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Session 260: Black Women & Online Dating

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Similar to our other methods of communication, dating has also gone digital. and whether we like it or not, this new space requires some new skills like picking a great profile picture and crafting a short, but impactful bio. So, how can Black women use dating apps successfully? This week I’m joined by OK Cupid dating expert & host of the popular Dates & Mates podcast, Damona Hoffman. During our conversation we chatted about the steps you can take to optimize your dating profile to find quality matches, assess what you want in a romantic partner, and how dating apps can be used to find the kind of romance you desire.

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Producers: Fredia Lucas, Ellice Ellis & Cindy Okereke

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Session 260: Black Women & Online Dating

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 260 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.

[SPONSORS’ MESSAGES]

Dr. Joy: Similar to our other methods of communication, dating has also gone digital. And whether we like it or not, this new space requires some new skills like picking a great profile picture and crafting a short but impactful bio. So how can black women use dating apps successfully? This week, I'm joined by OkCupid dating expert and host of the popular Dates & Mates podcast, Damona Hoffman. During our conversation, we chatted about the steps you can take to optimize your dating profile to find quality matches, how to assess what you want in a romantic partner, and how dating apps can be used to find the kind of romance you desire. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or join us over in the Sister Circle to talk more in depth about the episode. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining me today, Damona.

Damona: Thank you for having me, Dr. Joy.

Dr. Joy: Very excited to chat with you. I'd love for you to begin by just talking with us about how and why you became a dating coach.

Damona: Quite by accident, of course! I was actually working in television. I was casting director and I found that there were a lot of actors who were super talented but just did not know what to do to get noticed by someone like me, by a casting director. Like we would get literally stacks of hundreds, hundreds of pictures every day that we had to sort through, and we couldn't call everybody in. And so I started teaching classes for actors on how to have pictures that really stood out and that told their story, and how to get noticed and then how to put their best foot forward when they went to the audition room. Let me tell you something, Dr. Joy, I was also dating at the time and online dating was pretty new.

I had just started online dating and I realized the similarities between what I would tell actors about how to get noticed by the right people, and what I needed to do to get noticed by the right kind of men. I ended up applying those techniques I was teaching actors to my online dating experience, I met my husband online (we just celebrated our 15th anniversary), and I realized that there was something to this technique that I had applied myself. First date is basically an audition and a dating profile photo is basically a headshot. People started coming to me after I met my husband and asking for my tips. Initially, it was just helping family, helping friends, and then (through word of mouth) that spread and I realized I really had something and started doing this full time. Became certified as a life coach and then specifically as a dating coach, and now for over 10 years, this has been my life's work.

Dr. Joy: Wow, I love that, and that background is so cool! I mean, it feels like it was a very seamless transition in terms of what you were already doing to bringing that to people to help them date better.

Damona: It does seem that way, doesn't it, when I tell the story now? But let me tell you, girl, there were a lot of ups and downs along that process! But really through all of my clients, I learn. Every time I work with someone and every time... I really study this stuff. People think that dating should just be magical and it should just be easy and it should fall in your lap. I would love to believe that, but I think our lives are just more complicated now. When we look at the way that we used to date and we used to connect, most people ended up marrying someone within... There was a study from the 1920s where it was like within five blocks of your house! That's not a huge dating pool. Like if your mama didn't know him, if he didn't go to your church, if you didn't go to school with him, you weren't meeting him. I see dating apps as creating a huge opportunity for expanding your dating pool, but with that comes a new skill set that we have to learn. And so I look at dating as a set of skills that we assume should just come to us naturally, but I've seen over the last 15 years that I've been doing this, that there is a system that when repeated can get the same result–the relationship that you want. But there's a lot of rocky road in between.

Dr. Joy: Generally, Damona, what are we talking about when we are talking about dating? I feel like there are lots of different definitions. What do we mean on a basic level when we talk about like somebody being ready to start dating?

Damona: In my process, I have like a five-step process I take everybody through, and it works reliably when the person is ready and shows up consistently. It starts with mindset. I have my clients get really clear on who they are, what they bring to the table in a relationship, and then what they want. And I'm not talking about must make X number of thousands of dollars a year, must have this college degree, must be six foot... I don't know, what is it now, three? I don't know what the ladies are looking for! Because those aren't the qualities, ultimately, that end up predicting long term relationship success.

A lot of my clients have come to me after doing therapy and getting clear on some of those things, like we all have our stuff. We have the stuff that our parents have told us about who we should match with, who we should date. We have the pressure from them, like how come you haven’t met the person? How come you haven’t given me any grandkids? We have all of those voices in our head plus the experiences that we've been through in past relationships. I think that there's always an opportunity to start fresh and this is why I start everything with the mindset, so that we can develop a new mindset if we need that to approach dating with fresh eyes.

Dr. Joy: Can you give us the rest of those steps without sharing too much of your intellectual property?

Damona: I'm an open book, Dr. Joy. I talk about this on my podcast Dates & Mates every week, so I will give the information freely. I'll run through the five steps quickly and then whatever you want to dive into a little deeper, we can talk about that. The five steps are mindset, sourcing (where you’re finding dates). Screening–how you're deciding if somebody is a good match for you or not–and that could be before you go on the date. Or once you're on a date, how do you decide if you want to go out with them for date two, three four or five?

Then there's presentation, how are you showing up on the date? So we've done the mindset work, we know who we’re looking for, we know what we bring to the table–how do you bring that forward? Within presentation, it's also like flirting skills, because talking about dating skills, I see flirting as a learned skill. A lot of times, especially over the last couple of years, a lot of folks were not practicing that skill at all. So we get into the strategy of that and of practicing the flirting skills because when you're practicing the not flirting skills in other areas of your life, those are the skills that get strengthened. And then the last step is actually the simplest step and it's the one that most people mess up, and it's follow through. So how do you keep the conversation going? How do you decide if this is the right person for you? If this is really a relationship that has legs for long term compatibility?

Most of my clients come to me seeking long-term committed relationships. It's been interesting, because I've been doing this for a while, it's not always marriage and I support that. It's not always the traditional, and I support that. But through this process, we get clear on what you actually want, and how do we develop a dating plan that works for you and your specific goals?

Dr. Joy: I think it would be helpful to hear more about... Because you've already said that you really don't work with your clients in terms of this list of like, okay, they have to be a certain height, certain grad school education, all of that stuff that doesn't actually predict long term success. What kinds of questions should people be asking themselves about who they want in a partner? How do you get clear about what might be a good match for you?

Damona: I like to really drill down into what are your goals for the future and what are your values? I think, in my work, those are the two biggest predictors of long-term compatibility. What path are you traveling in your life? And then what do you believe to be true about the world? We do all kinds of exercises. We do a lot of visualization, we do our own form of list making. I'm not a big fan of like the checklist, but we do kind of a more holistic list. We really talk about what does that look like and what does it feel like?

I always say to my clients, you may not know... Looking at this person's picture on a dating app, you may not know that that's your person. But if you get clear on how you want to feel when you're with your partner and you are sitting across from that person and you feel that feeling repeated, then you will know. And he might not look the same way, he might not fit all those lists, those little boxes that you checked on your dating app but you're going to know when you feel safe. When you feel like this person understands me, this person sees me, this person gets me, and this person wants the same things and wants to build the same life that I want to live.

Dr. Joy: Got it. You've already talked about we don't necessarily have to just confine ourselves to the five-block radius around our homes, like online dating has really opened up the world to us. What are some of the reasons why people are pursuing online dating services to find partners?

