; 48.9 percent of black men in the same age group have never been married.
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  • KR

    The biggest ghetto myth is there are no “good men” for young black women and there are plenty of “good men” for black women in their 30’s and 40’s (out of her prime) usually w/kids. Flawed logic.

    This don’t settle/wait until your 30’s to get married is nothing more than Black Feminist PC version of “I don’t need a man. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Anyone who thinks a black woman in her 20’s strategically planning and looking for a husband is desperate hasn’t seen a never married 30 something or 40 something year old black woman trying to keep or get the man she wants to marry her. lol There are millions of Kenya Moore’s who could have gotten married in their 20’s but waited too long and are now out of their prime and can’t keep nor get the Walters of the world to put a ring on it. Now, who’s fault is that?

    The really sad thing is this not settling/ waiting has trickled down to uneducated and unskilled young black women many with no job or in low skill jobs who have no interest in furthering their education on aid or living check to check (80% of black women don’t have a degree). These women are now in their 30’s and 40’s many w/kids looking for a husband. Sorry but not many men with good or bad jobs are going to sign up for that. The truth is it’s only a small amount of black women “ballers” traveling working 60/70 hrs a wk. who really had to sacrifice marriage for career. The point? Are these black women happier with their home family life than their grand/greatmothers pre 1960’s when the overwhelming majority of black women were married and almost every black child had a father in the home? I don’t think so. A lot of these Blacks Feminist have revised their message and are now are trying to tell never married 40+ year old black women that their situation is normal and everything is ok. Don’t believe their myths and lies. Never married women by race. Today 31 percent of African American women (THIRTYONE PERCENT!!!) by their early forties have never married as compared to only 9 percent of White, 11 percent of Asian , and 12 percent of Latino women in the same age group. What happened to the Black Matriarch Utopia that Black Feminist promised? lol

    • “The biggest ghetto myth is there are no “good men” for young black women and there are plenty of “good men” for black women in their 30′s and 40′s (out of her prime) usually w/kids. Flawed logic.”

      @KR, I’m not sure how this sentiment relates to the article, which clearly states that there ARE good men, though most instructions on what men want would make you think otherwise. My point is that both men and women should understand their own needs and look for a mate that is compatible with those needs, rather than bending to fit some reductive nonsense.

      I would prefer that a women marry (if she wants to marry) the right partner and build a successful committed relationship in middle age than marry the wrong man and raise children in an unhealthy, unstable union in her 20s.

      it is interesting that so many men responding to this article believe women being satisfied and happy and able to choose a partner is somehow the enemy of healthy black relationships. It is actually the KEY to black hetero relationships.

    • Ask_Me

      ^^^WTF? There is something seriously wrong with the black men that visit this site. Y’all delusional, whiny, angry mofos.

    • mr.vicious

      thk u…

      im glad u said it.

  • Jeanette

    That’s why Steve Harvey, Tyrese (even though I love his music), and Michael Baisden can kick rocks with broken left toe as far as I’m concerned. They aren’t get a red cent from me to go towards any of that foolishness….

    @Treece, my sentiments exactly! I love the “broken left toe” thing. Imma use that one. Anyway, all those LONELY women that are being suckered into reading this crap don’t make no damn sense. It’s the same old trash men have been writing for years, just with new faces.

    Many lonely, hard up women look and at me and wonder how can I be alone or should I say “without a man” because I am not alone. And then there are those very few women who are with a quality man that understand my choice. If I find someone that’s good to go then cool, if not, still cool. There’s no rush to get married, time is not running out ladies. I really enjoy my alone time and NO ONE is going to come in my space and mess that up if they are not what I want.

  • Jeanette

    @ KR,

    And where there are women with kids, there are also men with kids. And NO woman with a good or bad job will want an uneducated man with baggage either. Really, you sound worse that the drug dealing thug out on the street. And I AM that “baller” you speak of that has a great career and no kids and just like I won’t settle for the bad boy type, I damn sure won’t settle for the a black misogynist like you either.

    • Uh huh

      With an attitude like that I’m sure no man is looking for you or will be anytime soon.

  • Jeanette

    Damn, I thought I was the only one who caught that too *blank stare* lol. Great article nonetheless.

  • ASK_ME

    You must live in a hole. I don’t know any childless black women that are checking for black men with children either.