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Single And Loving It

Beyond the 'man shortage' statistics, many Black women are living solo by choice and having zero regrets.

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When it debuted in August 1993, Yvette Lee Bowser’s Living Single gave us one of the few depictions and celebrations of single Black women on TV. During its five-season run, the sitcom chronicled the misadventures of Khadijah, Maxine, Synclaire and Regine, four friends and fellow professionals dating and living in New York City. One of the show’s central tropes was the strength and support of single sisterhood that Queen Latifah so eloquently rapped about in the theme song: “My homegirls standing to my left and my right. True blue, it’s tight like glue.” But by the series finale, all four friends were happily coupled with the male counterparts meant just for them. The implication: You can’t — and shouldn’t — live single forever.

According to a February 2019 study by Ebony and QuestionPro, 40 percent of unmarried Black women are looking but not dating, 25 percent are in a committed relationship but living separately and 16 percent aren’t looking for a relationship. They’re not alone. In 2018, 30 percent of women had never married. Among those statistics are Black women happily and contentedly living the single life.

Happily single and currently residing in Ghana, Michelle McKinney Hammond, best selling author of Sassy, Single, Satisfied, believes the decision to stay single is both healthy and beneficial to a woman’s overall quality of life. “The best thing about being single is the freedom to pursue what your heart wants without limitations and accountability,” she says. “You have the ability to pursue goals and passions without limits.”

“The reality of life is that not everyone is getting married, and we really have to get over the ideology of marriage and stop making marriage a goal,” she continues. “If we’re distracted by an idol called marriage, we fail to see the present options in front of us, so it’s very important for singles to see the moment they have as a gift to utilize.”

On a Solo Sojourn
Keturah Kendrick has always had wanderlust, but when she decided she wanted to leave the U.S. to travel the world extensively, she was in a committed relationship. “When I told my boyfriend this is my plan, I said, ‘I’d love for you to come, but you should know I’m going there regardless.’ He chose not to go,” she says. “Had we been married, that would have been a totally different thing. Either we would’ve gotten divorced or I would’ve just settled on not going. Because I’ve been single and haven’t had children, I pretty much determine my professional and personal growth so that I don’t have to consult many people about decisions like this one.”

The globetrotter, who lived in Africa for two years and China for three, chronicled her challenges and reflections on living while Black, female, single and child free around the globe in her book, No Thanks: Black, Female, and Living in the Martyr-Free Zone. Now back in the states, Kendrick isn’t interested in marriage but she does want love on her own terms.

“What’s become increasingly more important to me in my 40s are my autonomy and my ability to be free,” she explains. “The best thing about being single is being able to shape my life the way I want and not having to pay the consequences for someone else’s bad choices.”

Single for the Second Time
A divorced mom of one, Peggy Montgomery, 61, hadn’t planned on being single at this stage of her life, but she also has no plans to remarry. “I always knew marriage was an antiquated institution,” she says, “and when I went through my divorce, that was verified by the courts. I was single until I was 39 years old and loved it. For me, life was never about being married — it was about creating the life that you want.” Her mother raised her to be self-sufficient, so she never bought into the hype about needing or having to get married to be fulfilled.

After her 13-year marriage ended, she acknowledges that singleness is different this time around because she’s careful not to expose her teenager to anyone she’s in the early stages of dating. “Being single at this age and stage is different because I can’t bring anybody home. We can’t go to my place. I just wouldn’t do that to my son,” says Montgomery, a licensed clinical social worker in private counseling practice. “Do I trust this guy enough to go to his house? It’s definitely slowed down the intimacy, let’s say. But in some ways, that’s been good. The people I’ve spent time with, I get to know better or not. It becomes pretty evident what they’re interested in.”

Finding Friendship First
At 45, Shellie R. Warren is living her best life and plans to remain single until she meets the man who complements her purpose. She didn’t always feel that way. In her 20s, she says, she deeply hoped to get married. The author, writer, marriage life coach and doula hasn’t had a boyfriend since she was 30 and has been abstinent since age 32. “It’s not a death sentence,” she says. “It’s a really beautiful place to be.”

“A lot of us are looking for someone to give us purpose, fill a void or give us self. I spent a lot of time looking for a man to love me. Now I’ve become the kind of woman that, until a man can love me the way I know how to love, I need to be single,” she continues. “All the bad relationships I’ve had taught me how to forgive, heal and have patience, and ultimately how to love.”

If she gets married, Warren wants to marry her friend, and making a friend takes time. Until then, she’s not actively looking for a relationship. “I’ll run into him and he’ll run into me, but I’m too busy to look. I’m not just busy — I’m satisfied. He can only make life better and my life is pretty good. So that’s a high bar for him.”

McKinney Hammond, 62, agrees. “You’ll know when someone walks into your life and makes it better than before they found you. Then they are up for consideration, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to say you want to spend the rest of your life with the person. In the meantime, life is evolving and full of exciting options.”