My girl Bea had been trying to convince me to watch Steve Harvey’s talk show for some time. She got hooked in the summer while taking a break from teaching, and wanted my insight on the advice Harvey gives during the portion of his show dedicated to relationships. She already knows I’m constantly serving my fiercest side-eye to Steve.
I was so disappointed in Harvey publishing Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man—not necessarily because of its attempt to discuss the different ways that men and women are socialized to view and participate in romantic love, or because Steve could have addressed the undesirable behavior of men with… um… men. But mostly because, like so much relationship advice marketed towards Black women, it blamed them (and their behavior) for their singlehood. The narrative is tired, and it disappoints me that so many women don’t feel they can find the love they want and deserve by being their authentic selves.
Well I watched. To my complete surprise, the segment that appeared on the show that day resonated with me. A woman, heartbroken and seeking solace, asked Steve how she could determine early, before she invested so much of herself, if a man would be unfaithful to her. “They all cheated,” she said, teary eyed and hopeless. To my surprise, Steve gave her advice that made sense. “You’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “What you should be asking is whether you are the one or not.”
Steve went on to discuss his past rather honestly. How he’d been an awful lover and husband before he met his current wife. Things were different with his current wife because, according to Steve, she was “the one.”
Disclaimer: I’m not convinced there even is such a thing as “the one.” I believe our experiences in life are vast, and that we can have access to several “ones.” I also don’t believe it’s wise to assume that someone who’s been awful to those s/he dated in the past will give up his or her terrible ways because of some sort of juju that certain men or women possess.
The thing that struck me as important in Harvey’s conversation with this woman, though, was his allusion to how many women give so much of themselves to men who are “just not that into them.” Steve said that women have reversed traditional roles of allowing men to pursue them. According to him, men should be the ones showing themselves to be worthy, and this reversal is the reason that women end up with such raggedy dating options.
Now, to be clear, I don’t believe in gendering behaviors, and I think both men and women should pursue one another (albeit in different ways) during the mate selection process. But I also know that the way we’re socialized affects our worldview and behaviors. For some men, women approaching them with all their forward-thinking feminist ideas about love prove them to be desperate—and those men treat them accordingly. So there is that. But the same way such a woman isn’t “the one” for that fellow, he isn’t “the one” for her either.
Maybe the key is heeding signs early to determine how much one should invest. Every person we date isn’t going to be husband or wife material, and that’s okay. But we do ourselves a disservice by forcing people to fit who we are and what we want. We shouldn’t be wasting our time trying to build a future with people who don’t respect us or our feelings, who can’t be faithful, who can’t be bothered to be consistent.
So the question we must ask ourselves when dating seriously is, “Is this person treating me like I’m ‘the one’?” Does she only seem to be available when she wants to be wined and dined or needs a handyman? Is he kind and reliable? Does this person give me his/her undivided attention? In other words, does this person treat me like I matter to him or her? Sometimes, well many times, the answer is no, and our goal in those situations is to keep it moving.
Slow clap for Steve Harvey for (kind of) getting it right. In the wise words of Oscar Wilde, “Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” The longer we stay and deal with actions and behaviors we know we shouldn’t, the harder it is to leave. Be wise and hold out for the one who treats you like “the one.”
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic, and scribe. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.