For scores of attractive, educated and successful black women in their 40s and beyond, home alone isn't just a 1990 blockbuster movie starring a cute child actor. It has become their existence.
According to the latest U.S. Census, nearly 50 percent of black women between the ages of 30 and 34 have never been married, compared with 16 percent of white women. And 42 percent of black women of any adult age have never been married.
"Black women are the most unpartnered group in the United States," says Dr. Audrey B. Chapman, a family therapist, host of her own talk show on Howard University radio WHUR-FM and author of Seven Attitude Adjustments for Finding a Loving Man.
Daunting as these statistics are, imagine the application to a subset of Christian black women seeking to become "evenly yoked" with Christian black men, and you have the focus of Soulmate, the latest DVD documentary by Los Angeles filmmaker Andrea Wiley.
The film, which many churches have begun using as a teaching tool in their ministries to singles, delves into the challenges, hopes, fears and realties of those women for whom marriage and/or children remain elusive.
Wiley, 42, is the former executive producer of the UPN sitcom The Parkers, and former writer for other successful black sitcoms such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Jamie Foxx Show.
She says the idea to do the film came to her after having two similar conversations on two consecutive days with two different girlfriends, both 42, who despite being talented, educated, successful and attractive, were still single and childless.
"One told me how sick and tired she was of the single scene, and how if she wasn't married in a year she was going have her eggs frozen. Another said she was embarrassed to tell people that she was still unmarried," Wiley says. "I asked her if she'd be willing to talk about it on camera. Two weeks later, I began filming the documentary."
Although she doesn't share in her girlfriend's dilemma (Wiley is happily married with children), she says she wanted to do Soulmate from the perspective of most of her friends who happened to be Christian women. Still, the issues tackled in the documentary are relevant to black women in general.
"I'm amazed at the response I get to the film from those even outside of the black community," she says. "I've heard from single and married white men and women as well as Latinos, who tell me while they can't relate specifically to all the issues discussed, they can to the overall theme of loneliness, and the frustration.
"I wanted to tell [these women's] stories of a search for a soul mate," she says. "I wanted them to share their experience so other women in their position would know they are not alone."
Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, pastor of Inglewood California's Faithful Central Bible Church, which has a membership of more than 11,000, 66 percent of whom are single, lends his thoughts and insights throughout the documentary.
"At the end of the day, many will not get married," Ulmer says. "We don't want to hear it, we don't like it, and when we do hear it, it's somebody else instead of us. Tough pill to swallow, but it's the reality."
Why exactly are black women the most unpartnered? While some point to factors beyond the black woman's control, others attribute it to things within the black woman's ability to change. Few dispute, however, that the primary cause comes down to a game of numbers. There simply aren't enough available and desirable black men for black women to choose from, say the experts.
The facts are presented throughout Soulmate. Black women outnumber black men. There are nearly twice as many black women in college than black men. There are more black men in prison than in college.
Unlike any other ethnic group, the more educated a black woman is and the more money she makes, the less likely she is to find a mate -- especially if she is looking for her educational and financial equal in a black man. For many, to partner with anyone less is tantamount to the dreaded "S" word: settling.
Michelle McKinney Hammond, co-host of the cable show Aspiring Women and author of several books, including A Sassy Girl's Guide to Loving God and What To Do Until Love Finds You, is a featured interviewee throughout the documentary.
She believes the premise of settling is overrated.
"I'm not settling. I've built up all this for myself and I've got to have someone who is at least my equal or above me," she says, mimicking the battle cry. "[Well] in the end, you are settling. Settling for being alone. Acquire it all, achieve it all, and then look at yourself in the mirror and congratulate yourself -- by yourself."
Rose Catherine, executive vice president of programming and production for TV One (based in Silver Spring), who appears briefly in the documentary, has a different take. She doesn't intend to let her financial accomplishments limit her prospects for marriage.
"I would absolutely marry a man who makes less money than me. I want to marry a man who makes money doing something he enjoys because it's important to me to marry a man who is satisfied in his life," Catherine says.
In her practice, Chapman sees the inflexibility of the so-called "independent" black woman as one of the biggest barriers preventing them from not only finding a mate, but maintaining a healthy and happy partnership once they have.
"A lot of sisters [insisting] they want to get married are really as afraid of marriage as the men they talk about. Despite what they claim, the longer they're on their own, the more their need and familiarity with being in control of their lives makes them fear commitment," Chapman says.
"It's like a double-edge sword," says Paula Commodore, a 42-year-old marketing manager in Washington who's never been married and has no children. The owner of a single-family home in a middle-class section of Prince George's County, she says she prefers to marry a black man who is a Christian, but admits that the route from being a do-it-all-for-yourself woman to a wife with a husband can be a tricky one to navigate.
"We're so accustomed to doing everything on our own -- frankly because we've had to -- that it's hard to stop," Commodore says.
Is there anything single black women can do to increase their likelihood of finding a soul mate? Plenty, according to. Chapman. Expanding the pool of available prospects is a good place to start. However, she acknowledges that's an option black women as a whole aren't eager to embrace.
"Black women are more reluctant to cross racial barriers than any other group of women," she says.
Wiley's film balances the harsh realities with some success stories. She concludes her film by interviewing several women who have triumphed and found marriage and happiness in later years, both inside and outside their race. The general consensus of Soulmate is that finding contentment -- albeit as a single or married person -- has much to do with finding one's purpose.
"When you are actively involved in something positive, it keeps you from being consumed with marriage and children," says Commodore. "God knows what's best. I have to believe that there is a reason marriage and children haven't happened for me."
Buying the DVD
The Soulmate DVD can be purchased in the Maryland area at First Baptist Church of Glenarden, 3600 Bright Seat Road, Landover 20785 or online at soulmatefilm.com.