"Mirror, Mirror on the wall,
who's the jazziest chick walking the mall?
Every time I ask, you always say ME,
and if that's the truth, Mirror, then where's my PC?!
I'm not talking computers or being politically correct.
I'm talking about Prince Charming; should I put you in check?
My good stuff needs global warming, and did I forget to mention
my mother wants a grandbaby, and my intellect needs attention?
Do I need to remind you how patient I've been with this game?
Each day you say my man is coming, but each day ends the same.
So stop stalling, eye-balling, and reflect something new.
Show me his photo, his address -- Hell, a first name will do."
"Hold on, baby girl (he's a ghetto mirror), don't roll your eyes at me.
Everyday you look at yourself, and I tell you what I see.
You beautiful, you smart, you the no limit AmEx card.
You motivated, you sharp -- and your 'milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.'
You look at me with attitude, like I don't bring men your way.
You said the first guy was too short. The last guy 'looked' gay.
And all the guys in between, you said were too broke or too nice.
I brought you the single schoolteacher, but you wanted the rapper with a wife.
I agree, Mike is a weed head and Dwayne is way too chatty.
Granted, Rick is single now, but he's also your best friend's baby daddy.
I brought you the NBA athlete, but you cried foul when he was never home.
So next I brought you righteous Raheem, but you couldn't leave that pork alone.
Then there was Christian Chris, but he lived with his momma.
There was jovial Joel, but you said he looked like Osama.
Everytime I find you the next Barak Obama,
You go chase some L.A. actor who only lives for drama.
And Jamaican James was cool as a tropical breeze,
But you instantly claimed he had O.J. tendencies.
Hey, I finally know what your problem be,
So let me break it down easy, for you to see:
Before a man can love you the way you deserve,
You have to put aside your desires and work up the nerve
To look within.
"In other words, Boo,
Before I can help find the One, you must first find you."
It's a simple truth: Before you can begin to know what kind of mate or relationship you want, it helps to have some sense of who you are. It may seem like a no-brainer, but based on the sheer number of TV shows, syndicated radio programs, books and magazine articles dedicated to relationship issues -- not to mention a select group of grown-ass women clamoring for the affection of Flavor Flav -- self-evaluation is a basic step that many people are skipping.
A mate is supposed to enhance your life, not fill in all the gaps. Remember that line from the film Jerry Maguire, when Tom Cruise tells Renée Zellweger, "You complete me"? Well, that has to be the dumbest line I've ever heard. Complete yourself! Another dumb one is, "I can't breathe without you." Oh really, now? If that were the case, every time a couple broke up there'd be a bunch of dead folks lying around. Before you get all caught up in some high-speed cat-and-mouse chase with a man, you have to get to know yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin. That means knowing the basics about you.
Who are you?
And before you start describing how you look; rattling down the list of your accomplishments; stating whose child, mother, or sibling you are; or listing all your possessions, take a moment to really think about who you are -- minus the various accouterments, labels, and notions that you or others may let define you. It's not that those things aren't important, but they're the enhancers, not the true you.
So, who are you? What are your beliefs and convictions? What are you passionate about? What are your values? Are you religious? Are you an atheist? Do you put a premium on book smarts or street savvy? What do like to do for fun and leisure? Are you high maintenance? High strung? Or can you just relax and go with the flow? Do you always put the cheapest gas in your car? Are you always in the streets or more of a homebody? Do you like kids? Do you like other people's kids? Hell, do you like your own kids? If you met a guy with kids, would that be cool with you? Are you short- tempered or patient? Are you a control freak whose mantra is "My way or the highway"? Are you a people person or a loner? What do you want out of life? These are the types of questions you must ask yourself and answer honestly in order to be realistic about who you are. Moreover, you have to love and accept yourself -- flaws and all. That doesn't mean there's no room for growth, but you first have to have a clear understanding of what needs improving.
ARE YOU READY TO DATE?
1) You refer to your ex-boyfriend as:
a. "Mr. Wrong-for-Me."
b. "the liar and the cheat."
c. "my man" -- because things ain't over until you say they are over.
d. "my ex" or his name.
2) If you suddenly see your ex-boyfriend, you:
a. start searching for the knife that you keep in your purse for these kinds of occasions.
b. give him a polite nod or hello, and keep it moving.
c. immediately go in the opposite direction no matter how long it takes you out of your way.
3) Your idea of planning for the future is:
a. a savings account and a 401(K) plan.
b. "What future?" -- you believe in living for today.
c. the weekly lottery ticket you purchase from the 7-Eleven.
d. marrying well.
