Who's Choosing Your Mate?

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Young, Black people have been turned against each other when it comes to dating. Society has taken on the role of matchmaker, telling us who and what we should want, in the form of unrealistic standards for looks and self-worth. Therein, as they say, lies the problem. Much of the commentary that I notice about dating and relationships remains blindly based on those expectations.

Society’s demands warp what should be positives into weaknesses. We have skipped over positively acknowledging Black women’s increasing status in the workplace and landed on “angry, intimidating and bitter.” Black men have been steadily growing and expanding past the typical hyper-masculine image of Black manhood, yet somehow we have arrived at “he’s either gay or likes white girls.”

I have come to loathe dating advice in general, partly because it seems to focus on traditional conventions and generalizations. Dissecting lady- and lad-mags and advice from other “experts,” a critical thinker should realize that men are reduced to shallow, one-dimensional creatures who think alternately with their penises, wallets and stomachs. Women, as it goes, are desperate, simpleton shrews who crave nothing more than the loving touch of a preferably rich man to stave off her badgering mother.

The popularity and strength in conviction of statements like “Never trust a woman who…” or “Everyone knows men that…” indicates to me that somewhere along the line, men and women started to view each other as just magazine prototypes instead of actual, individual people with broad ranges of experiences and preferences.

Someone’s “dateability” is not determined by money or looks.  People swear they “deserve” a model-slash-attorney with a deep fondness for cooking and practices Kama Sutra. As a result, we pretty much refuse to entertain anyone less than those standards and berate the men and women who don’t (this is quite time-consuming, as very few people do meet them).

There is room for negotiation since we are in college and probably not looking to get married right now, but still. From what I have gathered in my completely unscientific sociological studies, everyone who wants a mate deserves a supportive, productive person who makes him or her happy.

Men, are you happy leaving a fine chick who is emotionally unstable only to follow up with a “dime piece” who has limited conversation skills? Ladies, is the chocolate Adonis with control issues or the rugged Lothario with an inflated ego really someone of whom you would spend time and energy?

We don’t live in a vacuum. The forces that shape society shape our thinking whether we know it or not.

If your desires honestly happen to be perfectly aligned with the ones that the media, advertising and celebrities push as ideal, then you are not to be faulted for that. But if you are constantly reproaching the opposite (or same) sex for their audacious refusal to meet everything on some arbitrary checklist, it may be time to open your eyes, tell society to step aside and start doing your own matchmaking.

Lauren Harper

Associate Managing Editor


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