Monday, October 4, 2010

Piece O' Man

“Don’t nobody want no old ‘piece o’ man’.” That’s something the older women in my family, and other older women used to say when I was a kid. Of course, when you’re five or six years old you don’t have much to say, so you just listen. I remember one time at that age, hearing them talk about men so badly that I began to cry. I never wanted to be like those people they talked about, but I didn’t think I had a choice since I knew I had be a man someday (…and yes, there will be a post someday about the negative things little boys hear around women that speak their future manhood issues into existence). Thank God my mother had a different perspective of men, and it was her view of what kind of man I would be that I tried to grow into. She thought I did an incredible job… I think I did alright… I’m definitely a piece o’ work.

I’ve heard other things that reminded me of the piece o’ man thing over the years. I had a secretary whose grandmother told her she really didn’t want to marry her grandfather but couldn’t find another man, and “half a loaf is better than none”. Her grandmother said that for the rest of her life she had what she asked for, because he was never better than half a loaf. When my mother told my grandmother that she was marrying my father, grandma asked her, “did you ask the Lord for a husband?” When my mother replied, “no ma’am”, grandma said, “well you’re not gettin’ one, you’re just marryin’ a man.” They definitely didn’t have the greatest relationship in the world. I’m glad my father had a better relationship with my step-mother.

My original social networking hangout was Black Planet back in the day. I found an interesting pattern to the pages of some of the sisters who wrote me. They let me know in no uncertain terms that:

  1. The were strong
  2. They were totally independent
  3. They made their own money
  4. They had there own house/apartment
  5. They paid there own bills
  6. They didn’t need a daddy for their children (if they had any)
  7. They paid their own way when they wanted to do something
  8. The had their sh*t together.
  9. They didn’t need a man, because there is nothing a man can do for them that they weren’t already doing for themselves.

Then they went onto say they were just looking for that missing piece… that special someone to share their time with. I’ve been looked at as that missing piece in the past, and it wasn’t the best spot to be in. I’ve had my clothing style, my career path, my spiritual journey, and other highly personal things mapped out for me by sisters who barely knew me in an effort to make me into the person they thought I could be. When I didn’t think the changes made sense and/or were beneficial, I was being ungrateful for the love and effort they put toward making me a better person. When I suggested some changes they could make as well, I was accused of being threatened by a strong/successful woman, or not loving/accepting them for who they were. Anyway, how dare I not want to conform to their image of what they thought I should be; I was lucky they were dating my old, short, skinny, broke a$$ anyway. And besides… (see #9 above).

It seems just a little contradictory to look for a “complete man”, and then relegate him to the status of a “missing piece” (while looking down on a piece o’ man for being incomplete). Maybe a missing half if you look at it technically, or missing whole if you look at it scripturally, but not a missing piece. My belief: in a relationship you have to leave room for growth together as well as separately. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving up or ignoring what you have, or what you’ve achieved, but it does mean that you have to be open to compromise (both of you give up something until you reach a point where you can be both self-reliant and interdependent). Iron and carbon combine to make steel, which is significantly stronger than the other two alone. But it takes a lot of heat to convert them, and afterward neither the iron nor the carbon will ever again be what it used to be . So it is with relationships. Once you’re married, you can never be unmarried again. You are separated, widowed, divorced, or re-married… altered states of marriage. You can be as strong as steel, but you first have to be willing to change…. and then be willing to stand the heat.

Partner connotes equal, piece connotes lesser; if you don’t order what you really want from the menu it will leave a bad taste in your mouth. If you’re willing to compromise who you are with someone who is willing to compromise who they are so that two (wholes) can become one (whole), go for it… God will bless your effort. But hey, if you’re complete as is, and you just want that missing piece to go to movies with, have sex with, attend concerts with, eat dinner with, or any other recreational activity, but don’t want to deal with any growth/sacrifice/compromise, then it shouldn’t matter whether you do those things with just one man or rotate ten men… in fact, all you’ll really need is a piece o’ man.