Why Don't we focus our marriage ideologies on Young Black Men?
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
From the time I turned 28 the pressure was on for me to find a husband. People would ask me if I had a boyfriend, and when I would say yes, they would get on me to get that ring. When I turned 30 and was still single it was a state of emergency for my family and friends. Many would tell me “get on it soon while you’re still desirable.” All of these statements started to get to me and it made bitter, anxious and quite frankly depressed at times. I come from a Guyanese-West African household where marriage was important, even a dysfunctional one.
I understood how important the institution of marriage is. I always knew that I wanted to be married. I proclaimed that I would be some man’s wife. I got that marriage is important and productive for family structure and wealth building.
The pressure made me aggressively pursue marriage and I realized that I made “being married” to fit in line with people’s opinions more important than who I was looking for to marry.
But there was another aspect to my situation. I could not force or pay a man to marry me- well maybe, pay, but why should an attractive, independent, good-natured woman have to do so. I was holding my breath waiting for my future husband and I was able to exhale 3 years ago when I met my husband, the love of my life, my best friend. I remember a church member telling me “I was lucky to find a husband”; another told me “I beat the statistic.” These weren’t personal slights against me but it is just the reality of so many women, professional or not, especially in the African American community.
I often wonder why the focus society places on women to marry are not directed towards men. Women can’t marry if their male counterparts are not willing. A man can enjoy his single life well into his late thirties and be viewed as a catch. The community has to place more emphasis on socializing young boys to desire to be husbands and family men. Music and television often glorifies a man’s singledom. It’s perpetuated as being cool. It is not cool to say I desire to be a “husband.”
As parents we have to raise our boys to prepare for marriage. We have to change our mindset to reflect a gender balanced belief on when individuals should be married if we consensually adopt this as a community. We have to make them understand that women do have a biological clock and work on a different time schedule. If we focus on commitment with our boys they won’t fear it. In our households we have to display happy marriages to leave a good impression on our boys. If we can do this our boys and girls will be on the same page and women won’t be the only ones answering the dreaded questions about getting married.