My name is Courtney and I’ve been dating my boyfriend Mark for six weeks.  We met on a ski trip and have been seeing each other regularly.  He’s got a great resume — Ivy League degrees, his own business, a great condo, a bulldog, a Range Rover.  He’s a bit of a stiff & takes himself way too seriously.  We’re still getting to know each other.   I watched Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Jill Clayburgh in the movie Bridesmaids with him.  He sat stone-faced the whole time.  I watched Madea Goes to Jail with him — he didn’t laugh once.  He makes me watch boring-a**ss science documentaries in HD– slow motion martial arts and engine parts.  Death by TV, I call it.  He expects me to watch him Photoshop pictures for hours.   He can’t cook worth a damn. And he still gets elusive on the weekends and on holidays.  I feel like he’s not as interested in me as I am in him.  I don’t wanna come across as some needy chick desperate to be in a relationship with any old body.  He seems like a great guy but I wanna pull the plug if it just isn’t happening. What should I do?

-Courtney J.

I have to confess I have a fetish:  I like dating short men.  It’s like if you’re a beautiful woman, they are so damn grateful you are giving them play, they try so much harder across the board.  Romantically, sexually, attentiveness-wise, and you’ll win arguments like nobody’s business.  I met my latest shorty-doo-wop at a party for ESPN magazine — we chatted, danced and hit it off.  My nugget is just 5’2″ and goes by the charming nickname “Keebler.”  Yes, as in the elves that make the cookies.  He’s a lovely man — Italian so a great cook and super-duper affectionate.  But there are those moments when the old Napoleon complex rears its head and I’m stuck dealing with the Angry Short Man who’s mad that he’s been “short-changed” by life and genetics.  It’s one-percent of the time but Keebler goes ape***t.  The latest incident is when I grabbed a mint after we exited a movie and didn’t grab one for him.  That turned into a two-hour lecture during which I sang songs in my head til I gave him the whole “I’m-sorry-I’ll-never-do-that-again” speech.  Honestly his tiny man voice is like the teacher voices in Peanuts cartoons: “wanh-wanh-wanh-wanh-WANH.”  Can I keep him, Mom?  Or should I throw him back?

-Devorah J.


Congratulations!  You found an attractive guy to date.  You’ve won the first battle in the war to build a lasting relationship. The toughest part of the dating game is to really see the man you’re with, instead of getting a false high from the prospect of finding the relationship or marriage you so crave.

Now comes the hardest part: you’ve got to pay attention to how this guy you’re dating makes you feel. When you’re with him, you should always feel good.  As you keep seeing each other, you’ll learn more and have shared experiences and even fun.

But before you even consider getting serious, nevermind saying “I do,” you have to really check in with yourself to see if you wanna commit to this man & all his stuff every day for the rest of your life.  How does he speak to you, how does he treat his family, is he rude to taxi drivers and waiters, is he petty, is he a cheat, does he renege on promises, what are his views on your religion?

While still dating, you should never feel like he’s taking pity or doing you a favor. Dating him should never make you doubt yourself.  Does he look down on you, your education, your hair, your weight, your economic status, your family, your car, your uneducated family? Conversely, is he awestruck by your education, looks, wealth, friendships, high-status job, your car, your condo? You must continually ask yourself: does this guy want me for the right reasons?

Don’t keep dating somebody who doesn’t make you completely happy, respected, safe, valued and whole. Period.


Some guidelines to regulate your relationship with any man you date.  I invite you to think about & implement them to spare yourself heartache-


1. Never allow someone to be your priority when you are just their option.

Dating is a wonderful way to meet new people you find attractive to see if there’s enough to build a relationship.  Most dates won’t lead to anything serious but if they’re alright guys, invite them into your social circle so your friends can meet them.  And if they were losers, good riddance. Remember Mama said, “Never get jealous when you see your ex with someone else, because our parents taught us to give our used toys to the less fortunate.”

But don’t put more expectation into dating than it merits.  Keep seeing other people.  And keep your pants on.  Trust me — it’ll be plenty of fun that way and you might get out of the house more often.

And put yourself on an electronic diet when it comes to dating — go easy on the texting, emailing, Facebooking, tweeting and calling.  A balanced ratio of “one text :to: one call” is ideal. You don’t wanna come off as over-eager or desperate; let him pursue you.

