I had a conversation with my mother this week, and I told her the responsibility of being the matriarch of the family would die with me. The Black women in my family have empowered us, raised us, fed us, and taught us to dream bigger dreams than they ever could––but at their detriment.
My paternal grandmother died three years ago of pancreatic cancer, and she died alone with many regrets and unfulfilled dreams––I don't want that to be me.
I'd like to believe that she lived a life filled with happiness, but all I ever saw her do was work, complain of what she didn't have, and the energy she often lacked due to tending to everyone else's needs but her own. She did small things, like go to the mall and eat at her favorite Chinese restaurant in the food court. When I was little, we'd take bus visits where she'd spend time with family members who still resided in the South. Still, the older her grandchildren got, the more those trips were few and far between, and I remember her often speaking of what she lacked, and how one day she wanted to go back to the country in the South, and sell her home.
That never happened; she died in the same house that she didn't desire to live in anymore.
Black Americans in this country as a whole have a collective struggle of racial trauma, systemic trauma, historical trauma, family trauma, and intergenerational trauma.
We have been taught to exist in a country that 50 years ago didn't think we were good enough to choose where we sat on a bus, and their grandchildren proclaim that we are much better off now, and systemic racism is not still at the helm of this country. As a community, as a collective, we are already facing enough, but Black women take care of everyone in our community, and the question is still asked––who is taking care of us?
That truth led me to the reality that many Black women face - the burnout that we ignore from the various hats that we wear. Statistics that Black women who struggle with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and are taught from an early age to bury those emotions and channel strength instead and that Black women are more likely to suffer in silence.
And while we are fighting many wars right now, the first war is the one in our minds that says we have to be everything for everyone, and if we don't, we're labeled selfish. In actuality, there are so many existences between those two extremes.
Black women are expected to perform, show up, work hard, swallow microaggressions, smile, and have 'socially acceptable' hair in every space that we rise in all while doing so, and I'm tired of it. However, in order to unlearn, we have to be honest with ourselves that the adultification of Black girls has played a part in this, and our denial of a childhood.
According to Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality studies, it has been shown that adults view Black girls as more adult-like and less innocent than white girls, and believe Black girls ages 5-19 need less nurturing, protection, support and comfort than white girls of the same age, and that Black girls are more independent, know more about adult topics, and know more about sex than white girls.
In tandem with that, Black women's cries of sexual trauma, depression, and anxiety are often ignored, and we are encouraged to find the strength to persevere despite navigating racial bias, the stress of often taking on multiple roles in the household, as well as receiving lower wages. We are strong, but we are also weary. And while endurance is an attribute we've always been taught and raised to embody, we have a choice in the women we are continually becoming.
It's OK to say that you're tired. It's OK to say that you need a break, and moreover, it's OK to set boundaries of when you need those moments of filling you. Burnout is real, but so is our ability to put ourselves first.
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Dubbed one of the "21 Black Women Wellness Influencers You Should Follow" by Black + Well, Yasmine Jameelah continues to leave her digital footprint across platforms ranging from Forever 21 Plus, Vaseline, and R29 Unbothered discussing all things healing and body positivity. As a journalist, her writing can be found on sites such as Blavity, Blacklove.com, and xoNecole. Jameelah is also known for her work shattering unconventional stigmas surrounding wellness through her various mediums, including her company Transparent Black Girl. Find Yasmine @YasmineJameelah across all platforms.
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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Oh, the infamous man-child. Some of us have had the pain of encountering a man who has the mental and emotional maturity of a petulant child. I know I have. Between the weaponized incompetence, arrested development, lack of self-awareness, lack of impulse control, and lack of introspection that tend to come with this type of partner, the jokes can write themselves in the pursuit of a relationship with an evolved man who can actually meet you at your level.
As women, we are encouraged to keep our standards high, which ordinarily allows the man-child to stay in the wild where he belongs. Even though the current state of our dating pool is not giving what it needs to give all the way through here, standards and boundaries have long served as effective tools in weeding through the “potential” and showing suitors the door if they aren’t on our level.
But let’s be real; sometimes, an unworthy partner can fall through the cracks as their “representative” takes the lead during the courtship stage. Months and sometimes years later, you might not even realize the full breadth of what you’re dealing with until the proverbial mask begins to slip. Instead of being a help, he’s more of a hindrance. Instead of being an equal, he’s more of a dependent. And instead of being invested in the commitment of a relationship, he’s more into indulging in laziness and low-effort tendencies.
In essence, a man child, also commonly referred to as Peter Pan Syndrome, is a man who is stunted (read: emotionally immature) and refuses to grow up. Instead of feeling like you have a partner, you end up falling into the role of a second mama, and who wants that?
Be prepared to run, not walk, if any of the following signs apply to your guy.
1.They lack purpose and/or direction.
