Eligible, Black, Male, and Hopelessly Single

Contrary to popular belief, there are a slew of black guys between 21 and 35 who want a relationship but can’t find the right match.

Midway through Chasing Amy—the 1997 romantic comedy that made everyone think Kevin Smith was the next Woody Allen when he really just turned out to be Nicholas Sparks with Tourette’s—there’s a scene where Banky (Jason Lee) is trying to convince his best friend Holden (Ben Affleck) that the woman Holden has fallen in love with, Alyssa (played by a surprisingly fetching Joey Lauren Adams), is still a lesbian (she “became” straight after meeting Holden) and will eventually leave Holden and break his heart.

To punctuate his point, Banky draws a picture where the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, a “typical” man-hating lesbian, and a “male-affectionate” lesbian (representing Alyssa) are at opposite ends of a four-way road. In the middle of the road is a $100 bill, and he asks Holden which of the four would get the $100 bill first.

Holden: The man-hating dyke.
Banky: Good. Why?
Holden: I don’t know.
Banky: [shouting] Because the other three are figments of your f**king imagination!

♦◊♦

I’m reminded of this scene every time I remind people that the dating game isn’t exactly smooth sailing for every 21- to 35-year-old black man. Between the statistics showing that there’s something like 179,000 black women to every eligible black male in each desirable metropolitan area, the studies proving that black women are perpetually out-everything-ing black men, and the ubiquitous stories about condom-challenged brothas like New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromardie—guys who seem to be single-handedly attempting to re-populate the island from Lost—I’m sure that if I told a random dating-aged sista that there are actually black guys out there who genuinely want to be in a relationship (with a black woman!) but have trouble finding the right match, she’d probably tell me that they were a figment of my f**king imagination too.

Her skepticism would be justified. Hyperbole aside, according to the U.S. Census, while only 24% of white women and 23% of Asian women have never been married, a staggering 45% of black women have never walked down the aisle, a fact that’s mainly due to the lack of eligible black male options.

But if so, if these somewhat star-crossed men were mere figments of my imagination, I guess that was a bunch of bespectacled ghosts I saw at a Foreign Exchange concert a few weekends ago, mouthing each of Phonte’s lyrics while scanning the crowd to find the type of muse that would make a man write “Greater Than the Sun.” That must be an apparition who sends me a text message at least once a week, asking if my girlfriend has any newly single homegirls looking to “build with a brotha.” And I definitely must’ve dreamt up the dozens of game nights, weekly wing specials, and house parties I’ve attended in the past several years, the dozens of conversations I’ve had with the dozens of single men also in attendance, guys desperately seeking “their own Michelle [Obama].”

“The cards are stacked in favor of guys, but not every guy is in a place to take advantage of the number discrepancy,” says Berook, a 24-year-old who, between singing in his church’s choir, rooting for the Redskins, and memorizing entire Kevin Hart routines, somehow finds time to work towards a Ph.D. in bio-medical engineering.

Not bad for a ghost.

♦◊♦

Berook’s statement reflected a trend I’ve noticed among the educated men in my social and occupational circles: a trend split into racial lines. I’m sure it wouldn’t shock anyone’s system to hear that while the majority of the 25- to 40-year-old white men I know are married, the majority of the brothas in that age range are single or dating with no marriage plans in the near future. But, while the commonly believed reason for this discrepancy is that most brothas are anti-marriage and monogamy, this couldn’t be further from the case. Often, they just haven’t found a compatible match, or they’re self-aware enough to realize that they still need to work on themselves before bringing another person in their lives.

Shawn, 27, a gregarious director of marketing for burgeoning nonprofit Sponsor Change (these sure are some busy-ass ghosts), expounds:

Yeah, I want to have a wife and kids and all that. But, I need to get my shit together first. Most of the sistas I meet want to date “ready-made” brothas, and while I’m on that track, I ain’t making Audi money yet.

This feeling alludes to the common stereotype of the successful black women and her unrealistic and uncompromising standards—think any character Gabrielle Union has ever played—an idea Berook quickly shoots down:

It’s not that sistas’ standards are too high. If I had an already successful daughter, I’d want her to date an already successful man. From a personal standpoint, though, I wouldn’t even want to enter a serious relationship unless I had my shit together.

And having your shit together means what exactly?

As a man, I’d feel a certain way if I had a girlfriend but I wasn’t able to take care of her. Nothing special, but you’d like to be able to at least go the movies every weekend and buy her nice things. Yeah, I’m in school now and working towards something. but I’ve actually stopped dating a woman I was interested in because I wasn’t where I needed to be financially. It’s a pride thing.