4) The man you call the most is:
a. the pizza man.
b. your maintenance man.
c. your dad, grandfather, brother, or gay best friend.
5) Your idea of a perfect date is:
a. Sunday visiting hours at the penitentiary.
b. dinner and a movie.
c. reviewing your date's credit report.
6) Which song would best describe how you act when you are in a relationship?
a. "Dangerously in Love"
b. "You're Gonna Love Me"
c. "Ordinary People"
7) "All men are __________________."
8) Your favorite stress release is:
b. sticking needles into a voodoo doll of your ex-boyfriend.
9) What you find most attractive in a man is his:
a. bank account.
10) You currently have:
a. a restraining order against you.
b. a child that is nursing.
c. no job, no money, and no prospects.
d. none of the above.
1) a-1, b-2, c-3, d-1
2) a-3, b-1, c-2
3) a-1, b-2, c-3, d-3
4) a-3, b-2, c-1
5) a-3, b-2, c-2
6) a-2, b-3, c-1
7) a-3, b-2, c-1
8) a-1, b-3, c-2, d-3
9) a-3, b-2, c-1, d-2
10) a-3, b-3, c-3, d-1
If you scored:
26-30 Stop, Do Not Pass Go!
Go to therapy, join a 12-step program, go to church, or do something. But do not date. You're nowhere near ready.
16-25 Almost But Not Quite
You can read a few self-help books (this book counts) and try again in a few days.
10-15 Get Out There Already!
What are you waiting for?
Some of you allow a relationship to totally overtake you. It completely defines you. Once you enter it, it's like you lose yourself and become an extension of him. Suddenly you're down to go anywhere he likes to go for fun. All of his friends are now your friends. You dress the way he likes you to dress. You watch the television shows and movies he likes to watch. His favorite sports team is your favorite sports team, which is strange 'cause you don't even like sports. You never raised a barbell, but because he likes to work out, you sign up for the deluxe gym package that you abandon after one week. Hell, I even know a woman who never, ever smoked weed, but because her man indulged, she became a blunt-roller extraordinaire!
I, like a lot of men, actually love it when a woman becomes an extension of her man -- to a point. If we wanted to date ourselves, we'd never come out of those long, hot, relaxing showers we like so much.
If a guy becomes your entire world and you two break up, you'll have no clue who you are or what to do next. In fact, people at the clubs will still call you K-Mac's girl, because that's the only thing they ever knew about you. You wouldn't believe how many women leave every aspect of their own lives up to their man, and when he's gone, they're lost and have the toughest time moving on. Those are the types you hear about, who key their ex-boyfriends' cars or wait in the bushes for them to show up somewhere with their new women, so they can jump out and throw rocks. They simply can't remember who they are without their exes. Consequently, they've lost themselves and their minds.
Now don't get me wrong, I know some men do the type of dirt that makes women want to destroy property, step to them, or worse. But no matter how satisfied a wronged woman may feel immediately after pulling some scandalous stunt on an ex-lover, I've never heard anyone say that they truly felt better in the long run. The temporary satisfaction of revenge is just that: temporary. All that plotting and drama is never a guarantee that you'll win a man back, or get even after a man's wronged you. On top of that, you just might find yourself with a police record before it's all over. Next thing you know, he's telling everybody he left you, because you were nuts. Acting out is never worth it.
MEN LOVE TO SAY SHE'S CRAZY
Black men love to say you are crazy if you do or say anything that resembles crazy. Sometimes we do it only to convince ourselves that our childish and immature behavior is normal, so no fault or blame lies with us. But other times, it's you! Boy, I have stories that would make you want to shake a grown woman by the shoulders and yell, "What were you thinking?" No one likes for crazy to unexpectedly jump out and start tap dancing. We do not care how you got to that state of mind. If you know you are not in the correct state of mind to meet any men, take all the time you need to get better.
It is a proven fact that men make unstable women absolutely crazy. Even the most perfectly sane woman can go bonkers because of the actions of a man. And yes, slashing tires, throwing bricks through windows, and repeatedly calling his job, pretending to be a very irate hooker that he ran out on without paying the night before, all count as crazy! This entire book could be filled from cover to cover with what-he-did-to-me stories (which is my sequel, so don't get any bright ideas), but it is still crazy.
