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I have no choice but to blame my little brother. It's his fault that this shenanigan publication finds its way into my mailbox once a month. Something about selling magazines for a band fundraiser. It was either this or a subscription to House Beautiful so I chose the lesser of two evils, or so I thought. Previously, I sort of boycotted Essence magazine, only picking it up if it was laying on some friend's coffee table or in a doctor's waiting room. But, alas, now I am confronted with its ridiculousness every month. The May issue brought Jill Scott's bright-eyed and smiling face to greet me and I thought "maybe I'll actually give this one a read instead of tossing it in the pile by the fireplace." So I opened it up and went straight to page 92 to read an article entitled "Why Don't We Get Married." I should have known better, but instead I chose to be naïve, deluding myself into thinking this just might be an article about the myriad reasons why Black folks choose not to marry or why they are not allowed to marry. Including the fact that some of us aren't even interested in marriage (either personally or politically) or—Gasp! Shock! Horror!—that there are actually Black gays and lesbians who might just be affected by this pesky federal ban on gay marriage! Of course, this was not the case.
Instead it was an article that quickly devolved into talking about what's wrong with Black women and what we can do to "fix" ourselves to be better mates for Black men. The article was a reprint of a Q&A style discussion with about six Black women and men and was moderated by the Essence Relationship Editor Demetria Lucas and comedian Finesse Mitchell, whose qualifications simply listed him as "Dating Specialist." As an aside, I'd like to know where to go to buy one of these certifications that makes you a specialist, expert or guru 'cause somebody's gotta be sellin 'em – maybe I'll check eBay! But I digress, much like the quality of the article, which trafficked in the same tired stereotypes of fat, lazy, loud emasculating Black women who can't get or keep a man. Lucas kicked it off by asking where all the fellas have been hiding. According to the "brothers" present for this Q&A session, there are hoards of Black men at the gym where, apparently, they are safe from the clutches of Black women since NONE of us EVER work out! As a matter of fact, according to Finesse Mitchell, "the young chicks and the ones who just broke up with their man or who are trying to lose baby weight are in the gym. But women who have a man? They stop going to the gym." There are tons more of these little nuggets in the article, check it out if you can stomach this kind of nonsense. However, the final straw for me was Essence's willingness to traffic in one of the most dangerous yet powerful trends in popular culture's current fascination with Black women's love lives: the myth of scarcity.
The article ends with Lucas soliciting a little dating advice from the brothers for the single sisters looking for love. Who are told simply but poignantly "Don't date like a man. Guys are constantly shuffling women, and women think they can do the same. But your deck runs out…" It's this kind of "reasoning" that silences black women and ushers us back into an uneasy alliance with a "benevolent" patriarchy. Under the guise of brotherly advice, Black women are basically told that we just don't have the option to be picky; there simply just aren't enough brothers to go around. We need to find a brother, good, bad or indifferent, close our mouths, stick with him and hope he proves Kanye wrong by not leaving us for a white girl. But, what Essence and Finesse Mitchell left out is that the myth is only a threat if we can safely assume all Black women are only and always interested in dating Black men. The rub, however, is that we can't assume that. Black women find love, sex, companionship and community in so many dynamic and amazing ways and we are selling ourselves short if we think there simply ain't enough loving to go around!
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