By Cindy E. Folson
It started with a simple question asked by a single woman who recently moved to New York, “Where in Harlem can we go to meet single men?”
When I made the decision to move from Detroit to New York last year, I researched jobs, housing, cost of living, etc. I knew I’d have to adjust to taking trains, ferries and buses instead of driving my car everywhere. I also figured I’d have to trade in my tiny clutches for bigger purses to carry heels in and be able to walk long distances at a fast pace on a daily basis. But I failed to take into consideration the adjustments I’d have to make in terms of dating in the Big Apple.
To gain a better understanding of the dating scene and habits of New Yorkers, I gathered together a few friends who live, work, and play in Harlem at Moca Bar (2110 Frederick Douglas Blvd., at 116th Street) to share their thoughts and experiences. Here’s what I learned…
When it comes to the dating scene in Harlem, opinions were mixed depending on what side of the gender line you fall on and the length of time the individuals have lived in New York. According to Akilah Williams, a business development consultant originally from Chicago who has been living in Harlem for the past two years, Harlem provides the perfect backdrop for dating with its blend of trendy and historic lounges and abundance of singles in the area. However, Jermaine Smith, playwright and co-host of “The Jay Everyday” online radio show, living in Harlem for three years and working there for 16 made him feel that the dating options are sub par due to poor communication and lack of honesty from both men and women. Comedian, writer, and producer Hadiyah Robinson, a Detroit native and 11 year Brooklyn resident, sided with Smith. She drew on her experiences performing at comedy shows in the area, but stated the issues expand beyond Harlem.
“Dating period is tough. You have to be in it for the long haul if you’re going to get anything out of it,” said Robinson. “Meeting somebody and falling in love…I don’t think that’s kind of where we are right now.”
While Robinson doesn’t feel like she is in the right place in her life for a relationship she is still open to dating, but continues to keep her guard up. Williams on the other hand, views dating in a fun way.
“Either it’s good, you have a good experience or you have a good story to tell your friends later,” she said. However, she also said that she isn’t ready for a relationship right now, but that may change with the weather. Right now she is enjoying the fun in the sun, but is more willing to give relationships a second thought when the temperatures drop so she can have someone to keep her warm during the cold winter nights.
Jermaine took the conversation a deeper stating that he isn’t dating just to date and would like his next relationship to be his last. Because of his demanding schedule with a full time job, being a parent and pursuing his dream as a playwright, his time is limited and he is only open to serious options.
“In my aspect, I’m shaving from another area of my life and I can’t cut back from my job. I can’t cut back from being a parent. The only thing I can cut back from then is my dream,” said Smith. “So if I’m going to cut back from my dream, then the relationship or dating has to be serious.”
Focusing on dreams was one of the leading answers given when the three were asked why they were single. Hadiyah shared that when she likes someone, she tends to want to spend large amounts of time with them, but in order for her to pursue her dream to be a comedian, she needs to have to tunnel vision.
“I can’t afford to miss shows. I can’t afford to miss other opportunities that sometimes a relationship can hold you back from,” Robinson said.
Similarly, Akilah agreed that she would rather work on becoming more stable in her career before she settles down and stated while this career driven mentality was one she’d typically observed in men she now sees more of her female friends adapting this behavior
The second most common reason shared for their deliberate singleness was working on one’s self. Akilah stated that she enjoys being single because it gives her time to work on herself without anyone else’s opinions. Jermaine agreed that being alone does provide time for self improvement, but believes it is best done in a relationship so that you have someone to shine the light on the areas that need improvement. He also believes that while it’s great for individuals to be established in their careers and have their own; sometimes you have to grow with a person in order to get where you want to be. He stated that now days, people want things so fast, but they may meet someone on their way up, or between jobs. Sometimes their role may just be to prepare them for someone else and make the person better than the way you found them.
Once the three have reached comfortable places in their careers and with themselves, they have certain requirements for the individuals they are willing to date, ranging from personal hygiene standards to proximity to personality traits to race. For Hadiyah, she is unwilling to date a man who doesn’t take care of himself or care about his appearance. All three agreed that location played a major role is in viable partners. Akilah and Hadiyah are firm believers in “intra-borough” dating meaning they prefer to date people who live in the same borough they live in. Jermaine is not restricted to women in his current borough of Brooklyn but does prefer them to be relatively close because of his affectionate personality.
In terms of race, Akilah and Jermaine would prefer to date within their own race (African American). However, Hadiyah believes that there aren’t enough options for Black women to limit their dating options to a specific race, especially since black men commonly date outside of their race.
Although Hadiyah is open about who she will date, Jermaine thinks that Hadiyah is still limiting herself by refusing to approach men.
“Women are at a strong disadvantage. Women who say they aren’t going to approach men may just be single that much longer. Times are changing.” he said.
He reasoned that some men just aren’t aggressive and some women aren’t easily approachable, which can result in a missed opportunity for both parties. Though technology and social media has made it easier for passive men to engage in and maintain relationships, the women do not see it as a viable means of courting.
