Excuse My Grandma & The Soft Launch

We all know dating has changed. We’ve got apps and reality shows and social media (oh my!). But talk to someone ahead of you generationally and the differences are pretty extreme – wayyy fewer options, way less pre-marital sex and way less dating burnout to name a few.

But while so much has changed, some things stay the same in dating and relationships.  And that’s why we have Kim Murstein and Grandma Gail of the Excuse My Grandma podcast joining Damona to break down the differences in dating for different generations. 

DATING DISH (1:38)

Here’s how (and why) you should soft launch your relationship on IG:

We’re learning some new vocab today – have you ever heard of “soft launching” your relationship? According to our friends at Cosmopolitan Magazine, soft launching is casually introducing a relationship online without actually introducing it. Usually this introduction is made by posting ambiguous photos on your Instagram that imply the presence of a romantic connection. Some examples include two tickets for a show, dual cocktails on a bartop, or your hand casually holding someone else’s.

There are many reasons to soft launch your coupledom online, but Damona recommends considering these questions beforehand – Why is it that important for me to declare to the outside world that I am in a relationship? Is it that you want to send a message to someone that you’re off the market? Or is it that you want to celebrate love between you and somebody else?

KIM & GRANDMA GAIL (10:25)

Kim Murstein is a content creator and host of the Excuse My Grandma podcast with her grandmother Gail. Together they cover dating, relationships, and sex advice from two very different generational perspectives.

(12:40) Is dating better today than 50 years ago?

With two sage daters like Kim and Grandma Gail, we ask the inevitable question… is dating better today than 50 years ago? Even though she describes herself as an old soul, Kim is all for dating culture today because of the amount of autonomy you get while dating. And if dating apps aren’t your thing, you have total  freedom to date exclusively offline.

 

Then, Grandma Gail shares her thoughts and advice around sex on the first date.

(20:45) Kim’s rules for texting and communication.

You may have heard Damona reference emojis as being “mood modifiers”. They can be helpful in communicating your tone to someone while texting. But Kim has some controversial thoughts on what emojis you should NEVER use.

(25:25) The dangers of online dating today.

With all the Tinder Swindlers and West Elm Calebs out there today, it’s no doubt that all this online access makes dating a little dicier than in the pre-dating app era. Grandma Gail takes us back to how you “screened” the people you were dating before the internet – “If we did meet in person, we had a reference! There would be no way you’d go out with somebody who somebody else didn’t know, it just wouldn’t happen.”

(29:00) Never Have I Ever…

Damona, Kim and Grandma Gail play the classic get-to-know-you game, Never Have I Ever. Damona hits us with some spicy questions, including – have you ever kissed someone on a first date? Have you ever done MORE than kiss on a first date? Or have you ever given out a fake phone number?

Be sure to follow them on Instagram and TikTok @ExcuseMyGrandma and learn more at ExcuseMyGrandma.com.

 

DEAR DAMONA (39:50)

Submit your questions on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and hear our answers live on the show! Here’s what our listeners asked about this week:

 

  • IG Message from Matthew – How do I approach my disability and associated issues with someone I might be romantically interested in? I am currently single. I dated once many years ago with a fellow wheelchair user and we shared similar difficulties, but since we broke up I haven’t dated anyone or met up with anyone new. I would love to be more approachable to women, but I have a fear that once they know certain things about me they’ll think I’m too much for them. I’m afraid they’ll walk away and I’ll be left feeling rejected and hurt, and worried that I won’t ever find someone who loves me for me.

The Daily Show & Cheater Effect

A few months ago, Damona caused quite a stir after her appearance on The Daily Show: Beyond the Scenes podcast. Apparently racism in dating is a HOT topic, and not in the spicy way – more in an attracting-internet-trolls kinda way.

So we decided to bring up the subject again today (much to our dismay, racism is a thing and therefore racial bias in dating IS also a thing). It’s understandable if that sounds a bit triggering, but we encourage you to stick with this episode because you might hear something today that gives you a whole new perspective.

As Damona’s mom always said, “we should be laughing to keep from crying.” That’s why comedian, actor and podcaster Roy Wood Jr. is here to give us his take on dating, race relations and the worst dating advice he’s ever heard. Plus he reveals the most important factor to determine relationship success. 

DATING DISH (2:15)

Monkey see, monkey do. Your friends are cheaters, how about you?

Metro UK broke down a recent study by Reichman University examining how different factors (particularly external factors) have an effect on cheating in a relationship. Long story short, the results concluded that people are more likely to have an affair if they know that others around them are also cheating on their partners. 

