Note: As I mentioned before, I’m not really interested in writing on racial issues for the Jezebel audience. However, my analysis always incorporates race, gender, and class, and I was interested enough to comment lightly on this story. I am in the process of writing a longer piece about race, dating, and the specifics of dating in DC, published for the Racialicious/Clutch audience, probably for sometime next week. Oh, and one more thing – these pieces are intended to explore some of the broader societal issues that impact dating, including stereotypes and societal expectations. This is not a chance for people to jump on their soapboxes and dole out advice (unless someone in the comments specifically asks). Please focus on the issues, not what black women “need” to do. – LDP
“Helena Andrews is 29, single, living in D.C., and might be the star of a black “Sex and the City” — stylish, beautiful and a writer desperately in search of love in the city.” And so it begins.
The article revolves around Helena Andrews, an author who recently sold and optioned her memoir, which is described as a series of satirical essays about being an urban black woman in Chocolate City.
However, taking the long view of Andrew’s life – and what broader conclusions can be drawn around race, gender, and region – often forces the article to stumble. For example, this description of Andrew’s life works from the archetype of the sassy, single, chick-lit heroine mashed up with BAP overachiever stereotypes:
Fabulous gentrified neighborhoods? (Is that before or after all your cool friends move out because no one can afford the rent?) How can your life be repetitive, desperate, and empty if you have fabulous vacations and fabulous friends?
And don’t get me started on the post-racial thing.
The small glimpses we are shown from the book appear to have the potential to be hilarious:
Much of the focus of the piece comes back to this key premise, that all of Andrew’s problems seem to stem from:
The idea of love as another item on the to do list doesn’t really make sense. It doesn’t happen on a timetable. It’s as Kelis sings in Millionaire: Saks Fifth Ave don’t sell affection. So while doing things like earning a degree or landing a good job can be accomplished with focus, dedication, and follow through, love is messier kind of alchemy.
I mean, think about it. To get into a relationship with someone, you generally need two people to be: currently or soon to be available; in the same physical proximity (or internet savvy enough to be on the same website); into the same types of hang out spots, or to have enough in common to cross paths; both need to find each other physically attractive; and both need to be at a time in their lives when they can afford to spend the time to develop a relationship.
Throw all the other preferences out of the window – the list above is enough to make anyone’s head spin, and we haven’t even personalized it yet.
The article continues, revealing that Andrews may also have a habit of setting herself up for failure:
This sentiment is one that quite a few of women can relate to. This guy is nice enough – but still not quite enough to be what Andrews is looking for. Many on the Post site seem to think that Andrews has overly high expectations. But a large part of this is the fantasies sold about life. Just as there is an entire industry around the idea of having it all, there is also one at selling the easy relationship. Sister Toldja has a hilarious take on the quintessential black romance movie Love Jones, saying:
I had a different read on Love Jones (I enjoyed it but it could have been subtitled “Massive Failures to Communicate”), but Toldja’s point is what’s important. Nothing comes easy, but a lot of women are convinced these kinds of men don’t exist at all.
But, speaking as someone who is a DC area native, there are lots of men that fit every type of profile around town. Hell, if you want a man that’s good with words, who will tinge love poems with sweet vulgarities, they are plentiful. Last night, at Busboys and Poets, I didn’t see Darius Lovehall, but I did see “Have You Ever Made Love to a Poet” Marc Marcel:
Many of the commenters over at the Washington Post site latched onto Andrew’s admissions of bitchery to justify everything from racism to continuing black gender wars to anger over what passes as WaPo worthy. However, buried deeper in the article, I found this small segment more compelling:
This darker theme drives the fear behind narratives of singledom and success. What does it mean if you achieved everything, checked off all the boxes on the to-do list, and still feel empty? And realize this emptiness comes from realizing that the stories we were sold about “a good life” may not be what we want, and the one size fits all American Dream is confining? What if searching for a relationship wasn’t really about the dynamics between men and women, but about having the last piece to a puzzle we are told will unlock true happiness? And what if, even after achieving everything on the list, it still isn’t what you want?
Sometimes, our quest for love and companionship is really a quest for affirmation and answers. As Andrews asks: