A Belle in Brooklyn's Advice at The Root
Ask Demetria: Tired of scare tactics posing as relationship help? So is our new weekly advice columnist.
There has never been a time in my life when I wasn't considered the go-to girl for dating and relationship advice. When my elementary school friends got their first crushes and wondered if a boy liked them back, I was ready with a solution: Send a note asking if he likes you, and ask him to check yes or check no. Not exactly original, but there's no sense in reinventing the wheel if it works.
Over the years, from the occasion of their first kisses in junior high to their first heartbreaks in high school and bad (and good) dates in college, my friends continued to turn to me. I've taken late-night calls through engagements and marriages, and even a few divorces. I've been the one everyone turns to -- and when I say everyone, I mean women, men, my parents, my friend's parents, relatives, co-workers, celebrities and, these days, complete strangers, too.
It hasn't mattered that I'm not an always-with-a-boyfriend type, and at times have swapped out dudes like I do the Louis Vuitton Speedys. Nor is it important that I'm not married, or that I don't even take my own advice all of the time. Any expert who tells you she does is lying. What matters more than my marital status is the quality of my advice, which runs the gamut of approaches:
Logical: "So, you really think because you're single at 30, you'll be single for the next 50 years of your life? Like no one, ever, will come along?"
Practical: "Your man hasn't taken you where you want to go? OK, tell him you want him to take you, and tell him what time and day." (If he still doesn't do it, he just doesn't want to go, or worse, this is the first sign that it's the beginning of the end.)
Blunt: "Don't clean it up. You're a sidepiece. Second place. You take leftovers. It's your life, live it how you feel. But own it, if you're going to do it."
Optimistic: "The stats are what they are. But you are one woman looking for one man. I'm unclear on why it isn't possible for you to find him."
Empowering: "OK, so I know what she wants, but what do you want?"
I started off winging it, of course. But then my interests led to a job as an editor at Harlequin, the romance-novel publisher, where studying, dissecting and researching the ins and outs of relationships was as much a part of the job as actually editing manuscripts.
Oddly enough, reading all of the mishaps of fictional characters that mirrored reality way too well made me better at understanding what could be going awry with relationships. I realized early on that most plot conflicts were based on someone being afraid of rejection or not having the confidence to ask for what she or he really wanted. The relationships were always put in jeopardy because of bad communication. How much easier life could be -- in fiction and reality -- if people just said what they meant.