Head of House….

Sometimes I question whether I am built ever to be in a relationship.  Here’s the deal society has given man:  By virtue of being bestowed with a penis, he is to be a leader.  He is to be head of the household.  That’s it.  Possession of a penis, working or not, gives a man the upper hand when it comes to common sense, logic and guiding the way.

So if he, male possessor of the all-knowing and almighty penis, is to lead and head, what am I supposed to do?

Follow?  FOH!

I posed this question to Kewon, a.k.a the Mayor of Black Charlotte, a.k.a the Great Blaxby, a.k.a one of my best male friends.  He’s received his accolades not just for knowing (and introducing me to) everyone who’s anyone throughout Charlotte but for making sure they know him, too.  And he’s got a way of summing up male thought pretty concisely.

Kewon and I met in an atypical and ultimately classic North Carolina way.  I was in grad. school, and it was a bad hair day.  Instead of getting it done at the Dominican shop, I’d pulled my hair back into a low bun and twisted it up with a black hair band.  Standing in line, to pay for my lunch my rubber band popped, and my hair went flying out like one messed up pile of fluff.  “You have some thick hair,” said a man from behind.

I turned around to find a brown stranger.  I told him that I’d just lost my rubber band.  “Would you happen to need another one,” he asked.  He pulled a basic rubber band off his wrist and handed it to me.  I paid for my lunch and walked out the restaurant.

Two and a half years later, I was leaving an artist showcase and spotted a familiar face in the let-out.  The guy smiled.  I smiled back.  He crossed the street and asked, “Excuse the randomness of this question, do you remember the gentlemen that gave you his last rubber band in Carmine’s a while back?”

We became instant friends.

Today he brings me lunch from  Meskerem, a South African restaurant uptown. Kewon takes a bite of his Durban bunny chow while he contemplates the answer to my question regarding the roles of the sexes.  “Real men don’t follow,”  he says, immediately sussing out what I’m aiming for.  “So what are women supposed to do?”

“Follow a man who knows how to lead.”

“And from your male POV, when do women get to lead, exactly?”

He looks up at me from his curry dish.  He knows that I know his answer, I’m just waiting to hear him say it.  Again. “When they’re single.”

I stare at him, allowing my food to get cold.  He sighs and drops his spoon on the side of the dish so it clanks.  “You don’t want to follow a man?  Don’t get into a relationship, Cam,”  he says.  “Problem solved.  You don’t have to defer to anyone.  But just so you know, no real man is going to let a woman lead him.  You don’t want the type of man who lets you lead.  And if you don’t trust a man to lead you, why are you dating him, anyway?”

Point taken.  But that’s not the point I’m going for.  I want to know why men feel qualified to lead.  What makes them  “natural leaders”?

I’ve had this conversation with many a man, and many insist I should just let the laws of nature, biology, and/or the Bible be.  They don’t have a valid reason but insist it’s the only way to make a relationship work.  No one seems to recall that Ephesians 5:21 talks about husbands leading wives.  There’s nothing about boyfriends leading anybody anywhere.

I took the question to the grown folks, my two married aunts.  My mother’s two sisters.  They had been wives for about 25 years each.  I asked them if their husbands were the leaders of their relationships or their households.  They laughed.  Hard.  Thought it was the most foolish idea I’d ever introduced.  Their response was best summed up by Selene, who rhetorically asked, “How in the hell is someone going to lead me somewhere?  I’m a grown woman.  The only person I follow is God.”  She added that most people get the Bible verse screwed up.  Wives are to follow husbands.  Husbands, in turn, follow God.  “Every Black man you know spits that verse, but how many you know that go to church?”  Rakia scoffs.

That said, they both conceded that their inability to follow blindly was a source of great contest in their households, but they both preferred the idea of co-leading and arguing to following and man.  Occasionally, they let their husbands think they were leading just to keep the peace.

“Make up your mind what you’re going to do, then ask him like his opinion matters,”  Rakia suggested.  “He’ll feel like he made the decision, and you can go on and do what you want to do without him getting in the way.”

The men I spoke with who were married preferred this method also.  They wanted to feel like kings in the house, even if they were only akin to court jesters.  “Let me think I’m in charge even if I’m not,”  my Uncle Jessie told me who had been listening to my Aunt talk on the other end of the phone.  “It makes a man feel like a man.”

Sounds like the strategy of the oppressed or the underclass.  While I may be considered that by some for being Black and female, I can’t see myself playing that role in my own relationship.

I talked to a more sensible soul.  Ethan.  He had been married – “happily,” he said – for ten years, and he told me that a large part of his happiness was that he and his wife were equal in their relationship.

This!  This was all I was asking for.  I don’t need to lead a man, but I want equal say.  I want to be an equal partner.  Why is that so hard for men to fathom?

Then he added that he still considered himself the head of the house, and only once in a decade and a half of marriage has he “pulled rank” on his wife.


