Black Women's Improvement Project (BWIP)

Leona’s Love Quest Part III: Getting my Pretty On

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”- Miss Piggy, Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life

Making a good first impression is essential to creating a successful online profile but it seems to me that single women are under a lot more pressure to look hot than single men. Most of the men online in my preferred age range of 35-45 are seeking younger women in their prime baby-making years, and that’s some serious competition. It’s one thing to be cute enough to elicit catcalls from scrubs on the street, but grabbing the attention away from photos of twenty-somethings in bikinis is entirely something else. I’m hoping my experience and sparkling personality might, at least in some cases, give me the upper hand. Plus, I’ve always been somewhat of a fashion and beauty maven, (I can easily spend more money in Sephora in one trip than I do on groceries all week) so the advice given by Rachel Greenwald, M.B.A. in Find a Husband after 35 on “Creating My Best Look” wasn’t quite as eye opening for me as last week’s examination of my detrimental dating patterns. Still, she asks me to get feedback on my appearance, so while I won’t post any photos here to protect my anonymity, I still thought I’d share some of my views on this topic.

Clothes: I am appalled and bewildered by the overtly sexual clothing worn by younger women on any given night in Baltimore: 6” platform heels worn with fishnet stockings, skin-tight micro mini-skirts, plunging necklines and outrageous combinations of sequins, glitter and animal prints. I can’t tell the difference between the paid professionals and the amateurs walking the street. I prefer to achieve a provocative yet tasteful look by following the either/or rule of sexiness: cleavage or leg, tight or short, bold or brassy (no metallic, sequins or glitter in combination with bold colors or patterns.) Clothes look a lot better when they fit too. I might feel better about buying a smaller size, but that muffin top isn’t doing me any real favors. On the other hand, I just donated a bag of clothing that was all too big and dowdy after losing some weight. It’s hard to be sexy in baggy grandma sweaters and droopy-butt jeans.

Hair: Even if most men are attracted to the look of long, flowing hair, this is a sensitive topic for most black women. Much like the views Jamila expressed in her recent article, I too have been tempted to go militant about the choice to go natural, especially after watching Chris Rock’s documentary, “Good Hair.” I do wish more black female celebrities wore natural hairstyles in public, but I’m going to refrain from getting up on my soap box about it. Besides, I’m sure a lot of men would love to be forced to choose between Beyoncé in a golden weave, Halle Berry in her signature pixie or Amber Rose with a platinum buzz cut. And did you see Viola Davis rocking her auburn fro at the Oscars? – Absolutely stunning. I think my curly fro is appealing to men in its own way: it suits me, it’s soft to the touch and I don’t even think about it when I want to work out, go swimming or have sex. I’ll break out the flat iron if I get bored, but basically I’m happy with my hair the way it is.

Makeup: I have to admit that my less feminine hairstyle requires a little more attention to my face. Indeed, there are mornings that I look in the mirror and wonder why Lenny Kravitz is staring back at me (yeah, right-I wish!) I refuse to believe that men prefer women not to wear makeup, or at least not a lot of it, as long as they think that celebrities who wear tons of makeup are hot. However, I’m willing to concede that there’s a huge difference between how a woman appears on camera vs. up close and personal, so I try to find a happy medium. I strive for a natural yet polished look for daytime using mostly neutral colors emphasizing my eyes and my lips. For evening I’ll pump up the drama by adding more color and/or shimmer using the bold or brassy rule.

Weight: The best thing Greenwald has to say in this chapter is if I only need to lose 15-20 or less to be within optimal weight range for my height, then I shouldn’t even worry about it. Women are too hard on themselves about reaching a goal weight or size and most men have no idea how to visualize a size 6 as opposed to a 4 or an 8. I didn’t struggle with my weight until reached my early thirties when my metabolism slowed, life became a lot more sedentary and socializing became a major source of extra calories. These days, it takes a serious commitment to diet and exercise for months before I see any weight loss results. Additionally, I don’t really enjoy exercise or sports the way some people do and I truly love the entire ritual of cooking and eating. I still think a few curves are sexier than the gaunt, anorexic look of some women over 40 who could really spend some more time at the buffet table than the gym.

Femininity: As I’ve said before, I’m pretty much of a girly-girl, but femininity means different things to different men. I really hate it when women who appear to be more helpless, insecure and quirky (à la any character played by Zooey Deschanel) attract a lot of male attention. Sometimes I think having an air of independence and an advanced education turns men off. I’ve considered omitting my graduate degree from my profile, but Greenwald asserts that you shouldn’t have to lose yourself to find a husband. While I’m OK with making a few minor cosmetic and behavioral adjustments in my love quest, I see no point in downplaying what should be an asset. If a guy is intimidated by my achievements instead of attracted by it, then he’s just not my guy. However, I am taking her advice about being less aggressive in my approach to dating because I have found that men generally prefer to do the pursuing. Greenwald’s program allows for one, initial low-key contact with a man I’d like to date who hasn’t shown interest yet, but then I have to back-off until he makes the next move. This slight bending of the femininity rules is particularly valid when dealing with men who might be hesitant to approach someone outside of their race.

No new homework this week for Love in 90 days. I’ve been more active with my on-line activities than my face-to-face contact, but my efforts have only produced one actual, real-live date. I’ll fill you in on the latest developments next time.

Follow Christelyn on Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. And if you want to be a little more about this online dating thing, InterracialDatingCentral is the official dating site for this blog.