Damona: We're doing everything online these days, right? You're on social media, you're texting, you're buying. Like I get everything shipped to my house, I don't wanna go into a store if I don't have to anymore. When you think about that, just the efficiency of using these technology tools, it's changed our lives, the way that we live our lives, dramatically. But it does create additional challenges, so I just want people to be aware of how to use the tool effectively. I feel like dating apps often get a bad rap because people are frustrated with dating. The biggest change that I've seen in the time that I've been doing this is the speed of dating has increased. It's become much more like “I don't want to do all these dates, I just want my person to land on my doorstep.” And trust me girl, if he ain't the FedEx man or pizza delivery man, it's not gonna happen. You have to apply yourself in a different way and dating apps are one tool that helps us do that.

I think the reality is that like everything has sped up. The speed of communication has sped up. If you're mad at dating apps, you may actually be mad at texting, you may be mad at social media, and it's just a matter of figuring out which tool, which dating app is going to work best for you, and how to use that tool effectively. When I look at what has changed the dating landscape since I started, there have been a couple of big shifts, but one was just the smartphone and moving to... Like when I started online dating, it was desktop, it was full on desktop. It wasn't even laptop, it was full on desktop computer. Now, we can take our app with us and it's become a more social process, kind of the way that dating was out in the while before. You know, you'd ask your girlfriends like, is he looking at me? Is he cute? Now we do that in the app and we show our friends who we’re matching with and ask their opinions.

The other thing that has shifted is just, I mean, we can't have this conversation without talking about the impact of COVID. I work with OkCupid as their official dating coach and we've seen that throughout the pandemic, dating apps were the only option for a lot of people to stay connected and stay in the dating space. We've seen especially for black women, black women are having more success online. On OkCupid, over the last three years, they are getting more matches than any time before. In the past three years, it's continued to increase so that says to me that it is creating a space for everyone but also for black women to make connections that maybe weren't available to us. Or that it definitely had a stigma before. I don't know what your feelings are on dating apps.

Dr. Joy: I met my husband online, too, so I am a huge fan.

Damona: Really?

Dr. Joy: Yes!

Damona: I didn't even know that. So, you know, we're in the know here. But I'm sure for a lot of your listeners, they're like “dating apps, that's for weird people or that's like what you do when you're desperate.” But you and I aren’t desperate, Dr. Joy.

Dr. Joy: No! And it’s interesting to me when people... It feels like technology has moved so fast that, of course, that's where you're meeting partners. Like you said, we're doing everything online and so I think it is sometimes a little shocking to me when I hear, especially much younger people, have that same kind of sentiment related to dating apps. Because it feels like we're doing everything online, so of course, this is also where you meet people who are potential daters.

Damona: I will say I do notice a generational shift. A lot of my younger Dates & Mates listeners that are, let's say under 30, they grew up with technology. They don't even differentiate, it's just dating. It's not, oh, I met on a dating app or I met this way. And yet I still sometimes hear from daters of my generation and older, who still feel like that's not the story that I want to tell my kids. I don't know, I like to have my kids to tell the story to. They do not care at all how we met. This is now kind of going back to the mindset work; whatever that story is that you're telling yourself about what that means, if you can just let that out of your mind because the venue doesn't matter. It's once you have the connection, that's really what we're going for. So online dating today is just dating.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Damona after the break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: What are some of the best practices? Like what are some of the things that you are consistently telling your clients about how to do dating online?

Damona: Now we're really getting into the fun stuff! Girls, get your pen and paper ready, or get your digital device to take notes on. First, I tell people the profile is everything and that is your calling card. Like back to my original career as a casting director, the headshot was what got you in the door. Once you get there, you're on your own! No, I'm kidding, I help people throughout this entire process. But that's the most important thing. Because if you don't have your profile on point, you're not going to get the matches that you want.

You really have to keep in the forefront of your mind that it's about quality and not about quantity. Because when we're talking about these new tools like social media, we think, oh, I need the most likes. No, not on dating apps. You don't want the most likes; you want the best likes. You also have to remember it's a tool. You're programming the tool to work for you. Who you connect with, who you message with, who you pass on–all of those things are part of programming the algorithm. But first, we want to get your profile bringing in the options so that you can start doing the sorting and telling the app how to work for you.