Do yourself a favor and fix crazy before you start to date. A lot of women think they need a new man to help them get over the old man that drove them nuts. Big mistake. Men can detect when something is not right and pull away, leaving you more disgusted with men or more brokenhearted. Even the nicest and most considerate man in the world cannot fix crazy, and his first instinct is to bail out and save himself before he gets too invested.
Again, fix crazy first, then come holla!
Perhaps this extreme scenario doesn't fully apply to you. Yet, on some level, you may still be losing parts of yourself for the sake of attracting a man or being in a relationship. Maybe you're defining yourself and your happiness solely on the attention you get from men. Or you could be buying into some misguided notions of what you are supposed to be based on things your girlfriend or grandmomma told you, or what you saw in your favorite romantic movie. Either way you're not being true to who you are and what you need. Do not fall down that black hole.
In some cases esteem is the issue. Some sisters have self-love issues, because they were raised in families where love wasn't always exhibited in healthy ways. They may have experienced dysfunction, neglect, or even abuse. Maybe love was conditional and only shown when certain criteria were met. Perhaps love was displayed with material things to the detriment of emotional needs. Or maybe real love just wasn't felt on a consistent basis.
When looking back on a less than ideal childhood you have to realize you can't change it. Acknowledge it, glean whatever lessons you can from it, and try your best to move on. It might sound easier said than done, but it's necessary in order for you to heal. And what you do to heal is totally up to you. Maybe it's consulting with a therapist, counselor, or minister. Some of you may find comfort from calling on whatever higher power you rely on to get you through. Talking to a good friend might be helpful, or a very old person if you have time for a story that starts with, "Back in the day, right after the Great Depression, nobody had much but one another...."
You might even try talking to kids, because their advice is always simple and straight to the point. Check out this scenario that I've titled "Get Over It":
Get Over It
You and a kid are in a park on the swings, going back and forth. Both of you come to a stop about the same time and just sit there contemplating life.
You: My mom hated me and used to beat me for no reason.
Kid: Mine too. Hey, let's go get some ice cream!
What the kid is really saying: "Big deal, girl. At least you're grown and can do what you want. I still get beat every day and will probably continue to for some time to come. Now stop crying about yesterday and take me to get some damn ice cream before my momma sees I'm missing!"
All I'm saying is don't waste time wallowing in past hurts. Get what you need, and proceed.
One of the beauties of adulthood is that we don't have to stay in childhood situations that weren't good for us. When I think about it, my woman could be a prime candidate for self-love issues. She adored her dad, and he could do no wrong in her eyes, even though he was hardly ever around. She found out as a teenager the reason he was MIA: He had multiple families around the country. No kidding. What amazes me, though, is how she never talks about her dad in a bad way. In fact, she actually jokes and laughs about how clever he was to pull off his multiple-family act for so long, undiscovered.
Now, for her mother it's probably a different story. I get the sense that Ma Dukes is probably still a bit miffed at that ol' dude, but my girl only focuses and thinks of the good times long gone. She talks about missing him, but she also tells me funny stories about things that happened when he was home. And as far as I can tell, she is not bitter, she is not scarred, and she does not have abandonment issues like you might expect, considering I have a career that keeps me on the road a lot. When it comes to her dad, she only wishes they got to spend more time together, since he passed away not too long ago. For my part, I tell her all the time that I love her and that she is beautiful, just in case she didn't hear it enough from her dad.
A lot about our self-esteem is shaped by the people we choose to surround us. Long before some man gets a chance to throw a little hate your way, you may already receive it from friends or even family members. Hurtful words or actions from the people nearest and dearest to you can inflict major damage. It's imperative that you recognize the haters in your inner circle and immediately cut them off, even if they are family.
I know, blood is thicker than water, but sometimes it's just a thick mess! Some of your loved ones may not like you (or themselves for that matter), so why pretend for the sake of family? We can't help whom we're related to, but there is no law that says you have to let relatives mentally beat you down like a piñata. Be cordial with them at family reunions, weddings, and funerals, and keep it moving. If you can help it, keep your distance -- like a couple of states -- from negative family members.
In the case of friends, know that some of them have their own demons that they are battling, some of them unbeknownst to you. They'll have you believing you're the problem when it's really them. Don't be afraid to take a long break from those types. Trust me, you'll be just fine without them.
