S2E4 - How I'm Living My Best Life Childfree w/ Dr.Kris Marsh and Rahmah

Episode 4 October 11, 2023 00:57:06
S2E4 - How I'm Living My Best Life Childfree w/ Dr.Kris Marsh and Rahmah
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S2E4 - How I'm Living My Best Life Childfree w/ Dr.Kris Marsh and Rahmah

Oct 11 2023 | 00:57:06


Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this episode Aisha has a conversation with Dr. Kris Marsh and Rahmah Wims about choice, societal norms, and living as part of the "Love Jones Cohort." Dr. Marsh's book, "The Love Jones Cohort: Single and Living Alone in the Black Middle Class," explores the experiences of Black individuals who have chosen to remain single and live alone. The discussion delves into their experience, the backlash they've faced for their choices, societal messaging around Black women's life choices, and how these choices are perceived differently at various stages of life. The guests emphasize the importance of respecting diverse life paths and encourage asking questions about why people make the choices they do.

Purchase Dr. Marsh's book here: 

Find out More about Dr. Kris Marsh: www.drkrismarsh.com

The Embodied podcast that Dr. Marsh and Aisha appeared on discussing being Single by Choice

More on Rahmah's Journey: S1E9 - On Ending the SMC Journey and Moving on w/ Rahmah


View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Welcome to start to Finish Motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins and I'm partnering with you every step of your journey. [00:00:25] Speaker B: Hi, everybody. [00:00:26] Speaker A: Today I'm here with two special guests to take part in a wonderfully interesting conversation. Just to set the stage. I am aisha. I'm a single mother by choice. This means that I made an affirmative and intentional decision to decouple my relationship status from my parental status. I created my family without a partner. When faced with the option of pursuing unfulfilling relationships in order to create children within the bounds of marriage, I prioritize my sanity, self respect and peace and created a family alone. I set aside respectability, politics in favor of living my life free of regret and full of joy. This is my wish for all women, but in particular black women. Because when black women choose joy, when black women choose themselves, society and the trolls, they really come for us as if we are not entitled to these things just as humans being on this earth. So this is my wish for all black women to intentionally seek out joy and live life on your own terms. So whether a black woman chooses marriage, motherhood, single motherhood, career, single for life, my hope is that women feel free to make these active and affirmative choices to live their best lives. I'm framing this episode around choice. [00:01:51] Speaker C: Today. [00:01:51] Speaker A: I have with me Dr. Chris Marsh, who's the author of The Love Jones Cohort. And I have my friend Rachma Weens. And Rahma is a woman who has chosen to live life child free. Welcome Chris and Rahma to the podcast. [00:02:06] Speaker B: Let's start with introductions. [00:02:08] Speaker A: Chris, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your new book? [00:02:11] Speaker C: Absolutely. And it's such a pleasure to be here to have this conversation with both of you. So thank you for having me. So, just briefly about myself, I'm a sociologist and a demographer at the University of Maryland, College Park. And one of the things I decided early on in my academic career, I decided that I did not and would not pimp the poor to make my academic career. So all of my research looks at the black middle class, either avenues into the black middle class or consequences of being in the black middle class. There is a black poor and I understand that, I get that. But I wanted to look at the other extreme of black America to understand all of black America. So most of my research up until this point was quantitative. I looked at the demographic trends in the black middle class. I just had a book that was released earlier this year and an audiobook that will be released soon that looks at people that are single and living alone in the Black Middle Class. And the title of the book is The Love Jones cohort, Single and Living Alone in the Black Middle Class. And I hope we can have conversation around the book today. [00:03:13] Speaker A: All right, well, thank you. Thank you. Yes, we are going to have conversation. [00:03:17] Speaker B: Around the book today. [00:03:19] Speaker A: And Rakma, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you've been up to since we last spoke. [00:03:25] Speaker B: OK, perfect. [00:03:26] Speaker A: Hi Aisha. [00:03:27] Speaker B: Thank you so much for having me again on your podcast. I'm really excited to be here and dive into this topic as I'm deeply passionate about this. And Chris, I'm really looking forward to chatting with you and getting to know you a little. As Aisha said, my name is Rahma Wims. I am a native Washingtonian, so I grew up in the suburbs of DC. And I'm currently since last time, Aisha and I, when I was previously on this podcast, I am currently living in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. I relocated this summer. I am child free after infertility, which basically means that I made the decision to discontinue fertility treatments and also to not pursue adoption and just embrace and live life as a child free. [00:04:17] Speaker A: Right. All right, with all of that foundation laid, let's jump into it. Okay, Chris, I've been making my way through your book. I've been picking it up, putting it down, and I've just really been looking back over my life and my times as a single person, my times in relationship, and just reflecting, I pick it. [00:04:35] Speaker B: Back up, I highlight passages. [00:04:37] Speaker A: I mean, I've read your book over and over, and I feel like it's a book that I will be reading for the next three to four years. So with your book floating in my head, combined with my own experience and the little people that I'm raising asking me questions, will you get married or will you ever be in a relationship? Which are really adult conversations. Your book has helped me to have the language as to why I've chosen to be single and unpartnered and how I can frame it for them in terms of making choices for their own lives when they become grown ups. I've been thinking about personal choice in a society that's evolving. The norms, the traditions, they're evolving. Some people have turned the page, some people have not. And I think that's the tension that we're currently experiencing, in particular as black women, there is this really strong tension between the traditional and the nontraditional. And so I chose to specifically center the conversation around chapters where you talk about choice and constrained choice and things of that nature. But first, can you explain or define what Salah is and the importance of that acronym in the demographic and sociological space? [00:05:52] Speaker C: Okay, a little bit about title. So the title of the book is called Love Jones Cohort. And it's basically because of the movie Love Jones. And the reason why I decided to call it The Love Jones Cohort is because the Love Jones is where we started to see this demographic shift away from married couples on the big screen and the small screen that