Demetria Lucas entertains readers about the ups and downs of her dating in her blog, “A Belle In Brooklyn.”
The Prince George’s county native, an editor at Essence magazine, recently published her first book under the same name. In it, she chronicles the best – and worst – of dating and relationships in your twenties. Now 32, she sat down with The Root DC to discuss happiness, heartbreak and survival.
In your writings, you reference strong single women movie characters Nina Mosely (Love Jones) and Nola Darling (She’s Gotta Have It). What is it about these characters’ personalities that draws you to them?
Well, I think just because they’re so rarely seen. I mean both of those women, they are - they are very cosmopolitan, they’re very educated, they’re not married, but they’re dating. They’re trying to figure things out. Dating is not the sole focus of their life, it’s one of those things. And they’re overall pretty happy. There’s no, you know, extraordinary pathology.
But more or less, they’re young women. They’re in their twenties, they’re in major cities, and they’re just trying to figure it all out. You know, they don’t know everything. They’re very honest about that, but they’re trying to make the best decisions that they can. And they’re just trying to figure out their way in the world, in terms of when it comes to men and dating, when it comes to themselves, when it comes to what they will and will not put up with.
And I think that’s something that a lot of women struggle with. And a lot of women - even if they’re not struggling, they think about. But they were made to be multidimensional, and I think too often when you see African-American women especially, they’re portrayed as...”single professional woman.” It was never just “professional woman.” Like, why does my marital status matter so much? You know, okay, what if I’m dating? What if I’m single? What if I’m divorced? Why does it matter?
But those women, they were three-dimensional. They weren’t...cookie cutter stereotype of what [a] “modern black woman” is.
You focus a lot on showing the upside of dating as opposed to the downside of being single in your writings…
It’s just not all doom and gloom, and what I was seeing on TV versus...what I was living, what my friends and I were doing. There was a lot of upside to being able to go out and not have to call and check in. Or “You know, I can’t go because we’re going to hang out with his family,” or his whatever. There are very many upsides to being in a relationship. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m not pro-relationships at all, but there are very many upsides to being in a relationship, and there are very many upsides to being single. But somehow, we only talk about “Oh, these are the pros of a relationship, and these are the cons of being single. There are also huge cons to being in a relationship, and - real talk - I’ve got married friends now, there are huge cons to that too.
Relationships and marriage are just not this bouquet of roses I guess that we’re being told that it is. Like, there are ups and downs to both sides in equal amounts. I know a lot of people in relationships and marriages that are like “God, I wish I was single,” and a lot of single people who are like “Oh, I wish I was in a relationship.” It’s one of those “grass is greener” sorts of things.
Did you have to call back any of your old boyfriends when you were compiling your experiences for the book?
No. One of the best things that ever happened to me, which at the time I thought was the worst thing in the world - my very first job didn’t have internet access. It was a government job - didn’t have internet access on the computers.
So it’s my first job, completely bored out of my mind. My best friend is still based in DC, he is also completely bored out of his mind. So we would sit there, to make the time go past, and write the minutiae of our lives, back and forth on these email exchanges. So I have all my emails going back to 1998, ‘99, something like that. So when I decided which stories I wanted to write, it was very easy to just go pull up the emails and I can give you the description of what everybody was wearing, what the actual conversation was, what I was thinking, how I felt. So there were some things that weren’t in there - I have a pretty good memory, I’m a journalist, I remember details. But a lot of that stuff was just there, written out. So it was really easy for me.
When you were writing and researching, did you come across any surprises that you forgot about?
You know, that’s so funny. It didn’t happen when I was writing it. But now when I read the stories out loud, when I have a book signing or something like that, I’ll read the L.A. story [In the book, there is a chapter where Demetria goes to Los Angeles for the Espy awards, and while out with friends decides to trail Suge Knight upon seeing his car, and ends up having breakfast with him] and be like, “What was I thinking? Who decides we’re gonna follow Suge Knight?”