I questioned his sensitivity after that.

He shrugged when I pointed out that a man who pulls rank does not really consider his partner equal.

“It’s fifty-one/forty-nine in my favor,”  he said.  “There’s no such thing as exact equality in a relationship.”

Perhaps that’s why Id’ rather date than be in one.

My already somewhat cynical view of relationships was deepening the more I broached this conversation.  Every time I asked, “Why can’t there  be two leaders?”  I was hit with some cliché like “Ships don’t have two captains.”  “Cars don’t have two steering wheels.”  “There’s only one quarterback per team.”

I have this seemingly rare and utopian idea of making decision with my partner.  We just communicate and negotiate until we reach a decision together.  And at the very least, we divvy up all the responsibilities as equally as possible and I make the call on my assignments, and he makes the call on his.  Is that too much to ask?

I was fretting over the issue.  So much so that when my friend Phillip (the best DJ ever) called to check on me, I asked him.

He paused his remixing he was letting me listen to.  “Is this a trick question, Cam?”

He knew me too well.  I gave him my most innocent sounding  “No.”

He didn’t believe me and asked me to explain where I was going with this.  I laid it all out, including the “What’s a woman supposed to do?  Follow?” line.

He thought for a moment.  “you both lead.”  A man who didn’t expect to lead alone?  They exist?  Or was he just saying it because it sounded good?

I challenged his comment.  ” Can you have to leaders in one house, though?  That won’t get tricky?  Who sits at the metaphorical head of the table?”

“Think of it like sitting at a round table.  That way, everyone’s equal.”


He punched the play button and continued letting me hear his remix as if the matter was done.

If only it were that simple


21 responses to “Head of House….

  1. “It shouldn’t be a problem. Just sit at a round table. That way everyone’s equal.”

    what a bunch of crock! even the knights of the ROUND table had a leader. In any partnership their is going to be a leader, im not saying it has to be the man, but this 50/50 fantasy is jsut that a fantasy. Someone has to be able to break a tie, hence the reason for the 51/49.. and CamronZoe even if you did have a “fake” 50/50 liek you want, there will come a time when he (someone) will have to “pull rank” and u cant want a divorce every time that happens…

  2. It seems simple to me. No one is skilled in every area. I think that a great leader is able to at times, lead by following, if that makes any sense. If you can’t concede in certain moments, than ego always leads to defeat on the battle field. I think the issue with women is when they hear that term “head of the household” they automatically think submission, which then takes them into a conversation of being “less than”. Any man, who has good sense, knows that he doesn’t always have the answers. And any woman who has a good MAN, can relax and let him lead, cuz he knows how to concede.

    -Just my thoughts

  3. i see it like, man is the head, woman is the neck. a partnership where each party serves with different responsibilities. i don’t mind the man getting up on his horse and being seen, as long as he respects me and appreciates that without me, there would be no horse to get up on.

    the way we were made, i believe God understood that men and women bring different perspectives to the table and thereby, give the situation a well-rounded assessment of how it needs to be dealt. if both their focus is on God, they should both be seeking the right thing to do. if they’re not finding accord, pray on it!

    pS – i really enjoyed the supplementary article – thank you!

  4. My position is its not about who the leader is. Because there are going to be times when a problem will occur, and neither one of you want to be the leader. The main thing is can you agree to disagree?

  5. I love this convo/discussion.

    my current position with my man is one where he is the leader. I am the leader in other aspects of my life and i just want to come home & have him take charge.
    i don’t believe this to be a submissive type thing, but i’ve always had the thought that a man should be the head of the household. if a man wanted to play less of a role with me we wouldn’t be able to “hang”.

  6. Men and women should compliment each other. Where one is weak, the other should take over. If both are strong in an area, a consensus needs to be made. It’s not about being dominant or submissive, it’s about loving someone and living in a balanced state. Any man that demand to be in charge has some insecurity issues.

  7. i like a good man to tell me what to do…in bed. hahahaha! funny right? in the world, i’d like to be in charge, not always-we can share- but when i think his direction isn’t up to par-i’m not following a fool ANYWHERE. but in bed, a fool can lead me around as long as he knows what he’s doing, lol. so wait, i guess i’ve got the same logic in both places. if a man knows what’s going on, i can follow–sometimes–but if he’s lost, i’m not trying to be lost too. that’s just stupid whether i’m in my flannel sheets or out in the cold, cold world.

  8. Hey CamronZoe! This blog may make it more clear. It is not a literal man lead and woman just blindly follow. Many misintrept the scripture. I also learned this in my premartital class. A man is to follow Christ first and foremost and then the rest falls into place:

    “In no way, shape or form should a woman ever submit to a man who doesn’t walk by Faith. No man, Christian or not — has the power to force a woman to submit to him. Furthermore, submitting to a man should never involve control and manipulatio. Both the husband and wife should be submitting to each other.”

