Why watch your back? Because not everyone has your back.
No matter whether overt or hidden, harm meant or not meant, blood relation or total stranger: Sometimes, your best interests take a hammering.
Some people will blatantly attack you for even thinking about bettering yourself.
"Crabs in a barrel".
"Misery loves company".
These attacks are easiest for people to see and fight back against, at least if their self-esteem is intact, because the unpleasantness is obvious. The bitterness and bad feelings are right in the open.
But what do you do when someone is saying things that sound rational and kind, but actually work against you? Do you dismiss the fact that what they're saying is more harm than good because they don't sound mean? Do you nod along because their version of reality sounds so much sweeter than the real thing?
For instance, take the idea of embracing your physical beauty as a black woman and doing your best to take care of and improve it. For us, our Achilles heel has been our weight, at least for the past twenty or thirty years. We are as a race of women being pushed into the mammy and sapphire corner, and they're now trying to slap lipstick on the hybrid and sexy her up.
Reminder: these were images that were created for black women by white racists. Mammy, Sapphire, and Jezebel never belonged to black women. They were stereotypes said of us, spitefully and mockingly said of us, and somewhere along the way, there was some confusion. Now, black women will fight you if you try to push them away from giving their all to living in these roles.
But rail against physical stereotypes and improve your looks, and along come others to assure you that "you don't really need to lose those pesky 100 lbs" and that "you're lovely just the way you are and one day your prince will come".
I guess when they were giving doses of naive romanticism, I missed mine because aside from the idea of there being someone out there for everyone, I also acknowledge that the dating world is like every other aspect of mating in nature: Competitive as hell.
Women are dirty when it comes to things like this. Not all of us, but enough to the point where you have to watch out for yourself.
The choice to lose weight, to change uncouth behavior, to dare to be feminine in a way that upsets "the natural order" - you can't expect that your opponents in the dating world are going to take this lightly. Perhaps consciously, perhaps subconsciously, there is going to be resistance. And the methods used are not going to be pretty.
Mostly because the underhanded means of taking you out will attempt to be made in the guise of friendship and love: Hey, I'm just looking out for you!
Is there anything uglier than playing someone against herself? I doubt it.
Now, not all advice offered will be pleasant and pretty. This is hardly the best way to judge advice, because honestly, we as humans shy away from anything unpleasant. That's just the way we are. We avoid the unpleasant and cling for our very lives to whatever tickles our fancy.
So good advice may sound harsh, and we turn away from it, and bad advice sounds pleasant, and we listen.
As for why we do this, I believe that we have trained ourselves to resist and fight off perceived attacks by their tone, more so than what is said. So if something sounds "hurtful", regardless of whether or not it's helpful, it will be rebuffed. And if something sounds "pleasant", even if it is meant to harm us, it will either not be rebuffed, or be allowed equal consideration due to the gentle-sounding nature of what is said.
This is unfortunate. Critical reading and thinking means not just looking at what is said, but understanding what it means, and how best to apply what knowledge has been provided.
Until more black women are able to critically regard and think carefully about the "advice" coming their way from various sources, they will continue to leave themselves open to suggestions that however well meant had might as well be a dagger lodged directly in their spines.