In Donna Britt’s memoir, Brothers (& Me), she talks about the relationship that she shares with her two brothers and the disproportionate differences of equality among African-American men and women. She proceeds to share the story of how she blames herself for one of her brother’s death. Darrell was killed by police officers, yet Britt blamed herself for his death because of the lack of attention that she gave him due to the distance in their relationship. Hence, had she been there for him, the situation that Darrell endured may have never occurred. As I was reading the excerpt of her memoir, I was deeply moved by the honesty in her emotions and the parallelism that she illustrated when it comes to the nature of relationships that exists among men and women, particularly African-American men and women. She posed this question that stopped me mentally dead in my tracks, “How many sisters were putting their dreams and well-being on hold on behalf of the men in their lives, men often unaware of their efforts?”
I won’t make this a question of race, but I think that question is valid and one for women to consider in every relationship with the opposite sex (i.e. brother, son, fathers, cousins, friends, etc.). Why do we take men on as our personal projects for improvement without them knowing? When there has been so much invested in our relationships with these men, why do we stay around not knowing if that stock will ever fully mature? Or, do we use them as penance for our failures elsewhere?
I am guilty of taking on men as my personal project; continue to invest in a stock that steadily plummets, and using my hard work in my relationship as insurance and demonstrative effort that I deserve better in the future. I’ll throw myself under the bus; I remained in a relationship where God was irrelevant and unwanted in that person’s life and in our relationship. I didn’t push God on him, but I prayed more for him than I prayed for myself. I prayed for God to change his heart and to surround him with people who will bring him closer to Him. I avoided conversations about religion and spirituality, not because I wasn’t interested in the subject, but because I didn’t want the reaffirmation that we would never work out and that he could never be the man who I need him to be. In fact, I clung very hard to the things that made our relationship work as proof that we could be that couple that can make it! We loved each other, without a question, we had an undeniable connection, basically, we were as best as we were going to get as “humanly” possible. But when disaster struck he would go left and I would go right. The foundation of who I am as a person was not common with his beliefs, we never moved in the right direction together to continue to move forward, we basically we had a good relationship without forward movement.
But I stuck in there because it was important to me that he believed in God, more for himself. Also, I felt that if I could change one life then my purpose in life would have been complete. But he didn’t change (at least I don’t think so) and I am now single. SO, how do you like those apples? Was my effort seen by him? Probably not because it wasn’t something warranted on his end and, if you were to ask him, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. The fact of the matter is women do this all the time. I don’t need to take a survey to know this. At one point in our relationships with our boyfriends, sons, fathers, cousins, male friends we have compromised or driven ourselves half crazy because we wanted what was best for them. We educated them on their credit reports, we take them to church, we take them shopping, we give them money to get their hair cut, we help them get enrolled into school, we take care of their children from other relationships, we let them use our car, we pay their rent, we cook for them, we wash their dirty ass boxers, we neglect ourselves for them and we never stop to ask, Are they even aware of my efforts? Do they even see the good woman that I am? Did they ask me to do any of it? In the words of Donna Britt, “How many women were taking a backseat to brothers, in private or in the public consciousness?”
Women, in our minds, we love drama. I know that a lot of women are disagreeing with me but level with me for a second. Ladies, how many times do you expect or have romanticized about a man coming to your rescue or giving you some speech about how he messed up and he didn’t realize what he had in you and that how he is going to do right by you from this point on? How many times have you taken your girlfriends words as scripture of how crazy he is about you and how much of a connection exists between the two of you when you don’t even see it for yourself? And how many times have we tried to send subliminal messages to our male counterpart on something that they can do us to make you feel good? Example:
You: “Babe, I think it is so nice when a man sends a woman flowers for no reason, don’t you?”
Him: “Uh, yea. That’s cool”.
You: “Babe, you should do that sometime. I’ll make it worth your while”.
Him: “Aww, for real. Cool.”
A month later, you get flowers. But within that month you have probably already made it worth his while multiple times and you never stopped to realize that YOU sent yourself those flowers. He just paid for them. Drama doesn’t have to always be played out live; it embeds in our minds as well.
When do we stop and take a man’s character as face value? Sure if a man loves you and wants you, he will adjust to you as you must do the same for him. He will either both see and appreciate your worth or he won’t. You can’t make someone see something that they don’t see. I am also not suggesting to not love your men but there comes a time that men needs to become men and the coddling and the unreciprocated giving must end. Learn to love and appreciate yourself and your efforts first. That will make anything less than what you see in yourself easy to let go. Let your efforts be heard and learn when to back off when they are not seen. You deserve to be “seen”.