This is my simple formula. For a profile, you want to use the three C's. The three C's are color, context and character. Color–that is actually psychological. I'm curious to hear what you think about this, but studies have shown that men are more attracted to the color red. When we think about red in the natural world, red conditions us to stop and pay attention. So you might want to think about wearing the color red, but even just wearing a bright color. I live in LA, we have this very famous pink selfie wall, you've probably seen it on Instagram. Why is it so popular? Because the color stands out and it draws the eyes. So we want to think strategically first. Color and then context–that's telling your story through your photos. And everybody says, why don't they just read everything that I wrote in my profile? Nobody ever reads; it's just a shortcut. It's a shortcut, and then once you get them in, then they'll read more of your profile.

And then character. Character is like showing your personality, showing your sense of humor, showing if you're nerdy. I had a client who she was really into Comic-Con. She had her little Comic-Con cosplay outfit in one of her photos and that was the thing that got people to say this isn't just a cute girl; this is someone that I really would want to connect with. And she got so many comments based on that one photo alone that that really drove her dating experience.

Dr. Joy: Basically, what you're saying is that before we even get to anything we're writing, we're trying to do a lot of this just through our pictures?

Damona: Yes, of course. We have to signal that, as someone is swiping through, hey, stop, pay attention. Of course, you put your bikini shot in, you're gonna get a lot of matches. But I did a profile polish for Shondaland a while ago for their blog, and the woman came to me and she was like I get a lot of matches but I haven't had a boyfriend in two years and I don't know what's going on. And I looked, she had bikini shots, she had drinking shots, she had party shots. I think she was like in her late twenties and I'm like, what do you want? Well, I want a relationship, I want marriage. I said how are you marketing yourself, though? You're getting a lot of matches but they're not specific to you, they're not quality matches.

We revised her profile, focused on the three C's, and then we came back and met again and she was like this has been great because I'm not crushed by the number of messages. She just had such a high volume of messages before, she got overwhelmed, she couldn't even get through them. But (now) they're specific; they're pointing out certain things that they've read in my profile, that they've seen in my pictures. And the quality of my matches, even though the quantity has decreased, the quality has increased.

Dr. Joy: I like that. So once we get our pictures and our set of pictures together, what kinds of things should we be writing in the narrative section? Like what kinds of things should you share there?

Damona: The narrative section, the about me, it has to be infused with a lot of information in a short little paragraph. This is where we have to write and rewrite, and what you first put down is probably not going to be ultimately the right profile. A lot of times, people will just start with a preamble, and I can strike the first line of most people's dating profiles. “I can't believe I'm here. I didn't think I would end up...” It's like an explanation of how I got here. I like to use that real estate very strategically. Start with your headline.

Dating profiles used to have a headline or a username that said a little bit more about what you're about–that's the first thing people are going to see. It's okay, you can say like: Faith, family, and fun are the things that fuel me. Or you could say “Nerdy cosplay girl seeking...” See, I can't even do the Comic-Con references because I don't even know enough about that. But you can be really specific here about who you are and really make that paragraph about you. It's the about me. It should be about you. A lot of times people will say what they're looking for and then they haven't really been specific about who they are, and that is the thing that ultimately is getting the person attracted to you and to take the initiative to actually send you a message.

So go through and just anything that is extra, go ahead and strike it out. Just cut it out and get it to the meat of the story. Storytelling is really at the heart of a great profile. Taking somebody on a journey, painting a picture of the life that you live and the things that you want to do. I'll give you a hot tip because, as OkCupid’s dating expert, I can see all the data of what trends we're seeing and which words are popping on profiles. There are certain words that do very well. If you use the word music, travel, fun, food, or dog. Music, travel, food, or dog. For some reason, Dr. Joy, those always do well, but I think it's because it's about our lifestyle or it's aspirational and when we are using those words, we're usually telling stories that paint a picture of what it would be like to date us.

