Valentine's Day is around the corner, which means the proverbial question of "love?" is in the air...
Are you in love? Who do you love? Who loves you? ... Or... Do you even want love?
Wherever you might fall on the love spectrum, most will agree: You desire, at the very least, a healthy "partnership." But why is it that, in 21st Century America-- and in New York City, in particular-- something as universally desired as "a healthy partnership," continues to be so evasive?
Jean Alerte, owner of the popular Bed-Stuy yogurt shop, Brooklyn Swirl, has gathered together seven men across a variety of relationship statuses- single, engaged, married, divorced, etc.-- to serve as co-authors and provocateurs in a book entitled, Single Man, Married Man-- Every Man Wants to be Married. Why not to You?
Alerte, who is married and is also the author of the book "Do Right, Do Good," interviewed a sample of men and women over the course of three years to bring readers an honest and unscripted, fly-on-the-wall perspective of what drives men's thinking when attempting to form a romantic bond. Alerte said what surprised him not only was the diversity of answers, but that when asked if they were interested in getting married, 96% of the men surveyed said "yes."
"What we found was that single women and married women do not think the same about relationships, just like men do not think the same," said Alerte. "You'll see there are seven different men answering the same questions and giving you seven different responses. But the end of the day, men all want the same goal, which is to be with someone."
One of the book's co-authors, Jickael Bazin, 38, a divorcée from Long Island, said society portrays women as complicated beings that men have a hard time understanding. But Bazin learned that men can be just as complicated:
"We can be just as picky. We think we know what we want. But a lot of times we don't," said Bazin. "I think the environment also has something to do with it, because New York is a success-driven city and can have an influence on our ability to go out there and date."
Kel Spencer, 36, a recently married man from Brooklyn, pointed to the book's subtitle, "Every man wants to be married. Why not to You?" as a key starting point for discussion:
"I felt ['Why Not to You?'] was a bold statement," said Spencer, who dated the same woman for five years before getting married. "No guy wants to be the dude sitting in the rocking chair with two beers and a cat when he's 70 years old. But I don't think I'm complicated, I'm just selective. I didn't want a relationship to get in the way of my goals and my goals to get in the way of a relationship. So it had to be something I thought about for a while."
Co-author Fadelf Jackson, 37, out of Hemptstead, Long Island, is on his second marriage. He said writing the book helped remind him of a lot of things he already knew but had stopped putting into practice:
"I have to be honest, it wasn't so much about learning. For me, it was a refresher and reminder," said Jackson. "Because sometimes we can live life, and know what we're supposed to do, but it's not until someone points it out that you realize you're not doing it. It could be something as small and simple as saying 'Good morning.' Some people would like to hear good morning every morning from their partner. And because they don't get that, over time, resentment builds.
"Before you know it, they begin arguing over small issues and don't even know why. So for some, this book will be about meeting again and refreshing the relationship that you think is on autopilot.
"Also-- and this might be more specific to African-American women-- the problem of fatherlessness interrupts the interaction between men and women. The interaction that they should naturally have with their fathers by the time we meet them, they haven't had. So really understanding that requires us to have a little more patience with certain things."
Frank Gateau, 32, a single man from Brooklyn, said the greatest challenge he has faced in many of his relationship is finding a partner who is willing to go through the ups and downs:
"Being in NY and everybody in the hustle and bustle, they don't necessarily want to fight for it," said Gateau. He said women often have this notion that men are supposed to fight for them, because they have options. But yet, they are less willing to fight for the relationship through the hard times.
Alerte's wife, Gayna, read the book and said she learned a lot more about men she thought she already knew: "I thought I had a pretty good idea of how men think. But I learned that the common denominator from the men is that they want the same things that women want, which is TLC— I thought it was interesting that they were almost screaming for those things that almost get overlooked by women."
And, Alerte added, not everyone desires to be married: "In Chapter 9 'If it's not Broke, Don't Fix it,' we discuss how not every person needs to get married to have a successful relationship, because there are people we've interviewed who are living in successful relationships and never walked down the aisle.
"It's really about communication and partnerships, versus just marriage... It's a hard time right now with social media and everything else," said Alerte. "But hopefully this book opens a dialogue between both men and women and helps people get together."
Single Man, Married Man goes on sale February 10, just in time for Valentine's day on BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com. Hard copies of the books can be purchased at Barnes & Noble in late March. Also, signed copies can be pre-ordered online at www.singlemanmarriedman.com or can be picked up at Brooklyn Swirl, located at 445 Marcus Garvey Boulevard.