spaceships don't come equipped with rear-view mirrors

This weekend, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Beyonce Knowles welcomed to the world their first child, reportedly named Blue Ivy Carter. Considering the couple’s standing in the lexicon of American celebrity, this is as about a momentous an occasion as ever occurs as far as celeb child births are concerned. I am a Jay-Z fan, have been one since 1996, and have spent a lot more time than I’d like to admit following his progression and maturation as an artist and individual. And while he’s lived a life that, on the surface, is vastly different from that of the average American male, at its core, his love life seems to have had a similar arch to that of myself and many of the men I know. The birth of his first child (or first child he’s claimed) provides an interesting place to sit and reflect on how one goes from living and loving the single life, to getting married, to settling down and having a child.

Speaking of which, while you read the post, check out Jay’s new song – Glory – Dedicated to and featuring young Blue Ivy:

And some day I slow down but for now I get around like the late Machavelli or Pirelli 20 inches or Kane & O’Dog’s stick-up tape from Menace I’m telling chicks if you must know my business…

What do we know about Jay’s love life? Well, if we go by the music, we get fleeting glimpses of his entire relationship history through musical references like the above. We see in songs like “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Big Pimpin,” “I Just Wanna Love You,” and “Money, Cash, Hoes” that Jay’s spent a great deal of time indulging in the spoils of being single, successful and desired. At the same time, for years, songs like “Lucky Me,” “Excuse Me Miss,” and “Song Cry” hinted, with a sometimes embarrassing level of vulnerability (by Hip-Hop’s standards) at his underlying desire and lack of success at finding one women with whom he might settle down. Eventually, as the relationship with Ms. Knowles began to progress, so too did the music. We began to see more and more lyrical references to his dedication and commitment to the relationship and his desire for children and less references to his lack of love for these hoes. From her “Deja Vu,” “Upgrade You,” and “Crazy In Love,” to his “03′ Bonnie & Clyde,””Beach Chair,” and “That’s My B*tch,” we see Jay growing, maturing and becoming a man ready to start a family.

“And rumors you on the verge of a new merge, cuz the rock on your finger’s like a tumor, you can’t fit your hand in your new purse …”

As improbable as it sounds, myself and most of the men I know have gone through similar incremental growth as far as our love lives are concerned. For a good part of our lives, marriage and settling down are the furthest thing from our minds. We go through periods of being interested solely in not-so-serious relationships to being interested in serious relationships while not quite ready to share a last name. At the same time, when we look out into the future, most of the men I know have always seen ourselves in love, happily married, with kids. The question becomes: “what changes?” How does one go from “Girls, Girls, Girls,” to “Excuse Me Miss,” to “I do, I do, I do?” What is the difference between the woman a man thinks of when he writes a lyric like “I was just f*ckin them broads I was gon’ get right back” and the woman a man thinks of when he writes a lyric like “Looking back I don’t know who threw this bouquet to me, but I walk down this aisle faithfully, cut the cake for me.”

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The media, pop culture, movies and some musicians lead us to believe that settling down is about finding the right person, but when you look at men who’ve actually settled down you see that more times than not, their settling down is as much about timing as it is about anything else. When it comes to a man’s heart, timing is everything. The right woman at the wrong time = the wrong woman. Jay-Z, Beyonce and Ivy Blue are a perfect example of that. It’s not until Jay-Z begins to tire of everything that comes with being a superstar entertainer, that the relationship with Beyonce begins to move to that next level. It’s then that he breaks away from the long time partnership that brought him into the rap game. It’s then that he takes a more settled, corporate job. It’s then that he begins to set his sights on establishing his own, individual legacy. Jay was on his way toward settling down well before he met Ms. Knowles. This takes nothing away from any love that might exist between the two of them, but it is to say that for them, the timing was perfect. Likewise, most men I know begin the process of settling down well before they actually meet the woman they end up settling down with. The timing of the personal maturation of the individuals in any relationship is as important to its long term success as the chemistry, depth of love, and long term goals of the two individuals in any relationship. This is especially true for men. If a man looks out into the future and sees a blank slate, it’s hard for him to imagine fitting a woman into that. But if he looks out into the future and can describe with clarity exactly what should happen in the next 3, 5 and 10 years, it’s hard not to imagine having a woman by his side.

 “So where I used to have a few hoes, now I’m just, concentrating on making a new Hov through sex.”

But this is all pretty obvious stuff right? Timing is everything, you all knew this already … right? So why does it matter, why is it worth discussing? It’s worth discussing because so many of us are at that transitional age where the prospect of forever is dancing just before our eyes, but seems to be just out of our reach. Many men out there are thinking they might be ready to settle down … if they found the right woman. And many women out there are thinking the same thing about the men they’re meeting; neither wants to waste precious time in relationships that hindsight eventually tells them were doomed from the start. Having a clear understanding of where you are and where your potential mate is in their life can go a long way toward determining the true long-term potential of any relationship.

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As the resident married guy, the most common question I get from single friends these days is “how did you know?” The truth is, as much as I knew MrsMost was the one, I’d also decided that I was ready to be married. If you’re a single man wondering if you’re ready, look around at your life. Is the city you’re currently in the city you see yourself raising kids in? Are you happy in your career or do you have some side-hustle you’re hoping eventually becomes the main hustle? Are your immediate and long term goals helped or hindered with a woman at your side? And if you’re a woman looking at potential suitors, ask them similar questions. Obviously, these don’t have to necessarily be deal-breakers and you probably don’t want to drop them on a first date, but they definitely can go a long way in helping you figure out how far the two of you might go, and can potentially save the two of you from wasting a lot of time.

Where are you guys at this point in your lives? Do you see a serious relationship, marriage, kids in your future? Have you ever had a relationship that seemed like it should’ve lasted forever but was doomed due to poor timing? Specific to the ladies, are you expecting your next mate to be ready for marriage (in the general sense) when you first meet, or are you expecting the growth of your relationship and increasing love to facilitate that ready-ness. Single men out there, I want every one of you who reads this (yes, even you lurkers) to answer the following question. If you met the perfect woman right now, and spent the next 2-3 years building with her the perfect relationship, would you, at that point, be ready to be married?

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Lastly … Can we just be ignorant for a while and talk about Jay and B’s child’s name? Blue Ivy? How do we feel about that? I think Ivy Carter has a nice ring to it, but the “Blue” totally throws it off for me. Naming your baby after your favorite color is kinda basic right? I mean… what if your favorite color was Fuchsia?

It’s a new year … hope you all are well recovered from all the end of the year/beginning of the year festivities. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got big things planned for 2012. Time to get to work. So now that we’re back at it … y’all know what to do … stay low and keep firing.