Why Commitment Scares Me (Confessions of an Intimidated Black Man Pt. 4)

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This is part four of Jamall Calloway’s debut on Urban Cusp in which he penned an open love letter confessing doubts and insecurities brought about by a woman who intimidates him. In Part 2, he asked himself the question others have asked: “why won’t I just ‘man up’?”. In Part 3, he penned an open letter that showed his evolution and that he had finally “found some heart.” In this final part, he speaks candidly about why he’s intimidated by commitment. Read the entire series here.

Things have been going great, right? I’m enjoying you. You’re enjoying me. Everything is fine. It’s magical when we spend time together and it’s engaging when we’re on the phone. I like the way things are, you know? It’s only been a few months since we started “hanging out” and it really seems like nothing can wrong. Sure, we have our differences here and there. You get a little annoyed when you call me and I send ignore texts or when I cancel on you at the last minute. I understand. But those are innocuous issues, in my opinion.

And besides those little things I want to say that I appreciate you for all the effort and time you put into this thing we have going on. Even though it’s not easy making that time because we both have classes, work and other obligations, I want to say I appreciate everything. Honestly, I would’ve told you that sooner, but I needed time to think about the issues you’ve been raising about my effort. Every once in awhile you tacitly ask about our future and where I see us going. Most of the time, I admit, I’m rather evasive. But you maneuver through my evasiveness and find ways to question us becoming “official” instead of just “hanging out.” Well, my dear, I will finally answer you. So allow me to tell you my truth. Allow me to tell why I’m intimidated by the thought of us becoming committed.

In all honestly, it’s not you. It’s me. And I hate to bring up that old saying but it’s true because I’m the one with the baggage and the issues. I’ve invested myself in a committed relationship before and things didn’t pan out so well for me. Plus after observing the misery of my friends who have loved and lost, I do what I can to elude experiencing anything remotely similar to that emotional distress again.

I know you understand. You’ve had your heart broken before, right? I’m sure your past contains a story where you danced with the idea of spending the rest of your youth with someone. But you did only to find yourself drowning in despondence after discovering that you were the only one dancing to such a melody. So please understand. It’s not you. It’s my fear of investing in what I conceive of as inevitable heartbreak. It’s my fear of dancing to that same old tune.

​Now, the second reason I’m intimidated by commitment is a little shallow. It’s hard to admit but I will anyway. You see, I have not committed to you and you alone, because I enjoy sustaining my other romantic options. Instead of being shackled down by commitment like I did in the past, I’ve grown accustomed to and actually delight in having countless pretty faces hanging on the periphery of my intimate life. I may not contact them daily, I may not bring them home to meet my family, but in those capricious moments where I’m suffering from boredom or am in need of some instant validation, I can contact any one of them for my casual needs. And I like it this way – at least for now.

The final reason why I’m intimidated by commitment and haven’t requested for us to become exclusive is because I am scared of committing to the wrong one. My friend, I have not made up in my mind yet if you’re the one for me. That one person who builds a barricade in your brain and takes possession of every thought you had. The one who holds them selfishly in their hands without a hint of remorse. When you fall so deeply in love that you vaguely remember your own existence prior to meeting them, then you know, unequivocally, that you have met someone special. That one, that special someone, is enough to make you forget about the past hurts and is enough to make you disentangle yourself from the messy web of insignificant options. And darling, as special as you are, I am not fully convinced or sure that you are that one for me.

So I keep you close enough to consider but far enough for removal if that special one was to ever appear. And no, I’m not an intentional womanizer, I just so happen to personify the mythical black man ill with what G. Ann Wilkerson calls, “the precious commodity syndrome.” I’ve been hurt before, so I’m hesitant. I have too many options, so I’m reluctant. And I haven’t decided if you’re the one for which I should get over these issues and commit. I guess you can say, I’m just an intimidated black man…

 

Jamall Andrew Calloway is from Oakland, CA. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Tougaloo College, Jackson, MS. He is currently a Masters of Divinity Candidate at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, CT and an associate minister at Mt. Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, CT. You can follow him on Twitter @JACalloway1940 and his blog heartofandrew.

20 Comments

  1. Shanta

    January 29, 2013 at 9:50 am

    If you are not ready to commit then you should not be pursuing her. You should not be keeping her as an “option”. You need to find that validation of your worth in God and from yourself instead of stringing women along. In addition, you need to take the time to heal from your hurts and disappointments with women because I sense that you haven’t yet.

