Why I feel the need to write this opening statement (or disclaimer of sorts) is worthy of another blog post altogether. Even so, let me just say that I speak from personal experiences alone; and the thoughts and opinions that flow from these experiences — not matter how contentious they might be — are valid. The emotions they evoke are valid.
I’m a single, Black Christian woman in Austin, Texas, and the following blog post encompasses some very real questions and observations on singleness, dating, and marriage that I rarely have the time, space, or energy to discuss without fear of backlash and /or emotional fatigue. I share these things in the hopes of normalizing similar discussions around singleness, race, and womanhood here at EP and elsewhere for that matter.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
As some of you know, I was born and raised in Austin, and I’ve spent most of my adult life here –from seven years of undergrad and graduate school at UT, to subsequent years in recovery mode trying to figure out if (and when) I took a wrong turn. During that time – as anyone familiar with the city might imagine – I regularly found myself in majority culture environments –around campus, in the church pews, at the local coffee shops, and everywhere in between. Most days, however, I didn’t think twice about it. That was just the norm. But as my interests in dating emerged, these familiar, yet unfamiliar spaces were more difficult to navigate; and one bad experience after another, coupled with one doom-and-gloom story after another, led me to believe that I’d rarely (if ever) be a part of the dating scene so long as I remained in the place I call home.
“If you lived in the Bay [Area], you would be ‘it’, girl! You would get asked out all the time!” — (I share this for laughs only.)
Time and again I listened to friends and acquaintances offer unsolicited advice on meeting and dating like-minded men in school, at church, and online. I even took a few pointers from Christian influencers and bloggers, but that didn’t serve me well either . . . More often than not, I walked away with more questions and an overwhelming sense that I had to become someone else in order to successfully get into and master “the game” –changing my interests, my looks, and inevitably, my standards. (Y’all, I even tried a dating coach!) But the facts still remained: no matter how much I changed and no matter how many new people and places I encountered, I was always overlooked for dating; and coincidentally, I was always the only Black woman in a crowd of everyone else.
I would be lying if I said these things didn’t take a toll on me and create all sorts of social awkwardness as I tried to “be myself” while twisting into a pretzel per person X, Y, and Z’s advice. At the end of the day, I had more than a few obstacles stacked against me, and no amount of new insights would change that.
Allow me to explain.
A Few Observations
Over the years, I’ve picked up on a few patterns that seemingly go unnoticed –at least in my immediate surroundings. These include patterns in stories, attitudes, and behaviors among my peers. Below, I’ve listed a few noteworthy (and inescapable) patterns to consider as I continue this post. I should also mention that I spent many years aware of, but persistently in denial about these things, and I only recently came to terms with them:
- First, in the rare instances that I have the opportunity to meet and befriend other single, Black women in Austin, I find that, more often than not, our dating (or non-dating) stories are very similar.
- Second, among my non-Black Christian girlfriends and acquaintances with the option to date, there’s no consensus on “the how” in regard to meeting and dating like-minded men in the city . . . They just meet guys and get asked out, and subsequently, hyper-spiritualize why I haven’t met anyone, and thereby, place me in another category that somehow disqualifies me from dating. (Real comforting, y’all.)
- Third, no matter how “diverse” my social circles become, it’s abundantly clear that the majority of Black men within these circles choose to seriously date and ultimately marry non-Black women. And like all the others, they treat me as if I’m invisible, which is doubly strange . . .
- Fourth, the previous observations are not unique to my own circles. Need another example? Read this blog post by another (now married) Black Christian woman and native Texan.
- Fifth, Austin is notorious for being one of the worst cities for dating in general . . . so there’s that. Do a quick Google search to see what I mean.
In light of these observations, here’s another bit of info about me: I am not ignorant to the fact that majority culture has a way of influencing everyone’s views, for better or for worse. Views on dating and marriage are no exceptions. Christian views on dating and marriage are no exceptions either. That’s just reality . . . I once had a White woman (in her 20’s) look at me in shock when I plainly spelled out the truth about my dating dilemmas –things she understood, but apparently, never heard anyone speak of aloud. By the time I was done, she was at a loss for words, but surprisingly, in full agreement. (What, did she think I was walking around oblivious to how men categorize me versus my non-Black counterparts? No, I’m quite aware.)
