is not lost. Or so Thelma Russell tells us. Russell,
a 50-something African-American woman who works for
the county, is the latest authority on online dating.
Her self- published guide, titled The New Love Connection
for African American Singles: A Complete Step-by-Step
Guide to Finding Friendship, Love & Marriage on
"the Net," has fallen into my hands.
I don't know whether a copy of the slim book was sent
to me, but I got a call from Russell's daughter, Tahja
Star Harden, pushing the publication. The notion that
women who grew up being taught not to even telephone
men are now getting into the online dating scene piqued
After all, a lot of single women of a certain age have
given up looking for Mr. Right -- anywhere.
No, I've never visited an online dating site. Even
when my only company for the evening is the On-Demand
channel and a bottle of wine -- I'm not tempted.
But Russell assures me women my age are meeting men
via the Internet. Online dating isn't the "taboo"
it used to be, she said.
I met her Wednesday in the lobby of Cook County's 69
W. Washington building. Russell isn't unattractive,
but she doesn't have the looks that usually make a man's
head swivel. Yet, she claims to have met and dated several
interesting men via the Internet.
"I think the secret is having the patience to use
online dating. People are so much into going out and looking
at the person and sizing them up," Russell said.
"The Internet is a little different. You have to
e-mail first. Then you start calling. If you connect pretty
good on the telephone, the person will be anxious to meet
Few books for African Americans
Online dating services can cost anywhere from $10 for
a monthly membership to $1,900 for a two-year annual
membership, according to Russell. The money might be
"Forty-three percent of black families are maintained
by women with no spouse present," she said.
In the long run, that can make for a lot of fractured
dreams and tortured budgets.
A divorced empty-nester, Russell said she came up with
the idea of writing a guidebook for Internet dating
because there were few books on this subject that target
African Americans. At the time, she had been going to
clubs and trying to meet men through her friends.
"That never worked. I've been divorced a long
time, at least 10 years," she said. "I hadn't
been finding guys that I felt were really compatible.
Some of the guys I met were younger."
She began her online dating experience by visiting
Web sites such as eHarmony, Lavalife and single sites
"I met a very nice guy, but he had two young kids,"
she said. "He was busy running around to soccer
and music lessons with his children. My girls were already
grown. We contacted each other about three times and
just sort of fell off. You have to expect that. Someone
may sound good on the phone, but when you meet, you
may not have the physical chemistry."
There were other dates, Russell said, including a man
from New York who took her to lunch while he was in
town on business. That match didn't work out because
she didn't want a long-distance relationship.
"I don't have the money to jet set back and forth,"
The author met the man she's now dating on Lavalife.com.
They had their first date earlier this year -- the weekend
of Valentine's Day -- and have been seeing each other
'Lose the attitude'
"I'm telling you there are nice, professional
men online looking for quality women," Russell
told me. The guys our age are on the Internet. They
don't have time to go to clubs. Some of them don't go
to church, and because people have to fill out a profile,
you can be more selective.
It sounds good, but judging from my e-mails, there
are a lot of weirdos hanging out online, too.
"'Suppose he's an ax murderer,'" Russell
said. "I hear that all the time. Listen, I had
a sister-in-law who got murdered, and she met that guy
in her neighborhood. You have to be skeptical."
Russell warns those new at this game to "lose
the attitude" and to get used to "rejection."
She also reminds us that "honesty is still the
best policy" and that some people online are "broken
hearted" and want a "quick fix."
In other words, the same rules that apply in the slow
lane apply on the information superhighway.
"I wrote the book because I wanted African-American
singles to feel more comfortable with the process. I
want them to know that this is a good way to broaden
their horizons," she said.
"Women love this book. A lot of us are not married,
and we want to get married. We want to be a family.
It gives us hope."
You can order Russell's book at wwwl.onlinedatingguru.com.
NOTE: I goofed. The prayer vigil for Cedric Coy Langston
(Olloway) Jr. is 6 p.m. Saturday at 5054 W. Huron. A
memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at New Gideon
M.B. Church, 5106 S. Western.