2. Define the relationship before sexual activity.

This isn’t game playing — it’s just giving yourself a chance to see if you really want him and if he really wants you.  If he’s going to be “outtie 5000” if sex isn’t happening right away, you gotta pat yourself on the back for weeding him out.  Good sex takes time — if he’s rushing to hit it & quit it, he mustn’t be all that in the sack.

And why go all the way if you’re both just playing?  Unlike sexy movies & TV shows, the HIV-positive community has long  stressed the value of “harm reduction.”  Explore your budding sexual interest safely: kissing, petting, the bases, backrubs, handholding, umm … mutual pleasure.  Anything that scratches that itch without making you itch or visit Planned Parenthood is great for now. Again, you’re just dating.

(Some say you should skip shaving your legs before going on a date so you’ll keep your pants on.  Contrary to all those rabid commercials for pink razors, magazine ads for Drano-like substances that dissolve hair and endless lore about the magic appeal of waxing, real men don’t really care whether your legs are shaven.  It’s not the dealbreaker you’ve been taught to fear it is.  You care far more than men care.  I’ve tried the “hairy leg Kryptonite” and IT DOESN’T WORK.  And while we’re discussing hair removal, quite frankly, I’m tired of seeing hairless ladyparts roaming the gym locker room. Frequently pierced.  Is that attractive?  Really? I guess I’m in the wrong demographic. Then again, maybe it depends on the lady… Hmm… I digress.)

And recognize: the new game on the street is the “Nice Guy Player.” This guy will play the boyfriend role — dates, phone calls, attentiveness, introducing friends and family. Remember: he’s gonna do what he gotta do to get laid.

A guy may even start talking marriage, how many kids he wants to have with you, and even forever.  A. He may not be sincere.  B.  His game may just rewind for the next girl — there really is nothing special between you.

Let’s face it: most guys attitude is “she’s not my first, she ain’t gonna be my last either.” He will get the “happy future” myth swirling your head with possibilities then bend you over for as long as you let him.

Sorry.  Not every guy but many.

And once you’re sleeping together, he’s still not your boyfriend — he’s a FWB (friend with benefits) and that may be all there is to it. Ever.

3. Know when he’s not worth it.

If you’re arguing, crying, angry, depressed or manic all the time, you gotta recognize that dating him ain’t going well.  Please note:  drama is not the same as love.  Sometimes we can get addicted to the soap opera just so we can harangue our girlfriends with all the juicy details and air out our personal business on Facebook.

But, girlfriend, why cling to someone we should despise? This man is causing pain and disrupting our flow.  A girlfriend who’s hard core into S&M told me that, to some folks, pain is ultimately pleasurable because it makes the body release endorphins.  The same with drama — shouting, smart remarks, telephone hang-ups, spiteful actions, undermining behaviors & dragging exes into the middle of your relationship.  The drama addict likes the pendulum swing of stress & emotional lows.  Without that, there can be no sweet release — the antidote of apology, renewed embrace & make-up sex.

We gotta watch for that old “break-up-to-make-up” dynamic that can substitute for a real loving relationship.

4. The key to finding & keeping a great guy: become his friend first.

I’m not saying that all guy friends will be great mates.  I’m just saying most of any relationship is hanging out and conversation.  Maybe 75% over the span of a long-term marriage.  So if you can swing a good time that percentage of time with a man, you’re batting for the bleachers.  The remaining 25% is sex, money, kids and control. But we’ll get to those things once you’ve conquered dating.

On the other hand, try getting with and staying with a man you’re not really friends with. You will never know such loneliness even though he’ll be right next to you.

5. Shop around & find the best one for you.

Ignore those stories about marrying your high school sweetheart or first boyfriend.  What do you know about what you want at that stage of life? You don’t live on a dairy farm or in one of those countries with arranged marriages.

Lemme talk to you as a woman: You know how you like to have a lot of shoes?  Because each pair says something unique, each pair is suited for particular outfits or occasions. Well, guys are like shoes.  You wanna find your favorite pair that feels good, fits your lifestyle and that goes anywhere, with any outfit or occasion.

For me, there was a point when I could no longer date the guy who defiantly only wore denim head-to-toe and $200 sneakers.  He was “walking in tall cotton” — that is, doing quite well for himself.  No matter the house he was building and his car collection, he was addicted to dressing and behaving like a high school boy.  I live in the real world and with everything you have to contend with (cops, coop boards, airport security, profiling, getting your kids into schools, etc.) “Captain Sneakerhead” wasn’t gonna cut it as a husband and father.

