I have two great guys I've known for a while who are into me, but I'm not feeling either of them. I just feel guilty that I don't want to give them a chance when they are such great men. I just don't like them the way I feel I should for a relationship. What to do? —C.M.
If these were men you'd recently met and didn't know well, I'd say give them at least a couple of dates to get to know them better, since sometimes it takes a few encounters to build chemistry or interest. Not every guy is an expert at wooing women, and some need a little time to get over their jitters — yes, men have them, too, when they really like someone.
But you've known these guys "for a while," have had a chance to feel them out and still don't like them the way you feel you should. Let them know that you appreciate their interest but don't feel the same. Tell them this as soon as possible so they don't feel misled and your current friendship has a better chance of remaining intact.
Now, about your guilt. There's no logical reason to feel that way. Only you can determine who the right person is for you and what is the right feeling to have about him. As a single woman, even one who may want to be in a relationship, there is nothing wrong with being choosy about whom you date.
Being a good guy is not the same as being the right guy, and being good doesn't always mean good enough. Be selective. Single doesn't mean desperate. You're a woman who wants a partner, not a dive bar where anyone sober with a shirt and shoes gets serviced.
This may go against the tide of some of the advice you've heard about dating, hence your uncertainty about turning down good men. Black women tend to be raised with the idea that there is a Man Shortage; as such, if you meet one who's "good," you hold on to him like a Cabbage Patch doll circa Christmas season 1983.
The blaring statistic about 42 percent of black women being single only made the hysteria worse, with respectable media outlets making charts and graphs about how unlikely an educated black woman is to get married — which, for the record, isn't true.
In fact, the more educated you are, the more likely you are to marry, according to Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., a Howard University professor and research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; and Bryant Marks, a psychology professor at Morehouse College and faculty associate at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. And there's this: Seventy-five percent of black women have married at least once by age 35.
If there's someone who's interested in you and you don't feel the same, don't be frightened into thinking this is your last shot on earth for love. The odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that you will find it.
The charge about being picky has merit for some women. There are those of us who have long lists of what we require in a man, and it reads more like what we'd look for in a job candidate or a model casting than in a romantic partner. But I find that this type of woman is overrepresented in conversations about what women need to "fix" to increase their dating odds.
As a dating and relationship coach with a clientele of mostly women, I find that a good portion of women are looking for core basics — honesty, respect, consistency, reciprocity, attraction (newsflash: Sex is important to women, too) and fidelity — not the 6-foot-3-inch, BMW-driving, hella-fine corporate exec with the good credit and a bought house who's always touted as being at the top of our lists.
Somehow, the advice to the rare über-picky women about scaling back their lists (if yours is longer than 10 items and includes more than two superficial items, it's time to re-evaluate and reduce) got applied to women with reasonable expectations. So we're very clear: Expecting to "like a man the way I feel I should" isn't asking for too much or even all that much.
Unless you're one of those women who want to be in a relationship just to be in one, take your time to meet a person whom you actually want for a partner. If you've been fortunate enough to attract the interest of two "great" men, have faith that you can attract a few more and that one of them will be not just a good guy but the right one for you, too.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.