So Damona recommends asking yourself some important questions: What kind of people are you surrounding yourself with? Are you building a life to support the kind of relationship you want? Plus, Damona drops some tips on getting into the right relationship mindset.

ROY WOOD, JR. (8:44)

Roy Wood, Jr. is a comedian, an actor, and correspondent on The Daily Show. He has collected so many credits and accolades over the years. But fun fact – when Damona worked in casting, she showcased him from an open call audition!

He is the host of the podcast Roy’s Job Fair where he explores the human condition every week through the prism of employment. And now Roy has a starring role in the upcoming film “Confess, Fletch” starring John Hamm, based on the classic Fletch movies. Catch it in theaters on September 16th.

(11:26) Embrace what works for YOU.

Damona and Roy go back and forth on the advice they’ve received over the years on what to look for in a man/woman. Roy also mentions that these pieces of advice – like “find yourself a woman who knows how to cook” – create a lot of traditional expectations in a relationship that you might not vibe with. Remember to check in and ask yourself about the kind of life YOU want to build.

(15:37) Relationship promotions.

Roy brings up a controversial joke he once told about how after a certain point in a hetero relationship, the label “girlfriend” starts to feel stale – i.e. the more serious a relationship is, the more saying girlfriend feels like an insult. D & R discuss the significance of various relationship terms, like “partner” or “boo thang.”

Damona also explains why situationships are more prevalent today than ever before…

(23:36) We all have “thermostatic compatibility.”

Damona throws it back to one of Roy’s jokes about thermostatic compatibility. Meaning, one element of determining your compatibility with someone is if you run hot or run cold. But other than who gets to use the heated blanket, what factors are important in a relationship? Roy shares his thoughts.

(28:38) Beyond the scenes.

Back in May 2022, Damona appeared on The Daily Show’s Beyond the Scenes podcast to divulge her thoughts on sexual racism on dating apps. So Damona asks Roy for his perspective – are dating apps really contributing to dating racism?

 

Be sure to catch Roy on the big screen in the upcoming film “Confess, Fletch” with Jon Hamm – it hits theaters September 16, 2022.

 

And check out his podcast Roy’s Job Fair!

 

DEAR DAMONA (36:50)

Submit your questions on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and hear our answers live on the show! Here’s what our listeners asked about this week:

  • IG Message from Overwhelmed & Not Prepared – Hi Damona. I’m a huge fan of your podcast. I have been divorced for five years and dated on and off since. I’m now getting back into dating and have tried the online apps as it seems to be the way to go (although it feels very inorganic to me, I’m not a fan). I’ve been getting a great response rate but I’m having trouble making meaningful connections with my matches… Or even getting through the likes to figure out who ARE potential matches. Do you recommend going through only a certain number of them and exploring potential matches in that group before moving on?  I opened an account last night and I woke up to over 1500 likes. 😳I messaged a few but I knew it wasn’t a good match very early on. I would send a nice message and wish them well. Each person responded by verbally attacking me when I was simply trying to be polite. Is this why ghosting is such a big thing?

The Love Drive & Changing Labels

 

Dating is complicated and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the “Dating Game.” But the reality is, everyone is playing by different rules. And, it’s really just a part of life since we all have unique needs and interests. So let’s quit the game-playing! It’s honesty and authenticity that will lead to the intimacy you’re seeking in your dating life and your relationships.

That’s why love coach and host of The Love Drive podcast, Shaun Galanos, is here to talk about intimacy in all its forms.

DATING DISH (1:42)

Do you bring your friends on dates? You’re not alone. No really, you’re not alone:

In one of their recent headlines, The Mirror pointed out that one in five Singletons admit to secretly taking a friend on a date with them (are you guys seriously doing this?). Researchers polled 2,000 single adults, and found that in the last five years, over half of the participants had their friend show up in secret to a date. Additionally, the study found that preparations and pre-date conversations with friends begin around two days before the main event. Some of these rituals include sharing information about their romantic interests (32%), looking their date up on social media (30%), and asking for date location recommendations and advice on the first-date outfit from friends.

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What Damona sees from all this data is that people are bringing their friends into the conversation of dating more. This totally correlates with the shift in popularity towards dating apps, because when you can take your app out into the world with you, dating becomes a more social activity – you can take your dating profiles to your friends on the go. Damona adds that our friends can be great resources for getting ourselves into the right mindset for a date. 