And then I also couldn’t go on more than one date with a guy who seriously wore clogs.  I mean, clogs are what your art teacher or your eleven-year-old sister wear.  Not your man. Cowboy boots if you don’t ride horses. Riding boots on a man who doesn’t ride horses. Those pointy-toe shoes that curl up at the end that genies wear when they guy isn’t a genie.  Crocs. Platform shoes.  High heels on a man? The under-six-feet man who rocks the boots with extra double-thick soles even in summer — who in the heck does he think he’s fooling?

See what I mean? Not. Gonna. Work.

6. Spend more time dating guys who you can laugh with & less with guys who make you cry.

Life is hard so being able to have fun with the man you date is ultra-important.  After attractiveness, smelling good and good conversation, humor is the most important thing. A sense of humor can help you bond even during the toughest times  – a car crash, a cancer diagnosis, foreclosure, extreme debt, crime.

Looks will fade and passion may dip but if you laugh together, then the relationship just might last.

7. Be who you are with kindness, honesty and vision-
Live your life, pursue your goals and enjoy your passions. Seek commitment from a worthy partner who supports you and doesn’t try to take away from your joy and activities.

Don’t just settle and throw away all your wonderfulness on some man who can’t appreciate your conversation, your work, your hobbies, your hair, your style, your love, your body, your accomplishments, your opinions, housekeeping or cooking. It’s not worth the time.

8. Three strikes and he’s out.   

I dated a guy who went nuts because my Blackberry only rings three times before it goes to voicemail.  He had some phone that would ring forever and I would call him right back but it got to the point that he would hang up on me for spite.  Whoa.  We discussed it, we visited the AT&T store together to explore a solution.  But after three major blowups about this nonsense,  homeboy had to go.

If it don’t come easy, you gotta let it go.  You just can’t put up with extreme bickering over petty issues or major ones.  Cheating?  Cut him loose.  Gave you VD?  Call your lawyer. Having a baby with an outside woman? Bye and good luck.  I’ve seen women stay with dudes even when these things went down while dating.  Sure they got citizenship, children or health benefits, but that’s a long row to hoe, as we say down South.  And if you marry for money, you’ll earn every penny the hard way.

9. Date outside your comfort zone.

Leave the same old dating pools behind.  Enough of the neighborhood, the school friends, the colleagues and the blind dates set up by well-meaning relatives.  Try, volunteer on an election campaign, walk dogs at the animal shelter, volunteer at a fundraiser, choose your seat next to someone cute on Southwest Airlines.  Use that lovely brain to get yourself into social situations with new dating prospects.

10. The “Life is Better” litmus test.

Is your life better with this man or without him?  Look at his heart.  Look at his soul.  Is he a good person who inspires you to be a good person?  Trust your intuition on this.  Is he a good enough man to meet & raise your children? Truly this is the defining question that will tell you if he’s one of the good ones & a keeper.



My boyfriend Frank and I met on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago’s Midway Airport to LaGuardia in New York.  Emblematic of the “closeness of strangers” we talked for three hours straight about anything and everything. We asked for and got each other’s unbiased opinions because “Hey! We were never gonna see each other again.”  Long story short, I liked him so much I decided I would become friends — a rare thing in adulthood.  Most of us already have enough friends bonded to us over long years. But I felt compelled to make Frank part of my world.  He was attentive, a good listener, humble, affectionate, honest — too honest.  After we hung out for lunch and a few NFL games, Frank seemed to have his sexual orientation, personal goals, religious beliefs and sense of responsibility in the right place. So I pounced.  Just like the song says, “I fooled around and fell in love!” Best decision I’ve made in a long time.  I love him.  And I’m happy to say he loves me.  We have some long distance and life choice issues we’re working out.  He says he  doesn’t want to get married right now but I can’t be with him without that. But, in the meantime, I am happy.  Once I can stop myself from lashing out because I feel insecure or like this relationship is out of my control, we’ll both be even happier.

– Celeste T.

