Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl out. Boy and girl date and eventually get married. Sounds like the perfect log line for a movie, except that’s not reality, and love can often appear to be a bit more complicated than that. Enter stage right: Modern Day Matchmaker, real life Hitch, life and relationship coach Paul C. Brunson.
Brunson is the creator of One Degree From Me, a matchmaking service that caters to African Americans. To date, he’s served over 400 clients and matched over 3,000 people on dates through live events and social media. Paul C. Brunson has also made the leap into television, as co-Love Coach of the show Love Town USA on the OWN Network.
With his recently released book, It’s Complicated (But It Doesn’t Have to Be): A Modern Guide to Finding and Keeping Love, Brunson is giving practical advice on how to un-complicate matters of the heart. So, with his help, the disastrous romantic comedy that often becomes the script for many of our love lives can turn into the romantic happy ending that we dream of.
Soultrain.com caught up with the modern matchmaker to discuss the evolution of dating.
Soultrain.com: How did you get into matchmaking? What made you follow that career path?
Paul C. Brunson: I had no idea that I would ever be a matchmaker. If you had asked me five years ago if I was going to be a stripper or a matchmaker, I would have said there’s a higher chance that I’d be a stripper than a matchmaker [laughs]! I got into matchmaking when I had a summer camp in 2008 that was a part of my non-profit. We were managing a program for low-income high school students. On registration day we had 100 students in the camp and one of the questions that I asked was, “Who lives in the household with you?” The answers that I got were mom, grandma, sister, auntie, or father-in-law, but never mom and dad. What’s fascinating is that out of 100 kids, all of them were living in single-parent households and most of them were black or Latino students. It blew me away. So I started talking to my wife about how we could strengthen the core family. Long story short, I ended up at a matchmaker conference a couple of months later. I sat there and it hit me that matchmaking is the direct method to help these families; basically I could help put families together. I looked around the room and nobody else there was black, nobody was under the age of 40. There was only one male matchmaker in the room, that’s when the light bulb hit me. I’ve always heard the saying, “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive,” and so that’s really the moment when I came alive and decided to become a matchmaker.
Soultrain.com: A lot of people seem to be confused on what a date actually consists of. What is your definition of a date?
Paul C. Brunson: I agree that people don’t really know what a date is. I believe a date is an activity with people that are seeking to find out more information for romantic purposes. I made that real technical because there is casual and committed dating. That definition still falls within both. The committed dater leads to a more long term relationship. The casual dater is when people are seeking information to specifically see if they want to invite that person into their social circle. The word that I want to emphasize is “activity,” because too many times dates have turned into interviews and interrogations over a 2 hour dinner, or going to the movies where you aren’t learning about the person. When you’re at dinner you’re actually learning less about the person versus if you were participating in an activity.
Soultrain.com: Now Paul, you know some people will take the word “activity” and run with it and say sex falls into that category.
Paul C. Brunson: That is true ! That’s a good point, but that is not a date. When a guy comes over to your house and you put in that DVD and sit on the couch, that is not a date, either. Dates do not happen in your house. That’s the worst date on the planet.
Soultrain.com: You have probably heard this often, but what do you think when you hear that people don’t really date anymore?
Paul C. Brunson: I do hear it a lot and I see it when people are tweeting it. The truth of the matter is that we are living in a hookup culture. Looking at the social science of it, and truly since the introduction of the birth control pill, there has been a substantial shift in how we date. The reason is because prior to the pill there was a consequence to having sex: A baby. Now with the pill, the perception of consequences has shifted. You still have STDs, but the bottom line is people aren’t really getting pregnant anymore, so this idea that people aren’t dating isn’t something that just started the hookup culture. It really got started in the 70s. It’s been shifting, but feels a lot different in this day and age because we now have people putting a lesser value on marriage. More people say they don’t need to get married; but you think about dating, for most people it’s a prerequisite to getting married.
Soultrain.com: Do you think that the non-dating thing is a geographical? Some say people in certain parts of the country date more than others. The same thing with the approach–often times in certain parts of the country, men will approach a woman versus just staring at her hoping she’ll catch the telepathic vibe. What are your thoughts on that?
Paul C. Brunson: It’s an idiopsychology. At one point at my It’s Complicated Live event in Charlotte, NC, I asked the women who is the best at approaching men, and about 4 or 5 of them raised their hands. That one question is fascinating because, depending on the city that I’m in, the number of women raising their hands is drastically different. For example, in New York, it was the whole room, but as I go into less metropolitan areas like Fort Lauderdale it’s going to be a lot less, like 3 or 4. There definitely is a geo- psychology to this, depending on the area. Geo-psychology has a direct impact on how we relate to each other. The best example is the geo-psychology of many cities in China. In China, and this is fascinating, but women can demand a financial statement from men before they go on a date with them. They can literally say they are not going on a date with a man until they see how much money they make, and know exactly what their expenses are. It’s because of the demand of women versus men. Keep in mind that historically in China what’s happened is that they literally reduced the number of female births, so there is an overabundance of men and a small number of women. So it’s supply and demand, and women are in heavy demand. It’s that way in every country and every city, supply and demand.
