failure to launch

While media has recently been inundated with narratives of successful, educated, professional black women who are unmarried/unpartnered, I feel like I have experienced some what of a “witnessing” of this reality vicariously through many of my close friends. These are women whom I have always admired, and in some rare instances even resented. They have “the life;” no familial burdens/responsibilities, better salaries, freedom to travel and move about the planet, etc. I have come to adopt a courteous silence about this however.

Last night my very good friend told me that she had cut it off with her boyfriend. I was saddened for her. I knew full well that she was dreading the prospect of starting over and I honestly thought that the ex was a great guy. I think she does too; their timing is just “off.”

When this is a white situational comedy or Hollywood Blockbuster it is easy to shrug this off. It seems white women negotiate enough privilege in life where I honestly don’t “feel bad,” when they are thirty plus and living as bachelorettes. I also think I’m progressive enough not to want to force-feed a hetero-normative mandate onto any one of my single sisters. I do however see clear limits to my feminism, and their’s, at junctures where the nuclear fantasy is not quite panning out for them. They want IT “ALL” and so I want it for them, by extension.

I’m wondering what all our CocoaMamas think about the concept of “failure to launch?” While it is meant to describe bachelor males who are stuck in an infantile state of promiscuity, commitment “issues,” and self-endulgence, I can’t help thinking in this instance that it’s all my single girls that are unwed and all of my husband’s friends are either married or in committed relationships. Are my hot, single, fit, educated, professional black girlfriends failing to launch???

8 thoughts on “failure to launch

  1. While I’m not hot, single, fit, black or, right at this moment, professional, I did want to throw in my two cents about this issue, dear Tanji. I see this dynamic you describe ALL THE TIME these past few years. And really not just with the women. Lots of men too. My personal theory is that it often has to do with the greater levels of wisdom and “polish” as you grow older. That is, life has taught you to know better than suffer fools and foolishness, and so you are more finicky on important things, like character or maturity or financial issues. Which is a great thing because, hey, you have high standards. But it can be limiting in terms of the pool of candidates as well as perhaps your inclination to eliminate people as possibilities after a shortish period of time. It also doesn’t account for the possibility that people can mature and grow and change–which sometimes they do but more often they don’t. I met my husband in my thirties, when he was in his late 20s. I love him a ton and wouldn’t trade him for anything but I do sometimes, in the middle of a disagreement, wonder whether I would have tolerated some of his “quirks” had I met him even later than I did.


  2. It really depends on what makes people happy. I know some successful single black women who didn’t want children 15 years ago and still don’t. Do for them having it all is the corner office, possibly with a husband but not with little feet. As we get older and more established though we do get picker. Would i date my ex now? Hell no.

    I really thing is depends on your endgame. Some want the career the husband the children package deal. Some just want to be moms do they work to find the husband to get the children.

    I’m single and in my early 30’s. I don’t want more children i want to see my career continue to grow and a husband is a nice thought but what i wanted then and have settled for before I no longer will. My ideal husband needs to be being supportive in my career goals, not make enough to support me not working.

    People grow and mature. Single is not a death sentence. Choice moms are growing everyday. Not everyone wants the same things so there’s really no one correct answer.


  3. this is really interesting. because what you are saying is that Black women may be evincing IMMATURITY in this perpetually single thing. that perhaps part of growing up is being able to be with someone who may not check off all your boxes on your perfect mate checklist. perhaps part of growing up is knowing that having a great career and not having a mate to share that with is emptiness. perhaps part of growing up is understanding that people do grow, and perhaps with another person besides them, they will grow beyond what you ever imagined.

    if i hear another black woman say she’s not going to “settle” anymore i’m gonna…it takes a certain wisdom to see beyond what you have today for what you may have tomorrow if you put the work into it. and of course there are many men who don’t want to put the work in (just like women) but there are many men who do. but yes, black women are so immature when it comes to issues of love and the heart and much of it is not necessarily our fault because we haven’t been taught healthy love. but if we want to move forward we must get into some counseling and heal ourselves because there is a lot of love out there. we need to be wise enough to see it and let. it. in.


  4. Oy. I thumbed through an issue of Essence today (every month, I am more convinced that I can’t stand that magazine, although that’s for another post) and came across a column by Steve Harvey. ugh. I’m so tired of the Steve Harvey’s of the world placing all the burden of relationships squarely on the shoulders of black women. We have to be fly enough to catch ’em, and then fly enough to keep ’em. And the men? Well, we don’t address the men, because they don’t take advice anyway.

    And yet, you’re asking some good questions about what to do when reality doesn’t live up to aspiration of marriage and family; about what this means for career-successful black women in particular. I just don’t know what the answers are.

    I like LaToya’s point about this really being an issue of maturity, although I would note that it’s never a good idea to enter a relationship banking on the possibility of growth and development in your partner down the line. If you can’t take his ish as it is, right now today, than don’t bother, because you cannot assume that he’ll ever change.

    Maybe the issue, however, is more of being clearer about what the desired attributes are. Maybe it’s less about finding someone who is secure in their profession, and more about finding someone who expresses a desire to aspire to something more. Less about finding a guy who talks romantically, and more about finding a guy who nurtures his loved ones with his actions.


  5. ALL of my single friends are experiencing this phenomenon on some level. I do think that some of them have maturity issues to work through, but isn’t what is holding them back from love at the moment – it is the men. They each regularly encounter 1 of 2 types: 1. “I’m handsome/professional/God’s gift to women/you should be honored to date me” type of man or 2. “I know it’s only been 2 weeks, but I love you baby and want to move off my mama’s couch into your place so we can be togetha”.


  6. Thanks for all the replies. I have read them with incredible interest 🙂 No specific reply to any one person but I can remember a married, thirty-ish black woman saying to me that the reason she thinks all of her single black female friends were so was because at this point they had no “need” for a man. All of the traditional reasons for getting married, including buying a home, having children, etc. were no longer social expectations. Furthermore her friends were able at this point to do all of that on their own. Personally I feel that the inclination for “needing” a man is dissipating, and that’s a wonderful thing. However, because many of my single black female friends “want” a partner, I wish that there was some way of reconciling what seems to be a challenge.


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