  2. AI

    January 29, 2013 at 10:34 am

    The problem I have is this man is a minister and held to a higher calling. He is teaching that it is okay to use women for casual … (Fill in the blank). I don’t see a man who is celibate, I see a man who is selfish and not living the walk he has devoted himself to. Now if you are celibate forgive me, but it doesn’t read that way minister. To whom much is given much is required and if this causes men to turn away from God then you will be held accountable for this.

    Concerned for the state of black men and for the church. This is sad.

    • UC Columnist - Jamall

      January 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

      I actually partially agree with you. The man, or even the person, is acting selfishly to a certain degree. And I only say to a certain degree because the woman also has her own agency and makes her own decisions. So maybe there is some compromising going on.

      As far as me being a minister. I do have a calling. I don’t categorize it as a “higher” calling as much as I think I am held to stricter behavioral standards. I believe GOD calls us all to an equal moral level. Moreover, I doubt one this can cause men to throw away their faith.

      For more on the moral state of black pastors, be sure to check out this conversation!

      http://www.urbancusp.com/newspost/watch-huffpost-live-segment-on-black-pastors-losing-their-way/

      • UC Columnist - Jamall

        January 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

        *this one*

      • AI

        January 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

        Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

        You sir are held to a higher standard. If you were not a minister or a follower of Christ, I would not have replied. However as I read the end of your credentials I was sickened as well as the young lady who sent it to me and was shocked to see your credentials as well.

        I understand you are trying to speak from the viewpoint of a man as Jamal said but you are also speaking from your experience. Again if you are ministering the word of God and okay with casually using women, you will be held to a higher standard. The problem is that this article actually glorifies the casual use of women without a roadway to leave that mentality. And if you are okay with causally having intercourse with women, casually using their time when you know it’s not the person you want, and casually being a minister who finds these things okay…I remind you of I Cor 8:13. Agree or disagree but as a minister of the word their is plenty of things wrong with this picture.

    • Kyle Brooks

      January 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

      AI, I don’t think this is meant to be a literal confession, but a representation of the thought process behind why a significant number of men operate with a reluctance to commit to long-term relationships. The author and the speaker are not necessarily to be conflated, and so we have to consider how the written text meets the hypertext of our own histories, perceptions, and concerns to create another narrative about what the author thinks, feels, practices, or represents about black men, the clergy, and the church. I can understand how you have read this article as you have, but I want to suggest there are alternative readings, as well, that do not necessarily portend the downfall of black men and the church.

      • UC Columnist - Jamall

        January 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

        Mr. Kyle Brooks, first of all thank you for reading and most of all thank you for understanding and hitting the nail on the head!

      • AI

        January 29, 2013 at 11:55 am

        Kyle I disagree as he has already partially agreed with me. Feel free to read my other post responding to him.

        • Kyle Brooks

          January 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

          His partial agreement seems to be with your take on the selfishness of the speaker and the speaker’s actions. My point was about the danger, and perhaps inaccuracy, of conflating that reality with the full reality of the author. To speak from experience is not necessarily to speak from current practice. To imbue a generalized narrative of a troubled, confessional man with personal insight is not the same as acknowledging active practice and pursuit of such habits.

          It is important to consider how we (in)directly shape what we expect or presume to be the proper expression of thought and idea. Once again, the author is not the sole crafter of a narrative. The author presents a script that encounters the thoughts and expectations of the reader. So, the decision to frame his descriptions as glorification, or the decision to frame the allusion to *casual needs* as an indicator of sexual intercourse, or the assumption that confession indicates acceptance and agreement with it, all are influenced by the thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions you bring to your reading.

          Also, there is the question of what is (un)consciously expected (demanded?) from a minister writing in this context. Urban Cusp is not necessarily a sermonic context, per se. It leaves room for various modes of written speech. The (in)appropriateness of that is another discussion altogether. And the “way out,” as it were, from what is described is not so easily articulated. Yes, we can make general claims about Jesus being the means of escape and disentanglement from human struggles with sin, and as a Christian minister, I would not discredit that. However, I think it is necessary to rest with the complexity of the human portrait, its failings to reflect the ideal of the imago Dei, the messiness of the biblical narrative of people who perpetually fall short.

          I agree, this writing *is* offensive. Who wouldn’t be offended at the condition of the human heart? We are often woefully broken creatures, seeking some reconciliation with ourselves and a world that doesn’t respond as we want or expect. Critical dialogue can be helpful and healthy. That has to be carefully negotiated, though, and it can drift perilously close to a dogmatic inquisition of a person’s character or intentions.