And while I'm on the subject of self-worth, I have to say that our society at large has not always done a good job of affirming the black woman's image. The Euro beauty standards that are so prevalent in our culture have many black women feeling very insecure about their appearances. They truly don't think they're beautiful. Considering the mostly white faces that grace magazine covers, the lack of television shows or big-screen flicks with nonwhite women holding it down, and the abundance of bootylicious bodies in rap videos, it's hard not to feel inadequate. (I strongly believe the growth juice they are injecting in chickens to make them bigger has many of our Popeye's and Church's Chicken-eating young women growing up and developing way too quickly. Hell, a lot of them look ready at age twelve to be in a Lil John video!) Then there are the high-profile brothers and their love for pink toes (white girls), but, hey, that's a topic for another chapter, or another book.
No wonder I hear my single girlfriends say they feel like they are last on the black man's social totem pole. I definitely see where they're coming from. In fact, I tell my white girl all the time that my single black sisters have it just as bad as she does out here. Just kidding, calm down! That was a joke. My girl isn't white, she's Asian. They're jokes! Okay, that was the last one.
I wouldn't call it a conspiracy, but there is definitely some brainwashing going on. I'm reminded of that every time I hear comments, like, "She's pretty for a dark-skinned girl." As if, to be pretty and dark is some rare fluke. Too many of us have subscribed to the mainstream's idea of what beauty is, and it's a shame.
And I'll admit it: Some of us black men can be the worst perpetrators of this kind of self-hate. I've seen brothers on the streets or in the club who are guilty of focusing only on some HalleBerry-Beyoncé-Lo while totally ignoring the sexy-ass Fantasias of the world. Or there are the dudes who get a little too distracted by aggressive white women who step to them in nightclubs, buying them pricey dark liquor, wearing tight jeans (they've obviously been eating Popeye's and Church's fried chicken too!) and dancing on beat. It's just confusing for us...um, them, the black man. Or so I've heard.
"Black is beautiful!" I used to hear that all the time growing up, along with "Black don't crack; it ages gracefully." And later on, "Crack is whack!" But I digress. What I'm getting at here is you can't allow the images you see in the media to define your beauty. You come in a range of complexions, shapes, and sizes -- all of which are lovely. And if a man you like can't appreciate your unique beauty, he ain't worth your time.
Confidence is very sexy. In fact, to me, sexy goes hand in hand with confidence. If you're not a confident person, there's no way you can be sexy. Cute, maybe, but not sexy. We men can spot a confident woman a mile away. She's the one who walks with her head held high, looks you directly in the eye when you're having a conversation, and knows how to assert herself without being overly aggressive. She's putting her best foot forward rather than being preoccupied by any self-perceived shortcomings or flaws. She's not letting anything hold her back from seizing opportunities or jumping in the spotlight. Most of all, she doesn't appear desperate or insecure.
Confidence is a strength that people flock to. I've often heard women say that when they're feeling confident, that's when they usually meet a man -- and they may not have even been looking for one!
Think of it this way: When out in the world, we are like a piece of art putting ourselves on display. We want to attract only those who see and appreciate our unique and special beauty. Most of all, when we find the One, we hope to make the kind of impression that will assure we will be loved and treasured for a long time to come.
If you find yourself continuously frustrated about the types of admirers attracted to your art, maybe it's time to check your canvas. If you look in the mirror and don't see what's so uniquely special, your canvas is blank! Embrace your individuality. Break out the brushes and paint. Use bright colors, bold strokes, interesting shapes and textures! Heck, add some birds and trees if you like. Why? Because with every brush stroke, you get to know yourself a little better. And that's what it's about -- who you are. Trust me, the more you know about yourself, the harder it is for guys to run game on you.
My little sister once asked me, "Why do guys like one girl one minute and then someone else the next? And don't tell me anything about paint and brushes -- come with the real talk this time, playa!"
Did I mention that she's a smart, boy-crazy, suburban queen?
I broke it down to her the best I could, but not before putting the focus back on her. I told her, "You have to get to know who you are and find things that make you happy outside of boys, so that when there are no boys around, you won't freak out and not know what to do with yourself." I'm offering up that same advice to you, and we aren't even related. As you search for your Mr. McDreamy, proceed with a healthy degree of self-love, confidence, and common sense. And remember, the more you know you, the better you will be in a relationship with someone else.
Copyright © 2007 by Finesse Mitchell
FINESSE'S TOP-TEN LIST FOR THE FUTURE MRS. MITCHELL
(in no particular order)
2) Likes to cook
7) Smart/Common sense
10) Good work ethic (slackers need not apply)
Throughout the years I've heard just about every woman I know speak about her list. At first I assumed they were referring to groceries or what they wanted for Christmas. My mom even had a list, but hers was more of a hit list. As I got older and wiser to the ways of women, or, more specifically, tried to date Linda T. in the ninth grade, I learned that the list was actually an inventory of the characteristics and qualities that women desire in their future husbands. When I made my move on Linda, she stuck her list in my locker. After reading it, I soon realized that I only possessed two of the twenty qualities she required. "Handsome." Check. "Funny and not conceited." Yep, that's me! "Nice grade of hair." Umm...