But what isn’t helpful to you, is the idea that having a friend on the date is going to make you feel more comfortable, and therefore perform better. Your friend is not going to be in your relationship every step of the way, so better to see what the relationship dynamic is going to be like when it is just you and your date alone. And when we are tasked with navigating relationship dynamics on our own, we are given the chance to dig deeper and find confidence and clarity ourselves, because that is really the key to unlocking meaningful connections.

 

Have your friend stay home this time, and let Damona be your confidant! The Profile Starter Kit will give you the best tips to revamp your profile, and get you online easily and on to your dating success story. Get yours for free HERE!

 

SHAUN GALANOS (6:31)

Damona sits down with Shaun Galanos, love coach and host of The Love Drive podcast. Shaun holds certifications in Personal and Professional Coaching, and has created online courses on healthy communication, emotional availability, flirting, and more.

Shaun has worked with Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Good Men Project, and Real Love Ready. Years before making a career in love, people would bring their messy relationship issues to Shaun because he knew how to listen without judgment. Today, he is teaching intimacy and communication tools that will help people get the kind of love they deserve.

(8:49) What I wish I had known:

If you are familiar with Shaun’s content around dating and relationships, you know that he has built a following based on offering and encouraging radical honesty to his followers. “I think we’re just used to making things really complicated and having to play games and guessing what people want, and being coy and all that stuff. And my approach is really like, let’s just not do any of that because no one is playing by the same rules. We never had any formalized standardized dating, relationship education. So everyone’s playing by a different set of rules.”

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One of Shaun’s other philosophies around offering dating advice is thinking about the things he wishes he’d known about when he was younger, one of which seems to be a touchy subject. “I wish I had known that I could be honest about wanting sex. I thought to myself, like why is this so complicated? Why do I have to disguise the fact that I’m a sexual being and want to have sex? And what if I just told people what I wanted and then let them figure out if that’s also what they wanted? … And that even extends to like, hey, I want more commitment. I want to have a family. I want to do all these things. Why can’t we just say that?”

Shaun believes that direct communication is always the answer, and that our expectations for a relationship are really our unspoken needs and desires. So the more we are voicing what we really want from our partner, the more we are saving ourselves from future resentment (not to mention saving ourselves from confusion).

(11:49) Missed communications:

As much as we’d hope for it, sometimes communication in a relationship isn’t as straightforward as Shaun describes. Particularly if you are dating or with someone who isn’t keen on verbal communication, you may have to look for the ways in which they are signaling where their head is at. For instance, Damona’s husband is not a huge verbal communicator. But Damona states that she focuses on observation, and looks out for small changes in his behavior. And after noticing these changes, she is able to open the gateway to communication by taking the first step and asking, “is there anything you want to talk about?” 

Shaun backs up Damona’s point on observing your partner’s behaviors, and creating communication through curiosity (particularly if someone is stonewalling you or averting the subject). And although honesty with your partner can be scary, it can simultaneously become a safe space if you practice.

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If you are scared of cultivating open communication with your partner, Shaun recommends diving into that fear. “The fear is that we’re not going to get the answer that we want. So, okay, what is the worst case scenario here? Are they going to run? If they do leave the relationship completely, then maybe that’s not the kind of person that you’re going to be building a long term fulfilling relationship with anyways. If just a conversation about a relationship makes them run away, then they were going to run at some point.” Try to reframe this rejection, or the possibility of rejection, as liberating. If someone rejects you, it just means you have gained more clarity in the kind of partner you want, and are one step closer to getting there.

(17:27) ‘I’m just a safe, magical internet person’:

Because of how candid Shaun’s advice is, he is often asked a lot of questions revolving around intimacy and sexuality. He reports that these questions tend to fall into two different groups: “I’ve done a few Q&As that were sex focused, and I think I could split them up into two categories – How do I ask for this thing that I want? More kink, more presence in the bedroom, longer foreplay… The other ones are, is this okay? Is it okay that I fantasize about my ex? Do guys care about X, Y, and Z?” Shaun notes that because he’s a “safe, magical internet person,” people feel more at ease to ask him these kinds of questions without judgment. 

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Coming in hot with the OkCupid data, Damona mentions that recent stats show how liberal sexuality and freedom with kink is on the rise. According to OkCupid users, there’s been a 55% increase in the last year of users saying that they’re kinky or into BDSM. And mentions of this in female users profiles is up 17%. So if there was any time to feel safe exploring or asking questions about kink, it’s now.

