Not at ALL What You Thought

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"And What About YOUR Husband?"

Seriously. This is a direct quote from a new member of our church. FWIW, I just love this new member: he's funny and smart and talented and happy with his life. But I nearly burst out laughing when he asked me this, not, mind you, with a view to a Relationship. (Brother is happily married.) But, in my not-so-humble opinion, with a view to All Up In a Sista's Bidness.

Hey, don't get me wrong: I really don't mind anybody asking me, "Are you married?" I'm not keeping secrets. I'm not ashamed of my divorce. (More ashamed of my marriage, to tell the truth.) But just ask me, okay?

Oh, and please, I'm beggin you with tears in my eyes, don't make assumptions about me simply because you know I'm not married. Yesterday, a very vocally devout used-book buyer was in my office when I was defending my right to sell used books. "Yes," I told a colleague, "I do that. Single mother? Child in college?" When I turned to the buyer (a Ukrainian gentleman named Yuri), he was smiling at me.

"How many children do you have?" he asked. I gave him the number and their general ages. "And no husband?" His question was just dripping with assumptions, and being a black single mother, my reception was just dripping with stereotypes. Surely, he was thinking, this is one of those welfare queens one hears about. Or, you know, not.

"Not any more," I replied. Then followed a discussion about why. I was vague, as one should be with random used-book buyers. Mostly, I said I didn't feel ready for a husband (yet). What bothered me most about this conversation wasn't the prying; as I say, my life's an open book. What bothered me was my feeling of being on the defensive. Somehow, I feel I should be married, which makes me just putty in the hands of folk who feel I should be married, whatever their reasoning behind it, which is Just Sad.

Related to this sadness is the assertion that if your marriage is failing, whatever the reason for the failure, you should work to save it. Or, as I learned recently, if you Have The Nerve to try to work through the end of your marriage by writing about it, publishing your thoughts and experiences is "a bit much."

On the other hand, I was extremely heartened by some things my pastor said during his Back-to School bible-study series. For example, he called out the young women and told them that, while he had nothing against marriage, these young women had better focus on educations and careers and not husbands. He preached independence and self-esteem. To young women and girls. And then, after bible study, he hugged those who came near him and asked them, "You hear what I said? You hear me?" I like it that my spiritual leader doesn't just assume, because a young person is female, that she should be obsessing about marriage.

If it weren't for this experience, I'd blame all men for this "Why aren't you married?" atmosphere. All out here in the twenty-first century. I guess I still could blame them. What the heck: it's men's fault. The problem is, women don't behave any better these days. Don't get me wrong. I think marriage, good marriage, is a God thing. And I do hope someday to have one. But I wish people wouldn't assume that an unmarried (or about to be unmarried) woman is a broken thing, something that needs to be fixed.

Dear Jesus, my brother, help us to make the best of the non-marriage relationships we have, especially those we have with You.


  • At 10:19 AM , Anonymous Bethany said...

    During my short stint of being single after first husband passed, I did often wonder why it was that I was expected (by myself and - more irritatingly - by others) to date and try to find somebody else (for kicks or anything serious). As if by being single, I wasn't whole. As if by taking the time trying to figure myself out, I was doing myself a disservice since I wasn't trying to find another man, even just for fun (and the gal who set me up with hubby didn't expect us to get married, just to "have fun").

    Then society wonders why there are so many divorces, and instead of laying blame where it's due - on a messed up societal expectation of happily ever after with a soul mate for everybody (as long as the people in that everybody fit the proper mold) - it turns on the people getting divorced and treats them as if they are defective. And if they should think about getting married again, society tells them, "No, you didn't do it right the first time, so you shall be shunned by us for attempting it again!"

    (Sorry, residual bitterness from people assuming I'm divorced, then backpedaling like mad when they find out otherwise.)

    On top of all of that, if you're in a bad marriage and aren't trying to do anything to get out of it, you're condemned for staying in it, but if you try to end it, you're not working hard enough or you've done something wrong that brought it on.


    I'd say I'm surprised people don't just stay single in the first place, but then you get back to the societal expectation of happily every after with a soul mate.

    Seems to me that it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation these days. To which I say screw it, do what makes you happy and to hell with what everybody else thinks - though that's easier said than done. o_O

  • At 10:21 AM , Blogger Gine said...

    You said it better than I did!

  • At 2:54 PM , Blogger Christina said...

    I love you too. And thank you.

    I don't know what else to say but that.

    (And you know, I do see myself as broken. But not because I'm not married anymore. it's because someone was careless with me and that person holds the blame for my brokenness. I'll fix it.)

  • At 1:51 PM , Blogger MnMr1 said...

    I'm divorced (I could have made my marriage work as it was basically a good one). I've paid for that mistake and I still pay for it somewhat emotionally. I was single for a very long time after that. Sometimes, I'm grateful for that and sometimes, I'm not. I can't say I used that time wisely always to better myself. I led a very sinful lifestyle of partying, but I have to admit I did a lot of soul-searching and seeking out God. I'm remarried now...just recently. I'm very blessed to have a very awesome man in my life now, though I still regret being divorced in the first place. All I can say about being single is to use it to your advantage. God doesn't call all of us to be married (says that in His Word). God could be preparing you for service unto Him as a single woman or He could be working on you so that you will be ready for your mate in life...a relationship that will be blessed by Him and not by man.

    Also, I'm 38. Next to the most insensitive things people say is "Do you have any children" and when you respond "no" to this they ask "why not?" Isn't that incredibly rude? I mean it's up to God if and when I have children, not me. I can practice all I want, God actually makes it happen.

  • At 4:10 PM , Blogger Gine said...

    Yep. It is rude. What in the world??

  • At 9:14 AM , Anonymous Coquinegra said...

    Try being "never married".
    Yup--I feel ya
    and if I hear one more platitude about "love will find you when you are not looking" I swear I'll go after him/her with an ax.


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