Neither Here Nor There: Perspectives on Identity by the Young Eritrean and Ethiopian Diaspora in America

January 13, 2010

Loving and Living

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 9:44 am

Growing up watching Disney and Hollywood’s version of love and courtship, I thought romance and partnering were things that would naturally happen when the “right” time came.  According to my parents the “right” time was once I was done with school.  So I diligently finished high school, college, and 2 graduate degrees without worrying about love.  I was further lulled into complacency at those times by the wide variety of good boys and men I was surrounded with (aka driven, interesting guys with good intentions and good hearts who seemed to hold similar long term goals as I did.)

Fast forward to post school life and I now realize things are a bit different on the outside.  Ok, a lot different.  Suddenly I work at a job where I am the youngest employee (by about 5-10 years), the only professional of color, and the only single person.  I have gone from being surrounded by likeminded potential partners to spending 40+ hours a week focusing on everything but dating.  If you are a professional you know that when you come home after work you’re tired and have less interest in being out and about.  Between other projects I am working on and trying to keep a decent gym schedule my weeknights are booked as well  This leaves a couple weeknights and weekends to meet a potential partner and do the usual getting to know you stuff that helps lead to a future relationship.

The other problem that exists is finding a suitable mate.  As an immigrant woman of color who is also a young professional, the world is ready to tell me that my chances of partnering are lower than average. (By partnering I mean a meaningful relationship that leads to a healthy marriage.)  The first of these came from some of the African American women I studied with when I was in graduate school.  It is a well known fact that Black (I consider myself Black as well) professional women find it harder to find someone (especially a Black man) they can relate to and get along with enough to maintain a long term relationship.  This is such a prevalent concern that ABC News recently did a piece on it!  Take a look at these beautiful succesful women and their stories.

According to someone I recently spoke with, The “curse” to dating that comes from having too many letters after your name also is a dilemma for Habesha women.  Near my home there is a coffee shop where a lot of older Eritrean gentlemen gather and chitchat – yes, men chitchat too.  One of these men is a very friendly and wise fatherly figure who took me under his wing when I was regularly studying there for my licensing exams last year.  He would check and see how I was doing and impart points of wisdom before leaving me to my books.  One day he began talking about dating and young people.  He is known in the community and often is called in to settle disputes and problems.  He mentioned that when he meets parents of late adolescent and young adult females he tells their parents to make sure their daughters marry quickly.  He said if a girl finds someone she gets along with while she is in college, don’t get in the way.  The longer the girl waits the harder it is for her to find a man who can be comfortable with what she accomplishes.  He said based on what he has seen if a “girl” has a PhD. And is not yet in a committed relationship it’s “over” for her….as young as I look he didn’t realize I had one of those.  He mentioned a girl with a PhD. will have to open up her options to non Eritrean/Ethiopian because there aren’t enough of our men who will be confident and secure enough to be with her.  Now, don’t misread what he is saying – he is not saying this is impossible, but it is just harder.  I’m not sure if it is really just about confidence or security but I think there is something going on here.

Another barrier to finding a long term partner is differing goals.  This is a problem for both men and women.  This has impacted me personally in that when I finished grad school, I had just gotten out of a long term relationship (almost 4 years) and was not ready to think about being in a relationship for about a year.  Then, when I was ready, I was meeting men who weren’t interested in a long term commitment.  We live in a time where there are so many options that finding someone who is looking for the same thing you are can be hard to find.  When you do meet that person you might not find the attraction/chemistry you’re looking for.  This appears to be a wide spread problem.  I recently watched a documentary Single which points out that “there are 100 million unmarried adults in America and for the first time ever, the majority of US households are headed by an unmarried person.” According to Single,The simple explanation is that we marry later, divorce a lot, and live longer. But there’s more to it than that.  Today’s life is more complex, intense, and demanding. As a result, finding and maintaining a lasting relationship has become even more challenging.”  The documentary states there are several reasons for this:

  • “The accelerated evolution of women in the latter part of the 20th century has resulted in many more lifestyle choices for both men and women.
  • We live in a youth obsessed, instant gratification, attention deficit world.
  • Our expectations of finding the “perfect” partner and maintaining the “perfect” relationship have never been higher.”

Again, are these all the reasons?  I don’t know. All I know is that it’s not easy.

The funny thing to me is that everyone wants to give you advice.  Many of my friends and I have the regular check ins from parents and other relatives urging us to settle down and telling us what we need to do to make it happen.  Then my friends and I talk about what we are doing wrong and right to work towards a lifetime to a partner.  There are books (how many of you have read Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Woman Think Like A Man?), movies (He’s Just Not That Into You is pretty on point in my mind), advice columns, and more.

Well, here is my two cents for what it’s worth.  You have to respect yourself and others, listen to your instincts, compromise but not settle, and know what you want.  Once you’ve got those things in order you gotta be P-A-T-I-E-N-T…that’s the hard part.

Oh yeah – be nice, don’t string anyone along if you’re not sure what you want.  That is selfish and unfair.

Finally – a little prayer never hurts.  🙂


1 Comment »

  1. Hello im interested in taking a trip to Addis Ababa to enjoy the culture but also to meet and date ethiopian women. Im interested to know, in your opinion if the women in Addis ababa are open to dating African American? Or open to dating American men in general? Is the dollar worth alot when travelling to Addis Ababa? Is it cheap for American dollars? Are the women attractive as ive seen on the internet? What about their bodies as far nice bodies? thank you

    Comment by ishmell — March 23, 2010 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

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