Who was it that said a man with no direction can’t lead you anywhere? Whoever said it deserves credit for doing the Lord’s work and then some. Purpose is how you know fulfillment. Direction sets the tone for the path you are taking in life. Without either or both, you can find yourself squarely in a dead-end relationship with a man who isn’t capable of leading the relationship. More than that, being directionless can manifest in other detrimental ways to the way he leads his own life. This can look like not having routines, procrastinating like a mutha, or even avoiding self-work or self-improvement.
The man-child is just going with the flow and taking one day at a time. While being present is always a gift, the man you’re with shouldn’t be afraid of setting long-term goals so that his present can inform his future.
2.They become paralyzed at the sound of a commitment.
“What is marriage? It’s just a piece of paper. Why do we need to move in together? Everything is going fine just the way it is.”
Being strung along is too common when engaging with a man-child. Common relationship steps considered to be pivotal in moving the relationship forward are things they wince at or things that they just act very indifferent about. It’s not an act, it’s a refusal to commit to the commitment, a paradoxical reality the man-child can write the book about. It’s why questions of moving in together or marriage are things Mr. Go With the Flow can see himself doing without.
A reluctance to truly commit could also be why the relationship might feel like it’s not on solid ground. He prefers to run instead of resolve and sometimes waivers under the weight of what should be viewed as a simple mistake. And if you don’t want to feel stuck in a loop of are we or aren’t we, or worse, plateaued forever, you might be better off letting the runner be the track star he so aspires to be.
3.They rarely (if ever) take initiative in big things and small things.
Whew, chile, can’t you just feel the brunt of emotional labor brimming from this one? Whether it’s meal planning for groceries during the week or even planning dates and trips, hell, even your own birthday – everything seems to fall squarely on your shoulders to get done. More than that, you know if you didn’t take care of it, it wouldn’t get done. A relationship is not a one-person effort, so there is no reason why you can see that things around the house need to get done or things in the relationship need to be maintained, but your partner cannot.
Newsflash: they are okay with being willfully ignorant and might even be serving you a side of weaponized incompetence on purpose.
A healthy partner is willing to look at your mental and emotional well-being and take the initiative to take things off your plate, not burden you with the task of upkeeping most if not all, of the expectations of a household. Let alone a thriving relationship.
4.They always have an excuse.
Couldn’t wash the dishes or clean the bathroom today? Excuse. Couldn’t communicate they’d be running late? Excuse. Couldn’t pick up the kids on time? Excuse. Couldn’t create a meaningful idea for his turn to do date night? Excuse. Couldn’t get groceries done this time but wants to eat? Excuse. Couldn’t be bothered to cook tonight? Excuse. Any behavior deemed bad or unreasonable that they have done? Of course, an excuse. Whatever the instance may be, the ownership is severely lacking with this one, and the blame is always on someone or something else that will rarely (if ever) have anything to do with them.
There’s even an excuse about why past relationships didn’t work out, and surprise, surprise, their exes are almost always the cause. Early on, the blame game with his excuses applies to everything and everyone outside of them. Just know, eventually, he’ll also blame you. Speaking of which, this brings me to my next point…
5.They can’t take accountability if their life depends on it.
Maybe he shuts down when you bring up anything remotely serious or shrugs it off as not being able to do “negative emotions.” Maybe he downright denies it when you mention something he has said or done is hurtful to you. Maybe he acts defensive or doesn’t allow you to take up space in the conversation and instantly dishes out a rebuttal. Something he did is not acceptable under the light of accountability, and so it becomes about what you did to him. You’re being “too sensitive,” that’s not what he meant, you’re “overthinking.”
Maybe all of this points to the man-child you’re clearly dealing with is one that refuses to take responsibility for his actions or his words when it comes to you. He deflects instead of owning, whether it’s his bad behavior or his own emotions. Who wants that?
6.They have standards that they can’t or won’t meet themselves.
It starts with a comment or two here or there while you’re out and about, but they make it known how high their standards are regarding cleanliness or upkeep. But let them get into a relationship with you, and the unsolicited criticisms about how you are and how you move are never-ending. It can start with something seemingly small, like commenting on your cooking despite not ever lifting a finger to cook a meal themselves. The complaints themselves are self-serving because while they attach a lot of expectations to you, they never have any intention of meeting their own strict morals or high standards.
Said man-child might also appear withdrawn or “pout” when things aren’t happening “his way.” It’s almost as though they want you to fit squarely into what they believe a partner should be, say, or do, all while knowing they have no desire to also meet those standards.
Honorable mention to the version of these types that are able to dish it but can’t take it and lash out whenever they feel remotely offended. Pot, meet kettle.
7.They are still attached to the teet.
Sometimes, the makings of a man-child and a mama’s boy do overlap, and honestly, when you think of the refusal to grow up or be responsible in both types, you can probably understand why. In the case of a man-child, this can also manifest as relying on his mom to cook his meals and do his laundry, or calling her for every little thing.
It could also look like wanting to be the center of attention at all times and questioning why he is not the focus when he wants you both to do something he wants to do. Mr. Man-Child is used to being doted after by his mother figure, and wants you to fill her shoes, and wants you to be just as self-sacrificing as she is/was while doing it.
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