I don't know if ya'll are fans of the movie The Color Purple but I am a *huge* fan and I almost know the entire movie verbatim. There's a scene where Shug Avery sees her daddy driving by in his horse-drawn carriage and runs out of the house excited to let him know that she had finally done right and gotten married. "I'se married now . . . I say, I'se married now" she shouts. But he continues to drive by without even giving her a look. I've always loved that scene. I can identify with Shug's intense desire to "do right" and to win her father's acceptance.
Anyway, Beyonce, who I think is a talented entertainer and who, I will admit, I envy a little because of how fit and in shape she is (trust me, I recognize it's her job to look fabulous but on most days I feel sloppy and overweight so a little envy creeps in from time to time). Anyway, Ms. Knowles has come out with a new single called Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It). Take a look and listen to the lyrics:
Okay, the dancing is so on point. I really don't like the song per se but the dancing? Whoa. But this is not a post on the merits of the video. What I really want to talk about is what she's saying and why watching the video the first time gave me one huge chuckle and also something to think about.
I think we could all agree that in this society and in many societies, girls are socialized to grow up to become wives. Many little girls dream of a beautiful wedding and marrying Prince Charming and living a charmed life. Marriage is something that many girls are taught to work towards and aspire to almost as hard as a career, if not more so. I've heard it said before, "What good is a successful career without someone to share it with?" Women who choose not to get married or who aren't married yet are seen as strange (at best) or deviant (at worst). While the term for an unmarried man (bachelor) connotes fun and a license to just be free, the term for an unmarried woman (spinster) has much different connotations. When we think of a spinster, we think of someone who is sad, alone, and probably has lots of cats. It's someone we pity. Even if the spinster has a thriving career. And is perfectly happy. The default in our world is that a woman can't possibly be happy alone. She needs a man to complete her happiness.
Now, don't get me wrong, I *love* my man and I'm more than happy to have him in my life. But believe it or not, I have learned in my almost 5 years of marriage that if you cannot be happy by yourself then getting married won't magically fix that. If you cannot be at peace alone, in your loneliness, marriage is not the cure. So I admire women who have deliberately chosen to be on their own or if they are still waiting for the right guy to show up have a vivaciousness about them; a certain love of life; a purpose. I admire a single woman who is not just waiting for Mister Right but is living life. That takes strength in the midst of all the messages society throws around about single ladies.
Which brings me back to the Beyonce song. My sister was actually a bit annoyed at Ms. Knowles, who, if you pay attention to any gossip sources or have access to any teenager you would know, got married recently to Mr. Sean Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z. It seemed that she was showing off in her video, according to my sister. Okay, she is! She's newly married! It's exciting. It's what every girl dreams of. It means so much in this society to "settle down," "do right," and get married. Ms. Knowles has done it all, it would seem. She's a successful entertainer at the top of her game. She's an actress. She owns her own clothing line. The icing on the cake is being married! So I don't blame her for showing off of a little. I've never known a new bride who doesn't show off a little (or a lot). Sometimes new brides will cut off their old friends because "I'se married now!" And while relationships can and will change after you get married, it seems that sometimes new brides get carried away with their "huzzzbands"! And so, this is what made me chuckle. Despite Ms. Knowles super stardom, she really is just like a lot of us.
I know when I got married, a lot of my relationships changed drastically, most significantly the relationship with my parents who were not pleased at all that I had decided to get married. While our relationship before was pretty rocky, it took a turn for the worse when I decided that my man must become my hubby. The turmoil I experienced over the relationship with my parents probably did not give me the chance that most new brides have to gloat and to glow over their new marriage. But it did give me a very practical view of marriage and a clear understanding of what it would take for the marriage to withstand and thrive. So while things were romantic the first year (despite everything) they were always ground in reality with the backdrop of my parental issues always looming.
Anyway . . . I, for one, think it's cute when new brides act the way Ms. Knowles is in her video. Being married can be exciting, fun and can, for a while, feel surreal. But I think that underneath the cuteness can be a meanness ("I'm married and you're not, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah") and also an insecurity ("Thank God I finally got married--I was worried for a minute there!") which, I think, the meanness grows from. I like to think about and explore the deeper societal issues that women face that makes getting married the ultimate test or measure of a woman's success when for men, it does not seem to be that way. On the contrary, for a guy, getting married is often talked about as his demise, a demotion, his acceptance of a ball and chain, the end, evidence that he's "gone soft". It's something that must be done regardless of all that because he knows that a woman (especially a self-assured, smart, otherwise successful, beautiful woman), driven, as it were, by this ultimate goal of marriage, won't stick around too long if it's not offered. That is, in fact, all Beyonce's song is about. I sincerely doubt we'll see Jay-Z brandishing his new, diamond encrusted wedding band.
I don't think the movie The Color Purple did justice to the character of Shug. The novel paints a picture of Shug Avery as a very free spirited, independent, fun loving, sexually liberated character. She thinks for herself and generally doesn't care what others think of her. She's her own woman. And that is her draw. It's what makes her sexy. She's lusted after by men. And hated by women. Despite all that, Ms. Avery still longs for marriage. I've always wondered about that.