          • AI

            January 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm

            We will agree to disagree. He did not deny this was about his current humanity he actually went on to tell me as a minister he is not held to a higher standard but everyone is. He can feel free to make your assertion that this is not his story and end all debates. However I’m sure it’s a blend of today and what he also feels other men feel. I’m not offended by his text I’m offended that its okay for a minister to write a post that makes it okay to casually use people in various ways and not offer a solution to men who are dealing with this. If this was how he use to feel where is the outcome? Where is the now what? Again agree to disagree.

            • Kyle Brooks

              January 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm

              The text doesn’t *make* anything okay, anymore than the Bible *made* slavery okay for the purposes of Christian slave owners. Text can be descriptive or prescriptive. That’s often a matter of personal interpretation. I’d caution against saying what you’re “sure” of about the writer and his intentions. Like, there’s just no way for you know that. I don’t think he’s beholden to a necessity of “proving” to the readers what he meant, even if some might desire that clarification.

              Also, he wrote, “I don’t categorize it as a “higher” calling as much as I think I am held to stricter behavioral standards. I believe GOD calls us all to an equal moral level.” He seems to state that as a minister, he is held to a higher standard of behavior. That is a matter of expressed action, not a matter of moral character, which he seems to say is a universal standard for all Christians.

              • AI

                January 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

                Lets not mix words and you know what I meant by higher calling. That is a phrase and I gave you the scripture. Anywho Sir, again we could sit here all day and say what we may about the words of this blog and compare it to this or that. And your reference to slavery in the bible is lacking the fact that people are told how to treat slaves and they are on the same level as family members. So within what was seen as morally wrong their was a call for people to let them free after 7 years and to not mistreat them. Unlike this text which does not call out our moral responsibility after we love out our humanity. Neither you or I know, Until he admits or denies his stance as a minister. Because we both have no idea. Have a great day and I probably will not reply to a response, I have said all I can and wanted to say.

    • Jason Craige Harris

      January 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      AI, representing a reality is not the same as ensconcing it, is not the same as endorsing it. A more astute reading of Brother Calloway’s piece might recognize him to be drawing attention to shameful things that are nevertheless social facts of the contemporary romantic landscape. De-recognizing distasteful, even harmful, realities does not make them non-realities. The first task of critique is description. This is what Calloway gives us. The second task is generous but incisive moral analysis and prescriptive recommendation. Perhaps Calloway will give us more of that in his next installment—and perhaps this is what you are seeking from him; perhaps you are saying that this essay is incomplete, not bad. (I do wish you had said that, if anything.) Before we get to prescriptive intervention, however, we need to appreciate the table that has already been prepared for us—carts before horses make for little progress but much struggle. Too often we rush to criticism without an adequate appreciation of an author’s words and framework.

      Incidentally, this is precisely what Calloway is getting at through his methodology—let’s try to understand the perspectives and experiences of so-called intimidated, non-committing black men before—even if—we are repulsed by their behaviors and their interpretations of their experiences. I think this method is one of love, of a commitment to a praxis that embodies intrinsic respect and one actually invested in transforming realities with which we are eager to dispense. Instead of wondering how much Calloway resembles the protagonist of his story, instead of getting caught up in the salaciousness of autobiographical intrigue, and subsequently questioning his moral credibility and ministerial integrity, we might consider the cultural dynamics that brought his protagonist to life in the first place. We might choose not to maintain psychological and therefore moral distance in this moment. We might choose instead to confront Calloway’s protagonist face-to-face, discerning how much WE resemble him, seeking to address the unresolved traumas, pains, and violations that have produced his more noxious qualities. Sometimes we are repulsed by the very thing we’ve helped to create. Sometimes we forget our own flaws, our own complicity with evil. I suspect that in another piece Calloway will do the normative and constructive work many of us desire, but, for now, he is asking us to sit with the moral muck, to recognize within ourselves those foibles we wish no one else to notice, we know to be morally reprehensible in some communities. Before repentance comes confession.

      What I am doing here is trying to think about a more generative style of reader response—one that posits questions before presumptive statements, moves inward before moving outward. What if my first reaction to this piece was “Am I this protagonist? Are my friends him? Have we been complicit in sexist cultural practices and attitudes like this protagonist? Although my means are humble, what can I do to contribute to healing men of color so that they can live into healthier visions of masculinity and romance for the sake of themselves and the ones they (say they) love? If Calloway is in any way representing himself, what can I learn from his vulnerability?” and not in the more typical, morally dismissive or outraged fashion: “Calloway is clearly his own protagonist. His protagonist is sinful and exploitative. Therefore Calloway is sinful and exploitative, and his ministerial calling a failure.” I’m interested in how we might train ourselves toward instinctively responding in ways similar to the first set of aforementioned responses over against the second set. Attitudes and (linguistic) practices of moral superiority do get us somewhere—just not where most of us say we want to be.

