Every so often I turn on Black radio to find out what’s going on in The Community. We’ve had the same set of issues for the last 40+ years (poverty, relationships, bad weaves,etc), so I’m generally able to pick up where I left off without missing a beat. However, regardless of the amount of time that has passed between sessions, I am ceaselessly amazed by the shallowness of my People.
On this particular morning, I was listening to Frank Ski – whom I generally don’t care for – and his cackling crony, Wanda. I caught the tail end of a conversation in which they were discussing men, women and money. Apparently some (Black) woman was on a campaign to make her husband feel inferior because she was making more money than he, while he was struggling to rise from beneath her oppressive corporate heel placed firmly on his neck, blah-blah-blah. If you’re Black, and you listen to Black radio, you know how this story ends.
(For everyone else here’s your hint: Divorce)
Although not new, the scenario got me to thinking: Is this a phenomenon that is unique to our culture? I never hear about White guys complaining when their wives make a lot of money, nor am I privy to any sense that Asian men are discontent with their spouses accelerated earning power. To be fair, these aren’t topics that are high on the mainstream media’s list of things to cover, but you would think in my 33 years I’d of heard a redneck gripe about his waitress wife flaunting her tips in his face at least once?
In the midst of their banter, a male caller phoned into the radio program to discuss how her and his wife were “working” through the “problem” of her making more money than him. When Frank asked him what he did for a living, he said he was a “manager at a security firm” and then mumbled something about being an “account manager”.
Liar. As someone who has dated a “logistics manager for a trucking company” (when he in fact just a delivery man for a dry cleaning company), my ears were keenly attuned to the inflection in his voice- and it had insecurity seeping out of every note. And what accounts would you happen to be managing while swinging a baton, sir? Liar! Don’t be ashamed of being the ticket booth guy! It’s still a job. To his credit, he said that he was going to school to get a better job, but as any of your friends with Bachelors and Masters degrees will tell you, dear Reader, the wrong degree is just as worthless as NO degree. Besides, if there was ever a break in at our house, I’d feel a lot safer with Mr. Security Guard and his $11/hr paycheck than the quivering millionaire stock broker cowered in the corner!
I changed the channel after the Security Guard/Account Manager hung up and moved on to the country station. For the first time in ages, I was really befuddled by the topic of marriage and money. Now Black folk, you will admit, when it comes to money we generally have our priorities all wrong. As a group, we spend the most and save the least, and are disconcertingly obsessed with displaying a level of flash and pomp that we overall cannot afford. It should be no surprise that this behavior would seep into our married psyche. Yet here I am: surprised and upset.
The recent trend within our community has been that more women are being college educated and therefore getting better jobs. Our men have higher incarceration rates than other races, and are more likely to drop out of high-school. Therefore it stands to reason that any Black woman married to a Black man has a certain percentage chance of making more money than he. But that’s no reason for him to feel inferior or for her to make him feel so.
Last time I checked, there were no written vows that read: I pledge to love, honor and respect you…so long as you make $x more than me every year. Likewise, I don’t know of any husband who turned to his wife and said “I will love, honor and protect you…so long as I make more money than you after taxes.”
I don’t know at what point we as a race limited someone intrinsic value to a dollar figure. In truth, it’s a sad space to be in. There was a time in our marriage when I was the only one bringing in a consistent paycheck while my husband tried his hand at entrepreneurship. While we could rely on my money coming in every 2 weeks, there were times when he would hit a windfall and others where nothing came in for weeks. What mattered was that he got up every day and did something, and we never went hungry or homeless. We were (and are) a team.
My husband’s value, and that of any man, doesn’t come from his paycheck, but rather from his ability and capability. Marshall can fix anything from dinner to a broken head gasket, and that ability doesn’t come from earning $75-100K a year. That’s years of trial and error, training and devotion from his family, and a desire to improve and sustain himself. It would be foolish of me to negate all fine qualities and attempt to belittle him because his income wouldn’t allow for daily shopping sprees at Neiman’s!
But do you know what is equally maddening? Is all these men who (prior to the recession hitting them) run around calling women “slut puppies” who are only after their pockets. Brother please. If a woman is going to put all that work into chasing after a man, she’s going to hound one who is far wealthier than YOU. That’s why gold diggers are the smart ones.
People, lets just do better, okay? As Kim Kardashian just proved to us this week, people get married for all kinds of stupid reasons. Lets not end our marriages for equally stupid ones as well.
Just love the one you’re with.