“Dear Black women, love exists for us too and I can prove it”

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Author Lisa Bent on her search for love, via several dating apps, and how being single inspired her new book Symona’s Still Single. 

My dating life has been like a dripping tap without rhythm or constant flow. 

I’ve always written and shared my thoughts and opinion on panels, blogs and Facebook. However, I noticed that whenever I shared anything dating related, my page would be filled with comments and likes. Then on on 6 December 2017, I wrote this on my Facebook page: 

“Ladies, you will be so proud of me. Saw a dude, checked him out. I smiled and walked past. Turned back, he is still there looking at me. I walked back and introduced myself. He shook my hand and the compliments were flowing. I found out his age, status, got his number and I must say, Mr. TK Maxx, 6ft, 40, single, with beautiful dreads has made my day. Don’t expect an update with this one…okay maybe. x”

I called him Mr. TK Maxx because I met him outside TK Maxx and as much as I like sharing, I’m also private, so I always hid actual names. This post gained 45 comments and 104 likes – not influencer level by any means, but enough to show me how much interest there is around finding love. We ended up dating and the encounter inspired me and he appears in my new novel (embellished a bit of course).

Dating apps have taken over the world. Why risk face-to-face rejection when you can just chill behind a screen and swipe right or left? I get it. It’s a whole new experience and one that took me a while to get into because I like the idea of destiny in the discussion of love – two people crossing paths, a glimpse caught, a smile exchanged and a conversation beginning. I blame the movies. 

I felt dating apps took the magic away but I signed up reluctantly anyway as I didn’t want to be left out. Then, I noticed while my white friends were going on dates left, right and centre, me and many of my Black friends weren’t having the same amount of luck. I would guess the pool of men was smaller. I could swipe left 14 times before I spotted a Black guy (my preference). Then there’s the danger of swiping too fast, and mistakenly rejecting someone. All my friends identified with this along with the fact that your index finger will hurt and you have to treat the process in the same way you would when looking for a job. Once matched, you could be unmatched for the smallest thing and the pace of things from match to date really surprised me. What happened to courtship? Dating apps made me feel old.

I knew something was wrong with my attitude when a beautiful man sat next to me on the bus and I couldn’t bring myself to start a conversation. I sat there willing myself to do it and I just couldn’t. Instead, as soon as he got off the bus, I jumped onto Happn, a dating app that gives you a second chance to connect. I didn’t find him but that day back in 2014, I questioned my ability to approach men. I had to acknowledge how much power I gave away by expecting men to take the lead. That’s a lot of power especially in a patriarchal society. My whole journey of love placed in their hands? I decided to become more courageous and learn to do what I expected of men. 

I tried speed dating, blind dating, I went to dating events and of course signed up to a range of dating apps. Still, I’ve only ever been on one date from a dating app – my success rate was low. He was a really cool guy, but there was no spark. We both agreed on that. I saw him on First Dates about four months later, which was surreal.

I’ve always known what I wanted, based on how I wanted to feel. I was consciously single for a long time before I actively began to look. The time was necessary to get my boundaries in place and develop self-worth. I went on holidays and had great times with friends. Then I blinked and turned 35. I wondered, ‘Can I find a man and have a baby before 40?’ ‘What is my egg count?’ I felt like I was having a mini crisis.  

I always knew I had a book in me but a romance novel? I never saw that coming. In hindsight it was obvious. I began writing a memoir to shed some light on this emotional rollercoaster ride of being single to give voice to the 30-something women. The book has been inspired by my experiences, friends in similar situations, articles and American Black romantic films such as Love And Basketball and Love Jones, which displayed a more loving union. A romance novel was born and follows the journey of Symona Brown, a 37-year old Black woman from south London. In her pursuit of love, she learns new lessons and different answers. 

As for me, I am no longer single. I met my S.O at an event, he approached me – yes!  What I love about him is there is a drive to be and show up as the best version of himself which mirrors my core values. As individuals, coming together in a partnership, we are conscious to give no room for toxic masculinity and outdated patriarchal ideals. And it’s working – we live together and have been dating for 17 months. He is what I call in the book, a “modern man”, emotionally intelligent, loving and funny.

Lisa Bent’s new novel Symona’s Still Single is out now.

Images: Lisa Bent, photographed by Arnab Ghosal at Kindred

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