Dr. Joy: You mentioned earlier that because of COVID, you have definitely seen numbers increase in terms of like black women getting more matches. What are some other trends that you've seen, kind of since the pandemic, or other things that you've seen perform very well for people in their dating profiles?

Damona: I'll start with the trends that we've seen since the pandemic. We've seen that people are really more focused on relationships. We thought we might see that after the pandemic... Like we were saying last summer was going to be “hot girls” summer and everybody was going to want to come out of their houses and just let loose. But it seems like really what happened was during the pandemic, people got really clear on what was important to them. That mindset work that I was talking about really came to the forefront for a lot of people and it caused us to really figure out, how do I want to live my life? And where do I want to be, even? Obviously, we saw a lot of people that realized that if their job could be virtual and they didn't need to be based in a particular place, that they might want to move back with family or move across country or live internationally. It just opened up the possibility for people to live the life that they really wanted. When, before, I think we weren't even really given the space to ask some of those questions.

We are seeing that people are expanding their distance preferences. Black women have expanded 30% beyond 100 miles, which I think is actually a really wonderful opportunity and really how dating apps should be used most effectively. Because if you go out in your local community, you’ve got to know the people you're going to know. But if you can just expand your pool, that can expand your chances exponentially. We also are seeing that people are wanting their relationships really to last. Black women on OkCupid said that they wanted long term commitment and they wanted their next relationship to last the rest of their life. Fifty percent said that. Twenty seven percent said several years and only 3% said one night. I don't know what it was like when you were online dating, but a lot of people assumed that, oh, that's just for hookups that's transactional. But we’re really seeing in OkCupid that that is not the case at all. What was it like? Tell me.

Dr. Joy: I’ve been married, what, like 10 years now. I don't know, we may have been online... Well, you've been with your husband for 15 years, so a little longer, but I definitely didn't see it as an online hookup kind of thing because that's not what I was looking for. Though I'm sure you can use them that way, like if you can kind of get whatever it is that you're looking for. I definitely feel like because there are more apps available now, I do feel some of them have the connotation of being a place where you go to find people that you're interested in hooking up with–as opposed to like seriously dating.

Damona: Mm hmm. Yeah, it really depends on where you are and also what kind of functionality do you like. Like I love that at OkCupid, they have the stacks at the top where you can search based on specific qualities. You can search based on distance, you can search based on new, and I like that over just being on a general swipe app that it's like whoever comes up, whoever comes up. And because we have the matching questions, you can search based on what's important to you and you can even have deal breakers that filter out people that don't match for you. I like, as a dating coach, I can really get in there and pull the different levers to get you a better dating pool because it can get exhausting. If you're just like, oh, I'm just swiping and swiping and swiping through pictures, I know that that can get exhausting. But that's why I feel like a strategy for how to use dating apps is really important. We’re busy, we don't have a lot of time to put into making dating a second job for ourselves, so if you can do it more efficiently, then why not maximize your time?

Dr. Joy: Right, for sure. Something else that I think often comes up is the safety issue related to online dating. Even though we know there's a safety concern even if you meet people in the grocery store, but for some reason, online dating has this like added safety concern for people. I'd love to hear your thoughts around boundaries and other things people should be setting or keeping in mind as it relates to taking an interaction online into the offline world.

Damona: It's a great question. I work at the Drew Barrymore Show, and I said to Drew, at one point I was gonna write a book called I Could Have Been Dead. Just about all of the things that happened in real life, Dr. Joy, not online dating. When I was single and in these streets, you didn't know anything. I just met you in a bar and I'm like, sure, I'll go in a car with you. Let me just give you my rules for online dating safety that I tell my clients. But you have to remember, there's like an element of risk in meeting any stranger.