My wife Marta is the apple of my eye after all these years.  We just celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary.  Right now she’s helping me battle prostate cancer again.  When I was a basketball star in college at Ithaca, Marta was the prettiest girl on campus.  Other girls who wanted me told me Marta was a lesbian but I made it my mission to find out for myself.  Sparks flew, we became inseparable, got married and had two beautiful children. I’m not a perfect man but I wish my wife would stop demeaning me, especially in public.  If I’m running late or need to shovel the driveway, she can just mention it with out the screwface and lecture on how stupid/ lazy/ no count I am.  I wish because I doubt she will ever change.  That mouth and her crazy controlling s*** — it’s just like my Mother was with my late father. I guess I asked for it.  No need crying about it now.

-Dennis V.


Maybe you started out as friends and got involved “accidentally.”  Maybe he had to bide his time to make sure you were open to a relationship and comfortable with him.  Unlike a man to whom women are a dime a dozen, what you think and feel matters to him a whole lot.  To the point that you may be over-doing it on the hormonal emotional extremes by picking fights, muttering under your breath, micromanaging, cussing and withholding affection and sex to punish him.  And still he’s so not going anywhere.

This is the Holy Grail: love that is so strong you two have bonded into family. You are living a kind of emotional bliss and reassurance that is everything love songs promised.  What is important to realize is this level of love and happiness is normal.  At its heart is self-love that radiates out to alll those you hold dear and reflects back to you amplified.  You came into the world knowing this kind of love and truly feeling it.

All the great religions of the world allude to this love of self, inner peace and joy.  Call it God, Buddha, nirvana, Allah, heaven, etc., truly “The Kingdom is within.” Your inner perfection and emotional wholeness are God-given and don’t need to be earned. Awareness of the goodness and the wholeness that is already there within us is all that is necessary. And what is whole does not seek from without for it is complete and therefore requires nothing. Beloved & loving is our natural state.  It is only lost through negative messaging in our upbringings and from negative people & experiences  in our world.

Transcending fashion and the ups & downs of life, we need to embody this self-love which enables us to withstand & abandon the dis-empowering messages telling us we are unworthy.  Human beings need real love to be part of who we are on the inside and on the outside. Truly, love is the new black.  You just have to have it this season and every season.  It is the perfect accompaniment and compliment to everything you are striving for in this life.  It is battle armor, security blanket and tres tres chic all in one. Not the Canal Street Gucci version.  The real thing.

But this level of love & comfort is great until you get sloppy and stop editing out the less appealing behviors you learned in your parents’ home, on your block growing up and in bad relationships. Most of us have been unmercifully fed messages of self-hate by unkind people, schoolyard bullies, bad lovers, workplace abuse and trying life circumstances.

All of us come into adulthood with a menu of learned behaviors — good and bad.  Like the Manchurian Candidate, these habits become ingrained like brainwashing.  We’re not even conscious they’re there.  Unless we start screaming over minor annoyances, threatening to end the relationship with our loved one or violently lashing out before we realize it.

Most self-improvement discussions do not respect the need for transition. Inevitably, you will fail to live up to the unrealistic & unnecessary goals of movies and magazine articles that demand we contort into perfection today. Such failure produces stress and anxiety. These negative emotions drive us to derail positive changes we have accomplished; we then seek to numb the pain with emotional blow-ups, blaming, over-eating, excessive drinking, retail therapty and other negative disempowering behaviors.

You wanna prioritize your relationship, but make it a slow journey. Even after months and years, you’re still getting to know and trust each other. And love it is just that — a journey, not an end destination. Yes, there will be ups and downs. But as you make better choices you’ll feel better; feeling better makes it easier to do better. As your choices and behaviors improve, so will your loving relationship.

Again, learning to live love is a shift back to normalcy — back to normal kindness & consideration,  back to thinking and habits that honor love and family. By becoming more conscious of what you think and do for the rest of your love life, you can truly learn how to enhance it from the inside emotional balance to making good decisions on the outside.

You will have changed, and your relationship and home will become more peaceful and healthful for the good work you are doing.


In relationships, we should see change as a journey, not a destiny. The body and the mind always resist drastic change. And, when you see change as all or nothing, you stumble to make any change at all. Any positive change is good.  Just 1% better is 1% better. You are not a machine, you are human. Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.” Thus, you should strive to be better, not flawless. Apologize when you mess up, be kind and understanding.  But keep moving forward to a better quality of relating.

True permanent positive change is incremental. You can achieve smaller realistic goals. This ensures success. Success breeds positive feelings, and you when you feel better about yourself, you can then do more good. You then associate change to feeling good, and you no longer cringe when you think of setting new goals.

Love is the new black.  Get yours.  Wear it long, wear it strong.