moved away from married couples to young black professionals who weren't married and didn't have any children. If we think of the quintessential black middle class or middle class or beyond family, we often think about the huxtables. But the demographics or the characters in Love Jones is where we started to see that shift. So I wanted to pay homage and respect to the pioneers who started to make that shift, and Love Jones really did make that shift, and they're the pioneers. And then I tacked on cohort because I'm a professor and I want people to learn things. So a cohort is a traditional demographic term that just basically means a band of people. So in the book, I'm very clear that there's two parts kind of to the conversation. One is about The Love Jones cohort, and then one is about people that are single and living alone, which I call salas. Someone said salah? I was no, no, it is not salah. It is sala. And sala means that you are single and living alone. You could be middle class. You could not be middle class. There's no class dimension that I'm talking about when I talk about salas. But when I do speak about the black, the Love Jones cohort, you have to be middle class. And you also have to be a sola single and living alone. Because I didn't want to write a whole book about people that were salas. And they say, oh, if they were like, middle class, maybe it would be a different conversation. I'm like, no, here are people who have, quote unquote, done everything right. They have big degrees, big houses, big salaries, and their outcomes just don't look the same as other racial and ethnic groups. And let's have a conversation around that. So anybody can use the term sola. Sola doesn't have a class dimension to it. The Love Jones cohort really is specific to black Americans, and it really is people that are salah and actually middle class. I want to just make sure we know that distinction between the two titles that I talk about in the book. [00:07:53] Speaker A: So I love that because sometimes there's this fear of saying, this thing that I created is for you, especially when it pertains to black people and black women in particular. I love that you just said that your word. Your book is specific and it's an homage. It is speaking to the black experience. [00:08:12] Speaker C: Absolutely. And I even say in the preface, I was like, this is a politics of citation. I want to cite black scholars that are talking about black families, and this is an ode or a love letter to those that are single and living alone. But with that being said, anybody can read the book. Everybody, all of us, have held the title of single at one time. And so if you've ever held the title of single, I think you really want to pick the book up and read it. Whether or not you're single now, whether or not you're black, whether or not you're middle class, there's some universal principles that can benefit everybody. So everyone should read the book. But I clear. I wrote this as story to the Love Jones Cohort. [00:08:46] Speaker A: Yes, let's normalize having literature that's created by black people for a universal audience as well. All right, so now that we have defined the term salah rahma, would you define yourself as fitting into the salah or the Love Jones Cohort? [00:09:03] Speaker B: Absolutely I would. So I am single and living alone and have been that way my entire adult life. So I am 41 now and I've been sala forever, especially once I was past the roommate days in my twenty s. I would definitely describe myself that way. And I am also part of the Love Jones Cohort just in terms of being raised middle or I guess technically upper middle class and remaining that way, college educated, great career, the six figure salary, the whole nine yards. So I definitely meet both of those criteria. [00:09:41] Speaker A: All right, good. So we're on the same playing field real quick. [00:09:45] Speaker C: So when I say single, I'm also saying single never married. And I get a lot of pushback there because people are like, well, I'm returning to singlehood, but for reasons I hope we'll be able to discuss throughout the podcast, I really wanted people who had never because that's a little bit different, those who were exposed to the stimuli versus those that were never exposed to the stimuli. So when I say single, I am saying those that have never been married, which leaves space and latitude for other research to come behind me and talk about those that are returning to singlehood. But I want those that have never been exposed to the stimuli. [00:10:17] Speaker B: That's something I appreciate because I feel like and I've had this conversation with friends who are divorced, there is a difference between single never married like myself and returning to single after a divorce. You have a different perspective, you have different life experience, you honestly have a different status in society. [00:10:39] Speaker C: That part because I think stigma is one of the things that I talk about in the book. And it's like, okay, as long as you have exposure to the stimuli and you're returning to singlehood, it's okay. But if you've never been married and never had any children, clearly something's wrong with you. So in the book I'm really trying to destigmatize singlehood and I really want to focus on those who have never been married. I'm unapologetic about that. [00:11:01] Speaker A: Yeah, I definitely agree. And there's a parallel conversation that happens in the single mother by choice community where people are like, well, the dad left or I chose to carry the pregnancy. And it's a bit of a different type of context. Your perspectives are different when you think about the emotional weight that you. [00:11:20] Speaker C: Know, again, the Love Jones cohort, which is a term that I've coined and that's kind of near and dear to me. And I think there's very strict parameters on how I want you to define yourself if you're going to be part of the Love Jones cohort. And I believe I say this in the book, again, solas, that is independent of race, that is independent of class status, that is independent. It is simply your household formation. If you're single and living alone, you can call yourself a solid. If you feel as if you're returning back to single to find you as single and living alone, I'm cool with that. But one of the things I do say in the book I believe I say it in a footnote, but as long as you are actively trying to work against trying to help oppress groups, you can use the term. If you're actively not trying to help oppress groups, I prefer you not use the term, period, full stop. Okay. And I'm okay with that. [00:12:07] Speaker A: All right. At the top of the conversation, we talked about making affirmative choices and choosing. I think there is a particular backlash that we get when we acknowledge that this is a choice. The lifestyle that I'm currently living is a choice. So, Chris, can you talk a little bit about the backlash that you've received about your book? [00:12:28] Speaker C: Okay, absolutely. And I don't want to say I get hate mail every day, but I get hate mail on a regular basis because people say I'm bad for black America. This is why we have absent fathers in the household. I was like, Where do I start talking about absentee fathers or anything? I'm so confused. But if you look at the title and it has single in the title, people are automatically