Before you even meet them, I think it's a good idea just to do a basic level Google search. Don't go all Google sleuth on me, just like a basic search that makes sure that this person lines up with what they've told you. That there's nothing crazy that comes up associated with them. If your spidey senses are going off and you're feeling like something doesn't seem right, or like they call you at weird times, or they can never FaceTime before the day... I'm a big fan of doing a phone call or a FaceTime before you go to the date, to do a prescreen. That will save you a lot of time, a lot of ghosting, a lot of heartache. But then once you get there, meet them in a public place that you're familiar with. Drop a pin and share it with your friends so your friends know. And say, girl, I'm gonna text you. First of all, text me in an hour if I haven't texted you, so that I can get out of his date if I need to.

But if you've done your preparation, you probably won't need it but it's good to have the safety net. Let them know the information you know about this person and where you're going to be and that you'll text them when you get home safely. Generally, most of the people you meet are not going to be scammers. You're probably not going to meet the Tinder Swindler. We love those stories because they're so outrageous and unlikely to happen! If you just follow some basic safety rules, then you can just show up and be comfortable. And then also listening to your intuition, that's going to be your biggest clue if something is not right.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Damona after the break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: Damona, the other thing that I have been concerned about or I’ve had feedback around, is the microaggressions and colorism and (frankly) outright racism that often exists when black women use dating apps. Can you speak a little bit about that?

Damona: On dating apps, just like anywhere else in the world that we move through, we sometimes are confronted with microaggressions, with colorism, sometimes with outright racism. It's important for you to know how you're going to respond to it because you're probably going to encounter it at some point, and each situation would require a different response. The first question is just to figure out how am I going to respond to this? How do I want to respond to this? If it's something that is egregious and outright racist and something that the dating app should know about, you should definitely report it. Too many times, both on dating apps and in other spaces, we don't speak up. Look, I get it, sometimes it can be overwhelming. And it happens often and you think, I don't want to have to be the one sounding the alarm every time. But if you don't say anything and the next person doesn't say anything, then nothing will get done. I do encourage you, if it's something that is not teachable, it is something that is just offensive or aggressive, to go ahead and raise your hand and say something to the app.

If it's something where it's a microaggression or it's somebody kind of hiding behind a preference, you might want to get curious about how that person thinks and how they came to that conclusion. You have a choice. You have an option to ask them clarifying questions or educate them. Say, “you might not realize this, but this is an issue.” As someone who dated interracially, I found that a lot of people just were not aware of certain things about black women, about black culture. And it wasn't out of a place of malice, but it was out of a place of ignorance, and there's an opportunity there sometimes to educate people. But that's a lot of responsibility and you can absolutely choose not to deal with that.

The important thing is that you take care of yourself emotionally and, if you are feeling hurt by what they said, that you find a safe person that you can share that with, who will validate your experience. So many times, our experiences with microaggressions, with colorism, with subtle racism, it gets brushed under the table. At work, with our friends, in other circles. It's real and it's important that it's named, that it's acknowledged and that you have a safe person or place to share those feelings. It's also important that you don't then internalize that to mean, this is what everyone is doing online. Or because I have this one experience on this one app, all the other people there are like that. Because that only hurts you. There are people there who want to connect with you, who want to understand, and that wouldn't make those same choices in the same situation. It's all up to you. You have a number of options in the way that you want to respond but the bottom line is, you have to take care of yourself emotionally and you have to honor what your experience is.

Dr. Joy: I'm curious, Damona, in the research that you've seen from OkCupid, if you've also seen anything around black women. You already mentioned kind of increasing their radius in terms of who they're dating. Have you also seen people being open to dating people who are not other black people? Because we get a lot of questions and commentary from our social media community around maybe being interested in dating interracially, but not quite being sure. Like what is that going to be? And so I'm curious to hear if there's been any research or information you’ve found there.

Damona: I do have research. I will say, I also encourage my clients to really drill down into the values and goals. A lot of times, we look at certain things as a proxy for other values or goals. We assume, oh, if they vote the same way that I do, they are the same faith that I do, they must believe the same things. If they're also black, they must be aligned in values. And that is not always true. If you can figure out what's really actually important, what's underneath, and have an open mind, you never know who might come into your dating circle.

