And who could dispute Aunt Ruby's wisdom, her unassailable knowledge? Who was more worldly than this semi-literate, six foot two, big-chested dark brown Amazon of a woman, who'd escaped South Carolina's cotton fields at thirteen, migrated north during the depression, and reinvented herself as a respected (although still semi-illiterate) businesswoman at fifty? Who better than Aunt Ruby to mold my young questioning mind? If ever there was a stereotypical, quintessential African-American Big Mamma, all wise, all knowing, and then some, it was Aunt Ruby.
For years I took for granted her marginalized, archaic view of the black man, murmuring along with thousands upon thousands of my chocolate sisters nation-wide in condemnation of that despicable, but oh, so desirable, Mandingo.
But, is that really just how they do? I was torn, knowing instinctively that there were good black men out there and I needn't look any further than my father or my Uncle Jay, Aunt Ruby's husband who loved her more than life. What well-spring had birthed her Rubyisms? And, if the Black Man was so incredibly worthless, why did so many sisters yearn for him, jones for him like some bad habit, albeit berating themselves for being so vulnerable to his many charms? What was it about this enigmatic black man that generated love and loathing at the same time? That attracted a sister like fine, aged wine, yet simultaneously repelled a sister to the point of denouncing everything about him, from the way he walks (. . . struts really) to the way he talks (hmmm. . . more like a purr), to the way he performs sexually?
Aunt Ruby's views, tainted and malodorous, had been passed down, griot-style, as truth from one brokenhearted woman to the next, twisted with more fable than fact, demeaning and defining generations of black men on color alone, ignoring the fact that first and foremost, black men are simply men, prone to the same imaginings, strengths and weaknesses of every other race of men that walk this planet. Men, who have no monopoly on different or strange, but a shared history of oppression. A history, nevertheless, which does not nullify the fact that black men are, and will forever be, simply men. And as all women should understand by now, (but many sadly do not) most men think and act differently than women. They are not women with penises. They are men.
My journey into debunking Aunt Ruby's how they do's, came to these conclusions:
Black men don't listen to their women. Men really do listen, albeit seemingly in a nonchalant way. However, a barrage of b.s., accusations and put-downs is a universal turn-off, inclusive of all men. How, and when you show up determines a lot about how your man interacts with you. Consequently, don't interrupt a championship game in the last inning to talk about your feelings. "We need to talk" begets silence. Game over.
Black men cheat on their women. Any relationship not built upon trust, friendship, commitment, and a heavy dose of integrity leaves itself open to outside influences that can shipwreck it in a moment's notice. Both sexes in all races are known to fall short of total commitment. This accusation should not fall squarely on the black's man's shoulders.
Black men don't take care of their families. . . . That's how they do. True, some don't, for numerous reasons and too little time to explain (try researching slavery's impact on disposable black families). The key question here, however, is whether or not your man has the potential to be a great husband and father. And, if you're with a man who shows any signs of being unable to adequately fulfill the role, why are you with him? The answer to this question is not, that's how all black men do. The answer is, "I promise myself I'll pick and choose with utmost care."
Black men want sex 24/7. All men love sex. Period. Black men, white men, Asian men, all men around the world. Men think of sex day in and day out; straight sex, gay sex, menage' a trois, and everything in between. Now that's how they do. Outside of working, eating and sports, men think of sex; (and sometimes while eating, working and playing sports). Men think of sex as much as women think of shoes, fashion and hairdos. Stereotypical? Yes, But don't fool yourself, women think of sex quite often, more than a lot of us are willing to admit.
Black men don't respect black women. Really? Most men respect their mammas, and while they may desire a freak in the bed, in public, they want a queen by their side. Respect is earned and gaining that depends upon how we carry ourselves. In other words, act like a slut, expect to be treated like one, and you'll never get to meet his mamma.
Black men are selfish lovers. Which begs the question, how many black men have you slept with to come to that conclusion? If the answer is "enough" then clearly it's time to examine why you're choosing selfish men. Remember, you picked him.
And my personal favorite:
Black men will jump over ten black women to get to a white woman.
Unfortunately, some brothers have viewed a Becky as a status symbol, but when marrying interracially, trends report that black men choose Asian and Hispanic women more so than white women, and these percentages are still low. Regardless, the percentage of interracial marriages, however, is approximately twelve percent. The fact remains that who we love and how we love are more personal choices than racial choices, and our choices, seem at times, to defy logic. The heart wants what the heart wants, and acts as an agent all on its own, answering to no one, making inexplicable choices that surprise even us. Lovelings, in this diverse, multi-cultural world we live in, love comes in whatever hue and color we find it.
What a marvelous epiphany at the end of my musings. I finally realized Aunt Ruby's rambling disjointed list of the black man's how they do's were actually applicable to all men. . . everywhere. They were the protective wrappings we women clothed our hearts with, shielding us against the inevitable pain that can touch any relationship. He cheats? Well, that's how they do . . . Let's not examine the relationship to get to the core of the problem; He doesn't listen? Well, humph! That's how they do. This had nothing to do with race, and everything to do with our inability to connect to that special someone we choose to love; everything to do with longing and loving and hoping like hell that he loves to the extent we do; everything to do with butterflies in the pit of our stomachs and that inexplicable joining that moves from heart to loins. A feeling, so tantalizing, it takes your breath away.
Because, ladies, that's how we do.
Mari's article was featured in "The Dating GPS: Guys-Pricks-Sweethearts," one of Amazon's top-selling guides on relationships. The authors, Anita Myers, Alexsandra Sukhoy and contributor Frankie Doiron, are relationship specialists helping repair relationships, one couple at a time.