There are so many groups of singles I'd love to hear from - singles who may have their own special take on single life, but (so far) have rarely make it into the book world. As I have often mentioned (as have others who post comments to this Living Single blog), I pine for more voices of single men. Plus, it would be wonderful to hear more from GLBT singles; amidst all the matrimania and same-sex marriage wars, the lives of uncoupled gay men and lesbians are too often invisible.
But my post today is not a complaint but a celebration. One of the groups of singles under-represented in anthologies and other nonfiction works now has its say. In I Didn't Work This Hard Just to Get Married (is that a great title or what?), we hear from successful single black women, thanks to author Nika Beamon who interviewed them and told their stories. Nika, who is herself an award-winning journalist and producer, talked to an interior designer, a movie producer, an author, an actress, a business owner, a publisher, and many more, and also told her own story along the way.
The people in this book are targets of a triple whammy of prejudices and stereotyping - they are black (so they get hit with racism), they are women (so, sexism), and they are single (hence, singlism). Yet, there is not one whiner in the collection. Oh, sure, they have experienced all these isms and sometimes they say so, but what is impressive is what they do about it.
Here's my favorite example. Author Deborah Gregory told Nika about this experience from her childhood: "When I went to bookstores, the characters in the books were so white. It was very hurtful." If you have ever heard of the Cheetah Girls, then you already know how Deborah Gregory dealt with the pain of exclusion. She wrote the immensely popular books for preteens about a diverse group of girls who were gutsy, smart, and brave, and who cared about their friends. Eventually, the girls made it into a Disney Channel movie. Deborah Gregory gave herself the storybook characters she never had as a child, and shared them with the world.
There's something else I love about the Cheetah Girls. As Gregory puts it, not one of them has "this Cinderella thing." They don't fantasize about getting rescued by some prince. Neither does Gregory.
Here are a few more of my favorite things from Nika Beamon's book:
• One of my favorite quips is from actress and comedienne Kim Coles who said, "I don't have any regrets about being single. You know when I have regrets? When I need someone to climb up on a ladder and do something for me. But you know what I do? I call the handyman."
• My "best sense of balance" award goes to business owner Camille Young, who said, "I don't feel this [being single] is a trait to hold on to, to emulate or to honor, nor is it something to hide, regret, or be ashamed of."
• My favorite theme running through the book: These single women are not alone. They have friends and family who are important to them, and they are quick to say so.
• My favorite "I can relate" quote comes from Sheila Bridges, interior designer for celebrities such as Sean Combs, Tom Clancy, and her Harlem neighbor, Bill Clinton: "I've had so many friends over the years that had a vision of walking down the aisle in the white gown - what the dress would look like, sketching it out - but I never had that."
• My favorite statistic: "more than half of the fifty thousand kids placed in permanent homes in the United States were adopted by African American women without a spouse."
• My favorite insight: Divorce can be more difficult economically for black women than for white women because black women are more likely to be working long hours already and earning incomes similar to their husbands.
• My favorite quirky perspective is from movie producer Effie Brown (Real Women Have Curves) who said that if she ever gets married, she wouldn't mind having separate bedrooms. She would appreciate space of her own as well as shared space.
Finally, a true confession: I wrote the Foreword for the book. But I'm not profiting financially from sales so this post is not an ad. I have never even met author Nika Beamon. She just e-mailed me out of the blue, telling me her vision for this book, and I signed on immediately. My profits are emotional. This book represents more consciousness-raising about singles, and what could be better than that.
[To read other Living Single posts, click here.]