Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Paging Prince Charming

I've been doing this marriage thing for about two-and-a half years now.

It's been a wild ride.

Not wild like a roller coaster, but more like driving through thick fog down an unfamiliar country road. While there may be ups and downs, it's the abrupt changes in direction that are the true challenges.

My wife and I got together after knowing each other for years as friends, and that made for an interesting transition when we tried the whole romance thing. Actually, the switch wasn't as hard for me as it was for my wife because I had been crushing on her since middle school, while she previously saw me as the plump kid who liked to read. Honestly, I had been plotting on her for years before I saw my opening.

What I'm trying to say is that me and missus didn't have that magical love at first sight thing that gets played up in all those sappy movies. Nope, our relationship was more tortoise than hare. In fact, while I have been known to break out a massive romantic gesture when I really mess up, for the most part I'm a fairly pragmatic, plodding husband.

I may forget the flowers, but the rent will always be paid.

I thought about my pathway to matrimony recently when a friend of mine sent me an article on marriage and love. You can check out that article here.

The basic premise of the article, at least the way I understood it, was that women need to give up on their fantasies of Prince Charming and settle for Leroy the Plumber. Apparently, waiting around for Mr. Right makes a lot less sense than settling for Mr. Good Enough.

You know, while I understand and agree with many of the points made by the author of the column, in some ways I think my opinion is fairly irrelevant. After all, worrying about finding the perfect mate seems to be the domain of women, not men.

I actually came to this conclusion back in college at Howard University. I distinctly remember this one young lady explaining to me that most girls view college as the prime time to find a husband. She noted that in the "real world" it was going to be much more difficult to find a pool of eligible black bachelors comparable to the one available at The Mecca. She then told me that after they turn 35, women are more likely to get struck by lighting than they are to get married.


When she dropped that depressing factoid on me my first reaction was disbelief. Not at the idea that women rarely get married after age 35 because I could easily believe that those pickings were slim.

Nah, I was shocked that she was even thinking about this kind of crap in college. The fact that women were trying to sift through the various weedheads, misogynists and dirtbags on campus looking for a life partner put them a distinct competitive advantage. It's almost like trying to find Bill Clinton's soul.


For me and most of my college friends, marriage was like the economic status of Chinese peasants; the furthest thing from our minds. Any heterosexual male who has attended an HBCU, particularly those chosen few who have strolled across The Yard in spring, understands that the ratio of women to men on campus makes it damn near impossible to think of yourself as anything but a squirrel in a forest of oak trees.

It's all about getting some nuts.

See, most men and women approach marriage from two totally different perspectives. Both genders see it as a probable destination, but women see it as that perfect tropical vacation, while men view it as federal prison. I would estimate that roughly 90 percent of women have spent part of their childhood planning the details of their eventual nuptials.

The estimate for men is hovering right around zero.

As bad as it sounds, even the most fugly of men is convinced that if he really wanted to, he could find a decent woman to settle down with. And, while she might not be the fantasy girl from his solo trysts in the bathroom, she would be good enough. Most men don't obsess over settling in marriage because most of us spend very little brainpower thinking about marriage period.

This doesn't mean that men can't be picky or have impossible expectations when it comes to their potential mates. In fact, most of us are so picky we think nothing of expecting any woman we would even consider for marriage to be a combination of Claire Huxtable and Vanessa Del Rio.

However, men long ago learned that if the other person wants you more than you want them, you always win. As long as women want to get married more than men do, men will typically get to marry a little bit closer to their fantasy.

So, while the column's author thought she was dispensing some rare wisdom with her exhortation that independent, career-oriented women abandon their high standards and be practical, I actually think she's late to the party. Not only have women been settling for centuries, but even the most idealist, modern striver understands in the deepest recesses of her mind that settling is probably her eventual fate.

How else can you explain the ratio of hot women to ugly guys on sitcoms?


Deacon Blue said...

You and your wife remind me of me and mine in the general sense, except more accelerated (I didn't know her for years but rather for months). I still believe wholeheartedly she settled way too low to pick me (don't get me wrong, I think I'm a pretty good catch, but she could have landed a master of the universe if she had wanted).