thinking, I'm saying, oh, black women out here. We don't need no man. We could do it. We could do it on our own. Read the book before you start making those assumptions about how I'm bad for black America. So I want to be clear before I move one step further. I am all about black love. I am all about black marriage, but I am all about healthy marriages and healthy love. I am not going to just blanketly support marriage for the sake of supporting marriages. But here's what I am going to do. I'm going to destigmatize singlehood so you don't end up in oppressive, toxic, unfulfilling, and even abusive relationships because you don't want to hold the title of singlehood. So I get a lot of backlash. People think I'm, like, read the book. Read the book, and then we can have a conversation. I'm trying to have a structural conversation about singlehood, and that's what the book is really trying to do, but unfortunately, people don't read the book, and I get the nasty grams, and it's almost. [00:13:38] Speaker A: As if people insert themselves into your individual choice. So, Rakma, this brings me to you. When you informed your village, your friends, folks in your space that you were choosing to live child free and happy with that decision, did you get any backlash? [00:13:56] Speaker B: I received a ton of backlash, pushback, unnecessary and unasked for feedback, some of it from within my own family. Just, are you sure you want to give up or you don't want to keep trying? And just from my family, it was coming from a good place of wanting to check and double check and triple and quadruple check that I wasn't going to regret my decision from some of my friends and others in my circle. It was coming from a place where they just could not comprehend a decision to not live a traditional lifestyle. So they couldn't wrap their minds around like, okay, I'm already single. So it was already hard enough for people to accept that I was pursuing the single mother by choice journey. And then when I decided to walk away from that and just embrace being single and child free, then it became, I don't even know who you are. I just don't get it. But you've always wanted to be a mom. You've always wanted to be married. Well, I was also a lot younger when we were having those conversations. And I've grown, I've evolved, I've changed, I've been through some things. And I really love my life as a single and child free woman. And I don't feel like I'm missing anything from life. And that, particularly for women I have found for women who are not thrilled in their marriage or not thrilled with motherhood, is really difficult for them to grasp. And so a lot of the pushback I personally believe and I have experienced comes from women and women in particular who are not 100% thrilled with their choices. And when they had the choice, they didn't choose freedom and a life that looked like mine. And so watching someone do that, especially a friend or a relative who they thought, okay, well, she's just in this holding pattern. She's waiting to be married, she's waiting to be a mother. And when I stepped out of that and decided I was no longer waiting for anything. I was just living my best life as it is now. That has been a bitter pill for some people to swallow, and it has caused me to distance myself from a couple of people because I'm not going to choose to live a life that isn't authentic to me and what I want just to make other people happy. I follow a couple of child free social media, Instagram pages, TikToks, et cetera, and you can put a comment. And immediately the backlash starts, especially with me being a black woman. Like, I'm anti black men. I'm anti black family. I must not have had a father growing up. I did indeed have a father. I grew up in a two parent household with a stay at home mother. Honey, there is absolutely nothing that you can tell me about what a father should be doing in the house, because my father is doing it. So we can't travel that road. You can't go there with me. But there is so much backlash, and I think it comes from, one, people not being truly happy with their lives, but two, a lot of people can't understand any woman, but particularly any Black woman, choosing to live outside of societal norm. People just really struggle with that. [00:17:26] Speaker C: I just want to chime in on two points. One, I think that's fabulous. I appreciate you anecdotally. One of the respondents in the book said something like, when I told people I didn't want to have children, they were like, oh, there must be some really dark, deep issues that you're having, and I hope you can talk to a therapist to get through those issues, because clearly that you're not good for children. Right? I was like, oh, that's so interesting. And the other things I want to say is, what's so unfortunate and again, getting back to the backlash is like, why can't we be more inclusive of the way in which we think about Black love? Why does it have to be this heteronormative mother, father, 2.5 children, and a black picket fence? There should be space. I'm like, it can be both end. I'm all for Black marriage and Black love if it's done the right way, but I'm also for other narratives. And this single narrative is a narrative that we should be making space for. We just don't make space for that. There's a certain way in which we think we have to live as an adult. And if you don't hit some of those stations on the life course, then you're considered other category, and we don't want to look at you and give you serious consideration and the book really tries to push hard against. [00:18:32] Speaker A: So thank you for that piece. And as Rockman was, I'm like, yes. I'm just, like, cheering and shaking my head because I think people think you make choices because you're somehow broken. And it's just like, I grew up in a two parent household. My mom was a stay at home mom, and I still chose something that was outside of societal's norm. [00:18:53] Speaker C: Right? [00:18:54] Speaker A: I think we have this little box that we create for Black women, and all throughout our childhood, we get this messaging. So I like to think about societal messaging as we're this little cell in a petri dish, and we're surrounded by medium, and the medium is the messaging that we get. I'm a biologist by education, and so the medium is the messaging that we get. So we get like, yes, Black girl, you can be all of these great things. You can be all of these options. As long as you choose from an option that's in this tiny box, you're going to be happy, you're going to be supported. But then, as we progress into adulthood, we become like balloons, and the balloons fill up with air helium, we're set to soar. And the minute you choose something that is outside of that box, but you choose from a universe of options, not in that tiny box, but just any other option, you come up against these straight pins that poke holes in your happiness. [00:19:46] Speaker B: Poke holes. [00:19:47] Speaker A: Try to poke holes in your self esteem and who you are, because they get joy out of watching that balloon. Right? And it's just like these are the messages that we so in that context of messaging and that progression from being a child in someone's home and getting messaging to becoming an adult. Chris, did you see any movement in your research between how people felt about their solid status on the younger end of the scale versus