In the summer of 2000, I vividly remember sitting in a park with about 15 of my boys, just chilling and collectively catching our breath after playing basketball for seven consecutive hours.
As we aimlessly congregated around center court, shoes untied, downing bottles of Gatorade, Next’s popular song “Wifey” began blaring on the black and metallic boombox located just off the side of the court. While our young performances of masculinity prevented any of us from acknowledging how much we liked the song (“yo, you’re soft guy!”) it did instantaneously become fodder for initiating a conversation on who each dude was “wifing” up.
While I don’t remember any of the names of the girls these dudes mentioned talking to, I do remember the conversation switching to what constitutes “wife-material.”
As each of my boys listed off who his “wifey” was, followed by either raucous approval or vicious ridicule, we began talking about the qualities a woman needed to have and exhibit in order to comprise our penultimate title of “wife-material.”
The list included farcical and contradicting traits such as being beautiful, not dressing like a “hoe,” never having performed oral sex on a dude before, being an absolute freak, having a body count in the single digits — preferably no higher than 3 — and being able to cook, just to name a few. As far as we were concerned, girls needed to extensively prove that they deserved the title and “privileges” that came along with being “wifey” – although our own behavior didn’t even live up to the standards we judged these girls with.
After viciously teasing one of our boys for dating a girl who didn’t pass our “potential wife morality” test, he walked away silent, somber and a little dejected as he pondered the future of their relationship. A basketball team full of his closest friends just thoroughly impugned the young woman he liked and as a teenage boy still developing his immaturity and independence, he was conflicted.
Well, a few weeks ago, as I stood inside my favorite West Indian food shop listening the woman at the counter tell me everything they DON’T have, I felt someone come up behind me, slap me on the shoulder and say, “Bruh, you know damn well you can’t come here at the end of the day and be surprised the good food is gone!” When I turned around, I saw it was my boy – the same dude we relentlessly teased so many years ago — whom I hadn’t seen since we graduated high school in 2001.
Before I even had the chance to ask this him how he’d been, a cute little boy and a little girl ran up beside him, grabbed his hand, and stared up at me with the biggest, brownest eyes I’ve ever seen outside of a Disney movie. Not only was it amazing to see my old high school friend as a father, but minutes later he introduced me to his wife – the same girl we collectively told him to abandon 16 summers ago.
After she scooped up their children and went outside to let them stretch their rambunctious legs, he put his arm around my neck and said, “Surprised, huh?”
Knowing that our food wasn’t gonna be ready anytime soon, we grabbed a couple stools and sat down and talked. Not only did he remember that exact day at the basketball court, he also remembered that exact conversation and how it impacted him.
“Man, I didn’t even go home that day, I just went straight to her house and I was thinking about ending it. Y’all were right. She didn’t pass the ‘wifey test’ we made. When I got to her house, she opened the door and gave me this little smile, and I realized something very important: it was the ‘wifey test’ that needed to go, not her.”
As I sat across the bar from him silently digesting his words, I didn’t even notice that the woman behind the counter was loudly calling my name in between sucking her teeth at my “hard ears.” As I grabbed my order, piled into the car and began driving home, I wondered to myself what would’ve happened if he had taken our advice? What if anyone else actually did take our advice and make a value-based assessment of their significant other on our ignorant, highly specific, puritanical checklist? How many of us held on to that way of thinking far past high school? How many men around the world confuse “having standards” with impugning a woman’s respectability based on arbitrary societal standards that have little, or nothing, to do with chemistry and love?
If there’s one thing I know today, it’s that the idea that there is a standard, all-encompassing definition of what makes a woman worthy to be considered a wife, is absolute BS. Back in the day, I used to proudly use the term “wife material” in my blogs, but now I realize that it was just the continuance of societal conventions and niceties which didn’t have a damn thing to do with a woman’s worth or a man’s true happiness. It’s not about refusing to have standards, it’s about making sure your standards are crafted to suit your innermost needs.
The problem with the term “wife material” is that it is crafted on a strict set of rules that decides when a woman can be considered “worthy” based on a definition molded in a patriarchal society– a definition far too many men are slavishly devoted to, and far too many women are willingly and unknowingly shackled by.
Love is already hard enough to find and cultivate, so why hinder it based on someone else’s desires?
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.