On the mantles of our minds sits iconic images of old Black love. The type of love that evokes soliloquies of “the good old days,” and “in my time…” rocking chair nostalgia.
Those of us who are in the millennial age bracket (ages 22-36) are fed the propaganda that our generation has it all wrong: We are too occupied with social media. We are entitled and lazy. We quit too easily. And we don’t know how to love.
The last part probably rings true for a lot of us, who struggle with the dumpster fire of modern dating. Our dating apps and random hook ups are a far cry from the courting days of the past. But were things really better for our grandmothers, or did they just tolerate more out of obligation versus choice?
These questions raced through my mind as I read this particular Facebook message, cautioning our generation against idolizing the long lasting love of our forefathers and foremothers.
Social media user Lateisha Dionne wrote, “Your granny’s 40, 50+ year marriage isn’t goals to me if she had to accept non-stop infidelities, struggle love, second class citizenship in her home, silencing herself to survive it, seeing her man’s face in the neighbor’s kids, and her worth only being based of her culinary and child-rearing abilities, sir. These are not goals.”
While the above is a generalization that doesn’t fit the experiences of all of our grandparent’s relationships, the social climate of the 1940s and 50s allowed this type of restricted livelihood to be acceptable.
1946-1964 was the baby boomer era, where the largest age demographic of Americans was born. Surely the influx of humans on this planet relied on the women to be the caregivers to keep the family unit thriving.
According to Khanacdemy.org, the social expectations placed upon women as homemakers and caregivers was governmentally supported in the 1950s, when the term “nuclear family” was introduced during the Cold War.
The woman was tasked to keep the “family unit strong and intact. She could do this best, it was thought, by remaining at home to take care of her husband and children, and refusing to pursue a career.”
While I’m sure some women thrived comfortably under these restraints, these set gender roles undoubtedly helped to create inescapable toxic environments for women, riddled with physical and emotional abuse and infidelities. Womanhood was the footstool and doormat of patriarchy, and our worth was directly tied to the happiness of our partners and children.
While we may honor marriages that seem to stand the test of time, it’s important that we note how that time was actually spent. Was it truly honoring and loving their spouse? Was respect the foundation of their marriage? Was loyalty and fidelity a two way street?
I believe what separates this generation of Black women from the former generations isn’t necessarily the distractions of social media and the sex sells mentality, it’s the freedom of choice. Some women aspire to be housewives, some women are gunning for the big career and corner office, some women want something in the middle–and our lives now accommodate all these realities. Choice allows us to quit that job and move to a new city. Choice allows us have enough of our own income that we don’t have to stay in a relationship due to financial resources. Choice leaves the door open for us, so we are never trapped in a smothering situation.
What a baby boomer may view as our propensity to “give up,” in love, could actually really be a testament to the autonomy we’ve gained because of the sacrifices of the women before us. If we, as women, are standing with the strength to leave any situation that doesn’t honor us mentally, physically or emotionally, whether it’s a job or a relationship, maybe the “millennial” way of loving isn’t so bad after all.