Decency, who decides? Thoughts on 1 man, 10 ladies and 11 kids

Very few people realize that I am a preacher’s kid otherwise known as a PK. Jokes and stereotypes abound about PK’s and there probably is a bit of truth in them. The funny thing is my Dad spent most of my childhood spiritually searching, but never really straying far from his Southern Baptist roots. Often in his searching’s (yeah, I know, strange word, my blog, my language), I got to ride shotgun since my mother as the daughter of a lifetime agnostic wanted nothing to do with church. So even when I thought religion and spirituality played no role in my life, the reality is they did as evidenced by the fact that at 18 I ran off and got married.

People over the years have asked me why I got married at 18. Hell, even my own parents wanted to know the answer to that question and for the longest time, I had no answer that I could put into words.

The truth is at 18, I confused lust for love and despite the fact that at that time I didn’t see myself as “religious” I was raised to believe only “bad” girls could enjoy sex so rather than enjoy sex, I ran off and got married. Let me tell you, getting your toes curled is not a reason to get married…at all.

The reason that I am sharing this tale is that for the past several days while recovering from a nasty bug during my annual vacation (staycation) I heard about this upcoming show. The basic premise of “All My Babies’s Mamas” is you have a rapper, Shawty Lo (never heard of him) and he apparently lives with his 10 Baby Mamas and 11 kids all under the same roof. Let me translate that for you, you have a man who procreated with ten different women, he hasn’t married any of these gals and he has 11 kids. I can’t say that I will ever watch this show since I rarely watch TV but I will say that already people are talking.

Christelyn Karazin, author of Swirling, as well as a fellow blogger wrote a post about this show and well, folks were none too happy. Christelyn is the mastermind behind the No Wedding, No Womb campaign, a campaign to increase marriage rates in the Black community. While I respect the hell out of Christelyn’s drive and passion, as she knows, we don’t always see eye to eye on issues. Her most recent post is no exception.

Look, I am not saying a guy having 10 women and 11 kids is a great idea since I am not too sure there are many men that can handle the financial, emotional and mental responsibilities of all those humans. Even in the FLDS communities where polygamy is part of their religion, it is not unheard of for women to turn to using government entitlement programs because frankly most men in 2012 cannot afford to support that many humans no matter what the now defunct TV show Big Love would have us to believe.

However it troubles me when a woman is called a slut or referred to as not decent because she chooses to partner with a man who has other children or frankly other women. In a world that has increasingly decided to embrace different lifestyles, who is the judge of what is decent? Too many times the slut label is applied to any woman who chooses to live outside of the socially acceptable standard of get a man, get married and then get a baby. Yet in a world where half of all marriages fail, I wonder why are we still clinging to this old standard of what is acceptable? More importantly why does it bother us so much? Why is there is not an equally as offensive equivalent to baby mama’s when referring to men? Baby Mama is definitely used as a slur in most cases yet Baby Daddy simply doesn’t hold the same weight. More importantly as women and Black women, why the need to dehumanize our fellow beings with language such as brood mare? In many ways when we look down on one another, we are simply part of the problem and not the solution.

For middle and upper middle class African Americans we tend to expend a great deal of energy on how we will be perceived by the larger world yet at a certain point aren’t we entitled to simply be humans free to make our own choices? Let’s carry our own individual burdens and not the weight of the whole damn Black community on our backs.

As for me, if Shawty Lo and his ladies like it, I love it. I am not about to run out and become anyone’s baby’s mama but you can send a man my way, we might accept him into the family as a brother husband especially if he likes to shovel snow and fix things. I am pretty certain I can get the Man Unit to agree to that…or maybe not.

Marriage isn’t quite what it used to be regardless of race

I am in faux vacation mode; I call it faux because regular readers know I stay busy like a field hand in 1887. However today aside from dealing with email for an hour, I pretty much chilled on the beach with my kids and had no intentions of writing anything tonight.

That was until I checked in on twitter and saw several of my tweeps spitting nasty fire over this post. Wowzas! Seriously you have to read it but if you aren’t inclined let me paraphrase, the long and the short is that Black folks are dysfunctional and don’t value marriage. Sure, a lot of Black babies are the result of pairings between unmarried folks but the fact is in 2012 most babies born to moms under 30 are also the pairing of folks who aren’t married.

