At age 30, I was 10 months into my new city of Dallas, Texas. I would be starting grad school in a few months. I spent my Saturday mornings floating in my community pool chasing clouds. Everything around me felt like spring – fresh and new. Being single was an asset providing the freedom of movement and self-determination I needed to move away from family and start fresh halfway across the country. I did not have to consider the opinion of another person (other than my mom who was all for it) when deciding my life’s goals. I was aware of my singleness. However, that awareness was a soft rimshot in the background of my mind. Life’s music loudly drowned out the noise.
The 2009 census data revealed 70% of black women remained unmarried. This data point became the topic of many talk shows and evening news specials with talking heads sounding alarms about women like me – educated, female, and black – doomed to be forever single. The rimshot became a foreboding boom. The warning was not just from distant media figures that could be tuned into and turn off of my own volition. Every married person I encountered had a a stick in hand adding to the cacophony. When an invitation to dinner by a married couple turned out to be a kamikaze blind date, I felt the impact of that stick right across my forehead. It was if my singleness made other people uncomfortable. They felt urged to fix it with or without my permission.
I attended a beautiful wedding this weekend alone, still single. The bride, 50 years old, married later in life. Turns out that 2009 census data had been misinterpreted.
A look at recent census data will tell you that the 70 percent we keep hearing about has been misconstrued. According to 2009 data from the Census Bureau, 70.5 percent of black women in the United States had never been married — but those were women between the ages of 25 and 29. Black women marry later, but they do marry. By age 55 and above, those numbers showed, only 13 percent of black women had never been married. In fact, people who have never married in their lifetimes are in the clear minority, regardless of race.Angela Stanley, New York Times
Early in life, I learned that the natural trajectory of a woman’s life went something like – daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, fiancé, wife, and mother. Who are you if you do not belong to anyone? I wanted to learn who I was before having to be everything to someone else. I am brave, witty, funny even. I care way to deeply about everything. I love big and wide. I am dependable. I trust against the residue of doubt that bad experiences have left behind. I am adventurous in measured doses. And I learned all of this about myself while being single.
This is not a “Say it loud. I’m singe and I’m proud,” post. It is an acknowledgment that my singleness has served a purpose. Marriage is still a goal, not just THE goal.