One of my favorite songs is by a “back in the day” soul artist named Richard “Dimples” Fields. The song, “She Got Papers on Me”, also features the wonderful Betty Wright. The song is about the “plight” of a married man stuck in an unsatisfactory relationship with his wife as he sings plaintively about “the sweet little thing” he has on the side (side hoes have been around since Juvember but folks want to play brand new and act like we used to have morals).
The song would be very forgettable if it was not for Betty Wright’s 2 minute rant as the unsuspecting wife who walks in on her husband singing in the shower about his bae towards the end of the song. Hurt and angry, she hurls out a rant that forever echoes in the hallways black music history. She talks about how everything on his back, she paid for. She paid for the car he drives to go see his mistress. How she paid for him to go to school and how she still pays the mortgage without his assistance.
The song was released in 1981, and when I was a little girl I thought it was the funniest thing in the world… until I grew older, analyzed the song, and realized that she was bragging about taking care of a grown ass man. How she put him through school and he still wasn’t financially sufficient enough to take of her and the family they created together. And now because he’s cheating, he has to go. Not because she’s working like a dog to fund a grown ass man but because he is fucking someone else.
And folks that is the very definition of struggle love. Telling women it is okay to take care of grown ass men in the name of love. He can beat your ass, use for your money, and when he gets on, he is going to remember your never-ending loyalty and stupidity and reward you. Yeah right.
What is sad is that black music has been selling struggle love for years to black women via love songs such as the one above and several other songs that normalize dysfunction in black relationships. From blues songs such as “No Good Man” by Nina Simone to “He’s Mine” by Mokenstef, black women have been sold a bill of goods that tells them pain is love. Love is about struggle and conflict. It is about putting up with a man’s physical and verbal abuse, infidelity, children conceived by other women, financial instability, and a multitude of other unhealthy, irrational ideas about love.
These irrational beliefs about love have women stuck in unhealthy relationships for years only to wake up eventually and find themselves angry and hurt when they look at all the time and energy wasted on a man who was not worth two dead flies. Because a man that truly loves a woman is not going to sit on his ass and watch her work like a mule while he walks around like he’s King Ding a Ling. A man that is truly interested in getting to know a woman is not going to make her jump through hoops with silly ass tests such as taking her to an expensive restaurant to see if she orders the most expensive thing on the menu to see if she is a gold-digger. A man like that is not worth a woman’s time and energy. And somehow, someway, someday, black women realize this too.