Act Like A Woman, Think Like A Woman
Steve Harvey tells us to “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”
In her upcoming novel, Zane tells us, “Women are the new men.”
I think the truth of women’s lives is somewhere in the middle.
I’m reading Steve Harvey’s wildly popular New York Times bestseller, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” I’m reading it because I saw it featured on Oprah and I’m wondering what all the buzz is about. I haven’t finished reading it, so it probably isn’t fair to write about it, but I think I get the gist of this self-help book because it’s been written many times before.
So, here’s what I gather to be the gist (spoiler alert): Single women, you’re not married because you don’t understand men. If you read this book, you will understand men, and then you’ll be better prepared to get a man to marry you.
The problem is, what if you don’t want a man to marry you? No, I’m not talking about my lesbian sisters; I’m talking about women who have made the decision that they’re not looking for marriage, and maybe not even a committed relationship.
I know, because I was once one of them.
I’m not saying that now that I’m married, I would have been unhappy had I remained single. Nor am I saying that now that I’m married I know the secret to men and having relationships with them. I don’t. Far from it. There are times when I look at Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB)and wonder what planet he comes from and whether I can put him on the next mothership out. There are times when I’m having a conversation with him and I realize which of his heads is really doing the thinking, and, to save time and energy, I’ll just speak directly to his crotch. I don’t pretend to understand men.
But I do understand myself. And I know that, before I married BMNB, I reached a point where I decided that marriage was no longer a goal of mine. Happiness was. And marriage didn’t necessary entail happiness.
The last guy I dated with anything approaching seriousness before I married BMNB was just about all that any woman could have ordered up from heaven – handsome, intelligent, generous, educated, well-employed, chivalrous, God-loving. I wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time. He, however, ratcheted things up, and I followed along blissfully. And when I finally started asking questions about where the relationship was headed, he told me that I was going too fast, that he felt that he couldn’t catch up to where I was.
And all I could think was, “But. . . . how could we be going too fast if you’ve been doing all the driving? You stepped to me. I wasn’t even looking for a relationship. I was fine by myself.”
It was at that point that I declared myself through with men. In other words, I no longer had marriage as a goal. Happiness was my goal. I made a list of the things that would make me happy that I could have some control over – a stable and intellectually engaging career, a house of my own, a child, learning to surf. And I set out to get these things with the idea that if a man came along who fit into my own plans for happiness, well fine. If not, well, I could be just as happy with or without – ignoring men, or just having sex with them had I been so inclined. Why buy the bull if you can . . . . well, you know what I mean.
And for a short period after that, it seemed like once I decided that I was done with men, I was getting hit on left and right. And I declined, left and right. It was heady, empowering even, to hear a guy trying to kick his best game and to tell him, “I really appreciate the compliment, but I’m just not dating now.” They’d usually follow up with, “No, you can’t mean that!” Or, “Aw, sistah, don’t give up on us!” Or, “Here’s my number; let me know when you start back up.”
I think the “problem,” as Steve Harvey might describe it, is that I’ve never believed that a woman needed marriage, a man, and/or children to be happy. I’ve never believed that marriage equaled happiness, and I definitely don’t believe that marriage equals commitment. Marriage is the ring, the dress, and the promise you make that day; commitment, on the other hand, is coming home each day to continue the journey you started with your partner even when you’ve got money in the bank, gas in your tank, and a map. Commitment is renewed on a daily basis. Marriage doesn’t equal commitment, and commitment doesn’t equal marriage. I can tell you there were many times when I was living with BMNB prior to our marriage when I thought, “I’ve got enough in the bank, and if I get started driving now, I can make it to Albuquerque by daybreak.” Yeah, I thought it, but I never acted on it. I made the decision to come home and continue the journey I had started with my fiancé. That’s commitment, and you don’t need a ring and a ceremony to have it because I didn’t. I’ve always believed that the only reason to get married is to provide security for the children you intend to have. Mind you, BMNB couldn’t disagree with me more, which is why we’re married. He’s a Baptist and a Southerner, so he couldn’t tolerate shackin’ up for a long period of time. I, on the other hand, would have been perfectly fine shackin’ up but for the fact that I didn’t want to raise children in a relationship that wasn’t a marriage, more for their sake than mine.
So I understand women who value their independence and think in terms of whether marrying a particular man – not just a man, but a particular man – is going to improve their lives any more than if they didn’t marry at all. For most women, marriage means becoming the CEO of a household and giving far more than you get. And most of us do this willingly because we believe the rewards of helping a good man become great and nurturing kids far outweigh everything else.
Me, not so much.
For instance, I insisted that, before marrying BMNB, we live together because our relationship with each other had always been a long-distance relationship. I had never really dealt with him on a consistent day-to-day basis in all the years we were together. And, as my late mother had always admonished, “You wouldn’t buy shoes without trying them on first. Girl, you better try on them shoes.”
And in “trying on the shoes,” I found myself making most of the money, doing all the cooking, doing all the cleaning, and being expected to be the “hostess with the mostess” when his friends came by. In no short time I was exhausted and bitter. We started arguing about his slacking in the shared labor department, and, in tears and sitting on the toilet (I get a weak bladder when I’m emotional), I wailed, “If this is marriage, why would I choose this? I don’t need to work this hard to be happy. I was happy by myself, and I got to keep all of my money. Why on God’s earth would I choose this?”
He replied with a sly grin and a look downward. I had to set him straight.
“Let’s be clear. I have never lacked for sex. Never! I lived in Oakland, damn it! And I didn’t have to cook and clean to get it!
It was then that I started dictating the terms of my own happiness. Shared responsibility was one of them. Instead of doing as Steve Harvey instructs and trying to “figure out” BMNB and men in general, I instead helped him figure me out and what he had to do to keep me on track to marriage. At that point, I didn’t care about what his needs were and what made him tick because my needs weren’t being met and I didn’t need him to be happy. To his credit, BMNB listened. And changed. I always tell people that I married BMNB the person, and, if we were to part, I don’t see myself ever marrying again because I’m not willing to do all that society tells me I should do to get and keep a man.
Steve Harvey tells us women that men show their love by professing their relationship with us, providing for us, and protecting us, and we need to provide them the space to do that to be men in the relationship. I didn’t need any of that. I needed someone who would do his fair share of cooking and cleaning, earn his fair share -- not all the money, just his fair share, and hold up his end of an intelligent conversation. The things that Steve Harvey says men need to do for us in order to be men, I don’t and haven’t needed. I think he describes me and women like me in the chapter in his book I haven’t gotten to yet, “Independent. And Lonely.” But I was never lonely. Alone, but not lonely.
And I’m not alone. There are a lot of women out there – I know because I know some – who have constructed their lives in a manner such they don’t need men, but wouldn’t mind having one in their lives on their terms. But they're not hunting them down. And those terms? They don’t necessarily include acting like they want a man to profess, protect, and provide for them. Sometimes you just want someone to go to the theater with or discuss a book with. Sometimes you just want sex – maybe not in the vein of the protagonists in Zane’s upcoming book, “Headbangers,” (need I say more?) where she proclaims in the first sentence of the book, “Women are the new men,” but in the sense that you know who you are and what you want, even if that’s not what society tells you you should want. Regardless, you’ll still live a happy life because your happiness isn’t conditioned on having a committed relationship with a man.
So, I disagree with both Steve Harvey (at least at this point) and Zane. Women don’t need to think like men in order to be happy or be the new men. Women just need to know themselves and take control over those things which will make them happy in their lives. And a man isn’t necessarily one of them.