Anyway, there are enough differences that we don't have to worry about any more "separated at birth" connections between you and me...at least not here. But thanks for the wonderful way you encapsulated this mysterious way men and women connect despite all our differences. A nice read all the way around.

Just celebrated our tenth anniversary toward the end of last year. If I may be so bold and perhaps even cocky on your behalf, let me congratulate you on your tenth about seven and a half years in advance.

The Black Snob said...

Essence and Ebony have written some version of the column my entire life. My father said the 8-to-1 ratio existed when he was at Prairie View A&M in the 1960s.

I feel like too many women have been freaked out by these articles and statistics. It's encouraged this sort of ridiculousness with people just settling for anyone with a breath mint and hair grease.

My parents didn't make a big deal about marriage, so I didn't feel a lot of pressure. But the thought has occurred to me more than once that I might not get married or have children. But I also think the whole "lack of quality men" thing I a little ridiculous as nearly all my friends from high school are married to men they met after college.

I think if less black women freaked out and worked on self-improvement, love would come natural through friends or church or work or various clubs and volunteer activities. It seems silly to try to clean up some proto-thug and drag him reluctantly down the aisle only so he can blow all you good credit and sleep with your cousin-twice removed. I'd rather stay single.

But maybe that's just me. I still think if you're alone at least half of the time you're the reason why.

And I think that men who aren't complete poon-hounds who don't want to die at 62 get married. Statistically men who marry live longer and are happier. It's this huge myth that marriage makes men unhappy. It's usually women that end up unhappy, but that has more to do with the fact that our society is still in this weird place where women can work almost any job they desire, but most men still don't feel the need to help out with the child-rearing or cleaning, hence most women end up doing all the work of a woman from the 1950s, plus all the career work of a woman today.

Hence the unhappiness.

But people shouldn't let that same article they run in Ebony and Essence every year about marrying your plumber even though you have an MBA from Harvard, make more than $150,000 a year and you don't have JACK CRAP in common scare them.

If I'm marrying some broke dude he better be smart and enjoy fine books and films. I ain't talking about car rims and Lil' Wayne for 50 years.

Lolo said...

Hahaha, so true. one of the things I say is "when was the last time you saw a hot dude holding hands with a balding, pot bellied woman, even if she is Richy rich rich?"

I just think it's to our advantage to get you early enough to train up the right way.

Fantastically Misunderstood Me said...

OMG!! I absolutely HATED it when my friends launched into those spiels:

"...in the "real world" it was going to be much more difficult to find a pool of eligible black bachelors..."

I'm pretty sure that's the exact same phrasing too. Is there a script somewhere I don't know about? That sentence about sorting through weed heads and mysogynists brought tears to my eyes I laughed so hard.

I just graduated from school last May and off the top of my head I can't think of a single guy I graduated with that's currently marriage material. (I mean a couple, I'll give 'em 5-10 years to finish maturing.) But I also know that I'm not marriage material either. How 'bout I become a well rounded whole before I go hook up w/somebody else looking for completion? I'm just saying.

About settling, does that mean I won't find the Barack to my Michelle? The Courtney to my Angela Bassett? The Jay Z to my Beyonce?! (clearly I'm kidding here) Maybe I haven't lived long enough, but I'm not 100% convinced.

Gye Greene said...

Good stuff! Glad I found you blog.

Well-written, insightful AND entertaining. :) You're now officially on my "blogs to read" list.

I'm probably the oddity in the world of males: since about my Senior year in H.S., I've wanted to get married. And I've always wanted a relationship that was more "comfy slippers and worn sweatshirt" than flash and dazzle.

That said, I had a **hard** time in finding a compatible woman. Several folks suggested I settle -- but I didn't. Although it took until returning to school (grad. school, at the age of 26) to finally meet the correct lady. :)

Congrats on your marriage-ness. :)


WNG said...

I swear you do this to me on purpose.
OK - you KNOW I'm staring down a birthday with no man (plumber or MBA) on the horizon and that I'm getting a little freaked out. Not b/c of any stats - but thanks for those, very comforting, but because my biological clock has started ticking in my ear. Do I still have faith that I will meet the right person? Yes. Am I getting a little antsy? Yes. Am I even considering lowering my standards at all? NO. My standards don't have anything to do with money or education though, and a lot more to do with how I want to love and be loved.