“In 2010, we’ve gotten away from true dating and courtship,” Robinson said. “It’s about how can I make this as easy as possible to get exactly what I want.”
According to Williams, social media and the amount information available on the internet have added to the problem by making our worlds too personal and taken away all of the guess work. Smith also stated that technology and dating shouldn’t go hand-in-hand. Although he may text often, he still recognizes the necessity of a phone call and actual face time with the person you are dating.
“You don’t know somebody’s mood behind a text. You don’t know how they feel and I don’t know how you received it,” he said. “You have to go back to picking up the phone and be more personal.”
Of the three, none have participated in any online dating, however Williams did admit to engaging in online flirting via G-mail Chat and Facebook’s instant messenger.
Regardless to the way people date, how you meet them, where they live and what color they are or where they are in their careers, there were two characteristics that Akilah, Hadiyah and Jermaine felt were most important in any relationship: trust and honest communication.
“If I can’t communicate with you then I can’t get a chance to trust you,” said Smith.
Special thanks to Moca Lounge located at 2210 Eighth Ave., New York, NY for allowing us and Harlem World to use their space for recording and to Kori Rashon at Double EE Productions for recording this interview.
About Hadiyah Robinson
All it took was a talent showcase, a few supportive friends, and several shots of tequila to help Hadiyah realize her true calling. No, not alcoholism; stand-up comedy. Since then she has been making her presence felt in clubs, colleges, and entertainment venues around the world.
Comedy seemed to be a natural fit for Hadiyah very early on. She was a Finalist in the NBC Stand Up For Diversity showcase, a Semi Finalist in the Ladies of Laughter competition and a featured comedian in the New York Underground Comedy Festival. Hadiyah made her television debut on BET’s Comic View and returned for BET’s One Mic Stand. She was also a commentator on MTV’s Yo Momma, BET’s Do’s and Don’ts of the Hip Hop Awards, The Maury Povich Show as well as a contestant on TV One’s Get the Hookup. Her stage performance include such noted comedy clubs as Caroline’s on Broadway, Gotham, The New York Comedy Club, The Laugh Factory, and Comix. She’s even taken her act across the ocean to Amsterdam’s RAI Theater as a Queen of Comedy as well as performing for the troops in Germany and South Korea. She has worked with such noted comedians as Donnell Rawlings, Joe Torrey, Sheryl Underwood, Tess Drake, Talent, Capone and many more. She has appeared on Sirius Satellite on Jamie Foxx’s Fox Hole Radio and is apart of the 98.7 KISS FM Crank Squad and is currently a member of the Urban Hang Suite, the hottest radio talk show online which airs every Wednesday at 10p www.blogtalkradio.com/urbanhangsuite.
Before making the leap into comedy, Hadiyah was making a living as an Associate Producer at MTV. Her resume includes such television series as High School Stories, Uncensored, True Life, and P.Diddy’s Making the Band.
Today, Hadiyah has both feet planted firmly in stand-up comedy/writing and looking toward the future. Keep an eye out for her as a writer and talent on MTV’s upcoming sketch series “The Jump Off” as well as the writer/producer/director of the upcoming “The Grind” which will be airing this summer. For all upcoming shows and/or booking information please check out Hadiyah’s website: http://www.hadiyahrobinson.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Jermaine Smith
Jermaine Smith is an American playwright, director and producer. Born and raised in the rough streets of East New York, Brooklyn. Smith’s childhood has shown him the raw view of drug addiction, death and a fractured family structure. Smith was born to a mother addicted to drugs and a father who died of Cancer when Smith was 4 years of age. He spent the first twenty- seven years of his life living without God and in confusion.- It was the deep valley’s and trials in his life since the age of eight that birthed the passion for writing, and a desire to share with the world his pain.
In October of 2003, Smith’s two year old nephew, who was diagnosed with Sickle -Cell Anemia at birth, experienced a normal fever and was wrongly determined as having a Sickle-Cell attack and doctors provided him with the wrong medicine, which put him in a coma that he never woke up from. It was through that experience that God opened his mother’s eyes to be born-again as she gave her life and addiction to the Lord.
Smith decided that day that he would join her and follow this God that healed his mother and turned a tragedy into healing for his family. Smith has been growing in the Lord for the last six years and felt lead to share his healing and story of forgiveness and restoration with the world. His mother has been clean ever since she gave her life to the Lord.
To date his play “A Piece of Me” has lead eighty one souls to Christ. Smith and his mother are an everyday work in progress, destroying the resentment and bitterness that once was. Not only do they converse, they together live in God’s love and unfailing power to restore.
Jermaine is the host of “The Jay Everyday Show” which airs every Wednesday 6pm- 9pm (Eastern) EverydayRadio at www.thejayeveryday.com.
Check out the videos of the entire story:
Photography by Derrick Salters and styling by Monique Marie.
What are your dating stories?