That day after school I immediately bought a Fabulaxer perm kit, with hopes that acquiring good hair overnight would be one more thing on her list that I possessed. But her other requirements, like "must be good in algebra" and "must have a convertible Volkswagen," weren't such an easy fix.
Although I didn't make the cut, according to Linda's list, that experience taught me that the list is something that women take very seriously. Why? Because it's a constant reminder of what they want -- or don't want -- in a man. Whether they meticulously write it in a diary, simply jot their prerequisites on a sheet of notebook paper, or just keep a running tally in their heads, the list gives them one of the most powerful tools you can possess in the dating game: a sense of clarity. Some women even get real creative with their lists, giving them catchy names, like "Mate Must-Haves" or "My Future Huzbin." Nowadays some women are just happy with a list titled "My Future Baby Daddy." You know who you are, but let's not go there.
I know a woman from Philly named Aisha whose dating philosophy is "variety is the spice of life." She is a modern, free-spirited type who prides herself on her ability to attract and date different kinds of men. Yet she was constantly frustrated by her inability to develop an exclusive, long- lasting relationship. Inevitably her assortment of potential Mr. Rights were always wrong for her. I asked her if she had a list. She looked at me like I had three heads. "Of course!" she said. "It's a list of every man who didn't work out."
"I'm referring to your future-man list, woman!" She wrinkled up her nose and looked the other way as if my breath smelled like wet feet in tube socks.
"Fin," she said, laughing, "you sound like a throwback from the fifties with that list crap." In her mind, having the type of list I was speaking of meant she'd be limiting her options and imposing an agenda on a man, both of which seemed very old-school to her. After she'd experienced a particularly devastating breakup, I felt it was high time that she gained some focus, so I broke it down to her. Here's what I told Aisha, and I think it's pretty good advice for you too.
Having a list is beneficial for the following reasons: It keeps you from settling for less-than-desirable situations, it can eliminate a lot of unnecessary drama from your love life, and you're not wasting your time -- or ours for that matter -- on a relationship that hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of surviving. Think about it like this: If you had a choice of picking out a free car and you could choose any car in the world, I seriously doubt that you would jump up and down screaming, "Dodge Neon!"
This time Aisha got what I was saying. She realized that having some advance idea of what she wanted in a man didn't limit her options -- it actually fined-tuned the dating process. She also learned that having an agenda isn't a bad thing, either. It's empowering. Not having an agenda is what's really old-school, because it puts you in the position of passively accepting and tolerating whatever comes your way. Once Aisha got her list going, she started dating smarter.
On the Real
My fifteen-year-old sister showed me her list of everything her ideal guy had to have before he could date her. When I saw her farfetched prerequisites, like "must have light brown eyes," "should have cute guy friends for my girlfriends to date," "should have a job at Burger King or Pizza Hut, so we can roll there anytime and get the hook up," and "needs to have two thousand songs on his iPod," I immediately pulled out a pen, so we could make some revisions.
Like my sister's list, some women base theirs on pure fantasy. Usually, the younger they are, the longer and more imaginative their lists. I know young ladies who include exhaustive details, all the way down to seat warmers in a man's BMW. Damn! Now a brotha's Beamer has to have seat warmers?
Luckily, as women mature, they gain wisdom about the things that really matter and sidestep those that don't. They revise their lists and make a couple of cuts. Curly hair gets tossed out the window, hazel-colored eyes are no longer a must, and a fancy car with spinning rims and TV screens attached to the rear bumper are now considered a bad investment. Characteristics, such as being considerate, thoughtful, employed, and reliable soon jump to the top of the list, right before "must be noticeably taller than me." Women will hold onto the height thing for as long as they can. In a nutshell, they realize that Superman simply does not exist, so their list becomes less superficial and more practical.
