Sexy, Self-Conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single: Why I Married My Ph.D.

14 Nov

2011 has garnered a lot of conversations centering on the undesirability (hence un-marryability) of (professional) black women.  Black women have been fed unsolicited and unnecessary information about how to correct and prepare ourselves for our soulmate without giving us the credit due grown ass women who routinely (and effectively) handle our ish, look good doing it, and write home about it.  By mid-year I was already exhausted of the black woman dramas that were being written about (but not by) black women.  It was almost as traumatic as last year’s For Colored Girls

In response and in reaction to many of the speculations around black women and their experiences of being single, I began to write poetry excerpts, sometimes owning my feelings, sometimes distancing myself (as is evidenced by the first and third person techniques).  The following poem is featured in a recently published anthology, With This Ph.D., I Thee Wed: Experiences of Single African-American Women Professors.  I use the poem to think through my internal dialogues about single professionalism.  I am still thinking through…

Sexy, Self-Conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single: Why I Married My Ph.D.


thirty years later

nakedness prevailed in dim lit rooms

smelling of sour musk and

dull like water,

she longed for silver touches

on her skin, violently brown and calm

and longing to be touched

after years of reckoning

she did not want to be another man’s invention

but rather his salvation

becoming whatever it was he wanted

in the moment, sacrificing herself

to be everything he needed

subsiding his aggression,

swallowing his wonder,

tracing his steps with her fingers.

she was not told about love

only the loneliness it left

and the possibility of scorn

and the vulnerability and visibility inherent in


she was told

desperation is never sexy



i lose consciousness

when faced with the self-awareness

that swallows me, cradling the duality of roles I play.

professor by day, woman by night.

but not superwoman

and not strongblackwoman,

just woman.

vulnerable and newly aware of childhood scars

and moles like mama on my face.

working these curves because it gives me more than attention,

but ambition,

and power.

because between these thighs is as much treasure as my brain,

and my heart beats strong for every wrong I ever made.

i am self-conscious of the image i see in the mirror facing me.

a seeming fraud, a scam artist

a black girl docta

holding all these damn credentials

in my hands

& a ringless second finger

pushing away doubt and doubters because I can do this, be this


she remembers

falling to her knees and praying loudly and silently at the same time.

loud enough for the people to hear her on the back pews

saying lines of scripture long memorized and silently begging God to hear her

this time,

save her from herself, this time,

& her ambitions,

& fierce independence,

her feminist, can-do-bad-by-her-damn-self self.


seemed to my mother another word for acting grown,


too big for my britches,

and she felt it her right and responsibility to wear me down,

or with switches harboring her own stifled sass,

wear me out

until I learned how to watch my mouth

but as I grew older,


kept my tongue sharp like a razor,

with words of fire rising in me,

words on fire forcing me to speak my mind and speak out about what I thought,

no longer under my breath in intimidation, but out loud and lyrical

in a take-it-or-leave it tone

and a take-me-or-leave-me way.

& so often I got left

quintessentially single

statistics startled me

from whitegirl fairytales

& my own flagrant fantasies

so I married me

a ph.d.

to stifle the possibility of loneliness

& it spoiled me with the possibilities & promises

of permanence and prominence

being enough

when stable arms were not there

my ph.d. sweet talked me like the man who never stayed

& the one who never showed up in the first place

this education thing is what mama promised me

what daddy left as a viable option

what the church ladies were so proud of

my ph.d. is not a substitute for a husband

but it is my destiny, my soulmate

the reason I changed my name

& everything I fought so hard for

this must be love.

AFTERTHOUGHT (later morning musings):  I think it is important that we learn how to celebrate ourselves both inside and outside of relationships–or perhaps see our relationship with ourselves as the most significant one we will ever have.  Loving myself intentionally has been the most difficult, yet necessary, feat of my life.  There were times, this year, when I questioned my successess, questioned my accomplishments, as if I had somehow done something wrong by “doing me” and prioritizing my life goals.  This would have been one of those moments when after reading an assanine assessment of why Black women are perpetually single I had a temporary lapse of individual judgment, and wondered, sometimes out loud and oftentimes to my friend girls, should I have not pursued my Ph.D.?  Should I have not devoted my twenties to self-improvement?  Should I have settled?  The answer is no, hell no, to all three questions.  I became a feminist during my pursuit of a Ph.D.  I became a feminist in my twenties.  Being a feminist urges me to never settle… for anything… less than I deserve/want/need.  So in many ways my Ph.D. was my salvation, my awakening, an irrevocable investment in myself and my consciousness.

So yeah, after having slept on it, I embrace my sexy, self-conscious, sanctified, sassy, single self!  You can call me Dr. SSSSS!

11 Responses to “Sexy, Self-Conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single: Why I Married My Ph.D.”

  1. Evita November 14, 2011 at 2:18 AM #

    I love this poem, but particularly this line:

    she was told

    desperation is never sexy

  2. Dawn November 14, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

    Wow! It was like you were in my head taking notes of my jumbled thoughts and conflicting emotions, or a fly on the wall witnessing me come to terms with letting go of a lover who was never and would never be ready for me. I’m comforted in the knowledge that I am not alone – though the struggle continues. Thank you for understanding…

  3. scholarjoy November 14, 2011 at 9:35 AM #

    I really appreciate this prose…it definitely speaks to the journey of Black Women with exceptional credentials. I find that being married to my Ph.D. may sound like a form of escape, yet it allows me to channel my energies to the purpose of the Ph.D…as a global change agent. I believe in divine destiny, and if someone is to walk with you in it, they will show up, ready and willing to do the work of purpose.

  4. Rachel November 14, 2011 at 10:00 AM #

    I find it fascinating how the whole “black experience” can connect people. I mean, although we do not live in the same country and not share the same culture, much of what you wrote touch my heart, what was written in the post reflects a lot of my experience as a black woman in this world.

  5. Ms Sheeba November 14, 2011 at 1:56 PM #

    The same goes for me. Never lived in America and yet our black female experiences are so kindred.

  6. coyabean November 14, 2011 at 3:40 PM #

    Just…thank you.

  7. The Irreverent Couponer November 14, 2011 at 4:30 PM #

    “so I married me
    a ph.d.

    the reason I changed my name”

    Love it.

  8. Tracey Hutson November 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM #

    I do not have a ph.d, but your words could have been written by me. Thank you for putting words to the feelings of many.

  9. Asha November 15, 2011 at 8:23 AM #

    Thank you thank you thank you.


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