Who’s Holding the Purse Strings Anyway?

So there I was, merrily working away in the office when this landed in my ‘Inbox’. We’ve all seen this sort of discussion aired in one way or another on talk shows, in magazines and through any other medium that attracts women. You all can probably guess why I posted it here: are the same dynamics at work in BW/WM interracial relationships?  I would think that since a lot of black women in this group met their husbands at work, then there is a chance that she was his supervisor, or was in a higher income bracket than he. 

It certainly was not the case with me and Hubby, I assure you.  Once while we were still dating, he inadvertently put me to shame. He told me what he had saved that year — as in banked, put away, stashed, etc. — and the figure represented more than my gross earnings in the same year!  Now I knew I either had to:

a) leave my line of work

b) shake down The Man for a raise

c) change jobs 

This press release certainly does not apply to me, but I want to hear from the sisters out there with bank. Discreetly, of course. Do you out earn your guy? Did your high salary somehow act as a turnoff to the brothers? This informative piece comes from the women at BettyConfidential.

 

PALO ALTO, CA, May 20, 2008.  It’s what women have strived for since that sweltering July day in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and four of her girlfriends gathered over tea to plan the first Women’s Rights Convention, held just one week later. And it’s what women had in mind when they started burning their bras and stopped shaving their armpits in the 1960s.

We’re talking about the title of Primary Breadwinner. Okay, maybe “equivalent breadwinner” was more the goal, but while much has been reported on the increasing number of women in the breadwinner role, little light has been shed on the accompanying social impact – particularly amongst women who hold the title and how it’s affected the state of their unions. Until now. A survey conducted last month by BettyConfidential.com revealed that most women in this role are simultaneously proud of themselves and resentful of their husbands.

“Perhaps because of what we’ve witnessed in popular culture – with couples like Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe – I think people suspect that a woman outearning her husband is a catalyst for tension in the marriage,” said BettyConfidential.com editor, Nicole Christie. “Our survey reveals that outearning one’s husband is a blessing – less financial worries, a sense of pride – but also a curse, creating a greater pull of work versus family and a gap between husband and wife that’s difficult to bridge.”

As of 2005 (when data was last compiled), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that roughly one-third of women have gone above and beyond by outearning their husbands. This figure is up 28.2 percent from a decade earlier – and has even resulted in a growing trend of women paying alimony to their ex-husbands (“Men Receiving Alimony Want a Little Respect,” Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2008).

A 43-year-old investment banker sees both sides of the woman-as-breadwinner coin in her marriage. “I have financial independence that my mother never had,” she says. “But I do resent my husband because there are so many household chores, community events, and school events that the ‘woman of the house’ is expected to do.” She finds it helpful that her husband works full-time as opposed to staying home, yet says workmen at the house won’t discuss repairs with her and that financial consultants defer to her husband, assuming he is the breadwinner and household decision-maker.
The survey also found that, indeed, marriages sometimes can’t withstand the pressure of a woman in the top earner spot. A 40-year-old marketing strategist from Monterey, California says her marriage crumbled as a result of her breadwinner status – not for monetary reasons, but because of the discrepancy in life approaches. While her ex-husband is an Ivy League-educated Wall Street attorney, she found him lacking as a partner in their marriage.

“He came from a very well-off family who put him through college and law school, while my parents forced me to pay my way,” she explains. “I think this is what allowed me to achieve great success and become the primary breadwinner. But while my ex-husband is intelligent and talented, he lacks ambition and always looks for the easiest route – opting for the shallows while I conquer Level IV rapids. He’s also surprisingly bad with money and didn’t support me logistically or financially through my pregnancies, when I was exhausted from running several businesses. Ultimately, our differences just couldn’t co-exist under one roof.”

At the same time that a woman’s primary breadwinner role tugs at the seams of her marriage, her ability to care for herself and her family affords a freedom not known by previous generations. “You have total independence and can want to be in a relationship rather than need to be,” says Maria Ricca, a 53-year-old program manager. Adds theMonterey marketing strategist, “I think all women need to at least prepare to be the primary breadwinner. The unhappiest women I know are those who rely on their husbands to completely supply and manage their financial lives. Why chance it?”

Is That How You Date a White Guy?

In a previous post, I mentioned the release of ‘Kinky Gazpacho’ a memoir from professor and writer Lori L. Tharps.  I had put off starting the book because I was finishing another title at the time.