I do see from the OkCupid data that black women do really put an emphasis on culture, ethnicity and race as it relates to their identity, and we can have a conversation about this. It's higher than their black male counterpart, so 52% of black women on OkCupid say it plays a crucial part in who they are compared to 36% of men. I would love to hear your analysis, Dr. Joy, of why that is. Because I can also say, from the data that I've seen, that black men do date outside their race more than black women do.

Dr. Joy: I'm not all the way sure why that is but I agree with you that, just even anecdotally, it definitely feels like more black men date interracially than typically black women. Though I am seeing an increase in that. I’m definitely seeing more black women talking about being open to dating other people. I really appreciated what you said around how sometimes certain things are proxies for our values. Because we are both black, does that mean we have a commitment to family? Or our faith or spirituality practices are the same? They could be, but not necessarily, and so I do think that that's something to keep in mind. I don't know that I've heard that described that way and I would imagine a lot of community members haven't heard that either.

Damona: Yeah, I mean, I'm black and Jewish–a lot of people don't assume that. I have many different faiths within my family. My brother-in-law is married to an Indian woman, my dad is remarried to a Mexican American woman, and I really feel like my life is enhanced. As an American, my life is enhanced by having people of different cultures and different backgrounds in my world. I learn about them, I get to experience. I get to have chicken tikka masala on Thanksgiving; that's exciting to me. Like I love that. I do feel like black women have a burden in our culture on black women to be like the carriers of culture and I think some of that is passed down from prior generations.

All I aim to do is to have people get really clear on what is important to you. Is it important to you to have a black family, to have a black man? Or is it important to you to have someone who supports you in infusing black culture into your children, in sharing your faith, in being comfortable in celebrating your black family, even if they are not of the same culture? It's interesting when we start asking some of these questions. I actually wrote an article for The Washington Post about this, back in 2020. June of 2020, you may remember that time?

One of my friends and colleagues who's a matchmaker had asked a question in a matchmaker dating coach: Is it racist if my client only will date their own race? And I was really surprised to hear some of the answers because most of my friends and colleagues were like, no, that's just preference. That's just their preference. That's what they prefer to date. And I said, well, it's kind of. The definition of racial bias is to have certain beliefs about people just because of the color of their skin. So I have all of my clients do this process to really get clear on what they actually believe and what's important to them, and separate it from what they may have inherited from their community or from their family.

Like if a white client comes to me, and a lot of times, it's not overt. They'll just only check white. On the dating app, you can say what your race is and what race you're looking for, and it's very curious to me when I see that. I'll say why? And we'll do this business technique, the five why's, and we'll unpack it. Like why is that? Well, why is that? Well, I just never dated anyone black. Well, why? Well, because I didn't know anyone black. Well, why? Well, because there was no one black in my neighborhood. Well, why? Well, because, oh, redlining. I mean, usually the answer to all questions is probably racism in America, but the process of uncovering that is very interesting to me. I got a lot of hate mail, not gonna lie, I got a lot of people that were really triggered by what I wrote. But I got a lot of people that said, I never looked at it that way and these choices that I made... I didn't even realize my preference for someone of my same race or culture, it's not just my own choice, it's not by chance. It is actually a product of the environment that we live in.

Dr. Joy: Damona, we can spend a lot of time here and we may need to schedule a part two because I have a lot more questions, I don't want to ask that. But I know we're running out of time and so I want to make sure we get into some of these other things. I have a few lightning round questions that I want to ask you for your hot takes on. What are the top three online dating red flags that you see?

Damona: Top three red flags. Incomplete profiles. Like if they just have a couple of words, no good. If they have old photos. We all have crisp digital quality cameras in our phones; there's no excuse for an old grainy, pixelated photo. And anyone who says that they want something different from what you want, you're not going to change them. If you want kids and they say “kids maybe someday or no,” they really mean that–take them at their word.