In the US alone half of all marriages end in divorce and those that stay married are looking at some new and shall we say interesting ways to stay legally married…open marriages anyone?

Marriage is a lovely thing but in a society that sells it as fairy tale, it’s no wonder so many marriages fail, marriage is work. I have been open about the fact that my own marriage dodged some bullets this past year, hell last year this time I was pretty certain that I was headed towards divorce #2. My own parents were married until death ended that union and they logged in 30+ years, in the end it was a solid union and they loved each other but there were a lot of frankly painful and messy years wedged between the I do and the death certificate.

When it’s good, marriage can add so much to one’s lives but it’s not a cure all and when we think of marriage as a tool that can better one’s plight in life, well that is a recipe for disaster. We live in a different world, one where marriage doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn one’s economic fortunes around. When I think of Black marriage specifically I see many reasons why it doesn’t happen, for starters while if it’s a recession for white folks economically, it’s been a straight up depression for Black folks for many years. Finances are a huge factor, let’s face it, two broke folks marrying isn’t always a great idea especially in a world that many years ago decided to dole assistance out only if a man wasn’t present…

I admit I could go on with reasons but fuck it, I am tired but I will say that lack of a legal piece of paper doesn’t preclude two parents from being active and involved in their kids’ lives. I stumbled upon this piece last week and of course no one talked about it, it’s so much easier to see the negatives than the positives. Turns out many Black men are quite active in their kids’ lives even if they aren’t married to the mother of their kids. I admit this jives with my own anecdotal stories.

In the end love doesn’t need a paper and while marriage offers with it many privileges and rights, marriage done wrong causes a world of heartache. While studies like to fixate on the woes of Black folks, the lower marriage rates are really across the board, so let’s not act as if Black folks are any more dysfunctional than any other group.

Swirling and it’s not just for ice cream anymore…a review

 

I often forget that for many Black women dating and loving across racial lines does not come easy, then again for the last 21 years I have been involved with white men. Husband number one, while the marriage was short lived, did create a child who is now a 20 year old man and husband number 2 who I’ve spent 17 years with. So getting that out the way, one might think I was a perfect fit to review Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed a new release by blogger and writer Christelyn D. Karazin and co-author Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn.

I admit I had been curious about what this book would be and when I received an offer for a review copy, I jumped at it. After all there are few books that really talk openly about dating across racial and cultural lines written from the perspective of a Black woman.

For starters, Christelyn and Janice have a way with words, reading this book at times reminded me of a talk with girlfriends on a Friday night. In the early chapters, they give some good advice, that to enter cross racial and cultural dating world; you will need to clean your slate about some assumptions you may hold against men of different backgrounds.

Swirling is funny and provides some good food for thought if one is just starting to consider dating across color lines, though I am not sure referring to men as rainbeaus is a great idea. I say that because in reading this book, I read parts out loud to my own partner (a white guy) who thought rainbeaus while meant to sound cutesy actually seemed like it was fetishizing non-Black men. The personal vignettes were a great touch especially Christelyn’s own meeting with her future in-laws, she’s a champ!

This book is heavy on providing great tidbits and laughs for how to swirl; this book is light on reality and data. Divorce rates are actually higher for mixed race couples especially Black-White pairings and the author’s suggestions about getting around the real issues that any mixed race couple in America faces especially Black-White pairings don’t seem rooted at times in reality. To be frank I would have liked to have seen more research and not just tidbits collected from Christelyn’s blog Beyond Black & White as evidenced by the fact that I am quoted on page 191 of this book and other blogs judging from the resource list at the back of the book.

All in all, it’s not a bad read and again for a Black woman seriously thinking of crossing racial/ethnic lines when it comes to dating, there is useful information to be gleaned. I think though that it falls short in the mating and relating long term section, then again it may be a chance for the authors to write a sequel.

Disclosure: In keeping with FTC rules, while I was not paid for this post, I did receive a review copy of Swirling.