It’s a pride thing, indeed, Berook continues, a black-pride thing:

Seems like white men don’t feel “grown” until they start families, but we [black men] don’t seem to want to start families until we feel “grown” enough.

♦◊♦

While this train of thinking does seem like a big fat pile of excuse, the numbers back it up. A recent U.S. Census report—“Number, Timing and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2009”—shows that Americans across all racial lines are waiting longer to marry.

The Boston Globe‘s Peter Schwarm reports:

The median age at first marriage last year was 28 years for men, and 26 for women, up slightly from 2009. The rising age reflects a long-term trend. In 1980, the median age for men was just under 25, and 22 for women.

One can easily infer that the increased financial security that usually comes with increased age is a prominent factor in these decisions. I’m sure the recession has its grubby little hands in this pot as well. The hysteria that has come with it has induced a racially transcendent reluctance to make any matrimonial plans. Can’t say “I do” with confidence if you’re scared that the Zales goons are coming next week to repossess the wedding bands. Perhaps these figments of my imagination are ahead of the relationship curve and just haven’t quite realized it yet.

It’s fitting that both Shawn and Berook work in science- and tech-heavy fields, occupational paths black males rarely choose. I guess neither of them can ever quite escape the fact that they’re not supposed to exist. They’re also both aware that their lifestyles and career paths maybe not be as sexy as others’, a fact that definitely affects their prospects, says Shawn:

Not everybody grew up in a two-parent household. In fact, most of us haven’t. Because of that, we learn how to date and how to identify “good” men and women from TV. There is an association of success with a certain type of man, a certain type of occupation, and the more low-key guys tend to get overlooked.

The danger with feeling overlooked and undervalued is its gateway to overcompensation, a path Shawn’s trying to avoid:

You don’t want to be a sucker. Yeah, you might need to do some extra to get a chick, but if your input-to-output ratio isn’t the same, you’re a sucker because you’re devaluing yourself. You’re not true to yourself. Samson (from the Bible) was a sucker. Ain’t no way no woman should have convinced him to cut his hair. He should have just continued being him, the way he always was. Maybe you won’t get every woman you’re attracted to, but at least you’ll still have your integrity.

In the last 10 or so minutes of Chasing Amy, we find out that Banky was right (Alyssa did eventually break up with Holden and break his heart) and wrong (Alyssa wasn’t a “typical” man-hating lesbian) at the same time. Like Alyssa, the eligible black male who just can’t quite find his Michelle exists, and his existence is a bit too nuanced and variable to accurately summarize on a sheet of paper.

One thing is certain, though: they’re definitely not figments of my f**king imagination.

—Photo: thomas-leuthard

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About Damon Young

Pittsburgh native Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) is the co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com. Their first book Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating and Fighting Crime is available at Amazon.com

Comments

  1. I am lucky enough to have a number of older male friends who are all married. Some advice they have all shared, “Don’t wait till you get all your own stuff set to then get married. If you have a good woman by your side then yall build together”. Seems like that is the hurdle many trip over now. Too busy trying to reach all their own ambition first and by the time they are ready to settle down the pickings are slim. The mates that best matched them have been snatched up by the people that were willing to build WITH their mate.

    • exactly. Dude working on his PhD in the article and feeling all special is a coward and selfish. Too busy chasing money and status to build a real relationship with a girl that was worth it, and probly broke her heart and had her feeling like no matter how good she is men don’t want her anyway cause she got kicked to the curb! It’s all about me, me, me. People need to let go of being all about SELF and that is the major problem, focus on making one woman a priority in your life and learn to balance a busy life with a personal life cause the only people who should not be busy at all times are the dead ones.

      Men need to examine why it is so easy for them to make the excuses in the face of women WANTING to be with them. smh College while working on your first bachelor’s is the time many find a mate. Especially at HBCU’s you will never again in your life see so many eligible young black men and women in one place at one time. White people party the first couple years and are in relationships headed toward marriage by the last couple years or soon out of college…that’s why their marriage rates are higher they get the dating or whoring around out of their system way faster and move on to grown up things. Black guys are partying it up straight into their 30s very often and using the “I’m too busy building this great life” excuse…when what it really is, is they are chasing status and very likely feel they can pull a BETTER woman when they get to the top of the food chain than whatever decent ones they are pulling now.