Dr. Joy: Okay. Who pays for the first date?

Damona: Oh, this is a really complicated question. You ask me this on a lightning round! For most people, it is the man pays for the first date. A lot of my Dates & Mates listeners also now, and actually we are seeing in OkCupid, more people are open to dating other genders, so it's a little more complicated. Then I say “whoever asks, pays for the date.” But we are seeing a major trend in people wanting to split, to go Dutch, and it doesn't mean what it used to. It used to mean he's not interested or that he's broke, and that's no longer what it means. I know this is a lightning round question but I had to give you more.

Dr. Joy: That’s okay. The final one is, is there a perfect text message response time? Is there a certain amount of time you need to wait, or is there a certain amount of time at which you’ve waited too long to respond to a message?

Damona: Twenty-four hours is the clock I usually put on it. Most texts are sent within 90 seconds, so in dating it's a little bit different. You don't want to be too eager but if you wait more than 24 hours to respond to someone, you might have missed the boat.

Dr. Joy: Okay. And then finally, this is not a lightning round, but what are three tips that you would like the listeners to take away from your conversation today?

Damona: Authenticity is everything and that's really the foundation of what I've been teaching people for the last 15 years. That the more that you bring your authentic self to the table, the better you'll be able to find someone who appreciates everything that you are. Especially as black women, we get so many messages about what is the standard of beauty and what we need to be to be lovable, dateable, attractive, sexy. Once I was able to set that aside, I was able to meet someone who really saw me and wanted me. And so that's really the foundation of everything that we've talked about–to bring your authentic self to the table and really celebrate that and let that be the magnet that draws the matches to you. That was my first tip, you asked me for more.

On Dates & Mates, I've been talking a lot about empathetic dating and this is something that I really feel like is missing. I don't have any OkCupid data on it but it's something I'm really curious about. Because I feel like, as the speed of dating has increased, it's become more transactional, and we've forgotten that we are people with feelings and we're dealing with people that we're meeting with feelings. I'm really trying to encourage my listeners and clients to bring more empathy to the table and I know you know a thing or two about that. See what happens–if you bring more empathy, you may receive more empathy in return.

Dr. Joy: Love it. Do you have a third one or are those two perfect?

Damona: The third one is to also make time to love yourself, and I'm not saying that like in a graphic way. But this is something that I've realized a lot of my clients are missing. They do so much for other people, they take care of their family, they take care of people at work, they give so much effort out. And then when we date from a place of like we're missing something or we haven't really figured out what lights us up, then it always ends up feeling empty. So really take the time. I actually did this with my coach. Before I met my husband, I was working with a life coach and she had me go on these dates with myself. I had to spend three hours by myself and schedule time as if I was scheduling it with another person. That completely transformed me and helped me figure out really what made me tick, what I enjoyed, so that I could then articulate that to possible matches. And I could come from a place of knowledge about myself and not be subject to the whims of whomever I met changing me into what they needed me to be. I could just be me.

Dr. Joy: I like that. Where can we stay connected with you, Damona? What is your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share?

Damona: My website is DatesAndMates.com, it's also the name of my podcast. And actually, at DatesAndMates.com, I have a free profile starter kit. If you're like, I liked what Damona had to say about the three C's but I need a little bit more, it's literally just a free kit that helps you get online quickly and do all of the things to your profile that will bring in the right kind of dates. And then I am on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, @DamonaHoffman. And if you're looking for a dating app, check out OKCupid. It’s free.

Dr. Joy: We'll be sure to include all of that in our show notes. Thank you so much for the wealth of information today, Damona. I really appreciate it.

Damona: Thank you so much, Dr. Joy. I love the work that you do. I’ve followed the podcast for many years and it's just an honor to be here and share space with you.

Dr. Joy: Thank you, thank you so much. I'm so glad Damona was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her or to check out her podcast, be sure to visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session260. And be sure to text two of your girls right now and tell them to check out the episode. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory.

If you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis, and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.