      • AI

        January 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm

        Sorry I cannot read your comment because I have used more time than I am wiling on this post. Thanks for putting my name at the top and taking the time to address me. But I’m finished interacting on this post.

  3. Kyle Brooks

    January 29, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I think what you’ve written, Jamall, underscores the popular adage of business (and in so many ways, everyday life): you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. The problem is that habits and practices of life have permitted or encouraged negotiations of relationship that privilege selfish behaviors and discourage self-disclosure. The vulnerability of true encounter is abandoned in favor of the more easily gained sensual experience. It is an insidious cycle based upon fear, which robs us of our humanity, and can only be negated by love.

    Indeed, the intimidation described is a reflection of the thirst for deep, abiding love of self, God, and neighbor. The pursuit of that love is an act of faith, not a confirmation of certainty. Perhaps that is another roadblock: the desire for empirical certainty in matters of the heart. In the present day, we have the tremendous capability of analysis and examination, but far less capacity for wonder and trust. The maintenance of options is a means of negating the risk of decision. Ultimately, isn’t that a fear we all share, of deciding who we’ll be and how we’ll live in the world, of committing to something and risking falling short?

  4. L. Proverbs Briggs

    January 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    i think the ladies are speaking out of hurtful experiences. Brothas of faith who are compelling, attractive, and intelligent are a commodity. so there’s already an imbalance in the sex numbers. but i think Kyle is right. it’s a “game” of negotiation. Sistas, Brothas will do what we ALLOW them to. so while you chastise Jamall, make sure you’re telling your girls not to keep calling, texting, hanging out with the kind of men Jamall is describing (not claiming to be). and ladies, we can agree that there have been times when WE’VE had those moments of “boredom” or “need for validation,” yes? and we reach out to the Brotha who will stroke your ego. and that has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with a desire to be desired.

    • AI

      January 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Im sorry, but you are mistaken. I’m only commenting because he is a minister and not from hurtful experiences. I invite you to read what I said, because it was not from a place of hurt but from a Christian who is concerned not about the content but about who is putting the message out there. He as a minister is called to a higher standard that involves not only sharing his experience but showing the right way as well.

      The numbers are not screwed and that is a fallacy for those who choose to believe it or those who choose only to date black men.

      If this man was not a minister I would have read and moved on.

      Furthermore the whole post was written from a place of hurt and your need to be desired from the same place. None of which can be filled by anyone else. But if you feel I commented from a place of hurt that is your perception.

  5. peculiar VIrtue

    January 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    this.is.GOLD. From the bottom of my heart, the author has my complete gratitude for articulating a mosaic of thought and emotion representing the minds and hearts of Black men that sisters like me would NEVER have been privy to, otherwise.

    I read all 4 letters in succession because I had to know how the story would end… but is this the end? Does the Black man remain intimidated? Or will there be another piece telling how he resolves his intimidation? Inquiring minds want to know!

  6. Spencer

    January 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    thanks for sharing. I can relate to the portion about being afraid to commit because of past hurt. I took a 6+ year break from relationships after one that ended badly. ironically, the relationship that ended my 6+ year break ended even worse and in a much shorter timeframe. at this point, I don’t intend on taking another 6+ year break, but I acknowledge that my current level of cautiousness may be problematic.

    anyway, don’t worry about people who don’t fully understand the message you are trying to convey through these posts. although it isn’t clear if the man in the posts shares your ministerial credentials, the reality is that many ministers deal with the same issues that you have discussed. they also deal with the same backlash from people like AI when they are honest and transparent, which leads many to struggle in silence. keep up the good work. you’re making a difference.

  7. trueletterson

    April 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Take it from a old man at some point soon you young smart, educated and hard working black men with a plan must man up and identify, make a commitment to a young black women who you fell love you and you love her, who you feel will be a good mother to your children and who you feel will be willing to work with you to fulfill your duty to god, society and your ancestors and ask her to marry you, no one is perfect, when you find that one and communicate your reasonable plans for a life together and you are willing to listen to her if she feel you are sincere she will work with you she will follow your lead as long as she trust you because it’s in her nature to do so! So man up you young black males cause Cinderella ain’t going to come walking thru that door! And another thing as coach John Thompson said one time don’t be afraid to make a mistake honest mistake because any man who haven’t made a mistake haven’t done “anything” haven’t accomplish anything.

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