I had an interesting conversation with someone I hadn’t spoken to in years the other day. He is a black man. Successful. In a long-term relationship, with a black woman. Now, when I say I hadn’t spoken to this person in years, I mean like, I’ve never had a meaningful conversation with him ever. But somehow we ended up speaking about things that I would have never imagined we would have ever discussed. So per the usual conversation that takes place between intelligent black men and women, we discussed “new age women” (his phrasing, not mine). And of course, I made him explain exactly what he meant by “new age women”. According to him, and if I’m being honest, most black men, he was of the opinion that black women are strong and independent, almost to a fault. And while he appreciates some aspects of black woman independence, it is sometimes hard for a black man to be “the man” in a relationship.
And you know what? I agree with him… To a certain extent. However, I had to explain to him why black women are the way that we are. We are raised by strong mothers, who are strong, black women. They teach us to be able to take care of ourselves because the reality is that we will probably have to be able to take care of ourselves at some point in our lives. Our men are either forcefully taken away from us or they prefer others who are traditionally not as “strong willed” as black women. I explained to him that our mothers wanted us to be able to have careers, pay our bills and take care of our children in case our men could not be there to help us. But in teaching us how to take care of ourselves, they didn’t teach us how to take care of our men. They didn’t teach us that black men have feelings too. That black men need to know that they are wanted and loved. That words of encouragement from us are more important to them than hitting the lottery. That they don’t want to feel like they have to fight the world and come home and fight too. That as a black woman you can be strong with everyone else, but with your man, you can be open and vulnerable.
I love my momma. Like for real. She’s the real MVP out here in these streets. And even though she and my dad have been married for over 30 years, she never taught me the importance of showing a man love. In fact, she told me, “never let a man know how you feel”, and for a long time, I operated like that. I had boyfriends, but I was not in a position to let them know how much they meant to me or how much I wanted them in my life. I didn’t want to show them my love for fear of losing some imaginary game that we were playing and that I had to win. In hindsight, I don’t think that was the best way to engage with someone I was in a relationship with. How in good conscience could I ask my man to outwardly show his support and love for me but keep mine hidden from him? It was only through experience and maturity that I learned that it was ok to be strong with the world but weak with my man. That it didn’t mean that I was less of a woman because I wanted and needed a man beside me to support me and have him know that I support him back. It made me stronger because I was able to give of myself in spite of the risks.
Everyone wants to feel needed and loved. And I think now more than ever black men need to feel that. They need to feel that from us, black women. And we need to show them.