I read your rebuttal [Let’s build up, rather than knock down, the black man, AWN, Nov. 9] to Mary Mitchell’s Nov. 2 Sun-Times column and while I know you are expecting heated, brow-beating responses, here’s a twist-I agree with you! I am a black woman, single parent of two and quite honestly I am OK with that.

Would I like to be married someday? Of course! To tell you anything else would be a lie. However, I don’t want marriage at any cost. I don’t want to wake up one day, look at my husband and wonder if he married me because we dated for two or more years and I demanded that we move on to the next level or because I happened to be the mother of his child. I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only does he love me, but he is also in love with me.

I don’t think people understand the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. I also don’t think a lot of people looking to get married understand the fact that marriage is not a fairy tale. Having a ring, a state-stamped piece of paper, and a kid, won’t make problems magically disappear. Nor does it equate to a successful relationship.

Successful relationships work because two people put forth a combined effort to make it happen. There should be two consenting persons. Two people have to want to be there, willing to love, grow, and hang in there together. If you had problems with him/her before, like coming home at night, being present when you need them, cheating, feeling neglected, and I could go on and on-saying, “I do” more than likely won’t change that.

We get so wrapped up in the idea of marriage and soul mates that we lose sight of reality. In losing sight of reality, we often lose sight of ourselves. We want that fairy tale so bad that we compromise who we are, hoping for a glimpse of opportunity. The sad part is that at the slightest chance at romance, women and men alike will backstab and sabotage neighbors, friends, sometimes family members, not to mention husbands and wives just to say that they have a “love.”

Women would burn me at the stake for saying this, but it’s rare to find women with even a small amount of self esteem, standards and self-respect. What’s terrible on the part of the men is that when you do find women who command respect, you pass her by or put her on the back-burner, preferring those who will do anything because she requires little to no maintenance or all is forgiven when you pull out your wallet.

Afraid of what’s out there, people end up settling for companionship, knowing in the back of your mind that the person you are with isn’t necessarily the person for you. He/she creates justifiable cause for you to continue dealing with them-like she has a man who pays the cable bill or he has a woman who happens to have his kid so why leave? At least we know each other.

There are women out there who will fully take care of a man, financially and emotionally, and only ask that he come home each night. Everybody’s heard some woman, not just black women, say things like, “Girl, he can sleep with whoever he wants as long as he pays the bills,” as if money numbs pain.

Why would you put a price tag on your emotions, your self-worth?

What we need to do-and not just women-is we need to learn to love ourselves. We need to realize that love is not a guilt trip or a long list of reasons why you should be with someone. It’s an emotion and the bible says it’s shared by two people.

That being said, Mr. Dean, it’s about so much more than building up the black man. We first have to build up ourselves. Whenever some lucky guy decides that he wants to ask me to be his wife, I hope and pray that it is not out of obligation and pressure because I (we) deserve so much more than that. Obligation and pressure create miserable situations. It is obligation and pressure that, after the rings and the “I do’s” will have married people telling single people not to marry because it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

I’d much rather be asked to marry because he loves me, because we enjoy each other’s company, because we’re a team, and we are mutually in love with each other. You should ask someone to marry you because now that you guys are together you can’t imagine life without them.

He/she shouldn’t have to be a millionaire. Money comes and goes but the content of one’s character, for the most part, remains consistent. Look for someone who puts his best foot forward in whatever it is he is doing, someone who shares your moral values and concerns because opinions on morality. Don’t write off the little things that tell you who they are without using words, body language-things they say and do to others, ideas and dreams.

Don’t ignore the inner voice that tells you to move forward or back off because normally it’s good advice.

Let’s not stop at building up the men. Let’s build up ourselves and each other.