“When I think of my life, it isn’t marked by personal accomplishments; it’s marked by who I was in love with at that time. I have lived my life through the lens of men — how they saw me, what they chose to love about me, and why they wanted to be with me or not be with me.” ~Joi-Marie McKenzie, The Engagement Game
Ambitious, Confident, and Successful. Check. Check. Check.
Joi-Marie McKenzie has a great relationship with her family, at least a handful of friends she can count on, and an apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Manhattan. She also earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, works as an entertainment and lifestyle writer for ABC News, and is a highly-requested speaker. I think we can confidently call her a career goddess, right?
But when unanswered relationship questions slide their way into a woman’s mind, it’s easy to forget about all the other great things she has going for herself, especially when you’ve been dating a man for a few years and have no idea if he’s ready to call you his wife. Ouch! Why wouldn’t a man want to snatch up a loyal, career-driven woman who is always by his side?
Introducing The Engagement Game! In this humorous and heartfelt memoir, McKenzie talks about her experience trying to get the coveted ring.
You’ll laugh. You’ll be surprised. And you might even find yourself saying, “OMG! Did that just happen?”
In an exclusive interview with Joi-Marie McKenzie, we get to the bottom of the engagement game and find out why Millennial men aren’t putting a ring on it yet — and what women can do to find love beyond their careers.
It appears that it is more challenging for career-driven women to find their mates by a certain age. Why do you think that happens?
McKenzie: It has a lot to do with the reality we live in. If you are a college-educated woman, chances are you will delay the husband-finding process because you are concerned about your studies.
If you’re 21 and now you’re looking up and like “I’m finally finished with school; let me settle down,” that doesn’t happen.
Because of the economy and job market, they can’t afford the ideal adult lifestyle until 25. If you are still living in your parents’ house, why are you thinking about settling down?
The reality of our lives won’t mimic our parents’, because there are certain things in place. Your man isn’t thinking about putting a ring on it because he can’t afford rent.
Men are taught to provide, and women are taught to get a husband.
Career women in particular have an idealistic way of looking for love, like we are just going to bump into him on the street. I tell all my friends who have Master’s degrees, professionals, and just bomb women that you have to put the same amount of effort into finding a job as you do into finding a man who is equally yoked.
But it’s not all our fault. We have to be gentle with ourselves.
What are the benefits of dating yourself before you get into a relationship?
McKenzie: For me, I went to the movies, because I truly considered going to the movies as a group activity. I wanted to choose something that would be challenging, and I had never done it before.
What I learned is that I could live with my own thoughts and still be at peace and not feel like I have to perform all the time. I could be at peace with just myself.
It was transformative [with regards to] how I lived my life. I no longer need a “plus one” at an event. As an entertainment reporter, I’m always covering an event at a red carpet, and you feel like you always have to have somebody there in order to be comfortable. It has changed me, [knowing] that if I had to move about the world alone, I would be okay.
You mentioned that you went on multiple dates throughout the book. How did you find all these guys to date?
McKenzie: I was intentional about dating. I think women, especially when we are single, feel there is this shame attached to saying aloud, “I want to find someone. I want to date.” If you can’t even say it, chances are you aren’t going to act on it in a manner that is going to get you those dates. When you finally get to a place where you are comfortable enough to say, “I want to date,” then be intentional about having a good time.
Instead, what do you hear? “It’s so hard to find a man that I’m not even going to try.” If you go into the dating scene with that attitude, it’s going to be hard. Go into it being intentional about having a good time, having fun, which is how I approached it. I told this one guy straight-up, “I just got out of a long-term relationship. I want to get to know you. I want to have fun.”
Every man is going to say yes to that. “Oh, you don’t want a commitment? You just want to have a good time? Okay, let’s do it!” I was intentional about having fun and not caring where it led to. Whether it led to my “happily ever after” or not, I just wanted to have fun and be flirty.
What keeps women from letting go of relationships? Can we expedite the process of letting go?
McKenzie: There is no quick fix.
There’s a point where you become so uncomfortable that you can’t fake it anymore. What a lot of women do is tell their partners that they are uncomfortable, but they won’t go anywhere. They are hoping that their partner will change. So they’ll check in 3 months, 6 months, or even a year to see if they are still uncomfortable. Who knows what may happen in a year? You might get pregnant, and now you’re stuck with this guy for your entire life.
I decided to find the courage to act. Women know when it’s time. I almost describe it now as when you’re trying to put on your left shoe on your right foot. You don’t have to look at the problem to know it’s there.
We’ve identified the problem, but what are we going to do about it? We know that there are problems, but we aren’t doing anything about those problems. So, we need to have the courage to act on it — whether that means changing the relationship, ending the relationship, or changing yourself, because you don’t have the authority to change the other person.
What’s the manual for finding and keeping a man?
McKenzie: There’s no manual. That’s why I include on the first page of the book that this is not a “How To” book. And that is the hard part. We want to skip that hard part. We want to just get the 5 or 10 steps to get a man.
That’s not life, unfortunately. That again goes back to us being gentle with ourselves and realizing that this is a process. It’s supposed to be fun. You want to have a good time. I think the “manual” approach sort of takes the romance out of it.