I landed in America from England, UK in 1998 at the age of 28, having been married for 3 years. It was straight into residency at Bronx Lebanon Hospital, in Bronx, New York. Busy days, long nights, little sleep, juggling motherhood, ‘wifehood’, ‘doctorhood’ and ‘lifehood’.
Life as a physician in England was not what we expected. There was no progress in our careers. We strived for progress to no avail, so my husband at the time and I decided to make the move to the land of big dreams-the USA.
After we both completed residency in the Bronx, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 2001 and decided to call this city our home. We had heard a lot about Atlanta-good weather, low cost of living, busy airport with many easy to reach destinations. But most of all the chatter we heard the most from our Nigerian friends was-“Atlanta had one of the highest number of progressive, wealthy, highly educated, professional blacks in the country”. That was surely a good thing to hear. Perhaps there would be a real opportunity to progress in our careers in this city, and live out our dreams.
Fast forward. The careers progressed....at least I can say mine did. I started a practice in 2004, and it’s still open and growing today. We had two beautiful daughters. But our marriage ended in 2009.
And so, I found myself single in America. I had not experienced the single life since I was 17 years old. I met my ex husband in medical school in Lagos, Nigeria. He was 21. We dated for 8 years and got married in London, England at 25 and 29, respectively.
Now, I was 39 years old, almost 40) and single again. Where do I meet people? How do I navigate dating at 40? Who do I date? One thing I knew for sure was, I was ready to date non-Nigerian men. I love my Nigerian culture and I had the best dad any child could dream of, but the experience I had in my marriage with in-laws was a bad one and it eventually ended my marriage.
That complex husband/mother-in-law relationship was too nerve racking for me to even dream of experiencing again. Not to talk of all the ridiculous cultural expectations that women are expected to live up to. In my mind, I knew I was done with Nigerian men. I needed to open my heart to men from other races and cultures.
I have never been a very social person. I thrive best at home. I call myself a real homebody. I own my own practice, and employ about 10 people. Where would I meet guys? Guys of my caliber? After some research, I decided online dating was the place for a mostly introverted homebody like me.
Match.com seemed like a candy shop but instead of candy, there were men instead on the shelves. Candy? Well, at a glance, they looked like candy until I started reading their profiles and looking closely at their pictures. Hmmm, this was going to be a huge task....I thought to myself. My inbox was immediately filled up with men I had absolutely no interest in. Men of all ages messaged me-mostly black men from ages 21-70. Any hint of poor grammar in their messages switched me off totally. Did I tell you that one of my pet peeves is poorly written grammar? I didn’t find any of their pictures attractive. Some pictures didn’t seem consistent with the age in the profile. Whoa! This is not going to be an easy process. I initially kept waiting to see if men I was attracted to would message me, but it didn’t happen. None of the ones who messaged me were remotely my taste in men. I finally decided to summon up the courage to start saying Hi, and making the first move, or winking at the ones I had interest in. It so happened that the ones who fit my requirements were mostly Caucasian. I had no problem dating white men....in fact some of them were quite attractive physically and fit the professional/educational requirements that were important to me.
However, there was a problem. Only a few of the ones I messaged replied me. I dug deeper and wondered why.....I thought I had many qualities most men would desire....but their profiles revealed the answer I needed. The majority of white men who were well educated with at least a Bachelor’s degree, professionals and had high position jobs and the intellect that were deal breakers for me were looking for other white women and Asian women! Occasionally, a few added Hispanic women. Their profiles said it clearly. They were not interested in dating black women regardless of the woman’s looks or intellect or other qualities. Just NO to black Women.
There were actually a few profiles that even clearly said-if you’re a black woman, don’t message me. Wow!! Harsh and unbelievable! But then I had no interest in Nigerian men either, right, so I couldn't judge them? Or could I? Ooooook, I thought to myself. This is the racism and prejudice I experienced in the UK in my career; now showing itself in the dating world in the US. I started to remember what all my friends and colleagues at Bronx Lebanon hospital-my residency program had warned me about....”Iyabo, Atlanta is very racist. You’ll experience lots of prejudice there. Stay in New York. You’ll like it better here”. This is what they were talking about. But some other people had said Atlanta had one of the highest number of progressive, wealthy, highly educated, professional blacks in the country. Where were those black men that fit that description? Certainly not on match.com. I did not see them on that dating site! Where were they?