There's a woman I know who I'll call Cinnamon (no, she's not a stripper!). She's a nurse in Los Angeles who's attractive, fine, smart, and presently single. She crafted a no-nonsense list of her ideal man's qualities that looked like this:
1) Must be a man of God
2) Has to be successful in the business world
3) Has to be tall, good-looking, faithful, mature, over thirty years old, no kids, and never been married
4) No bisexuals
5) Has to be well-spoken, well-dressed; hip and not nerdy
6) Should be well-endowed, good in bed, attentive, affectionate, romantic, fun, and exciting
7) Most important of all, there will be no conflicts between us
Like I said in the previous chapter, it's great when a woman knows what things she absolutely has to have in a man before she even considers him a candidate for the "interview process." So on the surface Cinnamon's list looked good. She'd covered several bases, from the type of work her mate would have, to his sense of spirituality, to the attention she wanted him to give her. But had Cinnamon truly considered the reality of her desires? Let's weigh the facts.
A God-fearing man is always a plus -- submitting to a higher power keeps you humble and grounded. And Cinnamon's wish for a successful businessman is cool, but there are varying levels of success. She could have a man who's a middle-management type, who's home for dinner every night. Or she could have a large-and-in-charge type -- think Donald Trump, Russell Simmons, or Steve Jobs -- who works long hours, attends all kinds of social functions throughout the week, and has to travel frequently. The latter may not have the time or energy to fulfill those other mandates on her list -- like being affectionate, attentive, and romantic, not to mention burning up the bedroom. Most professional men and women whose job requires a lot of brainpower and stress will tell you, "We be tired!" Also, a driven man who knows he has his stuff together may be arrogant or have a pompous, condescending attitude. Sometimes ambition and self-centeredness are very close cousins.
Let's face it: The more attractive a man is and the more money he makes, the more he's considered a catch. He knows it, you know it, and some white women let him know they know it. It takes a secure woman to handle the attention that this type of man will undoubtedly receive from other women, especially if that attention becomes disrespectful toward her. Also, since some successful men feel that they can have their pick of women, infidelity could become an issue in the relationship, no matter how God fearing he claims to be. I don't know if Cinnamon is truly up for all that.
Then there's that part about him being over thirty, never married with no children. Now, I'm no statistician, but the older a man is, the more likely he is to have been married or have a Travonté, Madison, or Mistakalina running around somewhere. Lastly, that bit about there being no conflicts between them is a total fantasy. It's like saying you'll never go to bed angry. It's a nice sentiment, but it's just not true. Even the most loving couples who've been together for years have gone to bed with ill thoughts, and I'll just leave it at that. Just because something's settled in the moment doesn't mean it's resolved. It just means you've agreed to disagree for the sake of not going to jail, so you might as well get some sleep.
I'm not saying that Cinnamon shouldn't aim high in order to get what she feels she deserves, and I'm definitely not trying to discourage her or any other woman who thinks this list is reasonable. But my goal is to tell you women the truth about men from a man's point of view. Does Cinnamon deserve a man like the one on her list? Hell yeah! Is there a man out there who fits her list to a tee? Sure. I know of at least thirty who fit the bill, and they are all good men. Yet some of the women who dated them, thinking that they had their ideal man, learned very quickly that some of the conflicting issues I mentioned were deal breakers. They landed a successful man, but weren't prepared to deal with the compromises that come with that type of lifestyle. Cinnamon has a great list, but she needs to be aware of what her desires entail.
Currently, Cinnamon is thirty years old, very hopeful, and still very single.
A Little Flexibility Goes a Long Way
It's smart to keep your list flexible, because you never know what other factors could come into play. My friend Trina, twenty-six years old, is a fine example of what I'm talking about. After a series of less-than-ideal relationships, she dubbed her list "Trina's Top Man-Priorities." It read like this:
1) Has to have a job
2) Has to have a car
3) Must be attractive
4) Has to have a great relationship with his mother
5) Must have common sense
Now, Trina doesn't have any particular order of importance for these must- haves on her list, but she said the guy she dates must have these five simple things in order for her to strongly consider him a candidate for her affections. By the way, Trina had one of the shortest lists of all the women I interviewed, aside from my mom whose list simply read "black and breathing!"
Eventually Trina met Derek, twenty-nine years old, through a mutual friend. She thought he was good-looking. He had a nice car and often spoke affectionately of his mother. He dressed nice, smelled good, and was always on time for their dates. Trina really liked Derek, but guess what? Derek didn't have a job. He was laid off two weeks before he met Trina and was currently going on interviews for a new gig. Trina learned this during their first telephone conversation, when they had a chance to speak at length. Even though she didn't get a vote of confidence from her girls, who constantly chirped, "Girl, he ain't got no job!" Trina found Derek to be very optimistic. He had good energy, and so far, money hadn't been an issue between them.