      smh Then we wonder why decent women end up with not so decent men. The so called decent ones have every excuse in the book why they don’t have time for anything but sex. Why do the black men and women in 3rd world countries manage, no matter how rich or poor, to have relationships with the opposite sex throughout their adult lives but the blacks in America use money and every other barrier they can find to stay so distant from each other? Put the women first men and they just might feel valued by you. Cause right now all this article, while it’s enlightening as to the inner fears and aspirations of the men here, tells me, is that men here value material things over and above the reality of a close relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Money matters yes, get money, we all love being with someone who can afford to step out the house once in a while, but do not let money and all that comes with it be your God. It’s not money that’s bad, it’s the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil. Learn to balance your life. And yes, stop trying to afford the Stacey Dash/Alicia Keys/Megan Fox girls of the world. Cause if you have to wait til 10 and 20 years down the road to be ready for the girl you want, you are batting way out of your league! Get with the girl that loves you at the income and ability you are at now and shower HER with the results of your success not some chick that just came on the scene AFTER the hard work was done! But is it a woman they really want or a status, a trophy to overcompensate for the stereotypes and racism and insecurities (which we all have, mind you, but women don’t let that stop them from a relationship) and show “I’ve arrived!”? Hm I wonder.

      • StopwiththeBS says:

        @EloquenceInc

        Co-sign on everything you wrote. I never believed that mess that black men were scarce or in limited supply no matter how many studies or anti-black family propaganda are forced down our throats. These black men just aren’t trying to get married or settled down because they WILL wait 10, 15, 20 years (hell some may wait 25!) for their stock to supposedly increase and they can snatch up that gorgeous trophy wife. I’m 36, been married and divorced, and I have dated or tend to meet many men in their late 30’s, 40’s and almost hitting 50 who have never been married. Some, thankfully, have no kids. What does that say? They have been waiting for something or someone and in my opinion you guessed right- they want the Halle’s, Stacey’s or Alicia’s to parade around on their arm (if they even want a sistagirl at all).

        All of us are in a state of mass confusion given the fact that our communities are disintegrating from economic and social issues, men AND women are so mistakenly entitled, and the media images and messages we receive promote a false, unattainable reality. Sickens me how easily people toss integrity, morals and common goals and values to the side for a pretty face or nice body. Yes, we have as a modern, American society become EXTREMELY and UNAPOLOGETICALLY superficial almost to the level of psychopathy. Which explains why black and brown people in other third world countries are marrying and we are not. Their goal is to build a family/legacy for future generations and create lasting unions. Some of us can’t even get past a few months. We are too interested in impressing (outdoing) others with our gold and glittery lifestyles that present fake a** happiness than wanting to create any kind of history with anyone. So sad and both sexes are too blame, IMO, because of our inability to connect past the facade.

        • @Eloquence & @StopWithTheBS

          I am AMAZED how you can forget how women have contributed to BM in this mode of perpetual singledom…

          1. BW having kids with deadbeats… Keep in mind she chose these men to sleep with…
          2. Overweight
          3. Attitudinal/Confrontational
          4. Wh*res, spending their dating prime sl*tting it up with men who have no intention of commitment…

          I don’t mind you calling men to the carpet… Just remember that women choose what they will & won’t from men…

          And men react to whatever works to get into your pants…

          I am happy that the Damon Young’s of the world have the world as their oyster…

          As soon as he arrives, he has women telling him what he should & shouldn’t do with his accomplishments…

          Truly classy black women, would be rooting for their men, no matter choice he makes…
          romantically…

          Did it ever occur to you what the man’s feelings & desires are… If it doesn’t align up with yours… He a douche…

          BW, you do it to yourself… And the way it is going, IT IS ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE!!!

          • StopwiththeBS says:

            “So sad and both sexes are too blame, IMO, because of our inability to connect past the facade.”

            @Adonis

            What part of the above statement didn’t you understand? I think it CLEARLY states both sexes are to blame??? The funny thing is, your list makes BM as culpable as BW.

            Who are they having kids out of wedlock with??? Not each other!

            No men are walking around overweight and still dressing like they are in high school when they are 45???

            Oh no, none of the BM I’ve ever met have attitudes or are in-your-face arrogant and confrontational if you dare call them out on their disgusting, juvenile and just plain disrespectful behavior!

            And aren’t the men sleeping with these so-called “Whores” also whores and sluts??? Or is it okay for them to sleep around because of that age-old double standard???

            Truly classy BM won’t expect women to be docile, subservient concubines with no voice but want a women who gives and expects the same amount of love, respect and support he gives her.

            I will agree that some BW have made their own nasty, stinking bed by years of allowing too many BM to treat them like crap and now we all have to sleep in it.