It didn’t seem crazy at the time, it just seemed like “Oh, okay, we’re bored.” Everything I did seemed like the best idea at the time. But then going back and reading it I’m like “Whose life is this? This is absolutely nuts.” Like, I’m gonna follow Suge Knight, I’m gonna meet Dwayne Wade and not realize it for years, later.
Suge Knight story...
We were sitting next to each other, initially. We were all in one big booth, and then when Suge is done eating his food, he gets up and [walks to another booth]. And then one by one, all his boys do, and then leave me and my girls sitting at the table. And we’re confused - well I’m confused. They’re pretty normal about it. Cause I’m like, “Yo, this is usually the time - dudes are trying to holla, whatcha doing later, come back to my house, my hotel, my apartment, whatever. And they just got up and walked away. And I was like, “Okay...”
You are often labeled as “The Black Carrie Bradsaw.” Do you like being called that?
I don’t like it at all. It actually really bothers me. I’m a real woman. I’m not a fictional version of a TV character. And it’s - I mean, in terms of marketing, I get it. It’s an easy shorthand [idea], “Oh okay, that’s exactly what she does.” You figure I’m a journalist. You figure I live in New York. You figure I have some sort of wild, zany life. I get it.
But if you really analyze who Carrie was, she wasn’t really that likeable. When you really think about it - and I get that she’s a very beloved character, that she’s thought of as a fashion and accessories icon - I respect that. But just in terms of who I am - I’m good just being me. Me is good enough. I don’t need a comparison to a TV character.
You have many close guy friends you mention in your book, who serve as both your friends and your feedback on your relationships. How are guy friends an asset to relationships?
[My guy friend] loves me the same way that my dad does. Not in like the creepy, paternal, whatever, but just in terms of it’s completely unconditional, and he really is one of my best friends. I was running around with him all day yesterday. But he’s just very honest and he never BS’es me. And there were times he told me the complete and utter truth, like “No, he’s really just not that into you,” and I would keep dating somebody because I’m [thinking] “No, you’re wrong!’ But 110% [of the time] it’s always panned out.
But sometimes, as women, we want to believe what we want to believe. We want to believe what we think but not what we necessarily see, and we want to hope for the best. And that’s part of our nature that it’s actually really, really good - that hope and that optimism, it really takes us a long way. But sometimes in relationships that hope and inability to see what’s actually there can be very detrimental. And dudes don’t have that - I mean, they’re guys. So, they’re quite stereotypically - most of them – [are clear] in their bottom lining of everything. Like, is he in or is he out? If he’s feeling you, he’s all the way feeling you. If you’re getting mixed signals, then the answer is no.
But I do think everybody should have a male friend. It gives you a different perspective. Men in general really do think a lot differently than we do about things, and you just need that sometimes. Whether you take it or not, you just need to know there’s another way of looking at things out there.
And I have several of them. I didn’t name every single one of them in the book.
In the book, your relationships with men grow and change as you grow and change – you and your experiences mature significantly over time.
Yeah. The book is purposely paced that way. I think the book starts out, I’m 23 and then the last page I turn 30. So if there was no growth there would be a serious problem. Like, that would be really, really bad. But no, I did take something away from each of the relationships, and that was one of the things that I really wanted to point out in the book. People think that [if] it doesn’t work out then “Oh you know we didn’t get married, so it must be a failure.” And I [said], “No.” If you take something from it, you learn something from it, it really is beneficial. And I learned something from each of those guys.
Even the guy- I really liked “Stars.” You know, he completely broke my heart. But I also took something away from that. Had I never dated Stars, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to really go full throttle [with my dream]. I don’t know if I would have kept the day job to fund the side job. I don’t know if I would have done all that. I don’t know if I would have really started the blog and kept going with it. So you get something from each of those people.
What compelled you to even start A Belle in Brooklyn?
