'I feel like once you know someone's there for you, and once you know they love you, you never actually think of them again. It's not until you're about to lose someone, that you finally pay attention.' - Marie
Malcolm and Marie is a love story that is all too familiar. While I no longer subscribe to love that is not reciprocal, thoughtful, and consistent. As I watched the lovers, it made sense. I understood right away why Marie was unsettled. I also understood why it was so easy for Malcolm not to understand.
Love that is sacrificial and heavy is the narrative our society places on women, particularly black women. It seems we are created with such a deep capacity to love and forgive. We are all things to those we love: Mother, Doctor, Secretary, Cook, Lover. We are every woman. Moreover, all we need to give more is just a little. A taste of love. A hint of appreciation. A tiny bit of a thought of what we may dream of needing. This narrative is a disservice to both black men and women. It is as if black women are raised to expect so little from men while they are raised to expect us to "ride or die."
Perhaps this is another trick we are wrapped up in regarding love? How long would we give without receiving if we believe we are never meant to receive a reciprocal love? What IS love ? This constant longing is too similar across cultures not to be an intentional construct. The narrative of the bumbling Oaf and the forgiving Goddess is unfair to both men and women. Men are just as capable of being thoughtful and gracious lovers. Often, men are not taught to manage emotions that are deemed feminine. Nor are they praised for being loving and faithful mates. Men praise other men for sexual prowess, while loyal and caring men are considered less manly. "They are whipped."
As adults, both men and women are convinced that emotions are too much, and being mature is equivalent to being less emotional. It is not a lack of feeling that we need. It is emotional intelligence. We should not be forced to live in a world that requires that we feel less. To be forced to hide when we are excited by someone, or we miss them. We have taken the most natural thing and made it scary and complex. We have complicated love and happiness with social nuances that mean nothing.
Love becomes problematic when society's rules bind, and we must find ways to hide our natural emotions. Or when we are unsure if our affection is wanted. In situations like these, we decide we don't want anything to do with love at all. Nothing is more unappealing than the anxiety of not knowing if your love is valued. What most human beings want is a safe place to grow in love. Lack of safety is what Malcolm and Marie illustrated to me. The lack of security provided by black men to black women. I am not saying that ALL black men are anything. I AM saying that too many black women feel unsafe in this world and do not feel protected by their male counterparts. We have become invisible.
We are so easily forgotten, and promises are not kept, and our needs are too much. Even if we are soft, kind, and vulnerable, our vulnerability is only valued until it no longer suits our lovers' needs. The dependency that so many black men say we lack and they work so hard to draw out of us is suddenly a burden. Too often, we give everything hoping that we will be thanked and appreciated just a little. Too often, the fake love burns away quickly when hearts and pockets are full. We are not remembered as the ones that provided support through the darkest days. We are silenced by the shame of being foolish yet again.
And still, a thank you and acknowledgment of our efforts are all we need. It seems that appreciation is still too much for the male ego that needs to be continuously fed. A constant need for adoration, no matter how empty. Nothing as trustworthy or as valuable as the woman that sacrificed for your heart to heal. For your project to come to fruition. Daily our personal "Malcolms" cannot bring themselves to support our spiritual, relational, entrepreneurial, or educational efforts. Yet, our lovers will profess deep adoration, love even to gain access to our bodies and our healing spirit. Yet, their love is only tied to how useful we are and has nothing to do with them giving anything in return. There is no balance. No reciprocity.
There are many reasons for the lack of love between black men and women. A multifaceted topic that I am writing on and will discuss further at another time. Whether by design or happenstance, we don't teach love in our communities. We have had to be strong for so long, but we must change how we relate within our homes and neighborhoods. We are no longer required to carry unhealthy mental burdens as a badge of honor. Emotional and mental health are imperative to the improvement of our communities. Young men must be allowed to show love and kindness without it being labeled less than manly, and we must teach our young women to value themselves enough to allow themselves to be loved and cared for by men that are more evolved than the Malcolm's we continue to choose.
While reading All About Love by Bell Hooks, I came across this profound definition of love: Via M. Scott Peck from The Road Less Traveled he echoes the work of Erich Fromm he defines love as "The will to extend one's self to nurture one's own or another's spiritual growth. Love is as love does. Love is an act of will-namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love."
Black men and women must choose to love, first themselves and then each other, so no one is forgotten.