Oct. 17 2016 04:16 PM

The task of being yourself versus being what is expected


Men love to boomerang back into your life. I was traveling through Yosemite, when L.G. hit me up exactly a year after our last text convo.

His casual "Hey" did not at all reflect how poorly things had ended between us. L.G. was one of those "Perfect On Paper" guys. He'd gone to a historically black college, was active in his black Greek fraternity, and would have his Ph.D. in curing cancer or some other equally important thing by the age of 30. Plus, he dressed nice.

But when you're dating a man because he looks good on paper, the reality of him will rip through and disappoint you every time. Every. Damn. Time.

And the reality of L.G. was that he bored me. I didn't care about the daily sports stats he texted me and I would have preferred to see him in person than receive the routine post-workout pics of his abs he liked to send me. He was one of those "Eat to live not live to eat" types that took all the joy out of my favorite pastime: finding places on Yelp and eating at them. Plus he was tight with this real sketch dude who got loud with me in public and claimed he didn't date black women because we're "difficult."

I knew that dude was not talking about me.

I was a Good Black Woman. A college-educated, career-having, black-man-loving black woman who wasn't out here gold digging, pregnancy-trapping or disparaging black men in public—you know, all the things rappers hate about black women. I make my own money, know my way around a kitchen, and I stay looking nice—you know, all the things college-educated black men say they want in a black woman. I'd shaved all the sharp edges off my personality, until I was rounded, soft and non-threatening to potential suitors. I was anything but difficult. I was entitled to the love of a Good Black Man.

Yet, it had not worked out with L.G. and when I'd politely ended things, he'd hurled at me the thing that he'd thought would hurt me most, "You'll always be alone."

I refreshed his memory. He responded, "Lol yea I remember lol you were tripping."

It was a good thing I was already out and about in nature because I was about to wild out. I reminded him how I'd helped both him and his mentee write the essays that secured them the positions they were after, fixed him a plate when my mom came to town, and even forgave him for bringing his asshole friend around me.

Turns out, his line of thinking wasn't so far off from his friend's. His perspective was that there are "millions of qualified black women" so if we want to keep a Good Black Man we aren't allowed to have an "all or nothing" mentality. This little rant caught me off-guard because I hadn't wanted anything from L.G. Our personalities hadn't meshed. Was he suggesting that I change what I'm attracted to in a person just to make it work with a Good Black Man?

But wait. Hadn't I already done that? Why was I surprised that after presenting the milquetoast version of myself, L.G. thought he'd had himself a woman who would bend to his every whim and desire. Not only had I fallen for the paper version of L.G., I'd also reduced myself to the flat personality of a paper doll, and in the process, I'd doubled my disappointment.

But why had I bought into the promise of being a Good Black Woman for so long? Why had so many of my friends bought into it? How many nights had we sat around a table with wine clucking about why couldn't we find a man when we were all Good Black Women? Was that false promise really that much easier to believe than the seldom heard truth that black women don't have to be "good" to be loved?


As heavy as it is, I feel safer out in the world carrying the shield of being a Good Black Woman. It's easier for me to say if someone doesn't love me, then they don't love Goodness instead of feeling like there is something inherently unlovable about me. It's hard for anyone to set their shield down, even harder for women, and especially hard for black women. We're given much less latitude to make mistakes, to live life flawed. And L.G. was making it clear that I had strayed past his margin of error just by expecting to be with someone who I liked and who actually liked me.

If the promise of being a Good Black Woman is going to go unfulfilled, it's better for me to attract and fall in love with someone who sees the complete me, not someone who expects me to be the living replica of the paper doll they've formed in their minds about what I should be.

I wish I could say I left my shield in Yosemite that day, but I didn't. I did know for sure I wasn't going to let a boy who was still thinking about me a year later make me feel like I was just another one-in-a-million Good Black Woman. For the second year in a row, I blocked L.G.'s number and headed off in search of more.


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