how much we should reveal to people we start dating

Let me begin by saying I’m pretty cute in the face. So I initially balked when my editors suggested that I serve as the guinea pig for a story about the top African-American matchmakers. As an HBCU alum, I couldn’t imagine what kind of Black man didn’t already have access to a bad chick with two marketable degrees, basic kitchen skills and curves that make many a brother do a double take. But after watching Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker—and paying for my own drinks one time too many—I figured I didn’t have much to lose. At 36, I’m part of the 25 percent of Black women who statistically don’t get hitched by the time they turn 35. Unlike many of my honey-hued sisters, however, I am willing to pay to play.
The Matchmaking Institute (MI), which offers certification in the art of playing  Cupid, boasts that its industry rakes in approximately $250 million annually from customers who want “professional help” meeting someone special. Most patrons are Caucasian singles, and MI estimates only 4.5 percent of its clients identify as Black. With those figures in mind, it’s not shocking that advertising and romance-based reality shows are directed toward White audiences. But with our community’s 30-percent marriage rate and record-setting numbers of college graduates, you’d think matchmakers would be lining up to service our needs. So where do African-American singles go for the chance to meet a professional who can hunt down the love of his or her life? For starters, Google.

After a quick Internet search, I found a few reputable Black matchmakers. Each of the pros offered their services to EBONY’s most eligible bachelorette, and I can confidently say that I’ve lived to tell the tale.

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Meet The Matchmakers



Theresa Lasbrey
tawkify.com/r/ebony

The Cornell alum uses her  Ivy League connections to track down the nation’s most eligible bachelors. Lasbrey  focuses on branding one  mantra into all of her clients: Date like you’re royalty.
Price: Packages start at $699, offering relationship coaching and matchmaking.
LOCATION: Based in New  York City; services offered nationwide

Paul C. Brunson
paulcbrunson.com

As the author of It’s Complicated (But Doesn’t Have to Be): A Modern Day Guide to Finding and Keeping Love, Brunson focuses on mind, body and soul improvement. Once he accesses that, he begins the quest for your better half.
Price: Packages start at $500, offering relationship coaching, makeovers,  matchmaking and business coaching.
LOCATION: Based in the Washington, D.C., area;  services offered nationwide

Kiki Strickland
keeshastrickland.com

Strickland is a certified dating coach whose practice includes connecting singles and hosting fun self-help classes on a variety of topics such as mastering the art of flirting.
Price: Packages start at $500, offering date coaching, matchmaking and seminars.
LOCATION: Based in the Washington, D.C., area;  services offered nationwide

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Top-Secret Mission
Theresa Lasbrey

The Consultation:
I met with Lasbrey at one of my  favorite eateries, and we talked face-to-face for more than two hours.  She probed me with questions about my dating history, self- esteem, flirting habits, family  matters and criteria for a mate.

What I Learned:
For Lasbrey, successful dating is all about the energy and outlook you bring to each encounter. Everyone is hoping to meet the “one,” but having an open mind will help you shift focus from just scoring a pretty package to connecting with a partner.

The Dates:
Lasbrey matched me with two guys. The night before each date I received an email with a name, occupation and why she thought we should connect. One really cool thing is she assigns icebreakers for each outing. For example, she may suggest that you order a drink to match your personality. My first date was with the kind of dude friends assumed I’d meet via a matchmaker: a nerdy Black guy who preferred the term “yuppie” to “buppie” and called me “Brooklyn” because I killed a bug (we were sitting outside) after watching him try to squirm away from it. He tried to kiss me on the mouth when we parted ways, but I reserve that honor for certifiable buppies. I gave him the cheek, he smelled my neck, and now we text periodically. The second guy was a brother in finance with an adorable face and impressive teeth (I have a thing for that). After an awkward 15 minutes, we settled into a real conversation about family, dating and math, of all things. No love connection, but a good time nonetheless. Lasbrey’s services didn’t end there. She also invited me to a networking event where I met an attractive single Alpha Phi Alpha man (my preferred frat). And although it was no love match, he’s a solid  connection.