how they felt on the older? [00:20:19] Speaker C: Yes. I want to answer that in two ways, and I think messaging is really important. And one of the things I say towards the end of the book, I said, after reading this book, I hope you're just as likely to ask somebody, why are you married? As we are to ask somebody, Why are you single? We always ask single folks why you're single. And in the book, they talked about the respondents talked about how they had to get their narratives ready when they were going to family functions or going to weddings. They had to get their narrative ready. And I think messaging really matters if we're going to ask single folks, stop asking everybody if you ask me. But if you're going to ask single folks why you're single, we got to ask married folks why they're married too, and wait for a coherent response. Don't just say, just because I love them. I'm going to need you to give a little more, coherency I have to come up with all this great narrative because you're so pretty, you're so smart, it's going to happen for you one day. What do you think the problem is? Yeah, miss me on that entire conversation. It's important that if you're going to ask single folks, you're going to ask married folks. And I think where I admonish married folks, I'm like, be honest about your marriages. What I've heard people say is that once you get married, other people get married, then they're honest with other married people. Maybe you should be more honest with single folks. Because getting back to my second idea about messaging, I think it's a very simple question, but I think it's a thoughtful question that we need to ask people, why do you want to get married? And the reason why I think that's a very important question to ask is because it's about messaging from a very small age. We're thought that we're supposed to have this white wedding, have this prince sign this shining prince in the armor. I'm talking about that guy come and sweep us off our feet and all that kind of stuff. It starts at a very young age. So I think it's a very thoughtful question to ask, why do we want to get married? But we just don't have that question. And I think if we ask ourselves that question, we'll be more inclined to be like, maybe this isn't necessarily for me. And then one last thing I want to add. Stop policing black women. Stop policing black women. You tell us how our hair should look. You tell us how big our butts should look or shouldn't look. You tell us how loud we should or should not be. You tell us who we should and should not marry. How about you stop policing black women to keep our names out your mouth? Let us do what we want to do. [00:22:24] Speaker B: Amen, Chris. [00:22:25] Speaker A: Amen. [00:22:25] Speaker C: But it really is true, though, right? And so one of the things that I do say in the book, which I think is essential for us to understand I want to take this a little slow so people understand what I'm saying. It's important that we have a structural conversation when we think about singlehood. One of the arguments that I make in the book, and every time on a podcast, I always mention that we have to understand how structural forces constrain our personal choices. I'm going to say that again. We have to understand how structural forces constrain our personal choices. I'm going to give you an example. So think about how racism trains our personal choices. If I, Chris Marsh, want to marry another heterosexual man who has a PhD, makes $150,000 a year, and has estate planning, he's simply not there. I have chosen at this point, like, whether or not I want to be single by choice or by force. I have chosen to expand the conversation to show us that structural forces have constrained our dating pool. Before we even decide whether or not we're going to be single by choice or by force, a lot of the conversation just is left here on whether or not people are single by choice or by force. But there's a broader conversation that is necessary and needs to be had. And the reason why the broader conversation is really necessary is because if we leave the conversation at the individual level about are you single by choice or by force, it almost can become a deficit model. One and two black women in particular can think that the onus is on them, like, oh, my gosh, woe with me. Something's wrong with me. I'm not doing something right because I am single. I'm like, no, there is a structural conversation. There is a structural conversation that's necessary and needed because structural forces have constrained your dating pool. Numerically. Some of the men just simply are not there. But unfortunately, we don't have the structural part of the conversation. So the book tries to give you a structural understanding to singlehood because anything short of that could have black women looking at themselves in a certain kind of way. And I'm not going to allow my black women to think that kind of way. [00:24:24] Speaker A: Absolutely. Rockmat so when we talk about messaging backlash and all of that, what was your upbringing like? What were you told as you were into teenagehood young adulthood now as a fully actualized adult? [00:24:40] Speaker B: So I grew up Muslim. My father is Muslim, my mom is Christian. So I grew up Muslim in the Muslim community, but I actually didn't grow up with any black people outside of my own family. So my experience growing up was growing up around affluent Arabs and then the suburban white families that lived in our neighborhood. So that was who I socialized with. That's who I grew up with. I'm one of four. I have an older sister, she's several years older than me. And then I have a younger sister and younger brother. He's the youngest and the only boy. And so growing up with a sister so much older than me, I was able to see her process. Her first husband was Saudi. Her second and current husband is a white guy. So my parents had a hope and an expectation that we would all date and marry black men, but they had to be educated. They had to be from a middle or at least middle class family. So they had to have a similar upbringing to us. They didn't want someone coming from a broken home. They didn't want someone who had come up in poverty. And my dad used to always emphasize that we were princesses. He wanted the best for us, and he wanted men who could protect and provide and give us a similar lifestyle to what we had with him or better. Anything below that was unacceptable. And any man who could not provide that type of environment in the future or better was not an option. So as you can imagine, despite growing up in the DC area, the options were incredibly limited. And so as a result, I remember when my older sister was on the marriage market because a lot of Muslim marriages are arranged, but then a lot of more modern ones are semi arranged. So it's like introductions and getting to know the family while you're getting to know each other, and then marriage coming out of that. And so there were young black men who expressed interest in her, but none of them were ever deemed suitable, not a single one of them. And some of them were immediately shown the door. So I grew up watching that and watching her ultimately marry a wealthy Saudi guy. And I remember thinking, okay, so I know my tastes are all, but I'm watching. What's happening with my older sister. And we were the only African American family in our community