The wait was worth it, and I urge all of you to pick up a copy. It’s not because we all share a common interest in interracial relationships, or that this book ought to be filed on the ‘interracial reading’ shelf of your personal bookcases. Tharps’ story and her writing brings a refreshing dose of levity to an issue that all too often becomes ensnared in militant politics. There are no ‘mammies’, no ‘haters’, no white boys with black girl fetishes or any of the other nonsense that can muck up attempts by white/Hispanic/Asian men to get to know us better.  Her style is open, personal and very, very funny.

Quite simply, ‘Gazpacho’ comes across as a pure-hearted account of Tharps’ attempt to find her place in the world and explore her love of international happenings. The chapters about her childhood in predominantly white Milwaukee are insightful and disarming to say the least. I was incensed after reading that she got to college, sought out other black kids in an attempt to connect with her black heritage and got a mean-girl brush off. I’m at the part where she’s planning her wedding to Manuel, whom she met in Spain.

While reading ‘Gazpacho’ it occurred to me that it wasn’t primarily about dating interracially. It struck me as an account of someone who thinks internationally. It also got me to thinking that although America is a very diverse country, technically speaking, all the wonderful nationalities and ethnicities represented here are still so very insular that we have no idea as to how to interact with each other. Think about it: how often does the average person have an individual or family of another race, nationality, native tongue or religion sit down to a casual family dinner?

And not only that, but why is it that so many black folk (yes, I’m calling you out) think you have gills on all three of your heads if you carry yourself with some articulation, polish or even if you wait until after marriage to start having kids? Do you know how many times some knucklehead from the projects asked me ‘why you ack white?’ UGH! But that’s another post. 

And let me be fair. Black folks are not the only ones who exhibit the human tendency to stick together, deal with each other in our mother tongues and imitate each other. That tendency is so strong that in some communities in the U.S.A., you have to order a cup of ‘café con leche’ to wake up in the morning, not coffee with milk. In some predominantly white communities, you might be hard pressed not to find a bottle blonde.

There really is no required attitude or formula that one has to follow before falling into an interracial relationship, except of course, for having an open mind about the world. And by that I mean a mind that isn’t polluted with the idea that one of the benefits of marrying a white man is that your children will ‘turn out with good hair’ or ‘pretty skin’.  A person needs to enjoy travel, trying out different foods, talking about all sorts of interesting topics. They need to see life as an ever-changing web of friends, rather than living within rigid social boundaries. 

Which Couple Is Interracial?

 

  

Michelle & Barack Obama. Halle Berry & Gabriel Aubrey. Both of these couples are attractive and popular for various reasons. You know them on sight. Michelle and Barack are the political ‘power couple’. Between Halle and Gabriel’s genes, I’m sure we’re all waiting to see photos of the world’s most amazingly beautiful baby. 

Both couples have something else in common. One of the partners is biracial, with black and white parents, while the other is of one race. Yet most people would refer to Halle and Gabriel as an interracial couple, while simply describing Michelle and Barack as a black couple. If you dwell on these things as much as I do, that doesn’t quite sound right. The racial balance is exactly the same within both the couples, but that balance is interpreted quite differently depending on whether the biracial person married someone who is white or black. That seems like arbitrary reasoning, to me. 

Why do we do that? I include myself in that group because I have to admit, I have a tendency to look at biracial people and, if it seems like their appearance reflects one parent’s ancestry more than that of the other, then I describe that person accordingly. Sure, Barack Obama is mixed, but on sight, I describe him as a black man, and only secondarily as mixed or biracial.  Maybe this is not exactly wrong, but it’s imprecise and I can understand how annoying it must be for biracial people, especially if they have a strong emotional connection with their white or Asian or Hispanic family members. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense for someone to call Barack Obama white, because his father was Kenyan. 

Mental note: stop forgetting to call biracial people biracial. They are not black, in the sense that their ancestry is not completely or 90% African. Which brings me back to my original question: why call Michelle & Barack ‘black’ while sticking to ‘interacial’ for Halle & Gabriel? Maybe we should just call them attractive, happy or annoyingly cute?  

One last note: being a news junkie, I cannot help but follow politicians. I wanted to include Adrian and Michelle Fenty on my biracial couple catwalk.  The thing is, Michelle looks like she is of mixed heritage, too. All I’ve been able to find out is that she grew up in Wimbledon, England with her Jamaican parents.  Actually, looking at a person with a lighter complexion and Jamaican parenthood, at least in my mind, suggests that someone in her lineage is or was biracial. You know that we Jamaicans are ‘good for that’.