When the Glass Slipper Doesn’t Fit: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Men in College

by Tamika D. Hawkins

I recently took my four-year-old daughter to see Cinderella – it was a live action, modern twist on a classic tale of love conquers all, mixed in with a dash of dreams do come true and brought together with the magical touch of a fairy godmother’s wand. Wouldn’t life be grand if this was all it took? If I could dream it and it would come. If I could wish it and it would appear. In my best Laurence Fishburne-inspired School Daze scream – WAKE UP.

While education, career and community service are undoubtedly top priorities, as young girls, we are often taught that marriage and children (in that order) are the ultimate goals. We see countless films that glamorize women being rescued, whether from an evil stepmother or an unconscionable life of doom, by this handsome, strong manly man. And of course, the couple lives happily ever after as Prince Charming whisks the poor damsel away on a white thoroughbred – hair blowing with abandon in the summer wind. How often have we clicked our heels wishing that this screenplay would make its way out of the theater and into our reality?

But what happens when your man puts a ring on it, and the marriage falls tragically short of the vows you both promised to uphold? Or when a former pageant girl who was never without a boyfriend or date throughout high school and college now finds herself 35, single and raising a daughter – with an amazing co-parent no less – but no husband. Though I’m proud of my educational and professional accomplishments, I can’t help wishing that this one area of my life would just catch up already. Here are five things I wish I had known:

1) Focus on knowing YOU.

If you realize you are dealing with a man who is not on the same page, please know that spending valuable time and energy trying to strategically get him on-board with your program is likely not going to yield the desired result. Instead, spend that time on you! Figure out the deal-breaker(s) for you. What can you live with or without? Yes, compromise is important, but we all have core principles that we cannot sacrifice. Pray, meditate, think, journal – do whatever you need to do to get to that place of comfort and clarity. Get to know you. Lay out your needs and expectations. And stick to your convictions.

2) Don’t sleep on the “potential in the pool.”

As we age and gain success, it’ll be a rare opportunity to encounter the numbers of single men in one centralized location as we find on a college campus. When I first entered the hallowed halls of Howard University more than 16 years ago, I was seriously underwhelmed. The ratio of women to men was wildly unequal and I lacked the foresight or the interest to see the “potential in the pool” among my fellow classmates. Oddly, I was seeking some sort of instant gratification. When in actuality, we were all on equal footing just trying to navigate our way. And instead of looking for swag, my checklist should have included things like: Will he respect both the pursuit of my goals and me? Does he have the ambition to pursue his own? Does he share my values?

3) No matter what you do or how well you do it, you cannot change a man.

There are some character traits and personal preferences that don’t change, short of some major life experience, intervention from God or really deep self-introspection. I agree that if you do not love yourself, it will be difficult to truly love and share that love with others. However, beware of the man who shows you time and time again that his interests, his happiness and his way, reign supreme. Successful relationships, friendships, and even getting bills passed in Washington (though this happens far less frequently these days), are about compromise. So if you find yourself grasping for balance, but regularly getting the short end of the stick, in spite of your best attempt at making his favorite meal, trying to please him in bed or any other myriad of acts in desperation, it may be time to reevaluate this man’s role in your life.

4) Shiny does not equal substance. Check out what’s under the hood!

Living in any metropolitan area, you are bound to find men who are successful. They are Ivy-leaguers and Morehouse men. They are entrepreneurs who built their companies from the ground up, Ph.D.’s that drop profound knowledge and professional athletes whose celebrity sends us flocking to All-Star weekend with stars in our eyes. The list goes on. I used to think that was the ticket, or at least enough to get me into the door of the party. But if we take a critical look, credentials that make us swoon are like flashy marketing tools – just like that flyer you find stuck under your windshield wiper when you leave the club or when church lets out. You still have to make the effort to see what AND who is really inside. Honestly, you’d never buy a car without checking under the hood. So, why give a man a pass or an unfair advantage because he went to medical school, drives a BMW or vacations on the Vineyard?

5) Guard your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) We can look to Biblical scholarship to assess the context surrounding King Solomon when he penned those words. Though one thing’s for sure, they still ring true. Dating is never 100 percent risk-free. Ever. But not every man deserves your love, devotion and sacrifice. Not every man warrants the opportunity to know the matters of your heart. And even when you think this may be the one, remember, some things take time. Give yourself, your mate or potential mate, and the relationship the time and attention it needs to grow and develop. Be the catalyst for your own happily ever after and let the Universe work.

Now, for the disclaimer: I am not saying that following these to the tee will result in a 6-carat asscher cut ring or a storybook marriage. Some women find immense fulfillment being single and others will need to create their own roadmap. What I am saying is that these are tools I wish I had in my kit years earlier.

But in spite of my ebbs and flows through this love thing, I am still a card-carrying member of the hopeless romantic club – though I try to approach it with a little more wisdom these days. And even if like me, you’ve tried on a few slippers that left you with some serious aches and pains, have faith that the right shoe will fit.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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