that was middle class and above. And while there were a couple of other black families, and my parents were always clear, like, we're not the same kind of black. And of course, my parents grew up in, like, a Jack and Jill type of environment, so we're on generations of this at this point. And I knew from my adolescence, watching my older sister go through this, that I probably wasn't going to end up with a black husband. It's just I never had this thought process of like, oh, I'm going to marry this beautiful chocolate man, and we're going to have these little toasty brown babies, and it's all going to be very cute. I knew there was a chance that that would happen, but I figured if I marry anybody, it's probably going to be an Arab man. And then there are hurdles to jump there because every Arab family, no matter how good of a family you're from, at the end of the day, you're still black. No matter how much money you have, at the end of the day, you're still black. And so every family is not on board with that. And so I think that also when I was younger, particularly I'm used to it now, but when I was younger, that was always a little bit of a slap in the face. And I remember when I was in college dating a guy, an Irish Catholic, and I say that because it was one of the first times, like, went to actual church. And I remember thinking, God, there's so much going on here was lovely. And his parents were not lovely. And my middle name is Virginia. It was my grandmother's name. And I remember him telling me that I was going to meet his parents for lunch and he was going to introduce me as Virginia. And I was like, Why? And I'm in college, like, post 911, so the Arabic name wasn't really the vibe. And so he was going to introduce me as Virginia because Virginia sounds like a proper Southern girl. And so we go to lunch with his parents and he introduces me as Virginia, and something that adult me would never allow. And his father spends the entire time calling me, I you good, Chris, because it's a state. When I corrected his father, I said, oh, sir, it's actually Virginia. And he said, well, I knew it was a Southern state. And then he called me Georgia two more times before lunch ended, and I was like, okay, well, I guess we're done here. For me, that was the end of the road, because if your parents are disrespectful, they can't even put on a good face this first meeting, then we're going to have problems further down the line. My entire life, I've always been one for wanting my life to be as uncomplicated as possible. This I don't want. I'm not hiding who I am. I'm not pretending to not be, like, half Muslim. I'm not doing that. And that wouldn't be the only incident like that. But very early on, that was kind of like my vetting. What's your family like? Would they accept an interracial relationship? [00:30:28] Speaker C: I appreciate your comments and it was a nervous laughter. It's so unfortunate that you had to be an experience like that. So I'm sorry for that experience, but I think this brings up a really great point, and it actually is the question that was asked to me that I didn't quite answer on whether or not there was an age effect about people that settled into their singleness. And so one of the things that was kind of clear in the literature from the respondents response is, was that I didn't really pick up an age effect, but what I really did pick up was a gender effect. Because in the book I interview both men and women. I interview 62 people. I think 40 are women and 20 are men. The numbers are a little bit off, but what I found is that some of the women wanted to be married, but they were not willing to settle. They were going to celebrate and enjoy their singleness, and if it happened, it happened, but they were not willing to settle. The men in the cohort were a little bit different. The gender effect showed up where men were like, well, it's just a matter of time. When I decide to marry as a scholar, I grapple with what that actually means. And sometimes I think I have the answer, sometimes I don't. But the fact that men are just like, okay, I'm just going to marry somebody, so are you just picking the lesser of two evils? What's going on right there? So are men settling? They're just taking any somebody that they can just control? And do women know that men are starting to pick and they're going to pander to the man so they can be picked? It's a whole thoughtful conversation that we need to have, but the gender difference really showed up, but the age difference didn't really show up as much among the cohort. And I think we're having this conversation about subtle and these are great conversation because it dovetails with the comments that were just made. So I appreciate your comments. [00:32:05] Speaker A: Yeah, thank you for pointing that out. That was going to be my comment to Rachma. When you were talking about the messaging that your parents instilled in you was respect, right. Sanity, peace. Right. If that's the type of household you came from, then that's how you view the world and that's the criteria you use to choose a mate or to rule out people who choose you. Right. And so I have also experienced forms of backlash for my choice to remain single as a relationship status. [00:32:37] Speaker B: Right. [00:32:38] Speaker A: And so there are three forms of backlash that I've encountered, one being that black women just don't value marriage anymore. And the context of that conversation was a service member, so I appreciate his service. And he's twice divorced, and he was explaining to me he was like a walking commercial for marriage. He said, black women, they don't value marriage, so they're ending up single and alone and really depressed. And I asked the question, did you hear that from black women? Because I'm here to tell you, I'm a black woman, and I hang out with a large circle of black women, and that is not true. But also, he was trying to sell me on marriage as a twice divorced man saying, there's benefits in marriage. I said, for who? Why would I want to get married? Sell me, convince me. I think I'm at this stage in my life where it's like, convince me. And it's just like, well, my two ex wives benefited from my marriage. [00:33:33] Speaker C: How? [00:33:34] Speaker A: They each got a home. But meanwhile, you're in the area looking to buy a home. Get this it's subtle, but understand what I'm saying. You're in the area looking to buy a home as a veteran, and you can't get a veteran loan on two homes, so you have to take your name off of one of your ex wife's homes in order for you to get a home. I said, well, why would that be an issue? Because they cannot afford the home that they live in without his name on the mortgage. So who benefited actually benefited from the marriage? I divorce you. I want to move on with the rest of my life. I cannot do that because your name remains on the home that provides the roof over my head. Who benefits? We're divorced. I want to move on freely, and I can't. That's one form of backlash that I encounter. Marriage benefits women, too. That, too means that it primarily benefits men. [00:34:31] Speaker C: Okay. [00:34:31] Speaker A: I also encountered the backlash. Well, don't you think your choice is adding to the destruction of the black family? 