In an era where single Black women have become the point of obsession for pundits, barber and beauty shops alike, there’s a quiet dark knight emerging: The Renaissance Black Man. While in some quarters this figure is mythic, others claim to have seen him alive and well. If you let mainstream media tell it, this man is elusive and only has eyes for outside races.
Let it not be lost, however, that Fox is a mainstream media outlet.
Everywhere there are narratives decrying the absence of marriage and “successful” Black relationships. There has been no shortage of stories in 2010 about the single Black woman’s hopelessness and Black men seeking women of other races and same sex.
This kind of demoralization tends to breed romanticization. Right now, that romanticized ideal is the Black Renaissance Man. In America, women are succeeding at higher rates than ever. Black women are outpacing their male counterparts in educational achievement and income.
She needs support. A Renaissance Black man’s stock would appear to be at its peak right now.
So, who is this man? For one, he can straddle different spheres of society without losing footing. He’s culturally aware, a man who gives the promise of another world. He’s seemingly available, which enhances his appeal. The hook on his bait, if there is one, is undetectable.
He knows the difference between an asset and a liability. He may not be a street dude, but he knows the street. He’s equally adept at holding down a conversation on 5th St. as he is in the corporate boardroom. He’s no slouch in the bedroom either.
But like everything in life, this man comes with a price.
This man isn’t racially picky when it comes to a mate. Race is not on the brain; convenience is. Not convenience in an “I want the easiest person to deal with as possible” sense. Convenience in a “how will this fit in my overall life plan and dating pattern” sense. Marriage isn’t shunned. It’s calculated. His views on marriage are, well, unconventional. He doesn’t view marriage as a necessity, per se. It is good…and it is preferred one day. But it isn’t required.
Sexual “purity” in a woman doesn’t matter as much; sexual prowess does. A man with a time-sucking career and/or hobby could care less whether the woman he is with has slept with 10 or more men.
To him, that’s a sophomoric paradigm. Then again, there are some Renaissance men who retain the traditional view and want a “lady in the street, freak in the sheet” type. The sexual proclivities of these types vary. But one thing is absolute: This guy is used to getting his way more times than not.
The boundaries of the Renaissance Man are not set. It contort. It shifts. It evolves. These men have a knack of knowing their worth, which doesn’t seem problematic on the surface. But dig deeper and the issue emerges: People like this are rarely any good in relationships.
Successful relationships depend on interdependence of the highest degree. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and Will and Jada Smith are examples of the power Renaissance couples who appear to have this relationship thing down. Besides the fact that the public doesn’t know the details of their marriages, this is misleading.
A CNN documentary on President Obama shown during his campaign highlighted a serious rift in his marriage, saying that Michelle was on the verge of seeking a divorce. The Smiths, on the other hand, have expressed in numerous interviews their keys to keeping a strong marriage. Their view on open marriage isn’t unusual: many studies show that open marriages are growing in popularity. Their public revelations shed some light on the difficulty and near impossibility of a “renaissance” couple working.
Of course, there will be many who disagree, saying that marriage can work with X, Y, Z factors and that failure stories are overblown to “make a story.” They will say that marriage isn’t unnatural, and that we all yearn for that special someone simply because we are socialized and conditioned in a monogamous culture. But the Renaissance Man can care less about social mores when it comes to relationships. If he’s going to settle down, it’s going to be on his terms. Not on her biological clock. Not on her looks. Not even on sex; after all, if he’s eating popsicles for free, why would he buy the ice cream stand?
“But you can’t compare business and relationships.” Again, the Renaissance Man has an overall life plan. In this plan, everything is comparable. As long as it all fits together. He’s everything women are raised to want. He’s a nerd without being socially inept. His attitude usurps any – if any – flaw he has physically.
News stories thrive on his tale. Exclusivity is his calling card. A mythological figure must maintain the air of inaccessibility. Without that, he’s merely mortal and for the “demoralized” single Black woman, everything’s back to normal.
Clearly, this isn’t true. But that’s the thing with fairy tales. The hope is more important than the reality, which is what seems to be sold in bottles these days.