(20:39) Everyone’s in too much of a hurry:

Shaun brings up having had a 15-year long affair with OkCupid, since it was the first online dating platform he ever used. In particular Shaun liked the long-form format of the profiles, and that in its early days, OkCupid actually felt more like a forum than a dating site. But since then, the profile format has shifted to condensing the information in people’s profiles more. To Shaun’s point, Damona believes that the shift into dating apps has affected the speed of dating the most – we have access to so many other people looking for love, that it should be easier to make a connection, but we’re in such a hurry to get to the result. 

Shaun chimes in, “There is this concept of choice paralysis that really comes into play with online dating, especially if you live in a metropolis, where there does seem to be a seemingly endless supply of people. And what happens is that the person that’s in front of you is never good enough, because there is the promise of something better right around the corner, right? So you never just sort of settle for good enough.” 

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As an optimizer himself, Shaun says this mindset will also push us towards seeking perfection in our partner (which, say it with me, doesn’t exist). “You might be on a date with a really great person that is a little weird in some way, that you start thinking, ‘Well, what if I could find this, but a little bit better.’ And then you might just end up sort of forever looking for that better option… I think people feel that they are running out of time, and that they’re in a rush… And so that puts an artificial pressure on these dates to ‘wow’ each other after the second date.”

(24:34) Those darn gender roles:

Damona inquires as to Shaun’s thoughts on gender roles, since many of the questions he gets have to do with “who does what” in a relationship. “I don’t know, it just Feels like we’re going back in time in a lot of different ways. Why are we still having conversations about whether women can have abortions? You know, why are we having conversations about the fact that there’s only two genders? What I can say is that there seems to be some folks that are really focused on this male/female, feminine/masculine polarity thing, which I don’t really understand… I just don’t think you need to ‘lean into your femininity’ and ‘take a step back’ and ’let him lead’ so that you can have this harmonious connection or partnership.”

Damona asks Shaun if he has any advice for women who have been told that they’re too aggressive, too outspoken or strong. “I think it comes down to – am I too intimidating, or are they just intimidated? So I don’t think any woman needs to tone it down for the comfort of others, especially men… There are people that are going to be able to handle you and your strength, and even match you or give you room.”

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(27:25) Meeting your needs:

Damona asks Shaun one last question – how do you identify your needs in a relationship so that you can get your needs met? “You know, needs are interesting, because a lot of times people are scared of being labeled as too needy. I think the reality is that humans are needy…. Love, connection, friendship, sexuality, to be seen, to be held, these are all sort of basic needs. And one way to identify that is [to ask yourself], what aren’t you getting in your life? Where do you find some sort of area of lack where maybe your partner can meet that need? So there’s a lot of ways of getting those needs met.”

 

Be sure to follow Shaun on Instagram and TikTok @thelovedrive. 

 

Shaun’s 12-week training intensive, The Love Collective, begins June 7th (‘not a cult’ he says). Check out more info HERE.

 

DEAR DAMONA (30:32)

Submit your questions on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and hear our answers live on the show! Here’s what our listeners asked about this week:

 

  • Email from J – Hi Damona. After a failed 4 year long relationship with a man, I did a lot of introspection and realized that I have always been somewhat attracted to women as well. I actually met someone via a dating website. I was attracted to her and we went out on three dates. She kept mentioning that we could never be serious until I swear off men altogether. I felt this was odd, so I decided not to see her again because she seemed too intense about this fact. I then created an OkCupid account, and filled out all the info requested. Little did I know right under my profile pic and name was the title “bisexual.” I mean, it is true and all, but it seems many lesbian women do not want to go out with bisexual women. And on the other hand, I’m getting a lot of messages from men fixated on my bisexuality. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I changed my sexual preference to men and called it a day. I’m wondering if you can give me any advice. I guess most women figure out early in life that they are attracted to women, but this is a recent realization for me. I’m not sure how to proceed so that I can date people and see who I most relate to and who I feel is my lifelong partner. I do not feel that gender matters when we have chemistry and relate to one another in a deep way, but I guess people find that strange. What can you recommend?

DAMONA’S DEALS 

  • Get your free Profile Starter Kit at DamonaHoffman.com
  • Get a free 1 year supply of immune-supporting Vitamin D and 5 free travel packs with your first purchase of Athletic Greens at athleticgreens.com/DATESANDMATES
  • Download the OkCupid app for free today!

