When I moved to New York City in March of 2008, I thought my life would look a lot like Carrie Bradshaw’s from HBO’s “Sex and the City.” My social life wouldn’t be as glamorous, but at least I would have a large dating pool to choose from with so many available men living in the big city.
As it turned out, during my three years of living there, I dated three guys. Yes, one for each year I lived there. Two of the men I found on dating apps and one I met while working on a movie set. Each of these dating experiences had a short expiration date. I found myself spending more time with my friends at lunch and dinner dates and eventually gave up on finding my own Mr. Big.
It’s true that “Sex and the City” set unrealistic expectations for all women, but that’s especially true for a black woman like myself. The four main white characters on “SATC” enjoyed a very different kind of dating experience, partly because of their race. While their lives weren’t without disappointment, the entire quartet had multiple dating options — and orgasms — throughout its six-year run.
Thankfully, there’s a new HBO show that illustrates what dating life is really like for a woman of color. Following the misadventures of Issa Dee and her best friend Molly Carter, “Insecure” exposes the comedy and tragedy of two black women and their pals trying to find love and happiness in Los Angeles.
Social worker Issa, played by Emmy nominee Issa Rae, finds love and perpetually loses it. Molly, meanwhile, is a high-powered attorney who appears to be the epitome of success but is incredibly lacking in confidence. She’s envious of her Asian co-worker’s healthy relationship with her black boyfriend and feels self-pity over her shortcomings as a single woman. I, too, am a relatively successful, highly educated professional (with a master’s degree) and have felt the same envy and shame at my inability to find a partner.
This is a problem faced by women from all demographics, yes, but particularly by highly educated black women. Research shows that American men and women tend to date and marry people who have similar levels of income and education. And according to the National Center for Education Statistics, black women earned 68 percent of associate’s degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of master’s degrees and 65 percent of all doctorate degrees awarded to black students between 2009 and 2010.
This can lead to an imbalance in employment, something Issa faces with her on-off boyfriend Lawrence, who is out of work until he finds a job at a store like Best Buy. While her other fling, Daniel, is a music producer, he’s hardly the millionaire dream man epitomized by Mr. Big.
And that’s not all.
Between 2009-2014, the dating app OkCupid conducted studies of its platform, which showed that black women were less likely to receive overtures from men compared to Latina, Asian and white women. The studies also showed that while non-black men preferred to date white women or non-black women, black men had little racial preference.
Black women, meanwhile, are more likely to date within their race. Only 12 percent of newlywed black women in 2015 chose to intermarry, according to the Pew Research Center.
I personally have no racial preference when it comes to dating, but if you are a black woman who has to choose from a pool of men with little racial preference, your options are limited.
As a consequence, fewer black women are marrying than their counterparts in any other racial group. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that while nearly 90 percent of white women and 80 percent of Hispanic women had been married at least once by their early 40s, fewer than two-thirds of black women have wed by the time they reach that age.
Perhaps that’s why Molly is so anxious about her future. There is a very real possibility that she could be single for life.
The good news is that a program like “Insecure” is showing for the first time how hard it is for women like me to make a connection, let alone find a date, and it’s doing it with humor and heart. It gives me confidence to know I’m not alone and that chasing after Mr. Big — or any relationship — is a lot more fraught than the delicious little episodes of “SATC” ever made it out to be.
I’m now 38 and live in suburban Virginia Beach, a huge military town where most of the single men are frequently deployed abroad. Dating is still not easy and I’ve got a lot of work left to do. But I do know one thing for certain — like Issa, I’m at a point in my life where I’m OK being single. And, in the meantime, spending Sunday nights watching “Insecure” with a glass of wine is just what I need for my own personal bliss.