1.19.2008

If the Shoe Fits

Do you do it in the field? Or do you do it in the castle?

What's your preference woman, who do you do it with?

For the last few years, there has been a discussion, some might say a one-way discussion, in the black community (BC) about the widening class gap between BW and BM. You see, BW are doing better in all measures than BM in the US. We're getting educated, we're getting better jobs, we're making more money, we're travelling more... You get the idea. BW are living the American Dream, while it seems BM are living an American Nightmare. I do not have enough time on this earth to properly dissect and discuss the reasons why this is, so I won't even try. I want to talk about something way more personal - the choice of a mate with the reality of the situation in mind. What are BW to do? The number of men available to us is greatly diminished when, in addition to subtracting (how's that for new math for ya?) married, gay, incarcerated to BM who just aren't suitable, I forget the exact ratio, but it's something like 4 to 1 BW to BM. That's like super scary. And so, the recent upward trend of BW dating and marrying men other than BM. Some call it opening up options - but I call it looking for love, wherever you might find it, with a suitable and compatible person.

The resistance to BW opening up their options is very strong in the BC. When a woman sits down and writes down exactly what she wants in a mate, more than likely, she aspires to a man who can lift her up, mentally, spiritually, physically ("sweep me off my feet"), intellectually and materially. Yes, I said it - most women want a man who can make her lot in life better. Back in stone age days, that meant either the neanderthal with the smarts (fire!) or the brawn (food!). Today, more or less, it means the dude with the education (white collar) and not the hands (blue collar). Of course, that's a very pre-90's way of describing the division that exists in US society today, but it's a comparison that most people still understand. When the trend became clear that BW were outperforming BM in almost every way, voices in the BC began to tell BW that they should not set their sights so high - if the BW was an executive, educator or entrepreneur, she should consider the garbage man. He was still a good BM, wasn't he? It would be infinitely better for the BC for BW to stay with a BM rather than seek out a member of her class. Right?

Wrong.

Class in the US is an economic construct, rather than one solely of birth, as it was in old Europe. Class is an ugly word to us because we associate it with the circumstance into which one is born. Not so much here in the US anymore. On the other hand, poverty is, in large part, the result of birth and since our class system is based on money, one could argue that class remains the burden of birth. Ho hum. The big difference is that today, one can be born to poverty and move their class; that was next to impossible in the old world. And BW have been doing that en mass since the early 80's. BW have been moving up in society; they have been changing their class. Is it not natural for people to either look in their class or to any that are above for mates? This does not necessarily mean that you look down on anyone (as one shouldn't, we are all created equal), it simply means for mating purposes, you wish to be with someone who is your match in all ways. Now, that usually means if you have an education, you want someone who has one too. But today that is not a hard and fast rule. Our society is so complicated, so diverse, is it possible that a college professor can find romantic parity with a copier repairer? I say yes. One can be smart and intellectually curious without a higher education. It depends on the person.

Love is highly subjective. Plenty of white collar women fall in love with and marry blue collar men. I think, because of the internal pressure in the BC, the percentage of white collar BW married to blue collar BM is probably higher than the population at large. Then again, 70% of BW aren't married at all, so that shows we're avoiding the question altogether. It's an individual and a collective problem with no easy solution.

But for me, the issue hits home. I'm not college educated, but people think I am. I do have a managerial position in the private sector (as opposed to government or education), so I am solidly a white collar worker. And, as my Daddy used to say, I have champagne taste on a hard lemonade budget (he said beer). I like the finer things in life. Whatever. As an avid reader of this blog (and I know you are), you are aware that I've had my eye on a certain somebody for the last few weeks that I call Mr. Casablanca (MC). And he flies right in the face of the conventional wisdom of a what a blue collar man is supposed to be. Yes, he gets his hands dirty each and every day. He works with components, motors, computers and circuits. He wears overalls (color blue!) and safety goggles. He has to be licensed to do his work. Yet, in spite of all this, he is, in fact, an educated man, by one of the finest small colleges in the country. He is well traveled, physically fit (remember, he played Division 1 football - as a center and nose guard I've found out) and articulate. In spite of being 34 to my 39, I suspect he makes more money.

Plus, the man knows his shoes (and I'm not talking about the safety boots he must wear for work); he loves spas. Next, I'm going to catch him reading Nietzsche for fun. See, I realize that he will "clean up" well. I know he's smart and funny and all that. I know that he likes classic movies but not musicals. I know he likes to snow ski and that he loves Italy. But some others don't see that, not at all. They see dirt under the fingernails. And that's all they see. The real problem with that is that's how they see everything; executive and worker and the twain shall never meet. Now, it may seem that I am making the original argument of the BC that BW should look to blue collar BM to find mates. Not at all. I am making the argument that all people should look for the one that fits them.

Does he lift you up rather than tear you down? Does he understand the politics that you encounter each day, even if the politics he faces are different? Can he take care of you and your children; even more importantly, does he want to? Does he respect your love of books and current events? Is his sense of humanity stronger than his sense of tribe? Will he go to the opera with you and you to the races with him? Does the sight of him get your heart racing, your spirit restful and your mind attuned?


And most importantly, will he appreciate those Manolos? Cause girl, you know you haven't bought them yet!

Ladies, we've got one shot at this life. I, for one, want comfortable shoes; it's going to be a long haul. If the shoe fits, wear him and wear him well.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am so feeling this entry. I for one am tired of people rationalizing the class equality that is often suggested for bw. I think, if it were the other way around, and bm were elevating themselves to a higher class, the same wouldn't be recommended for them. Its only b/c there are more women 'out of their league' that its bad for bm.

On the flip side, like you said, I have girlfriends who only see class and not the person. I know that the alpha to my omega will be just as eclectic as I am and may not have a professional job. As long as he can provide for and be a good father to our family, support my interests and stimulate mind and body, it doesn't matter what he does. But I'm finding that those qualities are rare, regardless of occupation.

Ndelible said...

Anon --

It's amazing how eclectic we are today. I know many great guys (I'm simply talking cool men here - not possibilities - they are taken!), who are blue collar and equally cool ones who are white collar. What a lot of people don't seem to understand that tradesmen are in high demand today. Their jobs pay well and they have benefits. Believe me, sometimes benefits are more important than actual paycheck!

I've started asking myself if the man, whoever he may be, is a "stand up guy". Is he authentic and honest as well as fair. Is he the guy who will help out a friend in need, but won't put himself (or his loved ones) out while doing so? Does he have a code of honor? All of those questions. I guess no matter the times, finding a good man - a truly good one, is a challenge of the highest order.