To move this discussion along, here’s a run-on sentence that I don’t feel the need to edit:
Given the numerous studies and think pieces I’ve read on lower marriage rates among Black women, particularly Black women who pursue higher education and a career, plus popular thoughts on womanhood and physical standards of beauty, and my own observations of Black women in “white spaces,” I absolutely cannot disregard how these things influence dating and marriage outcomes for Black women (both here and beyond) –no matter how we try to change our circumstances and no matter how open we are to dating outside our race. In all seriousness, somebody’s got to resist majority culture and meet us halfway for anything to develop past friendship.
“The moving target of being the perfect prospect is full of disappointment.” — Jasmine Holmes
She Ain’t Desperate
At this point, any rebuttals that suggest that I haven’t tried hard enough, that my standards are too high, or that I’m too picky and whatnot are irrelevant. I am not in the business of receiving by force or manipulation. I’m also not looking to settle and potentially run my life (and self-esteem) in the ground for the sake of a date and marriage. Life has thrown me a lot of curve balls in recent years, and the last thing on my list of priorities is positioning myself for “the one” and / or relocating for the sake of increasing my dating options.
I don’t say these things to suggest that I am or have always been above the nonsense. Personally, I’ve seen what a distorted desire for companionship and marriage does to women, particularly Christian women (myself included), and it can get ugly . . . This alone has been a source of extreme sadness for me. God didn’t place any one of us here to find our ultimate purpose in marriage, let alone in acceptance from Christian men; but no one would believe that given the amount of time, energy, and sacrifice I’ve seen Christian women put into finding “the one” and trying to turn some guy they’ve known for five minutes into “the one.” My heart gets heavy just thinking about it. And when this happens within community where, for some women, any single, Christian man within reach is a prospect? Look out and pray hard because the competition is fierce.
“Singleness isn’t [a] punishment. Marriage isn’t a reward.” — Jackie Hill Perry
Experience has taught me that idolatry, particularly within the context of ever-increasing desires for marriage, is a sneaky thing that can wreak havoc on hearts, minds, and relationships. Due to past wounds, I’ve become extremely guarded in conversations around this subject matter because not everyone – whether friend, foe, or something in between – has my best interest at heart. When desires run rampant and idolatry takes root, the impacts are all the same –damaging.
I’ve vowed to cut my losses in this department altogether.
What’s A Single Black (Christian) Woman to Do?
My value (and yours) is not tied to “cracking the code” and figuring out what to become more or less of in order to escape singleness and be pursued for dating or marriage. More importantly, it’s not for anyone else to decide whether or not I – as one of God’s image bearers – have value because, I already do in the life that He’s given me.
I have this one friends who’s plagued by questions about why Christian men don’t pursue her and why other women within her community seemingly date and marry effortlessly. As her friend and a fellow single, I can understand the pain and frustration that comes with these questions, but I could spend a lifetime pondering them and never land on a single, satisfactory answer. All I can do is look at the facts within my present context (without resorting to denial of an uneven “playing field”) and offer them to God who ultimately has the final say over whether or not I will remain single.
Be that as it may, I cannot lose sight of what’s important and plan my day-to-day life, decisions, and interactions around a date or a husband that may or may not exist. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I will save myself a lot of pain if I choose to focus on what I have rather than what I don’t have at the moment. This isn’t to say that I can’t think about dating and marriage, but there has to be a balance.
“Don’t be a queen simply waiting for her king. Be a queen busy with her kingdom until her king arrives.” — Tiye Harris
To the single, Black Christian women who might be reading this:
Life is happening now, so don’t miss out on it. Live and be grateful for today. Love God, love people, and be your beautiful self because you’re no less than that –no matter how Christian men (Black, Brown, or White), majority culture, or society as a whole, subliminally paint you as such. AND PLEASE . . . get around people who wholeheartedly affirm your identity. People who willingly bear with you. People who won’t dismiss, dance around, or put a band-aid statement on your pain for the sake of their own comfort. People who refuse to further isolate you by denying your reality. People who don’t add insult to injury by suggesting that YOU are the sole reason for your singleness.
Let’s Talk About It
Any questions for me? I’d be happy to hear from women facing similar challenges. I’d also be happy to hear from those who have overcome them –whether single or married. (You define your happily ever after!)
By now, most of my friends have figured out that I’d much rather avoid these types of discussions, but I’ll make an exception for anyone who took the time to read this blog post in its entirety and with an open mind.
Thanks for reading.