Big Man said...

To everybody

Thanks for the response to my thoughts.

I wasn't trying to scare any of the ladies out there, or tell them they should settle for any random dude with a pulse.

But, I think the reality is that love is pretty much like everything else in life; it requires compromising on our expectations.

I believe that most people understand this at a certain level, but it tends to make them squeamish because Hollywood and their daydreams have told them that marriage should be this perfect soul meld.

See, I don't have a problem with standards, even fairly high standards. You should demand loyalty, honesty and kindness from any partner you choose. But, nowadays I think folks have started to add a lot more things on to the their list of must-have attributes, and it's created a situation that puts women at a disadvantage.

Settling is a part of any good friendship, and at it's core marriage is more of a permanent friendship than anything else. I think if more women saw marriage in that light they would have high expectations that can only be dashed.

Truthiz said...

Very interesting post Big Man, as usual!

And I’d like to echo what’s already been expressed by others and say_

Congrats on finding Mrs. “Right" for You!

TBS wrote:

“If I'm marrying some broke dude he better be smart and enjoy fine books and films. I ain't talking about car rims and Lil' Wayne for 50 years.”

I heard that!

FMM wrote:

“How 'bout I become a well rounded whole before I go hook up w/somebody else looking for completion? I'm just saying.”

AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! That's always been My belief! And the truthiz, I've never hesitated to express the same to Anyone who’d listen.

slag said...

Interesting and though-provoking read! Although I think there are some cultural/generational nuances that complicate things a bit. For instance, as a US west coaster, every time I read these articles about how women want men and are searching for men and are desperate for men, I just think "that's very east coast". Whether or not it is, in fact, "east coast" or if east coast is my euphemism for "traditional", I'm not sure. Either way, I do think that there are some significant differences in the ways age and cultural traditions influence how women and men relate and who actually ends up setting for who. I think this is a good thing because it is an indication that these characteristics aren't endemic to the different sexes but, instead, are mutable cultural byproducts that can change with socialization.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Big Man:

I'm an unmarried sista in my 40s and I think I'm fabulous.

And I'm more than willing to settle for LeRoy than Derek Jeter these days, because LeRoy probably has his act together and Derek is probably batting around a crapload of issues. Having money does not mean having common sense or knowing how to treat a woman. I look at a brotha's heart.

And until LeRoy comes along, I'll remain contentedly single.

Imhotep said...

Big Man, Excellent read. I do feel for women, we all live in a male dominated world, and the practice is that women over 40 get slighted. Where as men over 40 get the pick of the litter, especially if they have a couple $$.

The idea of marriage never appealed to me as a young man, the idea of sharing my life with someone forever was a daunting thought,kinda like that federal prison you mentioned. I always felt that marriage was something to do later in life. Still have not done it, but I'm looking into a legal common law situation.

She may have settled, and I may have too, but we are mature enough to deal with it.WTF it's only life!

Ferocious Kitty said...

Great article. As as 36 y.o. divorced woman currently in a new relationship that is the kind of partnership described in the article, it's kind of weird to be nodding my head at the idea of "settling" because it has such a negative connotation. But the author is so right about how the stuff that holds a couple together is not always the kind of bells and whistles romance most of us seek when looking for a mate.

Thanks for sharing this, Big Man. It's on heavy forward rotation today. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm 29 and will be getting married in 4 months. I'm very excited. When I was younger, I was always worried about finding someone. I had the idea that you're supposed to meet your husband at university. It didn't happen that way for me or anyone I knew. After university, I settled a lot, between the ages of 22 and 26 - tried to fix broken people etc. It broke my spirit. Then I was single for a bit and met my fiance when I was 27 and I'm happy to say we are equally yoked. I don't know about the whole waiting till you're whole point of view. I'm not whole. Wouldn't whole be waiting until you're perfect? That wont ever happen. It's 2 flawed humans coming together to make a happy home. I can't wait for it. Both our parents have been married for 30+ years. I know for sure we will also have a happy life together. All my anxiety in my younger days about finding someone was such a waste of energy. Everything happened in time.

Raving Black Lunatic