Getting Past “Should”

In 2017, I sat in the pews of three churches or the rows of fancy reception halls watching two people in love become one union. And for the weddings I didn’t attend, I saw enough of the ceremony on social media to make me feel like I was there, dodging the thrown bouquet per usual. I always wonder if their special day came close to (or exceeded) what they drummed up in their dreams prior to.

Culturally, we joke and say that from youth, us women, prayerful brides-to-be, spend years planning for their weddings, regardless of if the husband part of the equation has been factored in yet. We know the style and cut of engagement rings, possible surprise engagement scenarios, the type of dress and hair, locations and venues, months, seasons, guest lists, table decor, honeymoons, you name it. And it’s a fun and wonderful thing to imagine. I love to chime in to the building of this fantasy as, through age, we inch towards their realities.

All my life I’ve wanted to become a best friend turned wife, a mother, a life partner, someone else’s complete family. However, I’ve avoided letting even a fragment of a wedding ceremony for myself materialize in my mind. In casual conversation, I’ve crossed out the option of me wearing a strapless dress simply because my breasts are big and gravity is real, and that I couldn’t have a spring wedding because my allergies are horrendous, but my thoughts haven’t drifted much beyond that. I have no mental picture of myself in a white gown, no clue what my hair would be doing, no color schemes, no clue of the reception activities or if I’ll do customized vows or who would be doe-eyed in the audience dabbing away tears for me.

I don’t necessarily see myself as superstitious, but I do have a gut fear of karma and jinxing things. While I do believe in The Secret and that thoughts become things, I fear that if I conjure up something prematurely, I’ll put bad luck in the air and ruin whatever’s meant to be. But the older I get, the more world I see, and the more life I experience, I wonder if the snapshot of a married me is MIA not because I’m scared I’ll jinx it, but because it doesn’t actually exist. Maybe that aversion to envisioning my big day is a subconscious way of not getting my hopes up too high to be crushed. That maybe I don’t see myself as a bride because there’s a very real chance I’ll never be one.

In any moment prior to this one right now of me writing this epiphany, my heart would have sank into the floor, mushed around beneath my feet. Existing as a perpetual third wheel. Me, alone. Dying alone. Nobody’s. The thought goes against everything I assumed and hoped for myself. That, quite frankly, is expected of me. Ever since she’s been of age to share her experiences, my sister hasn’t had any shortage of doting boyfriends. It’s innocent and fine, none of them seemed too toxic; she is just a relationship type of girl. I thought I was the relationship type, too. I swear I did. But a decade of life showing me otherwise has got to mean something.

For the last couple of years, I’ve felt so fcuking lonely I was embarrassed for myself. Sometimes I still am. I wonder what’s wrong with me often. No one will tell me what’s wrong with me. What am I doing wrong? Am I doing anything right? How can I change me? How do I pull myself out of this mild depression, this swallowing feeling of self-pity? (Therapy would probably help, so that’s going to be my treat to myself next year for sure.) But what if this is preparation for me? It sounds crazy and cynical, but as sucky as it feels now, maybe God is getting me used to being alone so that I can handle it for the many years of life I pray I’ll live? Maybe I’m supposed to be my own “Person.”

When I was watching Insecure this season, there was one episode that really hit home for me. Like Gabrielle Union’s character in Being Mary Jane, Insecure’s Molly (played excellently by Yvonne Orji) is one of my favorite poppin-but-embattled characters. Professionally, she’s great, and that’s about as far as it goes. Finding a romantic match is just as important, but that ground is more than a bit shaky. Molly’s therapist picked up on a pattern of hers during sessions: she kept saying she “should” be this way based on X, or “should” have that in her life because of Y. She told Molly, based on all these “should be” ways she sees her life unfolding, could she be satisfied if her life went a different way than she intended? If she didn’t get more money and respect at work, and if she didn’t find love and marriage, could it be possible to still find value in the life she was living?

It’s a very difficult thing to try to see your life outside the lines of what you expected it to be and wished all your life it’d wind up as. The person who hears a cancer diagnosis didn’t plan for that to be there. The single person with a child or children didn’t plan to parent alone. The person with a disability didn’t intend on having one. The person who lost both their parents at a young age wasn’t prepared for that to happen. But these people find joy and hope and value in their lives still. It may suck sometimes, but it’s possible. It’s doable.

I know it’s “too early” in my life to worry about being alone forever, but it’s a real thing to prepare for, especially for someone as emotionally shaky as myself. There are so many amazing, successful, intelligent, caring, maternal, wonderful women who, for whatever reasons beyond their control, do not find love even if they want to. Yet they still go on living, doing things that add up to something they can be proud of and happy with if their lives were to end right then and there. Could I do that? It’s worth my while to make peace with the possibility, barring bitterness all the way, because I know that at my age, the weddings aren’t going to stop. The proposals aren’t going to stop. The pregnancies aren’t going to stop. Happiness and love aren’t going to stop, and I feel privileged to receive invitations to witness these celebrations in the flesh. I want to give 100% of my joy to my friends and family on their special days regardless of if I ever have one. God, can you help me do that? Can you help me be okay?


  1. Compelling article, Queen. I always enjoy your pieces. Thank you for sharing and being so open and vulnerable. You are strong and brilliant. Keep on being amazing, Stassi! #GOODWRK

  2. I am going through a similar range of emotions regarding those "should" moments, particularly with respect to watching friends find and fall in love with partners, children, new careers, cities, etc.

    I have to take a step back some days, I feel like it's hard to breathe. Clawing my way out of what's expected of me as a young black woman (I'm 28 as well) is an ongoing process. I try to remind myself that I am more than a future (insert label here) and what's for me will be for me. Still, some days I see myself with those things and wonder if they will every come to pass.


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