400 years of structural and institutional racism, current cheating, domestic violence have all led to the destruction of families in general, in particular, black family. I was not in existence 400 years ago, so my tiny little decision to just be happy is not going to break anything. Third is what someone told me to convince me to be married is that my role in the marriage would be secondary but most necessary. So these are the things that we're dealing with as we're making these choices, but they're actually constrained choices because none of those from any of those men would be anything that I would tell my girls. That's what you aspire to be secondary but most necessary. Don't break the black family, and marriage benefits you, too, but you can't buy a house in your own name because you've given up your career and all aspirations to support someone else so these are the subtle messages that culminate into this big giant snowball that we're faced as women now in this evolving society. So let's talk a little bit about some of the structural things. So if we're going to have this conversation, and we're going to have it in a nuanced way, let's talk about some of the structures that factor into women, and in particular black women. Having to make choices, choosing the best option to be free. [00:36:03] Speaker C: I think those comments are phenomenal, and I was trying to keep them in my head. But there are three of them I want to talk about. One that I remember explicitly, and it was talking about how you're like, you're the single black woman or the destruction of the black family. So I make two arguments in the book and one argument I thought people were going to give me a lot of pushback against, and they don't. So in a very basic kind of sense, because I am an academic, I have to have theories that kind of inform my research. So I use intersectionality. And what intersectionality talks about in very basic terms is to say, it's not that I'm black and a woman, but I'm a black woman. Those are two oppressive identities, and we have to think about them in tandem. They can't think about them individually because if we talk about racism, you miss the sexism that I have to experience. If we talk about sexism, you miss the racism. Okay? So there's this matrix of domination. And in this matrix of domination, my colleague develops this idea that race, class, and gender really play into the oppressive identities that we hold. So a poor black woman deals with very different realities than other people. So one of the arguments that I make in the book is that we need to have in this matrix of domination. It should be race, class, gender and singleism. And what I'm arguing is not that singleism is as oppressive as racism. But what I am getting author readers to think about is how singleism permeates every social institution, as does racism. And we need to think about singleism as being part of this conversation. I never get pushback on that. If you want to push back, I appreciate you. But let me tell you where I do get pushback. I argue in the book that people that are single and living alone should be considered a family of one. If we use the Census Bureau definition of a family, a family is someone that you're related to by blood, marriage or adoption. So because I Chris Marsh, I'm single, never been married, and don't have any children, I will not show up in the census data as a family. I will show up as a household. I think that that's insidious, and I think that discriminating in plain sight. Go with me for a second. If you buy my argument that structural forces have constrained my personal choices and then I can't be defined as a family. I don't get the benefits of being a family. That is highly problematic for me. Let me give you three examples where I think it plays out. Cell phone with my cell phone, I want the family plan on my one cell phone. I want to pay a lower rate on my one cell phone. More egregious. Example going on vacation. I want a single. Occupancy is more expensive than double occupancy. I want to pay the marsh family rate and get my discounted rate as I travel. The third one, which is very egregious, and every listener is going to shake their head when I mention this, the singlehood penalty that's built into the tax. Listen, listen. There's a great scholar who's out of the law field and her name is Dorothy Brown and she wrote a book called the whiteness of wealth. And one of the things she argues is that all of us should be filing as single. And I'm like, we darn sure should be. But if we can't all file as single, I want to file as the marsh family and get my discount on the family rate. So back to your comment about you're bad for black america and the black family. How about we expand what family looks like and we look at the demographics? The demographics and the trends are clear. Singlehood is on the rise in black America as well as globally. So how about we relax our definition of family and include other family types into that definition? Once we do that, you won't be bad for black America, I won't be bad for black America, and we won't be bringing down the black rates. But until we get there, it's like we're thinking of family in very anticipated kind of yes. [00:39:34] Speaker A: Roth love anything on that. [00:39:37] Speaker B: Okay, Chris, now you had me at taxes and vacation supplements. Okay? That is so frustrating. The occupancy, it's so frustrating. And don't even get me started on could. I could go on and on. But I love what you said about how we are still caught up in these very antiquated notions of family. I mean, marriages are breaking up left, right and center. You have people intentionally having children on their own, not just women. Even men are getting into it now. Our notion of family has to evolve, and it needs to evolve in a way that includes single people like me and my dog. We are a family. He is my dependent. You support him, right? I support him. I pay his medical bills. I feed him. I don't clothe him because he won't wear clothes. But he's dependent on me, so that should count. Also, I think that we need to move past requiring someone to tell you their marital status and everything. I went to the orthopedic surgeon yesterday and she was like, what's your marital status, ma'am? How is that relevant? What difference does it make? But I still had to answer the question on multiple forms. And I think we need to evolve past it. Singlehood is on the rise. In a few years we'll know more single people than married people. We need to evolve past this whole husband, wife, 2.5 kids, picket fence, heteronormative ideal. It's time to leave it in the. [00:41:23] Speaker A: So on that we believe that marriage is still a viable option with benefits. But we're talking about actually expanding the conversation to say that sala SMC, all of these are valid choices. These are different family structures that are valid choices with their own pros and cons, their own tax considerations. And these are things that people should consider. As I said at the top of the episode, we're in a society that is evolving and why are we not seeing the evolution of these institutions and these practices at the same rate? I really wish that people would start to turn the page and no longer try to hold on to archaic ideals that benefit one group of people. [00:42:10] Speaker C: I just want to add a little more on literature context to your statement, the three statements that people made about you. One was that your family type is bad for black America, but