        • From my stand point it depends on the circumstances. I’ve spent the last 5 years of my young adult life traveling the world. Sure I chose that path to get my degree, Inow have it, and my ambitions to see the world trump anything else. to be honest. People like myself don’t complain about the lack of long term relationship. I find the author to be a bit selfish. I have dated many women of many nationalities. I found that AFrican women are well awesome to date, but I found that black american women are also wholesome people to date. to be honest you should only be serious with the person that you find makes you happy and you them happy. Other than that. All that other material shit doesn’t matter, and I don’t date women that are that material. With that being said my life is a bit unstable with moving around a lot. If marriage comes up it will only be because I am with someone that is probably going to be into the same thing. I don’t mind having kids that are TCKs(third cultured kids).

    • I think this is a good point. Im a lady and of mixed background (Jamaican/English/Irish), Ive dated both black and white. I had a GOOD man who was Columbian whilst at uni. I broke up with I’m because I felt like I needed to develop my own identity away from the relationship, I wasn’t mature enough for it I believe. I was also emotionally messed up from my childhood, so I went into the arms a Narcissist, that relationship taught me so much. I went on to date ALOT of guys. I am now 27. I sometimes think what if? If I would of stayed with that guy, because we were headed for marriage. I have struggled and survived and sometimes thrived, but I don’t have much a supportive family and during my time with him I thrived because of his love and support. I thought that I needed to be alone to become who I am, but Im not sure that is strictly true and I would say to those guys who think they need to ‘be’ a certain way before building a LTR with a lady that it can be done. But it does require a level of maturity, I didn’t have it then I think. Ive now been through years of therapy, depression, had career success and fails. I am now in a relationship with a man 10 years my senior. I don’t think about his age much now, but in the beginning I did.
      I found that the guys my age or just 3 years older are all ‘dilly dallying’ around. They are all living in that grey area between blackened white. Not saying yes not saying no. Sometimes they just haven’t found that girl, sometimes they all suffer from grass is greener.
      I predict that they all get to their late thirties and they haven’t done any work on themselves personally and gobble up whoever’s left….
      My perspective isn’t commenting on race really, because Ive dated all of the races and they all seemed to have individual unique issues to do with class and race. BUT
      I have found that in London the black guys have this way to approaching women, well into their adulthood that is frankly, CHUUUPID. The ones who seem to stop that behaviour are the ones who are either highly introverted or the ones who diversify their social groups (as in hanging out with whites and that). Just repeating my experience. don’t shot me.

  2. I forgot to leave a comment…

    Champ will be fine… I love it when BM have their pick of the litter, but call life at their own terms…

    What women define as eligible is what they want after they have done their wh*ring & their beauty starts fading…

    BM have dating struggles because they have been sold a bill of goods…

    Once they get the right information about women… They will adjust…

    Thanks for shedding light on a problem that has been ignored for a long time…

  3. EllehicM says:

    Well thanks for shedding light on the man’s side. This really makes sense, because from 25-32 I was with a dude and he wasn’t taking it to the next level. Part of the reason is because he didn’t feel like he was in that place financially, etc. He didn’t have his ish together. Problem is tho…I tried to build with him, invested in him, but he was too immature to respect that and make it work. Pride is a MF and really men need to respect the woman who is willing to go from Nothing to Something with them. How many years of my life was that?

    • In your case the guy you were with had become an issue of ignorance more than an issue of pride. He might not realize it, but a lot of adults really don’t learn this until they are middle aged. But eventually you can’t keep putting love to the side. Also this isn’t a uniquely black american thing. I have many asian friends who have ran into this problem. They worked hard their whole lives. Studied hard. Then push comes to shove they have a hard time with relationships. I had a few friends who had their entire lives planned out even when they were getting married. Well when that time came I had troubles trying to even get to the first date. This is a more common issue than people give it credit for. You have an entire generation of young adults that grew up their entire lives being pushed and told to focus and the ones that did these things missed out on learning a lot of interpersonal skills. This seems to be an issue in America specifically because I have noticed in other countries people give time to live life and enjoy. People focus on one another, etc etc. Many places young adults are comfortable with just living life instead of constantly working. The only time in some places it is appropriate to work hard is when you have a direction otherwise it is seen as something in vain. I think in the US we generally push ourselves to the limits without realizing our true goals in life, and we are forced into doing this from a very young age. Those of us that don’t do this young miss out on a lot, and that is the dilemma of our society.

  4. No Guy In Particular says:

    Just putting this out there, for what it’s worth: I wonder what impression it gives to women to refer to oneself as a “brotha.” Perfectly valid word to use for yourself, claim whatever proud powerful word you want for yourself, but I’m just wondering if may be counterproductive. When I read that, it reminds me of when a white guy refers to himself as a “dude” — it may not give the impression of someone who can be serious-minded. I can’t speak for any women, but I’m guessing the word does not necessarily send a message of “marriage material.”