I came out of school, 2001, journalism. Was a freelance writer. But if anybody -you freelance, you know it’s hard to make a living as a freelancer. So I always had a 9 to 5. My 9 to5 was in book publishing. So I was doing romance novels, oddly enough. In my writing, my actual journalism, I was writing for a bunch of different magazines, mostly music and celebrity stuff. A little bit of lifestyle. Music had gotten to a point where I just wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to. I was writing more so for the check at that point. And I just wasn’t [into it]. But I wanted to talk about relationships, because I was reading all this stuff about romance and, you know, it’s not just as simple as it being a romance novel and you just edit the pages and you put the story together.
I started not even blogging – there was this “Notes” thing on MySpace. So I would write my random whatever and post it on MySpace, and my friends would read it, and then pretty quickly, my friend’s friend would want to read and all these people were asking to be added so they could read this blog that I had on MySpace.
And I was like “Oh, okay, maybe I have something with this.” And [I was] out at some random party, networking, and I ran into the then-editor-in-chief of HoneyMag.com. I tell her I have this idea…I’m giving her a hard sell. And she’s like “No, sounds dope, sure, let’s do it. Like, when do you want to start? Like, this week, next week?”
And then we put it on Honey and it was just a blogroll with everybody else, just a picture of me in a blogroll with like 15 other girls. And my blog stood out. I think the first day it got 4500 hits.
What is one good thing that a single black woman should possess?
Confidence. Cause it takes you so much further. It’s so weird - people talk about looks, they talk about this size, shape, booty or this length of hair or this color complexion, but confidence will really take you so much farther than all of those things. Like, living in New York, you work around the video models and you see how absolutely beautiful they are. And there’s some people who just will not touch then because they’re just like “I can’t listen to the incessant – ‘I’ve got to work out. Oh my God this blemish on my face. Oh my God, my weave.’ “ It’s too much. But just confidence will take a woman so much further. Confidence and a good smile. A genuine smile. It doesn’t even have to be braces perfect.
Just to be happy, to be friendly, to be slightly outgoing, and to be confident? That’s very powerful. That’s very powerful and its very attractive. It’s attractive to be all dressed up in pearls and blah blah blah, but it’s also attractive in a wife beater and sweatpants in the middle of this heat wave. A wife beater and shorts.
What should first time readers of the book, who are not acquainted with the blog, keep in mind?
Be open-minded. So many of us have been taught that there’s something wrong with being single. I mean, God forbid, I’m 32. I’m not married. But some people just think that one – thirty is the end of the world; and not married at 32 you might as well be dead, cause everything in life has to be accomplished by 25 and otherwise, you know, it doesn’t count after that. It’s not possible. But I would just say to be open-minded. A lot of the things that we think about relationships are things that were passed down from people who may have been well meaning but, at the same time, didn’t really know what they were talking about. We are not our mother’s generation. And so, to abide by the rules of that generation, I mean, we can try but [it’s] not gonna happen. Just be open-minded.
Why not give up hope?
I don’t understand the concept of giving up hope. It’s definitely not gonna happen if you have no hope. I honestly do believe that there is someone out there for every single person. Is he black? I don’t know.
But I do honestly believe that there’s someone out there for everyone. And if love is what you want or a relationship is what you want, marriage is what you want, then you’ve gotta go after it just like anything else. Most of the women that we’re talking about in this situation, I mean a lot of them are degreed, are very accomplished. You don’t just sit around and wait for a promotion. You don’t just sit around and wait for your law degree to land in your lap. You know, you go after it. And so if this is something that you want, this part of your life, you’re going to have to go after it like you do everything else. And just being like “Eh,” – you didn’t pass the LSAT with that. You know, you didn’t get your MBA with that. You have to take that same approach to it.
Demetria Lucas is the Relatio nships Editor at Essence Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @ABelleInBK; Read her blog A Belle in Brooklyn; she also answers relationship questions at formspring.me.com/abelleinbk.