It’s hard to deny that our generations comfort and acceptance of the side piece has reached such a level of commonality that some of us no longer see it as wrong. There are internet memes that joke about it, IG comedians make videos about it and our primetime television celebrates it.
So what does it mean to love during a time when it is almost promoted to have a side piece? I am someone who has always been loyal, even when the person receiving my loyalty did not deserve it. As a woman, I have had several girlfriends tell me I’m a fool for not having a few guys on the side or in the wings ready in case my main dude messed up. They themselves take this approach, and I can’t lie, they are rarely without a man by their side. But really, when we “love” like this, are we truly loving? How much of ourselves can we give to one person when we spread ourselves to many?
I know for some of the fellas out there having a chick on the side is almost a status symbol. I have a good friend who had an amazing woman: smart, educated, career on track, beautiful, young…yet he was still out there looking for that side piece. In his case that engagement ended in a breakup and months of kicking himself for letting the good one get away.
So what is the point? Why do so many keep a side piece? And why do so many allow themselves to BE the side piece?
Lack of Relationship Role Models
Be it the media or their own families, many of us lack the examples of strong faithful marriages to follow. Perhaps their own father was known to keep several women and sometimes several children/families in every corner of town? Parents were divorced or never married? Mother, cousin or aunt constantly cheated on and yet they stay. These behaviours are imprinted into our psyche and repeated generation after generation.
Low Self Esteem
From what I have experienced and observed, a lot of the infidelity we see in relationships that are played off as no big deal, status or casual, are actually a result of low self-esteem by both parties. The side piece doesn’t think they are worthy of more and the cheater feels the need to keep multiple partners to feed ego and insecurities they have within themselves; not allowing themselves to get attached so they don’t get hurt, refusing to be vulnerable (more on this in Are you Ready for Love).
Lack of Options
There is a perceived shortage of available good black men and women in our community. As such, some of us are willing to accept being the side piece to be in the company of someone you find attractive, connect with on various levels, etc. As well, when we find out our partner has a side piece we are almost more likely to stick around because, “what else is out there”. Sadly there are too many men and women out there that are willing to play the position of side piece because of this perceived lack of options or simply because they are waiting in the wings to become the main. This is never a good idea. If you “graduate” from side piece to the main squeeze, don’t you think there is another waiting to assume the side piece position? The cycle continues.
Media has glorified the side chick/side dude status so much that many people are team side piece and proud. I watch Scandal and see the love quadrangle of Fitz, Olivia, Mellie & Jake (plus even Mellie had a side piece too…lawd). I love the glorious Viola Davis’ work in How to Get Away With Murder and watch it religiously but must acknowledge that both Analise and her dead husband also both had side pieces. Power. Being Mary Jane. The list goes on. “Normalizing” cheating is making it more and more acceptable to BE the side piece, to STAY with someone you know has a side piece and to HAVE one of your own. Not only is it commonly seen, the side piece is often celebrated and put on a pedestal while the wife or husband is vilified. Brainwashing us to be dissatisfied with what we have at home and get a nice little stress reliever on the side does nothing for the rebuilding of strong black marriages and the black family. Without going off on a conspiracy tangent I feel that it is part of the reason some of these shows are so supported and promoted. The underlying message is to continue to destroy the black family thereby eliminating a potential threat to the white supremacy system... But I digress……
I remember a guy I was into last summer and I finally “got”. In talking to my girlfriends they were all excited for me and wondering what was next. The man was a serial cheater; which I knew going in. They all suggested that maybe with me it would be different but I know it never would have been. For a split second I thought to myself well maybe I’d be ok being the wife, having the beautiful chocolate babies….but knowing that when he is off for work or out with his boys I may just get cheated on a little. Ultimately that was not a sacrifice to myself that I could make and after a fun summer we parted ways.
Meeting the next guy put it all back into perspective for me that a man who knows himself, who loves his woman and who has his esteem and priorities in check will not cheat. Am I saying they won’t look, be tempted or any of these other evils? Of course not! Temptation is out there for ALL of us but a man or woman knowing the value of what they have in front of them, and knowing that they themselves are deserving of this wonderful person, ultimately has the sense to cherish that bond and connection. I think that’s why it is so important for us to not settle when we are looking for a partner and to really find that person that fits you on all levels: spiritually, emotionally and physically.
So what do we do? How do we survive and build unity and black love in a time when being loyal to your partner is sometimes seen as an area of ridicule? Be ready. Put love first and never settle for less than you are worth. If you are at a place in your life where you just happy that someone wants you, STOP. Step back and resolve those feelings first before you become involved.
Blaze the trail. Don’t be afraid to stand for what you believe. I am often mocked for dating strictly black. I’ve swirled in the past when I was more easily influenced and felt that’s what I had to do to fit in, but as I got older and knew myself more I proudly believe in black love (hence this page!) and will settle for nothing less. Don’t feel that you need to get a side chick because your boys think you’re soft if you don’t. Don’t feel you need to have a backup man in case yours acts up at the advice of your girlfriends. Stick with what you know is right for you. Ultimately, how many of us really in our heart of hearts want to share our partner?
Finally, be the example of strong black love that may be lacking in your life. It’s easy to say but much harder to do, but fight to break the cycle. Choose your partner carefully, ensuring you both want the same thing. Turn to your faith to help guide you. Enjoy your TGIT nights with Shonda Rhimes but also immerse yourself in examples of the type of relationship you want to manifest for yourself.
What do you think of the Side Piece situation that has become increasingly present in our (pop) culture? Would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below!