The Art of Being Matched
Paul C. Brunson

The Consultation:
Since I’m in New York City, Brunson and I elected to have a Skype session for my intake process. He grilled me on all facets of my life, from career to dating habits, and his team spoke to three of my friends and even to one of my exes. Next, I had a three-hour session with a style and image consultant on ways to improve my hair, makeup and wardrobe choices.  After the fairy dust settled, Brunson presented me with a report card-like statement listing three potentials dates, including their photos, likes, dislikes and love language. He walked me through rating each individual, asked for my pick and offered his own. Luckily, we selected the same guy.

What I Learned:
The team hit me with tons of facts about dating, including the percentage of singles who are searching for love and the top four things that attract a man. (Rule No. 1 is to wear perfume. Rule No. 2 is to show off your figure—I did both.)I also learned more about male-female perspectives and how to evaluate compatibility for the long term. One of the best pointers was that a person should date several individuals who meet his or her standards at the same time to help differentiate desperation from a true win.

The Dates:
We both chose the guy Brunson refers to as “the rocket scientist.” In truth, I glossed over the brother’s convoluted list of degrees when I saw his love language: quality time. His relationship fault? Giving too much. (Sounded like a man I needed to meet.) He was 6 feet 4 inches tall, had guy-next-door looks and was of medium weight. I expected a giant teddy bear with a bit of wit and lots of hugs; he was more like a lion in heat. Assertive. Demanding. Hilarious. Apparently, rocket scientists go after what they want. This man didn’t hide the fact that he was into me the moment we met. We dined at his favorite restaurant, then walked along a man-made beach. We talked, but there were also moments of amiable silence. And he sure was bossy! He lobbed as many directives as he did compliments. Overall, I had a great time—even when he bit my neck during our goodbye embrace (the perfume). He was a solid match.

Check for me
Kiki Strickland

The Consultation:
I was patting away tears 10 minutes into my Skype session with Strickland, who used her life-coaching expertise to coax me into talking about family, career and why I’m still single. Surprisingly, she also asked me about my STD status. Her approach to vetting was conversational but deliberate. She didn’t just inquire about what I liked; she focused on what I needed to complement my personality.

What I Learned:
Strickland got me to discuss and assess my wants versus my needs. The biggest eye-opener was making me reconsider my lack of accessibility. I asked myself: How often am I going out? What’s my body language? Who am I typically with? Do I smile enough? Contemplating these questions made me think about my approach to meeting someone new.

The Dates:
Strickland immediately set me up with two guys. I wasn’t allowed to approve my matches prior to the date and was given only their first names and a location at which to meet. The first brother seemed a bit stodgy in the beginning (think Carlton Banks’ personality and Roland Martin’s fashion sense), but after he warmed up, he was more Theo Huxtable. This fella was cute and made it a point to say he was successful and wanted to marry a Black woman. Though we met for lunch, I squeezed into a Kardashian-inspired ensemble. He liked it— I think I saw him lick his lips once or twice—but ultimately, he just wasn’t that into me. He declined a follow-up date. I wore the same dress on my second meet-up; don’t judge, it was later that day. This dude was what I call “a professional.” He grabbed my oversized bag immediately and carried it to our dining area. He complimented me in a nonsexual way. Like a gentleman, he stood up when I left the table. And most of all, he listened to what I had to say and applied it. One mention of my fondness of long walks had us on a 20-minute post-dinner stroll. As the date ended, he escorted me to my commuter train station and waited 30 minutes for my departure, only to steal a kiss on the cheek. He was a solid match.

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The Bottom Line

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on international travel, so why not invest that money in something that has the potential to add even more value to my quality of life? The process wasn’t just about finding a warm body or Prince Charming; it made me evaluate the level of effort being put into meeting my future life partner. Next, it gave me a new lens to assess my own marketability. Was I inviting? Was I confident? Had I packed and stowed my baggage?

If you’re looking to hire a pro, focus on two things: inventory and whether the matchmaker understands your needs. Hands down, the best thing about this process is that it makes you more open to casual conversation with a person you might ordinarily walk past on the street or notice at an event but never speak to. Remember, every “happily ever after” starts with a simple hello.

 



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