About a month ago, one of my ‘lil sisses’ tagged me in a post on Instagram. She was shouting me out for being a woman who taught her to be strong and independent. I smiled at the thought of having inspired this amazing young woman to stand boldly and proudly in her womanhood. That’s my message to all of my little sisters. Particularly because at their age, and many years beyond, I was a mess. I looked great on paper as far as what I had accomplished in my educational and professional life, but inside I was a swirling tornado of low self-esteem, neediness, and self-sabotage all usually related to a man. So because I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to get my head together (thank God for awakenings and second chances), I happily share my lessons with my younger sisters all with the hope and intention of sparing them the slew of hard knocks that left me emotionally battered, but thankfully not broken.
However, it was when she said that I also taught her ‘not to need a man’ that I winced. Although I never told her that verbatim, I could certainly see how she could have received that as the resounding point of our many conversations. When I met her, I was, and still am, a professional self-supporting mother raising a child on my own. Those qualifiers, coupled with her knowledge of my choosing divorce and single-motherhood as opposed to remaining in a situation that was not good for or to me, could easily translate to me now not wanting or needing a man. One of which is definitely not the case. So after giving my response some thought, my comment on the post was: ‘While a man is not needed, a good one is always nice to have.’
And that is the truth.
When I think of all of the things I need in life, a man is not one of them. And it was at the beginning of my mid-life that I finally and fully understood that. I need air to breathe. I need good health. I need money to take care of my family. I need to write. I need adequate rest to be functional. I need time to myself. I need to love and be truly loved. But I do not need a man. Rather, I want a man. And not just any man because a surplus of those are always available. But a good one.
My little sis’ perception of a strong independent woman not needing a man is a common one. In fact, some ‘strong independent women’ proudly live by that mantra. Some even promote it themselves because life’s disappointments have left them disillusioned, embittered, and even angry at men. So to camouflage those wounds and protect their hearts, they convince themselves that they do not need or want a man.
One of my best friends and I had a conversation not too long ago about men and relationships. She by all measures is a strong independent successful woman. I definitely would not characterize her as a woman who needs a man by any means. But while chatting, I could see the enormous love and gratitude in her eyes when she spoke of her husband bringing her tea in bed. An act of kindness as simple as bringing her tea every morning lit her up. But really, it is not at all about the tea. It is about the immense blessing of having a man who loves, values, and cherishes her enough to begin her day with care and kindness--from him first. So for the woman who is emotionally ready to receive and appreciate such love, tea becomes everything.
We women can be strong. We can be independent. We can be self-supporting. We can be driven. We can be successful. But we can also desire the love of a man worthy of all we are. We can refuse mediocrity, irresponsibility, infidelity, dependency, and maltreatment. We can unrelentingly build ourselves up while possessing the clarity of mind to know both our worth and who is worthy. And what many will dismiss as disinterest or undesirability, we understand is discernment.
We know better than anybody when it is safe to close our eyes and fall back freely because capable caring hands are wide open to catch us. But when they are not, we can unapologetically walk through life with the strength and independence befitting only of a queen whose head ever remains up high so her bejeweled crown never falls.
Photo credit: William Stitt