It has been a topic of conversation for at least as long as I have been alive. Before I knew what the words meant, I was singing along to songs that ingrained a message to catchy beats, clever lyrics and soul-touching passion. I eavesdropped on conversations that my elders had and learned a refrain that I have seen in more songs, more online arguments, and heard in many more conversations, a refrain I chose to release. What refrain?
Men ain’t sh*t.
Many times it is much easier to generalize than to be specific. From generalizations we are able to make rules that give a semblance of order and foster a sense of control to the world we live in. For example, we tell young children not to talk to strangers and often have to console them when they are hesitant to talk to people they don’t know that include family or friends. It is easier to introduce the exception rather than to make a rule so specific that it is hard to explain and hard to remember.
Perhaps that is why it is easier to make “ain’t sh*t” men the rule rather than the exception. Women who are happily coupled with men who are an exception are still able to join in this refrain, a rallying cry for women who have been wronged by men…or specifically, an individual woman who has been wronged by an individual man.
In a recent conversation with a dear friend, we discussed an unexpected ending to a would-be “fairy-tale ending” to a courtship: Man and Woman were friends, Man proclaimed his love for Woman to anyone who would listen, Woman agreed to date man and man became distant. Man went from calling often to feeling crowded and needing his space. A woman to Woman moment happened when a phone call revealed Man tried to sleep with woman (see what I did there?). I listened my friend be angry, and then I listed to that anger, fear and distrust transfer itself to doubt about the man who was courting her. It was in that moment that I realized the potential damage we do when we make rules to keep ourselves safe.
Can we truly allow ourselves to fall in love if we are always waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop? If we as women or men who love men convince ourselves that they are not capable of receiving and reciprocating our love…then what are we doing when we say we want to be in a loving romantic relationship? Are we setting ourselves up to be unsuccessful, to live in a world where we meet men who show us that we are right?
I offer this as an alternative; take each man for an individual. Live outside of the rules and meet that man where he is. If he, through his own efforts, shows you he ain’t sh*t, let that be a label for him and him alone. Name the ain’t sh*t man instead of making men the boogeyman. Listen to that voice that tells you when something is wrong. Be willing to separate fear from truth, to be courageous and gamble at the risk of great reward.
I know that this in and of itself is not easy, because it means conversations with yourself and conversations with friends and family must change. It means revising both how you show up and what you tolerate from a man in courtship and relationship. The change will start with you and continue from there.