What's race got to do with it?
ecently, I was traveling back to Detroit after a trip to see my family. My flight was crowded, and of course, someone ended up sitting in the middle seat in my row. He seemed polite enough. But I had my book at the ready, fully intending to read and not engage in conversation. My "rowmate," it seemed, had another plan and kept asking me questions, despite my one-word responses. I finally realized that I would not be reading on this flight so I decided to make the most of the situation and try to enjoy the impending conversation.
As the plane took off, I interrupted him to say a quick prayer. Then he kind of chuckled because he also never takes off without a quick prayer before flight. That commonality kicked off what would be a very engaging chat.
We talked about our homes, his trip south to go golfing with his buddies and our jobs. I saw pictures of his wife and kids, and the prize elk he'd shot a couple of weeks back that would soon be hanging in his family room. We talked about horses-he owns some and I've ridden a time or two-and how great skiing is in Utah, where he lives.
All in all, it was a great conversation. He was a nice looking guy. Not my usual type, but I found myself thinking, 'I'd go out with him if he asked me and was single.
As the plane began to land, he noticed the book on my lap and asked me the title. I was a bit embarrassed, but I showed him anyway: "Is Marriage for White People?" I quickly explained that my mom and uncle had sent me the book and that I would have never picked it out on my own. I completely downplayed my interest, not wanting to own up to fact that I wasn't reading it just out of curiosity, when in fact I was almost desperate to know if someone had finally figured out a good reason why at 34, I was still single.
My rowmate, a 34-year-old White man, looked at me incredulously and asked with a bit of humor in his tone, "What? I mean why would it be any harder for you to get married than my wife?" I spent the next few minutes, as the plane slowly taxied to the gate, attempting to explain the social dynamics at work for Black women-specifically those who want to marry Black men.
I tried to explain how Black women attend college at two times the rate of Black men. I pointed out the number of Black men undereducated, imprisoned, homosexual or not interested in dating Black women, and how maybe even the experience of slavery still plays a part in the Black male-female relationship dynamic.
At first my rowmate seemed a little dumbstruck, as there was silence for the first time since our conversation had begun. Suddenly, he looked at me and said, "Hell, I'd ask you out if I was dating. But I can see why some guys might be intimidated. You're attractive and smart, and some guys might feel a little bit inadequate. I mean, not many women of any race have advanced degrees. My wife certainly wouldn't have made it through business school. Maybe it's not easy to talk to you."
"But we've been talking for an hour now. You're not intimidated. And hasn't it been fun?" I replied. He smiled and agreed that we'd been having a great conversation.
"Are you the only guy I had a shot with?" I quipped. With that we both laughed. I told my rowmate that I would be reading my book while I waited for my next flight, to which he responded, "Don't read that crap. We're young. You'll get married and have kids soon." And with that we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
I was left pondering his honest observation, wondering if my education, while such an asset in so many ways, was a personal pitfall, while my rowmate prepared for the second leg of his trip, soon to be reacquainted with his wife and kids.
In the end I decided not to take his advice. I will finish reading the book, but I already know the answer to the question posed by the title. No, marriage is not just for White people. It's for anyone willing to wait for the right match and take a shot at love.
Terri Howze is a freelance writer and professional educator who enjoys inviting others on her relationship and lifestyle issue self-discovery journey.