Well, there was nothing I could do now. I couldn’t relocate just because of love. My daughters were in school in Atlanta and I actually loved everything else about the city.
I finally did get a reply back from a lovely Caucasian man who was originally from the west coast and had just moved to Atlanta. We had a beautiful relationship for four years but I knew it would not lead to marriage, so we ended it. He was a Godsend, brought lots of laughter to my life, and we traveled a lot together. He helped me heal from my divorce, and I really experienced what true, loving relationships should be like....but there were some reasons I knew I wouldn’t be happy married to him, so I broke it off before it went too far.
After that relationship ended in 2014, I really introspected about what I needed in a marriage partner. I then joined Match again but had a few relationships here and there....all with white men, but none really was who or what I wanted.
Again the racism in dating, and the shocking reality that as a successful black female professional, our choices in men were limited, was a rude awakening. My deal breakers were a man of high intellect and my academic equal, with at least a Bachelor’s, preferably an advanced degree. Well traveled and with a global perspective, and in good physical shape. I was not attracted at all to overweight men, and high intellect was key for me. Those were my needs and must haves. My wants were tall and lean, and a man who was divorced and had kids. So, this combination was hard to find in Atlanta. There were a few black men who fit this but they were mostly in the sports or entertainment profession and I was not attracted to men in either profession. There were some southern white men who fit the profile I was looking for, but they clearly were not comfortable with having a black girlfriend, talk less of a black wife. I dated a few of them but they always seemed to go back to their southern white girlfriends. I’ll never forget the white man who I was chatting with on match who then requested to connect with me on LinkedIn. I accepted his request and he sent me this DM on LinkedIn: “You are everything I’d like to have in a woman, but too bad you’re black”. Yes!! He said that in his message. Wowww!! I got the shock of my life. I understand that many white men think that, but to have said it out loud in a message?? Shocking! Needless to say, I blocked him immediately. There was no response I could write to him that would fully express my thoughts and feelings about his ignorant and rude message.
My father passed away at the end of 2015, and I was just exhausted and spiritually & emotionally drained.
At church one Sunday, Andy Stanley, the lead pastor of Buckhead church gave a sermon that was directed at me. Lol! I honestly believed he was talking to me. He said if you’ve been dating and can’t find a good match, take 2-5 years off from dating to reconnect with yourself and God. I did just that! In early 2016, I made the decision to not date at all. I stuck to that decision very rigidly. I was glad I did. It was one of the best periods of my life. I wrote two books, published one, started blogging, spoke at the United Nations three times, my practice soared, I bought the house of my dreams and I was happy.
I kept praying for a good man. I journaled about who I wanted. I wrote down specifics that I wanted in a man even down to at least 6ft 4in. I prayed and prayed and spoke to God about my thoughts. I started to realize the right European man would actually check most of my boxes. European men are known to be more worldly, like black women and have a more global outlook. But where would I meet one in Atlanta? There were a few on Match that I saw the last time I was on there but they were not physically attractive to me. They were all short. I actually met one English man on there but he was about 5 ft 9, and we just had no chemistry . He kept messaging me after that one date, but I was not interested at all.
After taking two years off dating, and focusing on my own happiness, I joined match again in November 2017, and I met my husband in January 2018. He proposed in October 2019 and we got married in April 2020.
He is English. An intellect. Handsome. We share many values. He is divorced with 2 sons. AND he is 6ft 4in
Did someone say God doesn’t answer prayers? Oh yes, He does!!
You just have to be patient and prayerful and purposeful in your own life and the man will meet you where you are.
So, this was my experience dating as a successful, black female professional in America. Our choices in men are, unfortunately very limited. Hopefully, one day, racism and prejudice will reduce and we can all see each other as who we really are, and not the color of our skin.
May we all be permanently happy by accepting and loving each other more, regardless of our skin color or the corner of the world we are born in.