Blacks seeking relationships often only meet challenges

November 25, 1993|By Rachel L. Jones | Rachel L. Jones,Knight-Ridder News Service

You don't have to tell Chris Robinson how hard it is to meet a nice, old-fashioned girl these days. The woman in front of the elevator at Detroit's Omni Fitness Center pretty much cinched it for him.

"She was just standing there, looking at me," says Mr. Robinson, a 34-year-old trainer and bodybuilder at the Omni. "She had on one of these short-cropped tops, and then all of a sudden she raised her arms, and you could see she wasn't wearing a bra. Then she smiled."

Women often respond enthusiastically to Mr. Robinson's muscular physique, but this was too much. "I mean, I don't know what she was trying to prove, or what she expected me to do. But then the elevator came, and she got on it."

Mr. Robinson says he doesn't expect the impossible. He just wants a woman who's motivated, with some strong goals she's working hard to achieve. She has to have a good sense of humor, and she has to know the importance of staying healthy and fit.

He has even less luck finding true love at his second job, as a bouncer at Legend's night club in downtown Detroit.

"I go home alone every night," Mr. Robinson says. "A lot of those women, you see them there every weekend. All they're looking for is somebody to buy them a drink and take them home. I want more than that from a woman."

Mr. Robinson's dilemma may be heightened by some harsh demographic realities for single black men and women in the '90s. He has been divorced since 1988, having grown apart from a woman he fell in love with at first sight 14 years ago.

Census figures say 66 percent of black marriages end in divorce, compared to 50 percent of marriages between whites. And though Mr. Robinson wants to remarry someday, statistics say that only one of three black men and women who divorce ever remarry.

Those numbers are just the first piece of the puzzle for black singles in America. Issues like AIDS, social status and compatible finances make it difficult for singles of all races to play the dating game. But Dr. Larry E. Davis says black men and women have it just a little bit harder.

That's why he wrote what he calls the only self-help dating guide written specifically for black men and women. "Black and Single: Meeting and Choosing a Partner Who's Right For You" (Noble Press, $10.95) hit the bookstores last month.

"The biggest battle I had in writing this book was with publishers," says Mr. Davis, an associate professor of social work and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. "They all asked, 'Why are you writing a book for black singles? Aren't all people's dating problems the same?' But if I was writing a book about black on black violence or black families, nobody would blink an eye. If you can believe there's a difference in these other areas, why can't you believe that dating among blacks is different?"

Mr. Davis suggests black singles need to analyze their RMV -- Romantic Market Value. Singles must devote some hard-nosed analysis to what they bring to the table, strengths and weaknesses, and use this information as a guide when they're making choices.

Don't aim too high -- or too low, Mr. Davis says.

"People are very deliberate about their romantic choices, and they should be," Mr. Davis says. "Romance is not a random act. Sometimes we tell black women they should broaden their parameters, which they often interpret as lowering their standards. But the truth often is that the black woman is not just looking for a college degree. She's looking for the exposure to certain things that education brings."

Mr. Davis acknowledges the unique differences black singles face. Chapter 4 is titled "The Importance of Color and Beauty," and delves into one of those "hush-hush" issues in the black community -- how skin color sometimes plays at least a subconscious role in choosing potential partners.

Because weighing a potential mate's RMV often depends heavily on outward appearance, Mr. Davis says blacks should beware of making decisions based solely on skin color: "You would be crazy to pass up a potentially great partner just because he or she doesn't look like that image you've carried around in your head."

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