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  • Writer's pictureDr. Speshal Walker Gautier a.k.a. Dr. Spesh

Sis: A Collection of Open Love Letters to Black Women Looking for Love

Updated: May 22

When I was 22, I suddenly found myself single with absolutely no clue about adult dating.  I was less than one year into my graduate studies as an aspiring psychologist and up until then my only concept of dating was at the collegiate level, not the big leagues. Ironically it was kind of like the transition from undergrad to grad school. In retrospect, these were coexisting areas of my life where I was trying to appear competent but in reality, I had no idea what I was doing. After working through the heartbreaking end of a 3-year relationship, I realized that I had learned a lot of invaluable lessons and information in college, yet How to Date 101 was not part of the curriculum.  You see in college, there was this built-in infrastructure of social interactions and potential romantic pursuits. You know between classes, parties, dorms, dining halls, and the rise of social media, the opportunities were bountiful all within the bounds of campus or even some neighboring college.  All it took was one “what dining hall are you eating breakfast at?” or “do you want to study for midterms together?” and boom off to college romance you go without any real concept of dating. Sure we did a lot of “kicking it,” a synonym for today’s “Netflix and chill,” but whatever you call it the courtship experienced by our pre-adult selves is unique and not an accurate representation of how we meet, get to know one another, and fall in love as adults.

For many of us, our college loves, or high school sweethearts did not quite pan out, and while bittersweet, it's often the mere reality of mismatched partnership along our ongoing path to becoming the next versions of ourselves. There is an exciting yet harsh reality that dating as a “grown-up” is intricate, as if figuring out adulting isn’t already hard enough.  When it was time to face this reality, I found myself wishing there was some book, guide, or cheat code that would help me survive and thrive in this new reality.  While there were several catchy dating and self-help books making waves, I couldn’t help but notice that they were often written by men and seemed to be focused on how women need to be better at “getting,” and “keeping” a partner all the while being good at deciphering when said partner in pursuit is not actually interested in you at all.  The glaring focus seemed to be on being “chosen” rather than “choosing” for ourselves and there wasn’t much out there written by women who might impart their experiential knowledge upon us.  To make matters even worse, as a young Black woman, I found these problematic dating messages existed in a context where I was also being told that I was statistically doomed with regard to finding romance. According to these messages, if I stood any chance, I would need to be more feminine and a little less independent to “allow” someone to be a partner and provider.  Although I couldn’t entirely put my finger on it back then, something beyond the glaring patriarchy did not quite feel right about these narratives.

Looking back it makes sense that I tried to understand dating by poring over various texts, after all, I was a bit of a nerd who valued the process of acquiring helpful knowledge.  Though ultimately, I would come to realize that what I needed was quite complex and could only be found by better understanding myself within a larger cultural context.  This type of knowledge was acquired through learning deeply about myself through therapy along with my academic studies in psychology which together helped me to make sense of the unique challenges faced by Black women when it comes to relationships and emotional intimacy.  Now I always say that everyone has their own story and I realize that this is mine, but I remember wishing that some of the dating advice I pored over would speak to me as a young a Black woman.  In other words, I wished that someone who actually “got me” was authoring and imparting knowledge in the form of one of these dating guides, you know like a Black girl’s dating edition.  So as one of my respected colleagues sometimes says, “I’m going to write what I want to read” or in this case what my 20-something self wanted to read. My hope is that these words might be helpful for Black women trying to understand more about themselves when it comes to dating, love, and relationships. Spoiler alert my dating chronicles ended in 2011 when I met the love of my life to whom I am now happily married. However, I believe there is value in what my 30-something, married, psychologist, self would say to the decade younger version of me and I have decided to share these love letters with you. These letters are for Black women looking for love. These letters are for you, Sis.

*Dr. Spesh is an Atlanta based Clinical Psychologist, blogger, and diversity consultant.*

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