Over the weekend, the New York Times published “A Reluctant Bride Conquers Her Fears” in its Weddings section. The story focused on a black couple who said “I do” on Dec. 14. It was a celebratory tale with a happy ending, but some women found themselves in tears before they finished.
“I’m crying over this Demetria,” one woman wrote on my Facebook wall after I shared the story on Sunday.
At 39, Rachel Skiffer married Marvin Coote nearly 20 years—and a few breakups—after they met. Surely Coote isn’t perfect—no one is—but the holdup here was on the bride, who owned up to a mistake that many black women can relate to.
Skiffer was “known for her independence.” Her family schooled her to “avoid the attention of boys” and “warned her: career first, family second.” Her mother told her, “[Don’t] marry [your] first boyfriend or rely on a man for anything.”
Sound familiar? It did to another reader, too. She wrote, “Reading this reminded me of everything my mom has told me: ‘Don’t rely on a man’ and my dad telling me to put my career first … and that advice has held me back with my relationships. I am struggling to break free from it.”
A dutiful daughter, Skiffer listened, too. In college she met Coote, who would become her first boyfriend. They moved in together. During her senior year, he bought her a “promise ring.” And then one day in 1996, she took her mother’s advice and broke up with him.
“Marvin took care of me and I equated that with being vulnerable,” Skiffer told the Times, as if vulnerability were a bad thing and not a necessary component of a healthy relationship.
Over the years, the couple gave the relationship two more tries. On their third attempt, Coote offered to move across the country to be with Skiffer, who was working as a lawyer. She recalled fatherly advice about how moving would disrupt their careers and broke up with him—again.
They didn’t speak for six years.
In the meantime, she set a goal of making partner at her law firm, a blessing and a curse that she equated to “winning a pie-eating contest but the prize was more pie.” By 2011 she had bought a condo, had a flourishing (and lucrative) career and had been a good girl who took her parents’ advice, which, at its core, was, “You don’t need a man.” She was successful, self-sufficient and also unfulfilled.
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