I’m having heart palpitations. They could be due to the soil-black bodega coffee I just drank. Or maybe my blood pressure is on high because I just read that ABC is basing a sitcom on "Why You’re Not Married", TV writer and author Tracy McMillan’s woman-bashing, click-bait manifesto published on Huffington Post this past winter. Billed as a "brutally honest look at love," the DreamWorks-backed ensemble comedy will likely follow the release of McMillan’s elegantly titled second book, "Why You’re Not Married…Yet: How To Stop Acting Like a Bitch And Start Getting Hitched."
When McMillan’s editorial first appeared on HuffPo back in February, I made a point to skip it. While I am a never-married woman in my mid 30s who sometimes yearns for a husband, I didn’t understand how a three-times divorced "Mad Men" writer could intuit anything about my romantic life. But after learning that a black woman piece had crossed over to TV, I figured I should check it out.
I regret that decision.
To start, McMillan, the daughter of a black pimp and a white prostitute who abandoned her as a child, believes that "the problem is not men, it’s you. Because the fact is–if whatever you’re doing right now was going to get you married, you’d already have a ring on it."
After setting up heterosexual female singlehood as a problem, she offers the following helpful observations about unmarried women. I’ve excerpted them at length to deny the piece traffic and inserted some wise, warm Maya Angelou-worthy responses:
McMillan says: "You’re a Bitch."
Here’s what I mean by bitch. I mean you’re angry. You probably don’t think you’re angry. You think you’re super smart, or if you’ve been to a lot of therapy, that you’re setting boundaries. But the truth is you’re pissed…. And it’s scaring men off. The deal is: most men just want to marry someone who is nice to them. I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy, which is like living with the single-cell protozoa version of a husband. Here’s what my son wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian.
I say: Yawn. The idea that single women are inherently angry is as cutting-edge as "The Taming of the Shrew." Also: I got your bitch.
McMillan says: "You’re Shallow."
When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man’s character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you’re not married, I already know it isn’t. Because if you were looking for a man of character, you would have found one by now…. Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Or someone who knows what an Eames chair is. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl. And men of character do not want to marry teenaged girls.
I say: Nothing. Because Racialicious editor Latoya Peterson already covered this in a recent Guardian op-ed. Peterson’s piece addressed the "Why Black Women Cain’t Get a Man" cottage industry led by Steve Harvey and "Nightline," but I think her points about desire, compatibility and timing are universal.
McMillan says: "You’re a Slut."
Hooking up with some guy in a hot tub on a rooftop is fine for the ladies of "Jersey Shore"–but they’re not trying to get married. You are. Which means, unfortunately, that if you’re having sex outside committed relationships, you will have to stop. Why? Because past a certain age, casual sex is like recreational heroin–it doesn’t stay recreational for long. That’s due in part to this thing called oxytocin–a bonding hormone that is released when a woman a) nurses her baby and b) has an orgasm–that will totally mess up your casual-sex game.
I say: Is it 1842? Do hot tubs, rooftops and sex outside of betrothal really make women "sluts"? And at the risk of splitting hairs, I have to point out that all sex doesn’t lead to orgasms and oxytocin wears off.
McMillan says: "You’re a Liar."
It usually goes something like this: you meet a guy who is cute and likes you, but he’s not really available for a relationship. You know if you tell him the truth–that you’re ready for marriage–he will stop calling. Usually that day. And you don’t want that. So you just tell him how perfect this is because you only want to have sex for fun!… About 10 minutes later, the oxytocin kicks in. You start wanting more. But you don’t tell him that. That’s your secret–just between you and 22,000 of your closest girlfriends.
I say: You need more people. In my experience, men don’t stop calling because you’re ready for marriage and they’re not. Actually, I’ve found that most assume you want to marry them, even if you don’t. Know why they believe this? Because male-supremacist writing like McMillan’s promotes the idea that women are desperate, clueless, marriage-obsessed, casserole-baking sperm receptacles. In a backhanded way, it also reinforces the idea that men are childlike automatons who barely like women and only care about sex. Men should be offended.
McMillan says: "You’re Selfish."
If you’re not married, chances are you think a lot about you…. Howevs, a good wife, even a halfway decent one, does not spend most of her day thinking about herself. She has too much s**t to do, especially after having kids. This is why you see a lot of celebrity women getting husbands after they adopt…. After a year or two of thinking about someone other than herself, suddenly, Brad Pitt or Harrison Ford comes along and decides to significantly other her. Which is also to say–if what you really want is a baby, go get you one. Your husband will be along shortly. Motherhood has a way of weeding out the lotharios.
I say: That’s original. No, really. I’ve never heard someone float adoptive motherhood as a cure for selfishness and a way to attract a husband. I’m also intrigued by the idea of motherhood-as-lie-detector. Because players don’t dog out single moms. Ever.
McMillan says: "You’re Not Good Enough."
Oh, I don’t think that. You do. I can tell because you’re not looking for a partner who is your equal. No, you want someone better than you are: better looking, better family, better job. Here is what you need to know: You are enough right this minute. Period. Not understanding this is a major obstacle to getting married, since women who don’t know their own worth make terrible wives.
I say: Empowerment-asshole alert! After calling single women bitches, sluts, liars and shallow, throwing in "you are enough right this minute" rings quite false. It’s like slapping somebody upside the head with a tube sock full of nickels then giving her an aspirin for the pain.
In closing: I’m looking forward to the forthcoming "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" movie starring Chris Brown more than the "Why You’re Not Married" show. I hope McMillan enjoys her 15 minutes.