On the Shelf

QUESTION: Hello Chuck and Garland.

I found out about your blog via Evia's blogsite.

I must say, I love your stance on wanting to see black women happy, and I especially love your comment of "throwing a glass of cold water" into the faces of black women to wake them up.

But, here's the deal.

First off, I am 52 years old, never been married, no children, and I have been celibate for the last 30 years. Since the last time I was in a "dating" situation was 15 years ago, I must say that I have become quite a bit rusty in the singles/social scene/dating department.The person I was involved with did not care too much for the celibacy position I took, so as you can see, I am still single. I am not too crazy about the internet dating scene (and maybe I am being too hard on it and should give it a try), but, I still am having cold feet about it, and might try it sometime soon. I have taken some nice pictures of myself and if I get the courage to do so, I might post them at a dating site that I have looked into and only if it meets muster with me. And by muster, I mean that I may spend six months or more lurking to see how people behave themselves at this (or any other dating site) before I sign myself in. (Wouldn't want to rush into anything too quick.)

I am also a very shy and retiring type of woman.The very thought of going up to a man and striking up a conversation with him, no matter what his race, is very terrifying to me. I said the same thing to Evia, and she suggested that I need to start out with a man as a friend to talk to, and I heartily agree with her. But, since I do not know what most men are thinking today, here is my question:

Do both of you think that because of my age, stance on celibacy (I will not compromise my principles), lack of sexual experience (I was intimate for the first time with a man August, 1976; and that was the last time I was intimate with a man) will cause men to look the other way in consideration of me? Would my sticking to my guns, and telling a man that I wish to remain celibate until marriage scare him off? If I decide to meet men of other races, where would you suggest as the best places to meet them, and best places please, no beerhalls, no juke joints, no dives or night clubs. I do not care to frequent those places. Are there men out there who would be very much interested in a celibate like myself, or am I just being too afraid and sure that they only want sexually active women instead?

Well, let's cut to the chase: I am afraid of men, but not in a bad way. I just fear that I will be used again and I do not want to go through that again. But, on the other hand, time is running out for me, and I know I must do something before it is too late.

So, given the information that I have given you, do you think I stand a chance out there against the competition of the other women (younger black women, white women, women of other races) in succeeding in putting myself into the minds (and arms) of men, be they black, white or other? (I guess I am looking at the age question more than I am looking at the race question.)

I want to have a chance at happiness, and believe me, I do not want to see anymore young black women do as I have----keep living in fear for so long until they wake up and find that so much time has passed them by.

Time they will never get back.

Thanks ever so much, and thank you for both being kind, considerate and keeping black women's needs at heart.

We need more black men like you.

GARLAND: I'd like to first thank you for the kind words and secondly for submitting one of the most candid and interesting questions that I think we've had since starting this blog. I hope our answers are helpful to you and anyone in a similar situation.

You say you haven't dated in 15 years and you're thinking about the Internet dating scene... I'm a little hesitant about you doing that. I think you may open yourself to some serious vulnerablities there. The whole 'cyber scene' may leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and I'd hate for some 16 year old perv in his mother's basement to trick you into thinking he's a single, 49 year old consultant that listens to Coltrane and enjoys writing poetry, drinking a fine Merlot and playing with his dog Rex at his summer home in Belize. I just don't want to see you put yourself out there like that. Maybe put the Internet dating on the back burner - but keep those photo's!!! You might need them one day.

Evia gave you great advice when she said to take your time and be friends with a man first! That is probably the best dating advice for men and women at both ends of the dating spectrum. I think there is nothing worse than trying to fall in love with someone that you don't even like. It sounds strange, but there are folks that are married to people that they wouldn't even be friends with! Crazy, huh?

You asked about places to meet men, aside from your run-of-the-mill dives and watering holes... so I'd say try these out for size:

  • BEST BUY and CIRCUIT CITY: We men love electronics and TV's and DVD's and all the stuff these stores carry. Stroll through one sometimes, check it out and learn the layout and glance at a few of the labels and try to pick up some odds and ends about what the stores carry. When you see an attractive guy, maybe you can strike up a casual conversation about what he's looking at. Nothing too aggressive, something off the cuff like, "I bet those speakers would work nicely with that Sony Plasma TV I was just looking at..." See, this way, you're not playing the damsil in distress, you are playing the savvy sister! Drop the line, smile and walk away a few feet and start looking at something else. Either he'll follow you and keep talking or he won't - nothing else will happen, only one or the other. See where it goes from there!
  • HOME DEPOT and LOWES: We love tools too - We will be here!!! Do the same thing! Visit a few times, learn where stuff is, pick up a few names and odds and ends and see what the Dating Gods have laid before you. Here you can play either the damsil in distress, or the Toolbelt Diva - but the men will be there.
  • THE SUPER MARKET: This is where you will find one of two kinds of men - those who can and those who can't... COOK. The ones that can will be searching frantically through the green peppers for that perfect one, those that can't will have a cart full of frozen meals. Find the handsomest one without a ring and make your move!

Just a tip about breaking the ice, and if we were in the same room right now - I'd be leaning over and whispering, "Don't look your best when you approach a man. If a 10 is your best, try to look like about a 7. Because when we meet a woman and she's dressed to the 9's and her hair is perfect and her makeup is perfect, and everything is perfect - deep down we worry that she may not be this attractive when she wakes up in the morning, or she may not look this good sitting around the house reading the newspaper! If you go up to a guy and you have on faded jeans, and a MINIMUM of makeup or whatever, and a Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap and you look attractive to us, then we know you will always look good! Morning, noon or night. THAT is very appealing!"