Soultrain.com: In your book, It’s Complicated, one chapter in the book called “Know When to Fold ‘Em” stands out because so many people stay in a relationships for years hoping it will result in a happy ending, when instead the opposite happens. Why do you think that is?
Paul C. Brunson: On average, we fall in love seven times in our lifetime. There is an online company that I’m working with that has a large database to the tune of millions of registrants, so I’m able to go in and survey these folks and see how they interact. So all of the research that I’ve been doing, I’m finding that most people don’t fall in that category of falling in love 7 times; it’s substantially less. Most of the times that we think we’re falling in love it’s in the period of early adolescence, and as we mature what happens is we go through this long gap of being single. So what I believe happens, is that so many of us are falling in love in our adolescence and what happens is that we look to mirror that same feeling. You often hear people describe it as the warm fuzzies that they got in the 7th grade. So psychologically, we try to mirror that past person, but since we’ve evolved, it’s an experience that we’re never going to get again. I think a lot of people end up waiting for that feeling. It’s evident in the average age of marriage that’s increasing each year. When you also look at metropolitan areas, like New York, LA, DC, the average age is skyrocketing.
Soultrain.com: Do you think chivalry is dead?
Paul C. Brunson: I hear that a lot that chivalry is dead. Here’s the thing: If you were defining it as a level of etiquette around how a man treats a women, then it’s absolutely not dead. That’s because you see many husbands do it, and so many people do it in committed relationships. I believe I am chivalrous with my wife, so from that standpoint, you can say chivalry is not dead. Then you can say chivalry is only dead when it comes to dating. Well, many male clients of mine go above and beyond and I consider them to be chivalrous in their dating. What I believe is happening is our perception that chivalry is dying. I say that because you think about the music now, R&B today is nothing like the R&B of Marvin Gaye’s time, so there are examples of chivalry being presented in the music of that era unlike today’s “let’s just jump in the bed” type of music. So ultimately, you have the music, and the blogosphere, and reality television that are shaping our perception. In dating, which is done by 20% of the people, you have a small group of men running around all cavalier with no chivalrous bone in their body, dating 5 to 10 women a week. Now, the average male in the United States has not been on a date in 2 years, so the guy that has been on 1-2 dates a year and has been completely chivalrous, doesn’t get the shine that he deserves because he’s only seeing a few women, while another dude that’s seeing about 100 women is completely un-chivalrous.
Soultrain.com: The MTV show Catfish revolves around online dating. If you’re trying to get one of your clients to try online dating, how do you ease those fears?
Paul C. Brunson: Well, as soon as you said MTV, I laughed! Let’s keep it real. That show is for entertainment. Television by no means is a representation of what happens in our day to day life. It is extreme. In one part of the book, I talk about how important your belief system is and the number one way to change your belief system is to control what you put into your mind, so reality television is one of the killers of your belief system. Absolutely almost everyone online has fabricated their profile in one way or another, but the bottom line is what happens online is a reflection of what happens offline. Over half of every single in the United States uses some type of online medium. So basically mostly everyone you meet offline is online. Online dating is the number two source of meeting people; 1 out of every 6 marriages comes from online, 1 out of every 5 relationships comes from online.
Soultrain.com: The first season of Love Town, USA has wrapped, so will there be another season?
Paul C. Brunson: As of right now, I don’t know yet, but we are anticipating another season.
Soultrain.com: Speaking of television, do you have any favorite memories of Soul Train?
Paul C. Brunson: Hands down, the soul train line changed the scope of everything. Every party that I have gone to and even to this day, there is a soul train line. At my wedding there was like 10 Soul Train lines [laughs]! At the end of the last episode of Love Town we had a Love Ball. Oprah was there, and everyone from the town was there. When the cameras stopped rolling, the party was still going on. Now, mostly everyone there was white, it was mostly Republican, I was thinking that these people have never heard of a Soul Train line. So I turned to the DJ told him to throw this track on and said, “Everybody, it’s time for the Soul Train line!” They were looking at me like what is he talking about? [laughs] It was hundreds of us in this big long Soul Train line, and it was an awesome experience. The Soul Train line is still uniting people years later. It worked for Love Town.
Soultrain.com: What’s next for Paul C. Brunson?
Paul C. Brunson: I want to expand on the live events; I really love doing those, so I want to do more variations of them. I noticed one thing is that I wasn’t as happy this year as I was two years ago, and most people are like, ‘What are you talking about you have two shows with Oprah Winfrey, a book and all this?’ But, it’s the honest truth. I ultimately figured out that I wasn’t feeding my values. We all have values and if we don’t feed our values then we become unhappy. One of my values is creativity. I don’t feel like I was creating this year, I was plug and play, alright Paul stand here, do this, write this, say this, it was very plug and play and I wasn’t able to create. Two years ago I would do the live events and I had a web series where I would write, so I was creating. For 2013 I’ll be doing more live events, a new web series, and a couple of other projects that I’m working on.
Follow Paul C. Brunson on Twitter @PaulCBrunson and check out his website www.paulcbrunson.com.
Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, or her own site, www.themofochronicles.com. She’s also a special guest contributor on The Social Hour on Urban Soul Radio. Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.