  5. wellokaythen says:

    There’s something I’m missing here, something I don’t quite understand in terms of argument. It’s probably something totally obvious staring at me in the face, but:

    It’s not clear how being financially strapped or trying to build a career means a man isn’t in a good place to commit to a long-term relationship. I can understand not wanting to take on added responsibility of being a parent or supporting other people, but that doesn’t that mean a busy guy can’t ever be in a committed relationship at all. Is the argument here that sometimes men are too busy to be monogamous? Not sure how that works.

    If it’s a question of time commitment, is being with one woman more time consuming than playing the field? Maybe in individual high maintenance cases, but that’s hardly a universal rule.

  6. i'd like to meet some ghosts says:

    I maintain hope that a good, Christian, employed, educated black man is out there..single..and interested in me. It’s been my experience that the _available_ variety of these fellas are indeed ghosts, at least in Washington, DC. I acknowledge that I can be skeptical when most men approach me…I’m working on being more relaxed. However, Cat calling gets old, and I’m not the type of thirsty chic to flag down a man just because he’s single and seems to meet the basic qualifications…and it almost seems as though that is what a woman has to do nowadays to stand out. :-/

  7. alyssaj1236 says:

    This is very interesting. I didn’t think brothas with their shit together wanted to settle down.

  8. Fabulous Fae says:

    BUMP IT…START A DATING SERVICE!!!
    It really is a shame that there are eligible men, looking for eligible women, and they can’t make a love connection. C’mon champ…be the black Patti Stanger (that’s a guy…and not Jewish…and maybe even nicer!). Ok, forget the Patti reference but don’t forget the idea. Get that matchmaker money and help out the cause.

  9. Its All Gravy says:

    After reading the article then reading some comments,

    The only solutions I can offer for both sides:

    1) Stop the finger-pointing.
    2) Stop the “me me me” shit.
    3) Turn the TV off.

    Hope this helps

  10. This was an interesting and introspective read. I must admit, at times, I look around and say “where are these eligible men he speaks of!?” But, when it’s all said and done; I’m on the same page as Shawn; gotta get myself together first. In my social circle, my friends and I are realizing and accepting the fact that there is work to be done personally, before seeking such a serious commitment as marriage. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be working at both! Ideally, I’d want to work on a lifetime “while” I’m building spiritual, emotional, and financial empires; I think that’s a fair compromise. Why does it need to be either or? :-)

  11. I loved your article post.Really thank you! Will read on…

  12. MissMoni says:

    I know I’m way late on reading this article, (almost a full yr late!) but I’m considered successful: 33, no kids, BA in computer science, home owner, great credit, student loan-free, car paid off, making good money, yet living well below my means! I’m low maintenance, can’t care less about labels, and have both an emergency fund, as well as a travel account. I’ve set foot in 16 countries on
    5 Continents, and will be going to Dubai this fall. I’m a well rounded girl, who, besides traveling, loves to cook, bake, crochet, sew, and create pottery.

    And, I’m willing to stand by a man in pursuit of his dreams. He doesn’t have to make more, or even the same as me, as long as he’s walking out his passion. In school? Cool! I support you! (Not financially…I’m no sugar mama! Lol)
    But I’m ready for someone who is ready for me.
    So my question for you is: when is the next game night!?! Im willing to drive, fly, paddle out your way to attend! (Somewhat seriously!) And I can bring a car full of similar catches with me! (Birds of a feather…)

  13. MissMoni says:

    I know I’m way late on reading this article, (almost a full yr late!) and I’m considered successful: single black Christian woman, 33, no kids, BA in computer science, home owner, great credit, student loan-free, car paid off, making good money, yet living well below my means! I’m low maintenance, (no fake nails, weave, etc) can’t care less about labels, and have both an emergency fund, as well as a travel account. I’ve set foot in 16 countries on 5 Continents, (all paid for by me; not military/job) and will be going to Dubai this fall. I’m a well rounded girl, who, besides traveling, loves to cook/bake, crochet, sew, and create pottery.

    And, with all of these attributes and more, I’m willing to stand by a man in pursuit of his dreams. He doesn’t have to make more, or even the same as me, as long as he’s walking out his passion. In school? Cool! I support you! (Not financially…I’m no sugar mama! Lol)

    But I’m ready for someone who is ready for me. So my 1st question to you is: where are these men hiding?!? They could be in the dc area, but I haven’t come across any. My 2nd question for you is: when is the next game night!?! Im willing to drive, fly, paddle out your way to attend! (I’m serious!) And I can bring a car full of similar catches with me! (Birds of a feather…)

  14. Hey what’s upo how old r u get bck to me soon if u lk

Trackbacks

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