Now, you say you're afraid of being used by a man again. The key word to me is 'AGAIN'! I always tell people, don't make new people pay for old people's screw ups! Locking your heart down because of whatever some jackass did to you years ago has done nothing more than put you at a dating disadvantage! You have to find a way to trust again, even if it is just a little bit at a time. This is where Evia's "friend" advice gets GOLDEN! When you meet a guy that you think you may be interested in - consider suggesting something to him that might cause the two of you to spend time together in a group or public setting for awhile to see how you vibe with him. Maybe try a painting class, or a bicycle group ride, or a home improvement class at Home Depot, or an outdoor movie or concert or even water aerobics - someplace where the one on one pressure is gone and you all can work at being real friends.

As far as your choice of celibacy and whether or not it will scare a guy off, all I can say about that is - DON'T WEAR IT ON YOUR FOREHEAD!!! I know someone who is [or was] celibate and they put it on the table within the first five minutes of meeting a man and usually the results were bad. NEWSFLASH - Every man is NOT waiting to throw you into bed to ravage you sexually. That's what I wanted to tell her AND that is what I'm telling you. Don't throw your celibacy in his face like some wall you are making him climb over. Celibacy is YOUR CHOICE, it is but one aspect of thousands that make up who you are: share with him a few others before you throw that one out. It's not a bad thing, and frankly it WILL be something that many men will have to think about [sorry, but it's true]. But make sure you don't say, "Hello, my name is... I love your suit. I'M CELIBATE! " To some men, this presentation of your celibacy early in the dating can be somewhat insulting. We would probably feel like all you think we want is sex from you. That really may NOT be the deal. Eventually we may look for physical intimacy, but early on - we may be just trying to learn who you are. Make sure you give a man a chance to get to know you! And, the Devil's Advocate in me is curious about something. YOU want a man to respect and live with YOUR choice of celibacy. Okay - What if you meet a great guy and he says to YOU - "I'll respect your choice to be celibate as long as you respect MY choice to never get married." I'm curious as to what your thoughts on THAT would be. Do you know?

And finally, as far as competing with the younger women... I'm like this - people are all visual creatures, and older people competing with younger people sometimes might not fair well for the older people. So, I don't think you should spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not you are hotter than that 30 year old lawyer on the 4th floor - I say, be healthy, eat right, exercise, love yourself and how you look - be the best YOU you can be, and your beauty will blind that Right Guy!!!

CHUCK: I'm tempted to ask what experiences that you have had since 1976 that led you to decide that it was best for you to basically live most of your life by yourself. But they really don't make much difference, now that you've decided to change things. Garland was pretty comprehensive in his answer, and I agree with most of it (Women: embrace Home Depot and Lowe's! You don't just meet men, you meet HANDY men!), so I'm going to run down a few bits of advice of my own. As follows:

1) REALIZE THE DISADVANTAGE YOU'RE OPERATING UNDER, BUT DON'T MAKE TOO MUCH OF IT: You haven't been on the dating scene for decades, so obviously you're at a bit of a disadvantage coming back to it now. This won't be an easy undertaking. Okay. Accept that and move on from there. From your question, you seem to be an intelligent, articulate woman, qualities that only gain value as the years go on. If you don't experience success right away, don't get discouraged. Seek a friend first, and a relationship second.

2) DON'T MAKE YOUR CELIBACY AN OBSTACLE OR A CRUTCH: You are not prepared to compromise your beliefs about pre-marital sex to be in a relationship with a man. That's fine. But again, realize that this does put you at a disadvantage on the "dating market."However, if you are seeking a partner that is your contemporary, your celibacy may be less of an obstacle to finding companionship. Men in (forgive me) your age group are, I believe, less interested in the games they were playing in their younger years. So you're far more liable to find a man in his 40's and 50's for whom abstinence is not a deal-breaker.

I agree with Garland that presentation of this news is key. You don't need to share it too soon. And you shouldn't present the fact that you're not having sex before marriage to a potential suitor as a dare for him to continue spending time with you.

3) MODERN TECHNOLOGY COULD BE YOUR FRIEND: I'm going to sort of take issue with Garland on the whole internet dating thing. As I have no practical experience in this area, I'm not going to tell you to rule it out completely. Evidently, it's working for somebody. I would advise caution, and getting to know anyone you meet on the net really well before you give them personal info or arrange 3D meetings. I don't think you're under any threat of getting punked by 16-year-old boys. Not only can't they spell Coltrane, but they're too busy trolling for porn and bootleg MP3s when they're on the internet. It's the older guys you need to watch for. And finally...

4) US MEN AREN'T THAT BAD: You're "afraid of men, but not in a bad way?!?" It makes me sad to read that. You shouldn't have to be afraid of men and the things they can do, in a bad or a good way. Most of us aren't that bad, and the bad ones? They can only hurt you as much as you let them. Don't let that fear of being hurt deter you from moving forward.

Thanks for your kind words regarding Garland and myself. It's good to feel appreciated. If you move on, and stay positive, I have nothing but good hopes for you. Stay in touch.