    “When Paul said a husband ranked over his wife, he meant that a husband is responsible for his wife. God is holding us husbands responsible for our wives. We are responsible for loving them, taking care of them, providing for them, and protecting them in the domestic environment,” Price says.

    It is important for men and women to remember that a husband does not come between his wife and God. A husband is not the spiritual head of his wife and he has no authority over her spirituality. The purpose of rank in the family, is to define responsibilities of man, woman, and child — not to assert command or power over them.

  9. aw its been so long. a wise man once told me a HEALTHY relationship is when the dominant role changes frequently. both conceding that sometimes one or the other is better at certain things. this doesnt belitte the other but actually leads to less stress because you trust the other to handle it because they ARE better at it. and the other learns/follows until they too are good. gotta love balance. but then again, who wants a healthy relationship these days? thats boring right? 😉

  10. Essentially my take on the man being the head of my household is that as a man he should be able to handle all things and defer to his helpmate when necessary. Make all decisions together, but if you’re heading the type of household I plan to have and you are, indeed, the yin to my yang handling business the right way, I really don’t mind letting him be the man (that’s only if he is actually a man and not one of the adult-aged males I keep running into). My .08 cents!

  11. I dont know about submission.. but im in much support of compromise. I believe women and men should be vulnerable to one another to some extent, and respect the roles of the household. Whether the man is one providing the necessities or if the woman is… at the end of the day.. respect and compromise… are the only terms that should be used in a relationship of today.

    Unless we talking about sex… now submission is something i like to do erry now and then 😉

  12. ya boy phillip definitely hit the nail on the head. I dated a guy who preached night and day that he was the “leader” in our relationship (as the Good Book says men should be), and he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t follow him. Problem was, I didn’t trust his navigational skills which is why I had to let him go. When I was younger I used to fight the whole “man as leader” bit, but now in my old age (31) I’m all about relaxing and letting him do the heavy lifting… I think.

  13. To me it seems men want the title in name only. There is alot of responsibilty with being a leader. Alot of men are not up to the task. I feel men want women to treat them like a leader but men want to be catered to at the same time.

  14. Sorry Cam 😦

    I gotta go with LeeWard

    On another note, from your stories, it seems like (in general) you treat your platonic male friends like boyfriends…..

  15. interesting observation, Drell. I’ve noticed that people tend to assume i am “with” most of my male friends and never guess that I am “with” an SO. In person and in pics. it’s weird. one person went on a mini-campaign to get my good male friend to get me a gift and he had to finally tell her, “you know me and [Cam] don’t date, right?” she was shocked.

    But that’s another blog for another day.

    leeward– why in the hell would he pull rank like he is above me? like i am less power or less equal than he. can present a pull -rank scenario so i understand exactly what you mean?

    I like Mrs. Lady Pastor’s ‘ understanding of man leading.

  16. CamronZoe, to piggeyback on Drell (good analysis by the way), why are you so hell bent on not being “portrayed” as submissive.. its not a reflection on you its not a sign that your weak. I mean you sound like one of those women that do not be wanting to make a man a plate… you see that as somehow being weak. Its not, its taking care of your man, yes cuting the food is a bit much.. but if your man likes that and he is taking care of the manly duties and your satisfied… nah let me stop cutting up the food is a bit much… but my point is whats wrong with making a man feel like a man if hes making you feel like a woman? .. if i am wrong dont jump down my throat Boss)

    a pulling rank situation could be as simple as a discussion about where to eat dinner, if he ask you where you want to go, and you ho and hum about the pros and cons of some of the lastest hot spots to eat and it appears as if you are are a standstill.. then he will jump in and say “chez whitey” problem solved everyones happy. Dont look at pulling rank as some how diminishing your worth, oh and make up your mind.. one minute you want a man to be a man and take out the trash and such, well as a man doing man things a man wants to feel in control, he may not be, but the facade is all we ask for… is that so hard to oblige?

  17. Camron you left out good looking best male friend…

    @ leeward and drell – Camron is a great female friend. I can assure you that when she puts in you the FRIEND BOX you are not getting out..I like it that way though, I know my place, no matter how much she tries to take charge of my life. though fellas i do agree with ya’ll..there is no 50/50 love. someone has to take lead of the relationship or a decision will never be made. sometimes the leader is the man, other times its the female, but i was always taught that it was the male to make the final decisions and that’s the way it will be in my castle.

  18. As women we hate to think we need someone telling us what to do, and how to do it. We don’t. We are independent creatures. But sometimes we do need a man. As much as we like to say that we don’t. We do! If we would like to keep the men in our lives then we do need to be submissive. What’s wrong with letting him think that he is in charge, or has the lead. They key is to let him THINK he has this power.

  19. @CamronZoe – you have really missed your calling…I work for Mademoiselle in NYC, and we could use an editor with skills such as yours….if you are ever interested in a career change

    e-mail me – morgangiles@mademoiselle.com

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