Four years ago, while casually walking in the mall, a familiar voice yelled my name. I turned and saw a high-school friend. We said our hellos and, in a surprised tone, he said: "You're not married? I figured someone would've snatched you up by now!"
I am 30, and it's true: No one has snatched me up.
All told, 42 percent of African American women are unmarried, along with 23 percent of white women. The debate about successful black women struggling to find compatible black men is widespread. Soulful R&B singer Lyfe Jennings says in his song, "Statistics," that only 10 percent of black men are worthy. He explains that the other 90 percent are either unfaithful, unstable, liars or gay.
While I do not accept Lyfe's lyrics as facts, in 2000, the U.S. Census concluded that African American women outnumber black men by 1.8 million. Regardless, while some folks perceive being 30 and single a black epidemic, the stigma and disenfranchisement that go along with it are not exclusive to African Americans.
A recent MSNBC article said that the 30-and-single woman is both "highly visible" and "invisible." The author used the example of the bouquet toss at a wedding. All the single women gather behind the glowing bride, hoping to catch her tossed bouquet. This is a vital event: The woman who catches the bouquet will be the next bride-to-be.
It is often quite dangerous. To catch that bouquet, single bridesmaids and cousins of the bride will leap over tables and chairs and tackle anyone in their way. Out of precaution, one should not participate unless she wears football padding.
The baby shower is another highly visible situation. At baby showers, estrogen levels are extra high, and the mothers (usually every woman in the room) share their favorite baby stories and offer advice. On those topics, the 30-and-single has absolutely nothing to contribute. As her discomfort becomes obvious, the mothers pry into her personal life.
"Are you dating anyone?" they ask. "Are y'all going to get married?" One sweet, well-meaning mother will almost always say: "I bet men are intimidated by you."
In terms of "invisible" situations for the 30-and-single gal, consider her professional male acquaintances and how they disenfranchise her. They ignore her when their wives or girlfriends are around but will eagerly engage in conversation when they're not. They avoid inviting her to socials and gatherings that are open to the married friends in the group. While recognizing this, the 30-and-single is always cordial and understanding, as the men are presumably simply trying to avoid friction with their significant others. Further, and most regrettably, they automatically exclude her from consideration for employment with them; thus, she misses valuable career opportunities.
Oh, and how I love the hip-hop community.
The hip-hop community celebrates the woman who is doing well on her own. In her song, "Single Ladies," Beyoncé sings about an independent woman who does not dwell on being single. She says, "If you liked it, then you should've put a ring on it."
In his song, "I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T," rapper Weebie applauds the independent woman. Rappers have traditionally been disrespectful of women in their choice of lyrics, but in this instance, the independent woman is, to some degree, valued.
Finally, lifelong friends of the 30-and-single feel remorse for her and spend much of their time trying to analyze why her long-term boyfriend has failed to propose. Even worse, they play matchmaker with her and eligible bachelors in the community.
I do not intend to be cynical on this subject. These are just my perceptions, and I am positive that many women can relate. For most, marriage is inevitable, but women should not allow themselves to be forced to comport to society's timeline. A woman should take time to be independent and not feel compelled to be "snatched up" until she is ready.
As for why it has not happened for me? I have been busy being an independent woman!