You might want to skip the new season of VH1’s “Single Ladies” if you really want to know what it’s like trying to get a man in Atlanta.
I have it on good authority that “Being Mary Jane,” the BET series that stars Gabrielle Union, is more like it.
Union plays a successful cable news anchor who has a closet packed with designer clothes and shoes, beautiful home, nice car, and the drive to take her career to higher heights. Yet something is missing.
If it were real life, it’d describe Alisa Henderson’s life exactly, and I suspect a whole lot of other single ladies.
Not unlike the Mary Jane character, life is great for Henderson and then she’s confronted with yet another weekend with no particular man to, well, take her out occasionally.
“To me Friday night is date night,” Henderson said.
She isn’t counting but it would seem Fridays are missing from the calendar. All the single ladies know what that’s like.
“It’s dead now,” Henderson said. “I’m not meeting anyone. I like to go out and dance, but I won’t do it alone.”
The 52-year-old divorcee seems suspended between the proverbial rock and a hard place or more precisely the imbalance in Atlanta’s male-female ratio. There are 80,000 more single women than men in Atlanta, ages 18-64, one of the largest gaps in the country. And the large gay male population in Atlanta creates an additional challenge for single women.
Here’s the thing. Single men are the equivalent of those five 40-inch flat-screen televisions at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Even an Emerson can seem like a bargain if the Sonys are all gone. And according to relationship expert Leslie Neland, it’s the same way with men. The men who have very little to offer begin to see themselves as a “catch” and feel as if there is an abundance of women to choose from.
“The really sad part in this scenario is women believe there is an actual shortage of men, which then causes them to be more tolerant of a man’s bad behavior just to have companionship,” Neland said.
Henderson is the mother of a 26-year-old independent son. When she eats, everyone in her entire household has eaten. She has spent the last 20 years working for the same media company. She’s smart and has a large circle of girlfriends of all colors, shapes and sizes. Even straight women might find her attractive. Unfortunately, the last time she went on a date was six months ago, when she connected with an Atlanta police officer on Match.com.
“There are some fine men on Match.com,” Henderson almost sings. “I mean fine.”
The police officer was, too. They enjoyed three “wonderful” dates last November and then the screen faded to black. On Dec. 2, he reappeared via text. “Hi, sunshine!”
Then, he was gone again until Christmas Day. “Merry Christmas … I didn’t mean to pull a Houdini. I’m sorry.”
Henderson responded but the silence persisted until New Year’s Day.
I hear this strange, poor communication dance happens a lot; that men would rather text than have a serious conversation. I’ve heard the same frustration among my own single friends. Men haven’t changed that much.
Steve Harvey has suggested women act like a woman and think like a man, but really, what sane, mature woman would want to indulge in that sort of cat and mouse? I had a single friend tell me once that when she tired of texting her guy, she decided to dial him up but he wouldn’t answer. Seriously?
He clearly had his phone in his hand, she said, clearly flummoxed.
My sister Jo likes to talk about that time in her life when she played the field, but generally women aren’t wired that way. Henderson isn’t, but if her son is any indication, men haven’t changed much.
“Why just eat pork chops, when you can have shrimp and steak?” he’s asked her more than once.
There are ways women can get around the monopoly board. Neland, author of “Finding Mr. Forever,” says, “First, women should set standards for themselves. Second, they must identify the type of individual they feel best suits them. When they encounter this person, they will recognize them as the ‘type’ of man who is a potential mate.”
One other thing. Neland has a formula she likes to refer to as the 3 L’s: List. Location. Love.
The list should consist of the most important qualities and attributes that you want your Mr. Forever to possess. Be specific and list no fewer than five, but no more than 10. Once you determine the type of man you’re interested in, you must be proactive in locating him. If you want a doctor, for instance, attend medical conferences or places where doctors frequent. Though it sounds cliche, a woman must love herself first.
“Men learn how to treat us by watching the way we treat ourselves,” she said. “Be good to yourself … always.”
Henderson knows how to do that. The question is should she wait until the text man with poor communication skills figures that out.
“It’s just a crapshoot,” she said.
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST
Gracie Bonds Staples is an award-winning journalist who has been writing for daily newspapers since 1979, when she graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. She joined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2000 after stints at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Sacramento Bee, Raleigh Times and two Mississippi dailies. Staples was recently promoted to Senior Features Enterprise Writer. Look for her columns Thursdays and Saturdays in Living and alternating Sundays in Metro.
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