Soon Trina realized she needed to revise her list to accommodate the reality of her situation. She hadn't dated for a while, and she was lonely. She could either stay true to her list, or go out for dinner and a movie. She didn't wait for Derek to get a job before they got too involved and said she felt stupid thinking she should. Instead she just went for it, because, as she put it, "He was so nice and so funny, and Trina ain't getting no younger."
I heard from one of her close friends that they are still dating, and although it took several months, Derek found a job.
The lesson here is that you should be committed to what's on your wish list, but remember you can't date it. Life in general is unpredictable, and people in particular have complexities that no list can capture or predict. Say you had your heart set on marrying a high roller, but instead of landing a banker, you landed a baker. He's moving muffins instead of municipal funds, but he is good at what he does, enjoys his gig, brings home the bread, and keeps you more than satisfied. Maybe you don't want to date a man with kids, but you'll never know how you honestly feel until you meet a man you really like with a child or children. You may say, "I will never date a man who has a criminal record" -- until you realize all those questionable gifts he gives you look great in your apartment.
Devising Your List
Whether you realize it or not, you probably started your list when you were a little girl. I think women are raised believing that relationships are eminent, so y'all start planning early. You dreamed of your future husband and wrote out baby names, like Sidney, Asher, Jasmine, Davarsious, and Sincere, for the children you hope to have together. Maybe you delighted in Cinderella-type fairy tales where it was all about landing the prince who would come in and sweep you off your feet to take you where you'd both live happily ever after. Back then, if you wrote your list down, it might have read something like this:
By the time you hit high school you realized that a guy who is simply handsome, brave, and strong wasn't going to cut it, so you made some revisions:
2) Dresses nice
3) Good kisser
4) Has a driver's license
5) Great dancer
6) Can buy me cool gifts
Chances are your early ideas of the perfect man had more to do with physical and material attributes than anything else. That's understandable. Those are the things that impressed you when you were young. Physical attractiveness may still be a draw for you, but now that you're a grown woman, you should know all that glitters isn't gold. There are many Adonises out there, but you need more than a man with good looks to sustain a healthy, successful relationship.
When I was in elementary school, half the girls I knew wanted to marry Michael Jackson and had every boy buying penny loafers and trying to moonwalk. But today, how many black women do you know actually want to marry Michael Jackson, even without his financial problems and children with names like Blanket and who wear masks?
In the first chapter we focused on defining who you are. By now I hope that you've seriously assessed your characteristics and personality traits, because doing that will help you come up with the list for your ideal mate. I've told you about the various ways women I know do their lists, but how you keep track of your list is up to you. I highly recommend that you begin this process by writing it out. It's like when you practiced spelling words in grade school. Putting those words down on paper helped to solidify them in your mind, and got you better prepared for the test. (Writing them out on a small piece of paper cupped tightly in my hand always worked for me.) Anyway, it can work the same way for your list. But don't obsess over it too much. Most important, don't let your list become a crutch. You don't need to carry it around with you to pull out every time you meet someone you're interested in. And don't have it tattooed on your arm either, because revisions can get expensive.
When you think about the qualities you'd like in a man, sometimes a good place to start is with men you like and admire. Maybe it is an uncle who always treats your aunt like a queen, a neighbor with impeccable manners, a family friend who is a dapper dresser, or that intelligent guy who was your science partner in college. If no good men readily come to mind, because the last few dudes you dated left you feeling hurt, angry, or bitter, use those negative experiences to your benefit. What you may not realize is that even the no-good, trifling guys you've encountered have left you closer to figuring out what you want and need in a partner. They made you extremely aware of what you don't want, so you can begin your list by writing the things you won't tolerate from the next guy. Just because you attract the same type of man again and again doesn't mean you have to date them. Sometimes it's as simple as recognizing that this is a road full of potholes you have been down before, so make a U-turn and speed up.
Now, let's start your list. Begin by daydreaming about your ideal man. What does he look like? Is he a suit-wearing professional or the hard- working blue-collar type? Does he aspire to the finer things in life, or are his tastes a little more basic? Does he have good credit, a 401(K) plan, and health insurance? Does he love his mother and live in his own house? Does he want kids? Does he know how to cook? Is he great in bed? Does he believe in the important stuff, like God, marriage, and car insurance? Would you like him to be openly affectionate toward you, or would you prefer he be more discrete? Is it important that he socialize with your friends and family?