then also that marriage can benefit. And then also how you play a secondary role and put those two together to give my response. So the data is kind of clear and I draw from my colleague who wrote a book called Happy Singlehood. One of the things that he kind of suggested his book, and I argue in my book as well, is that people that are long term singles, have never been married, don't have children. There's data to suggest that as they age they actually are happier. Part of the reason why they are happier is because they build a network. They have people that are single. They have a network of people somebody brunch with, somebody to go golfing with, somebody to go use profanity with. Because I love me a good curse word every now and again, but you can't cut out of everybody but okay, so you got your little set of friends. But what happens a lot of times is that married folks put all of their eggs in the marriage basket. So their partner has to be their everything. They have to be their confidant, they have to be their therapist, they have to be their administrator, they have to be their lover. That's exhausting. One of the things the cohort is really clear about, especially the black women, is that they have non romantic, nurturing relationships that help them get through their singlehood and help them navigate being single. The black women have that on lock. The men in the cohort didn't really have that on lock and they wanted to be married so they could have take care of all of their needs one way or another. And so I hope after reading the book, we can normalize black men having these non romantic nurturing relationships. Because some of the men said if I talk to a guy about feeling lonely or feeling depressed, they're going to be like, man, you gay or you're closeted or something. So I hope we can just normalize black men having these non romantic nurturing relationships. And everybody married, single, never married, child free, everybody should have themselves some friends because the assumption is that if you're married, your spouse is going to show up for you, which there's some data that suggests that's not the case, but your friends will always show up for you. And don't use your friends as their placeholder until you find a spouse. Value those friendships, cultivate those friendships, celebrate those friendships. And next time you say that you want to be in a relationship, clarify, because we are all in relationships. Say you want to be in a romantic relationship because we do have non romantic nurturing relationships that you're undervaluing when you say I want to be in a relationship. So I just want to give a little context on those. [00:44:28] Speaker A: Let me break that down or let's stay there for a second. So the old African proverb that it takes a village and I'm purposely saying. [00:44:37] Speaker B: Dot dot, dot, three dots after that. [00:44:39] Speaker A: Because it does take a village to live a best life, right? However you define that. And I know for me, my non romantic village shows up for me almost 100% of the time. And I think it's because my village is composed of hundreds of people as opposed to relying on that one person or the five people you grew up with, right? So my current village does not necessarily include any of the five sisters I grew up with or two brothers, right. It is wholly in this geographic area. My day to day are my girlfriends and my friends. And I do have people who are non romantic. I have men who are non romantic parts of my village, and I have women who are non romantic parts of my village. And so I think the reason I choose single is because the men in particular, because I date men that are in that village, they also have the characteristics of someone that I would want to partner with. I don't want to have those relationships go away because I value them too much to risk losing them in a romantic way. And so I think that I am finally coming to the realization that I am choosing single because I prioritize my non romantic relationships more than the romantic ones, because those are the ones that have shown up for me historically. Those are the ones that will continue to show up for me consistently in a way that romantic. And then I've got different people that I can dole out any types of support or supportive conversations that I need to have. It's not resting on one person who might have had a shitty day at work, right? Rahma, who's in your village? [00:46:24] Speaker C: What does it look like? [00:46:26] Speaker B: So my village looks like honestly, it's not dissimilar to yours. It looks like my family. It looks like girlfriend, a couple of men I can call on to be there for me to do my manual labor. And it's incredibly supportive because you have those other relationships really resonated. Because for me, I have so much non romantic friends, love and support that a romantic relationship would have to be all of that. It would have to benefit my life in the same way that those relationships do. And I have found, as I've kind of wandered in and out of the dating scene, I have found that a lot of single men on the market, they're not able to exist in that way or they're not willing to exist in that way. They want someone to be their all. And I've even seen it on dating profiles. I'm looking for a lover, a best friend. I'm looking for someone who will and then they start listing the ways they want to be cared for and taken care of and all of these sorts of things. And oftentimes I found myself thinking, don't you aren't, and they will. A myriad of activities they want someone to do with them and things they want someone to do for them, and they will never get to what they would bring to the relationship. And yeah, I want someone I can have fun with. I want someone I can depend on, but I don't want or need someone to be my all in all my everything. I've had this conversation with some friends who are still very active in the church where they're like, yeah, I'm looking for my husband, my best friend. And you'll have those conversations with newly married women as they start fading out friendships, well, of course I'm going. I don't need to go. I'm home with my best friend. And I'm like, I think you're going to regret not nurturing those other friendships. Those other relationships, like those non romantic relationships still matter. It can't just be, I have my family and I have my spouse. They can't be everything to you. And so for me, I would rather remain single and have this kind of broad circle of loved, trusted individuals that I can pour into and call on and they can do the same for me. Then kind of feel compelled to put that to the side because I now have a partner or a spouse who is requiring me to be there, everything, because that's exhausting and I can't do it, but I also don't want to do it. [00:49:32] Speaker C: Chris I got three quick points I want to hit. Think what's really important, too. And I have a lot of therapists who have reached out to me since I wrote the book, and I talk about how we need to have friends, therapy. We have therapy for marriages when marriage is get a little tea. But I think we want to value these non romantic, nurturing relationships. And when those get a little crunchy, we should be able to go to a therapist to work through those crunch. I so appreciate it because I have a dearest girlfriend of mine who's a dog person. I'm not a dog