by Denise Banks-Wilson
Originally published on Divorcify.com.
Following my divorce in 2015, I was longing for a relationship – I wanted the romance and thrill that dating promised. I’d heard about online dating but never thought I was “that girl,” and then I learned that one of my close friends had met a few nice guys on Black People Meet (BPM), one of the most popular online dating sites for African Americans. I thought to myself, “She’s the shit! If she’s on a dating website, I should be too!” As I inched closer to stealing a peek into the world of BPM – the conversation in the back of my head was crazy: “What? No way! You’re not doing that!” Only desperate women go online to meet men! I’m not that desperate.” Before the backtalk in my brain could take over, I googled BPM and started looking around.
SPOILER ALERT: BPM turned out to deliver on all the hype. First meeting in 2015, my husband and I celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary this September!
Faced with the task of assembling a virtual version of your own, love-seeking persona, it is the first step to joining any online dating site that is likely the one that stops most people: creating a dating profile.
Still, there are prompts to get you started: describe your appearance – race, height, weight?; describe your personality – independent, competitive, determined, flexible?; describe your ideal date – dining out, watching movies, a walk in the park?; describe your ideal match – dependability, sex-appeal, intelligence?
What are you passionate about? What are your two favorite things to do with your leisure time? If your best friend had to pick four words to describe you, which four would they pick?
I selected the options that I believed described me most accurately. And yet, once I looked over my responses, I knew the woman they described wasn’t me. I’d censored my responses in the way I thought would make me most attractive to the guy of my dreams — the man waiting for me on the other side of this strange, virtual reality. In fact, I approached my dating profile like I was building my resume… I wanted it to be perfect: great grammar, neat margins, and published with a glossy finish. A resume that would illicit “This is impressive, I want to hire (I mean date) her,” from whomever was reading it.
My dating profile described a woman that I thought someone else would want to be with. I exaggerated the “good” points I had and lied where I was lost for marketable attributes.
I felt fake. And, worse — afraid. I was scared I would be found out.
For all my trepidation, I could not imagine at the time that writing my online dating profile would lead to the most transformative experience I’d ever have.
I was seeing a counselor at the time and she suggested that before I tried to date someone else, I had to learn to “date myself.” And the only way to do this was, apparently, to ask myself the tough questions. If I wasn’t first willing to build this healthy relationship with the person at the center of it all, I knew I’d never be able to materialize the healthy love that I desired with someone else.
Of all the questions posed, these were the ones I grappled with most:
What happened in my past that caused me to feel unlovable?
My dad was a provider and generous with whatever he had, but he wasn’t nurturing. I was 35 when I learned the difference. Like any little girl, I wanted my dad’s attention and praise. I wanted to feel accepted for how I looked and expressed myself. Later in life, I learned that he wasn’t nurtured by his parents, so he couldn’t give it to me. The lack of affection from my dad had nothing to do with me. Accepting this truth helped me to set a higher standard for the type of love and affection I’d require from other men.
What dream have I given up on?
Since I was a little girl, I just knew I’d have my own business. But when I found myself in professional settings, I never saw others who looked like me. Instead of letting this make me feel special, I let it make me feel out-of-place, constantly comparing myself to others who “looked the part.” Here’s a plug for African-American Professional Associations, once I found professionals who looked like me, I learned that I had the qualifications to be in the room and how to advocate for myself in settings where my presence was challenged.
If (at that time) I could change one thing in my life, what would I change and why?
My appearance, for sure. But, most important, I’d stop putting myself down because of it. It was around that time that I first heard Rajdulari’s 2015 song, Natural – a bold message to African American women about embracing their body. This song became my mantra:
“I ain’t never been a skinny girl. I’ve got curves you can see clear across the world.
But, I’m a real strong sister with a big ol dream.
You should never judge a book by its cover you see.
Hey girl, did you know that you’re fly ~ you’re the apple of God’s eye.
You just shine girl, you’re just fine girl. You’re just right girl”
Asking and answering these questions became my Personal Profile Statement. While the dating profile statement was intended to help me date someone else, my Personal Profile Statement was created to help me get to know the girl who had been here all along. I’m convinced: at some point in life, every person must pursue answers to the questions that pain or strip them of the power they yield to create the life experiences and relationships they seek. Writing my Personal Profile Statement helped me to create a dating profile that looked and sounded like me — that affirmed and celebrated me.
When I first told a friend that I was on BPM, she responded: “Those guys are never who they say they are!” But, because I had answered all the tough questions, I was able to say, “Yes… but I am who I say I am.” I knew my Personal Profile Statement was complete when I was reading the 36th draft (I’m hardly kidding) and my immediate response was… “Damn! That’s one bad chick. I wanna be her friend!” In the uncontested words of Rajdulari:
Today I can say that it feels so good to be me ~ my curves are beautiful,
They make me shine ~ They make me fly and now I know that I’m just right.
theBword: Bold & Beautiful
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Denise is the owner of Family Journey Mediation, an agency devoted to helping families navigate the minefields, mystery, and magic of coparenting through separation and divorce. Family Journey Mediation provides family mediation, coparent education, and coaching. For nine years, Denise served as lead facilitator for the Illinois’ court-mandated coparenting class and has had over 3500 parents attend her workshops. Denise received her Family Mediation Certification from Northwestern University and has conducted over 350 mediations since 2012.