Dr. Drew & The Big 400

It’s our 400th episode special of Dates & Mates! We’ve been collecting messages from Dates & Mates listeners who shared why they listen to the show. They’ll be sprinkled throughout the episode, including two very special messages from the Hoffman household.

That is not the only thing that makes this episode special. When Dates & Mates started 9 years ago, there weren’t many other shows like this around. But there was one show (and one person in particular) that gave Damona a roadmap for how she wanted to share her voice and knowledge with the world. That show was Loveline, and that person was Dr. Drew Pinsky – who will be the honorary guest on today’s episode!

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DR. DREW PINSKY (3:16)

Dr. Drew co-hosted the radio show Loveline for over 30 years and offered advice on dating, relationships and so much more. In addition to his career as a TV and radio personality, Dr.  Drew is a doctor of internal medicine and an addiction specialist. He continues to treat patients to this day.  

Dr. Drew and his wife, Susan, have been married for 30 years and they currently work together to produce the podcast, Ask Dr. Drew. Today he joins us to share the story of their 7-year courtship and his secrets for a long-lasting relationship.

(4:30) How Dr. Drew met his wife Susan:

Dr. Drew sets the record straight on his marriage origin story. It’s 1982 – Dr. Drew had finished his second year of medical school, and he and his friend went out to a bar to blow off some steam from studying.

When they arrived, they were surprised to find that a fashion show was being held at the bar, and it was at that moment that Dr. Drew spotted his now-wife at the mic MC-ing the show. He recalls having this weird, cosmic feeling of “I have to talk to this person.” Buuuut this apparently wasn’t reciprocated, since she blew him off pretty hard.

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Two years later, Dr. Drew was in the studio hosting Loveline when Susan appeared.  She was at the radio station as a guest to promote another fashion show. Dr. Drew describes how he felt a powerful attraction to her again, and he explains how he did something he had never done before.  He knew that she was in a relationship, but he still asked her to please take his phone number, no strings attached. He says he just “had” to do it.

Susan eventually did give Dr. Drew a call, and it wasn’t until a year later that they both realized their paths had crossed before. They continued to date off and on for seven years, until finally staying together. “I think it’s Eastern philosophers like Chinese philosophers that have a saying about the important people in your life entering more than once,” mentions Dr. Drew. “They come around a few times typically.”

(10:23) Good stretches and bad stretches:

Damona asks Dr. Drew about why he and his wife were off and on over the years, and how he knew when it was the moment to pursue the relationship head-on. “It’s more that I knew when it wasn’t the moment. I knew that if I got married or committed myself to somebody, let’s say five years into our relationship of on-and-off again, I’d blow it if I was not ready.” 

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He continues that readiness, and having a sense of when you’re ready for something, is such a personal compass. Part of this process is accepting how you may need to let go of the right person if it’s the wrong time, which can be hard to swallow. 

Damona also inquires Dr. Drew’s thoughts on “doing the dance” of dating (i.e. when should I text them, is it too early/late to call, I have to wait for them to reach out first). Dr. Drew is very clear that men will never play games with you, they are wired to see things very simply.

And if a guy IS playing games with you, it’s either to keep you from getting too deep into the relationship, or to keep themselves out of the relationship. Bottom line: the more direct and honest you can be, the better it will be for both parties.

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(14:36) One day at a time:

Dr. Drew gives a piece of sound relationship advice that parallels the work he does in long-term recovery from drug addiction – take it one day at a time. He states that if you are happy today, you will most likely be happy the next. Take the time to express gratitude for your partner and let them know that you appreciate them.

But if you are not happy today, the negative feelings will continue to build up. This is when you need to pay attention and hone in on what is missing for you. Damona adds that much like Dr. Drew’s advice, a relationship is just a constant choice. “You get to choose to be committed to the relationship. And it’s this constant process of recommitting.”

Damona also brings up the elements of communication and conflict resolution in a relationship, which can be very layered. She points out that if your model for relationships has been a dysfunctional one, then having clear and honest communication can feel wrong. In these cases, fighting or a lack of communication will feel comfortable and familiar, however unhealthy it may be.

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Dr. Drew says the remedy is learning how to fight fairly. “One of the ways to think about it is when there’s a winner, the relationship loses. The fighting should not be gratifying, it should not be interesting. It should be something you just want to understand and move past and not let it escalate in any way.”

(19:56) When people are ready, they’re ready:

Damona brings up one final point with Dr. Drew – what can I do if my partner doesn’t show up to do the work? Put simply, Dr. Drew answers that you can’t force somebody to show up to do the work, they have to make the choice. But when someone motivates themselves to step up to the plate on their own, they will be ready.