person. I had this girlfriend for over 25 years. When her dog died, I sent her a Rest in Peace emoji for the dog and a sad emoji for the dog. We have not talked since. I think I was supposed to get on a one way ticket to head to La. To be there for her dog. I miss my girlfriend. I would love to have a conversation with her. I would love to go to a therapist. We need to normalize therapy among friends. Number two, what is baffling to me, having done this work for the last couple of years, is that people think marriage is a panacea. If I can just get married all my social issues while all my ills will go away and people think if I get married, it's going to catapult me into middle class status. Two broke folks with high debt are now married. It doesn't catapult you into middle class status. And the last thing I want to say, because I did a talk at Howard a couple of months ago, historical black college and university, and one of the black women had said something to me, and I want to highlight this as well. It's funny because I say, why do we want to get married? And so you have people that still want to be married and appreciate that, and I value that and so on and so forth. But we also got to understand that there are some disparities that exist in the housing in the marriage market. And there's a black friend of mine, he's black and he just recently got married, and he married a light skinned woman because he simply just likes. So I gave a very long pregnant pause and then I said, no, you don't. You've been conditioned from a very young age to think closer to white is right. I would appreciate you if you said, I've been conditioned. I think lighter skinned women are more attracted than darker skinned women and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But he said, I just like light skinned women. No, you don't. So we also have to understand that there's colorism that still exists in the dating market within black America. And that's another part of the conversation that we have to talk about as well. To not have that conversation, I think, is also a little bit short sighted. [00:51:33] Speaker A: So I just want to put that. [00:51:34] Speaker C: Out there before we leave. Out for the day? [00:51:37] Speaker A: No. Like Chris, I told you, your book is so layered that I had to read two pages at a time and pause because I really needed to reflect back and like, that's so true. But why is it true? Right? [00:51:50] Speaker C: Interrogating hold on, I'm going to just insert this really quick. There's also structural forces where value lighter skin. So there's data that suggests that black men are darker skinned. Black women are later on in the queue of getting married, but there's also data that talks about their wages, their wealth, their health outcomes. We need to have this conversation. All of this is structural. Let's not leave it at the individual level. I just want to make sure I added that part. [00:52:13] Speaker A: Absolutely. So, like I said, your book is so layered. I pick it up, I put it down, because I really think and I would love it if men got on board with this as well. Interrogating your whys why do you want to get married? Why do you look down on singledom, right? Why are you making the choices in partners that you're making, even at the level of dating choices? Like, what are the whys? Why are you rejecting right. Even in your book, you mentioned that the men were thinking that it's only a matter of time before they choose. But what happens if those that you choose don't choose you? And that's kind of some of the backlash that I receive as dating. It's that you choose me. But I'm sorry, I don't choose you because I choose happiness, I choose respect, and I choose peace in every aspect of my life. And so there's a very distinct, almost violent backlash that you get when you choose to not choose the person who chose you, right? But so much more that we can talk about. So I want to thank both Chris and Rahma for joining me today in this very real, honest and transparent conversation about personal choice and shedding light on the lives and habits of those who are single and living alone and by choice. [00:53:34] Speaker B: Right? [00:53:34] Speaker A: And so before we wrap Rakma, any parting thoughts, resources, or words of wisdom you'd like to share? [00:53:41] Speaker B: No resources, but I want to encourage everyone. But I especially want to encourage women, and most especially want to encourage black women. As you move through life, choose yourself. Choose what is right for you, what feels right for you. I think it's so difficult, and we often face so much backlash as black women when we make choices that are right for ourselves and no one else. We are just choosing what makes us happy, what is right for us, what makes sense for our lives. We face so much backlash. And I often have this conversation with friends and colleagues who are telling me, like, oh, you're so brave, or, oh, I could never do that. You can. You just have to decide to choose yourself and to shut out all of the noise. And, Aisha, I really loved your point about interrogating, your why. We have to start asking ourselves hard questions. Why? And I've had to do that. With myself. I had to ask myself, why am I so pressed to get married? Why does this matter so much? What do I think this will fit? Why do I choose to date this type of person? Why does being married matter so much? Why do I want to be a mother? And I think if you get down to the why oftentimes, you will find that that is actually not what you want. What you want is something else that can be a need that can be met in a different Chris. [00:55:15] Speaker A: Chris, I'm coming to you. [00:55:19] Speaker C: Two quick things that I would say. The first one is like, yes, we have to settle into those why questions. Those are some uncomfortable questions, but we have to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness. It's going to be icky, it's going to be messy, it's going to be complicated. But it is necessary because we've been conditioned for a very long way, a certain kind of way. So ask yourself those hard, critical why questions. So I also highly recommend that you pick up this really great book. It's called the Love Jones cohort single and living alone in the black metal class you can find it on my website. My website is Dr. Chrismarsh.com, and the audiobook comes out soon. So please do read the book. Let me know what you think about it. Two things that I've heard people say about the book since it's come out, the two biggest compliments that I've gotten one, I've learned something. And two, for the first time, I find like, I'm really being seen. I really feel like I'm being seen. And then the third one is that it's starting a movement. So please do pick up the book. Hopefully you will learn something. You will be seen and you will join the movement. [00:56:18] Speaker A: And there you have it. All of the resources and references mentioned in this episode will be in the show notes. And until next time, thanks for listening. To start to finish motherhood with Aisha. If you want to keep the conversation going, follow Start to Finish Motherhood on Instagram. Email me at aisha at start tofinishmotherhood.com if you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice, and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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