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.
  • trueletterson

    Tonton Michel We men wouldn’t be here if it was not for a women, a women was our first teacher and you need to go and come back again!

  • http://Clutch SL


    “Women fought for the right to not be told what to do or what to wear or how many different men to have sex with. So women cannot be mad if they are objectified by unscrupulous men. Those are the consequences of their decisions. Many women wanted gender roles to die, so therefore many men feel they do not need to go out of their way to protect random women”

    Here’s what I do not get? Why do men think they should have the right to “control” a woman? So, a woman is worthy of your respect only if you can tell her how to self-determinate? @Job as a traditional archaic-minded woman, that makes no sense to me. Why not respect her because she is a human being and it is the RIGHT thing to do???

    When you talk in this way, this is what make women recoil.

    I am a traditionalist, but neither sex should be subjugated under the foot of the other.

    There is something inherently dishonorable and evil about a tone that says, “if you want the right to be heard, if you want the right to be a partner, you want the right to fulfill your potential”, yhen I will withdraw my love, my support and my covering from you. That is not

  • http://Clutch SL

    @Job – using my iPhone and am limited in what I can type, but to pickup

    ….that is not right brotha. It is not coming from a Godly place.

    Once, I saw this little black boy being man handle by the white dude who lived across the street from me. Truth be told – little dude was already in the thug road – he’d gone into the white’s dude’s yard and had taken that guy’s son’s bike. White dude snatched his little black ass straight off the ground. I was about to get in my car but when I saw that I ran over to see what I could do for this BB – white dude was already calling the po-po. I asked him to release that kid to me and not call. I took that child by the shoulder and brought him to my place. I talked to him like he was worthy, asked him why he was stealing, he said he didnt have a bike he just wanted a bike to play with….I walked him home – next day I bought him a bike.
    That little dude, did not become a thug. I gave him a job. He mowed my lawn every week until he earned the money to pay me for the bike.

  • http://Clutch SL


    I did not know that kid – he was nobody to me. I could’ve looked at him and said he looks like a thug – looks like he was stealing that bike – lock him up! I could have judged him in like manner as to what you stated in your post.

    I didn’t have to protect him cause he certainly didnt meet my standards….

    BUT I DID..

    A woman has the God-given right to self-determine. Every human being has the right to self-determine. What the determine to be is between them and God. Nobody has a God-given right to subjugate another human being.

    Being equal with a woman does not mean being less of a man if that measure is based upon the ability to subjugate a woman so that she only has value and worth if you prescribe it to her.


    When a man derives his meaning of what it means to be a man based on his ability to control a woman – then the world is out of balance.

More in love, marriage