The Popeye's Predicament: When Stories Meant To Celebrate Black Love Are Used To Humble Women With Standards

If you’ve been on the Internet over the last few days, you likely ran across a story about a newlywed couple who had their first date in the parking lot of a Popeyes. It has caused quite the commotion.

A quick summary based on the New York Times story: A 34-year-old woman meets a 44-year-old man on Hinge. He’s the first guy she’s actually interested in connecting with in person, but he cancels on her twice for a first date. As their chance to finally meet up approaches, he is on the verge of canceling again until she tells him that a third cancellation would be the very last communication they’d have. Put on the spot, he invites her to meet him near her home at a Popeyes – the parking lot of the fried chicken spot that is – in five minutes. She agrees. While there, he orders some KFC from across the street because the line was too long at Popeyes (it’s unclear if sis got any KFC too). They hit it off, with the guy deciding, after a few dates, that he’d cut off the five other women he was juggling.

She believed marriage was in the cards for them and told him so weeks after they officially became exclusive. She also told him that she would need him to move in within six months of them dating, and he did it. In less than a year, they were engaged, with help from a friend who bought an engagement ring on the future groom’s behalf after thinking a trip the couple was taking during the holiday season would be the perfect time to pop the question (the friend was paid back “quickly”). They’ve since moved into a home they built together and wed in late July.

All of that led to “Popeyes” trending.

For many, the story was filled with red flags (the cancellations, the parking lot meeting spot, the way he ended up with the engagement ring, etc.), but it seemed that the message being conveyed by those defending it was that it all paid off because the couple made it down the aisle.

The story was indeed interesting, but the red flags I found were more so from the way this account was being used by some people to send a message. That message was, “If you were to reconsider some of your most rigid standards, not getting too mad when a man cancels on you multiple times, not finding it distasteful that he’d tell you to meet him in a parking lot, not getting upset if he doesn’t spend money on you, but give it a chance, you too can find a husband. Sure, the Popeyes idea was unorthodox, but look at them! They’re a success story. She has someone! They built a house together! They’re married! Are you?

Marriage is cool, I guess. (I say this as a married woman.) But the way people use it as a measure or a mark not only of a relationship’s overall success but also of a person’s success in having a joyous, fulfilling life is a bit disturbing. What worked for this bride worked for her, but that’s not what everyone wants and that’s fine.

Putting up with behavior you’re not actually comfortable with because it could get you married doesn’t mean that would be the end of it. Those same behaviors just show up in the marriage and can plague it if not properly addressed. So conveying that everything is fine and dandy if a man doesn’t show a certain level of effort because this couple ended up exchanging vows is giving the impression that that’s all that matters. Happily ever after doesn’t start when the wedding is over. The work must continue. And sure, being understanding and forgiving on the dating scene is fine, but there are levels to it for everyone. It’s ok to decide not to communicate with someone further because you feel like they’re playing with your time. It’s ok to want to sit down and talk to someone to get to know them better — not on or in a car. Boundaries are important in all aspects of life, including when dating.

That being said though, there are no perfect love stories. If this bride is happy with her groom after their rough start, good for her. Truthfully, nobody’s love story should be something you base your own choices on or that makes you reevaluate your circumstances, no matter how flowery and sweet it may sound or what someone hidden behind an avatar online tries to throw in your face. Like this:

We all get a little hope from hearing about the ways in which people find their romantic partners. It can be captivating, inspiring, and in the simplest ways, give you the feels. But it’s someone else’s love story for a reason.

What works for one woman can give another nightmares, so I don’t think one should be called desperate nor picky for going the route that’s best for her when seeking out love. I’m sure we can all admit that at one time or another, we put up with something questionable or gave another chance to someone in the hopes that it would pay off. So no, I’m not interested in insulting the bride and groom in the Times story. If they’re doing the work to make their relationship thrive, they could be just fine, despite how things started. And it’s true, how things begin isn’t always an indicator of how they will end. But if you don’t have the patience or desire to see how things could end up because you feel you’ve seen and dealt with enough, that’s fine too.

There are no perfect love stories. To be specific, in this day and age, there are no conventional love stories. People are meeting on apps, they’re not putting their eggs in one basket, they’re going Dutch on dates and they’re ghosting when they’re ready to move on. Things are ever-changing. So are people. With that in mind, even the couples with the nicest wedding photos and sweetest stories have been on a journey we’re not privy to, likely with some bumps on the road that could raise an eyebrow. Take it all with a grain of salt and do you. Be happy for people who are happy to be in love, but continue to date in the way that makes the most sense for you, with the standards you’ve put in place, seeking out what you feel you deserve — and nothing less.

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