As you write down all of these wishful qualities, ask yourself why they are important to you. For example, is your desire for a guy who's built like a linebacker because you like a man who is in shape, or is it rooted in a deeper need you have to feel physically safe? Do you want someone who's financially set, because you don't feel you could accomplish the same on your own? Examine your motives, because sometimes the cover of the book might not look like something you'd be interested in, but once you open it up you realize it's exactly what you were looking for. Ideally you want to come into a relationship whole. It's not healthy or fair to look to a mate to fulfill your inadequacies and shortcomings.
There are no hard and fast rules for your list. It can be long or short, basic or detailed. But the key in making the list work is for you to be true to who you are and true about what you want. If you compromise what's on your list, understand why you did so and take full responsibility for the consequences if things don't work out. I hate to hear women complain, "I don't know why I got involved with him in the first place." Yes, you do. You compromised. So stop egging his house and keying his car. Move on! Or better yet, maybe you should egg your own house and key your own car every time you get yourself into a situation that you knew was a bad idea from the start. You'll learn.
The 80/20 Rule
Now, what if you had this dream man all to yourself, but he wasn't as romantic as you'd like him to be? Perhaps he's thoughtful and calls all the time, but his work often keeps him on the road? How about if he wasn't totally your physical type, but he treated you real nice? What if he was most of the things you wanted, but, for some reason, something was missing? What would you be satisfied with?
If you find yourself in this type of situation, it's time to employ what I call the 80/20 Rule: If you meet somebody with 80 percent of what you are looking for, by all means pay attention to what's in front of you. Don't miss out on the love of your life because you're holding out for 20 percent of what may not even be important in the long run. Determine the qualities and traits that are hands down, absolutely nonnegotiable. These should account for your 80 percent. Qualities that may not be your ideal, but are things you can certainly live with, should make up the remaining 20 percent. If you want a nonsmoker, there's no negotiating that he'll only smoke when he's not in your presence. If he's honest, respects you, makes you laugh, and takes care of business in the bedroom, but isn't as fashionable as you'd like, you can always shop for him.
If you hate drama, guns, inconsistency, weed smoke, strip joints, eating at Waffle House at 4 a.m. or being around a bunch of dudes who aren't gainfully employed and always start and end their sentences with the N-word, don't date a drug dealer. If you hate working out and eating right, don't date a body builder. If you love to go swimming in the ocean, skydiving, bungee jumping, and hanging out at the library, but you hate PlayStation and Xbox, don't date a black man between the ages of eighteen and thirty-eight. I'm serious! And if you love to laugh, but hate paying for everything, don't date a stand-up comic.
And whatever you do, don't get with someone who is only 50 percent of what you want. You'll end up either reminding him of that everyday or spending most of your time strategizing about how to turn him into something he is not. If you love tall men, don't wake up every morning measuring your boyfriend, saying, "Damn! You still five foot seven!"
Regardless of what you think you are looking for in a life partner, the truth is, you can't predict who you'll fall in love with. Love can occur out of nowhere. A man and a woman who have been platonic friends for years can fall in love with each other after sharing one unplanned and unexpected kiss. Then boom! Just like that, they see each other totally differently.
No one can explain why black women always say, "He gotta be at least six feet tall," yet a lot of short brothas I know are happily married. That means somebody out there loves the short man!
Why do people attempt long-distance relationships, despite the fact that they are difficult to sustain? How come a woman will leave her home at any hour of the night when the right man calls and tells her to come over? (Well, actually, we know what that's about.) The point is, since the beginning of time, love has always been the mighty X factor. It's not always rational, and it doesn't really make sense. I have witnessed women with MBAs settling down with men who only have their high school diplomas, and I am sure those women didn't go into graduate school saying, "I can't wait to marry a man at the top of his GED night school class!"
With this in mind, rather than viewing your list as the be-all and end-all where finding a mate is concerned, consider it a blueprint that's subject to revisions. You'll never find a man with exactly everything you desire, no matter how reasonable and sensible your list may seem. Think about it. Do you really want to be a lonely, seventy-year-old woman, still tied to a list and adding things like, "...and he has to have his own teeth"?
Determine what you absolutely must have in a man in order to be consistently happy. When you find a guy that has most of what you are looking for, learn to compromise and love him for who he is. After all, he might be compromising some of the things he wanted when he decided to settle down with you. No one is perfect. The key to longevity with someone is realizing early on that working together with your near-perfect man can lead both of you to a perfect union.
Copyright © 2007 by Finesse Mitchell