If you ask Demetria Lucas what she thinks, be prepared for a jolt of raw reality. For the past few years life coach Lucas has dished out advice on everything from bad BFFs, falling for your FWB (friend with benefits) and freaky sex at her website, A Belle in Brooklyn, and in her column, Ask Demetria, at The Root.
She pulled together some of her favorite questions, and no-holds-barred responses, for a tantalizing new book, Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love.
The Root: What does the title mean: Don’t Waste Your Pretty?
Demetria Lucas: “Pretty” is shorthand for all the resources that women take for granted in the dating marketplace and often give away to the wrong person. Your “pretty” is your energy, emotional investment, time, listening skills, nurturing, sex, sacrifices, cheerleading, hand-holding, etc. The “pretty” I refer to in the book title is also a resource, but it’s the least important of what you bring to the table. Pretty gets you noticed across the room, but it’s everything else you bring to the table that keeps a potential partner calling and coming back.
TR: A lot of what you teach is old-school values: respecting yourself, protecting your health, your well-being and your money. Do you feel your message about values is getting through?
DL: I do. A lot of women—and men—didn’t get much guidance about how to date or create healthy relationships. They don’t know what they’re supposed to do, or not. They’re just doing the best they can.
I’ve had countless people write in to say they were skeptical of my advice, but what they were doing wasn’t working, so they figured, “Why not try what Belle said? I’ll speak to my mate a little softer. I’ll ask for what I want. I’ll stop looking away when a guy makes eye contact and I’ll smile instead.” And it worked. All people want is results, and if values get that, they’re happy to embrace it.
TR: You credit your parents and their marriage a lot with your ability to sort out the rights and wrongs of relationships. Do you think most women—or most of the women you counsel—are still looking for marriage? Or do they just want a relationship, even if it’s without the ring?
DL: Absolutely, for the vast majority of my readers and clients, marriage is still the ultimate goal. The single ladies want a relationship, then a ring, then a husband and then some kids. The women in long-term relationships still want a ring. The “mothers of child” want to become wives, if not to the father of their child, then to someone. There’s great fretting about the possibility of never getting married. “Just” a relationship is not enough.
TR: When you’ve met some of these women at book signings or other events, what kinds of things do they tell you about the advice you gave them?
DL: Mostly women—and men—just say, “Thank you.” A lot of people don't have anyone to talk to about dating and relationships and just wanted someone to bounce an idea off of. Or they didn’t feel anyone would understand what they were going through until they read my column or advice page and saw other women—and men—asking similar questions and knew they weren’t alone. A woman commented recently that she looked forward to my “Question of the Day” every day because “it’s like having girl talk with a bunch of women.” There aren’t a lot of spaces where women can speak among themselves and just let loose.
There’s also a large contingent of folks in happy, healthy relationships who read my ask.fm blog and Ask Demetria columns just to pass time while they wait in line at the store or at the doctor’s office. Often people who write in return with follow-up stories, so my site and blog can get like a written soap opera. Sometimes people will come up to ask, “Whatever happened with the couple where the girl who stood up her man for his work event?” Or, “Did the lady who found out her husband got his ex pregnant take him back?”
TR: What’s the toughest question you’ve ever been asked?
DL: A young woman wrote in to ask.fm hours after she’d been sexually assaulted by her boyfriend. She was going through the full gamut of emotions, including a lot of self-blame and self-loathing, and she spilled it all in a series of very emotionally raw queries.
It was a real trigger for me because I’d been in a similar position (which I wrote about here) years prior and around the same age. I asked her to contact me, which she did. For about six months, whenever she needed someone to talk to, she called me.
I didn’t post most of her queries on my page. As a habit, I usually don’t when people contact me in the middle of a crisis. People genuinely need help and don’t know where else to turn. In seeking help, they often expose themselves more than they intend to. My goal is to help, not to exploit.
TR: After reading the tens of thousands of questions you get as life coach, are you optimistic or discouraged about the state of black love?
DL: Entirely optimistic. There’s a certain type of person that writes in for advice. The queries I receive are from people in the thick of troubling times. They’re at their wit’s end and just need help. I’m aware that there is also a large demographic of folks who are thriving in their relationships and marriages and are completely happy and in love. Don’t let the advice book fool you.
Demetria Lucas’ new book Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love is on sale here.