Written by FISIWE ZWANA
The last time my man and I broke up, I found myself angrily tussling with the question, "What the fuck do I need a man for, anyway?!" Yeah, I was pretty discouraged and pissed and uncertain about what it all meant and why I should even bother anymore.
Yet, I am convinced that it is a question that needs to be asked, not only by women, but by men. The various emotional challenges in my relationship with the man I love have revealed harsh undeniableness to me and I find myself in a position of owing an apology to him.
I apologize for not seeing him for who he was, but instead as whom he was to me. One might say it's just human nature to create the ones we love in our own image....but wow that's simplistic and I must admit cowardly. As a man he has every right to be himself, have his own experience of the world, and be on his path—just like I am on mine—without the "benefit" of my input. We cannot absolve ourselves of the responsibility to see our men with the same clarity and truth that we seek to see ourselves with. The sloughing off of illusions in the mirror must also be done to our vision of our men.
It is not my job to guide him, shape him, and protect him from himself. It is not my job to teach him, improve him (sorry Beyonce, I don't need to "Upgrade" him) or add to him with so much me that he’s unable to discern who he is. He has the right to be uncertain and unfinished and to seek his own transformation however the Universe has it planned for him. And no, I may not be the answer he is looking for.
My brother Ola uses the term "Afromanticism" and I refer to it here to point out how women of color, such as myself, especially freely claim black men for our own and in doing so I see how we consciously and arrogantly, as well as unconsciously and dependently, crush through their personal space and invade their processes of becoming who they are meant to be. We infiltrate their thinking of themselves and we pervasively inhabit their movement. And when they struggle to get free, we are so hurt and..."OFFENDEDED DAMMIT! HOW DARE YOU? DON'T YOU KNOW I AM YOURS AND YOU ARE MINE? SLAVERY AND ALL?...OPPRESSION AND ALL?...AFRICA AND ALL?...EGYPT AND ALL?....PIMPS UP HOES DOWN AND ALL?...MISTER AND CELIE AND ALL?”
What purpose do men serve in the lives of women? We have ridden the egg and seed thing in regards to conception for all its worth. I mean damn! Yes, we need them to procreate, but beyond that how do we coexist in dimensions that allow each of us to freely exist not at each other's expense?
In other words, how do we put in the “work?”
The "work" defined as: the daily and momentary thoughts, attitudes and activities of maintaining the communication and interaction between a man and a woman who have in some way subtle or overt established a personal bond; the "work" of relationship for me has got to include the acknowledgement and constant recognition of each other’s sovereignty. This inevitably means that the work includes an attention to self that changes the landscape of what relationship is "supposed" to look like because if I am doing my part to be the best me I can be and you are doing your part to be the best you can be, then what exactly is it that we share again? What do you do for me? What do I do for you? And what do we do with all that time we used to spend fixing, framing, and adjusting one another?
Can't we throw "the rules" out the window if a woman can pay her own bills?...If a man can raise his own children? Now wait a minute! Don't get me wrong. Undoubtedly the quality of life is sure to be best when a man and woman work in partnership bringing what they both have to bear into the life experience. This is not being debated. But, even in the traditional scenario, as I have witnessed that it "works," often still it is at someone's expense because somewhere along the line, one or the other party has accepted the "rightness" of generally accepted gender roles allowing those traditional molds to be placed on their life force.
How do I recalibrate my thinking and my feeling patterns to accept a new paradigm absent of co-dependence? How do I freely love my man in a way that releases him and in effect liberates us both?
I want to relate based on love, not love based on the boundaries of my relationship. As a woman I know it is my responsibility to myself and the man I love to ask these questions and constantly ask; to constantly be doing the "work" that keeps convention at bay and challenges old familiar patterns while keeping love in the midst.
I know it is my responsibility to myself to engage a man who is at least as capable of identifying and articulating his own process as I am. Capable meaning: ready, willing, and able to walk his path in whatever direction it takes him whether it aligns or diverges from mine. I have all the respect in the world for a man who can do this and still have love in his heart.
And in exploring all this, I keep asking myself, “What is marriage?” But, I have to save that for another day.
Until next time, Be Awake and Be Well. May Metta "Lovingkindness" Fill Your Life.
Fisiwe is a writer, singer and performance poet. She is the author of Lovewords: Poetry From a Place Called Love, and she is the host of her own internet radio show, Love Art Life Radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.