Dr. Drew indicates that he’s a big fan of EFT, or Emotionally Focused Therapy, because it’s all about supporting both people in a deep context. He adds that most people usually feel heard and understood, and come out having clarity about what’s creating the conflict and what each other is experiencing.

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EFT also helps you to listen with your whole body (wait, what?). “It’s really the difference between hearing the words, and listening with your whole body. Your body is the instrument of what you’re listening to. You hear it to your toes, and you feel it, hear it, and process the information as it’s coming in.”

You can hear more of Dr. Drew’s amazing advice and insightful conversations on his podcast, Ask Dr. Drew.

DEAR DAMONA (24:42)

Submit your questions on  Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and hear our answers live on the show! Here’s what our listeners asked about this week:

(24:57) “Waiting For Chemistry” asks: My new date seems a lot more interested in me than I am, but I’m not feeling it yet! He lacks that sexual spark for me and I admit it’s from comparing him to my past lovers. However, he meets all my must-haves and seems devoted to a real relationship. I don’t want to lead him on, but how long should I continue to show him my undivided attention in terms of going out and showing physical affection? I’ve already slept with him, partly because I wanted to see if that changed the chemistry between us – it hasn’t.

(28:10) Anonymous asks: The last couple of months, especially over the holidays, have been very challenging emotionally, mostly due to the continued isolation and living alone with the day-to-day anxiety during covid. I’ve done EMDR, and I’m likely going to start taking medication soon to help me through this very difficult time. Something I struggle with now is finding the time, energy, and mindset to even check the apps or have a phone call or in-person date. When will I know I’m ready to date? And how do I get back out there?

(31:23) Anonymous asks: How does one handle dating with a disability that is only occasionally visible but yet can’t be denied?

(31:23) R asks: I’m still looking young at 34 years old, but I just find myself in a single place – others in my life already have families and now are even married. Coming from a Latino based family, I get asked by Aunts and Uncles when am I going to find my match, and it’s just killing me inside. Especially that I’ve been through so much in my life since I am epileptic and have had more than 6 brain surgeries now. When women see me, they ask me about my scars on my head, and I will always feel it’s not their business to know about my medical condition. But will they just run away like always?

(37:21) Dani asks: Why do I want physical intimacy and touch when I think about the person I am going on a date with, but when I am there with them in person, my instinct is to pull back and I often feel uncomfortable with affectionate contact? I understand it takes a while to warm up to someone, but it can feel really frustrating to want to run towards something in my head only to end up running away from it in person.

(41:03) Anonymous asks: I am going through something really painful. I caught my boyfriend of 5 years in a lie and he revealed that he loves another woman. This was via text and he hasn’t contacted me since. I would love it if you have any advice or pointers. I feel so lost right now.

(43:20) Anonymous asks: When I am out in social settings, I have been told I am unapproachable or intimidating. How can I appear more approachable?

DAMONA’S DEALS

  • Download the OkCupid Dating App for free today!
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Thirst Traps & How To Date A Celeb

IT’S TIME TO LIVE IN LOVE

I have a super exciting episode for you today! I am talking to one of my faves, Laverne Cox, (YES THEE LAVERNE COX) Emmy-nominated actress and Transgender Rights Activist. She is here to tell us all about how she found love on Tinder and how you can, too. 

This is Transgender Awareness week when transgender people and their allies generate awareness about who transgender people are, share stories and experiences, and advance advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.

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I’ve been a fan of Laverne’s work for years. She’s so wise and so wonderful and regardless of your gender identity or orientation, I know you’re going to love this super-sized, advice-packed interview.

LAVERNE COX (2:25)

Laverne Cox is the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy for her brilliant work in Netflix’s series Orange Is The New Black. Since then, she’s produced the documentary Disclosure about transgender representation in Hollywood, she co-starred in the film Promising Young Woman, and she hosts the podcast The Laverne Cox Show. And now, she’s here on Dates & Mates!

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(6:00) Laverne found a love like never before… on TINDER: Laverne spills ALL the tea. So here’s how it went: Laverne and the now-boyf matched on Tinder in NYC before the pandemic but never got to meet. They continued to chat on the app and didn’t catch up in person until months later. When they did, Laverne says they had a really great time and she thought he was awesome. They continued to meet up whenever she was in NYC and eventually fell in love! Laverne points out that even though she is 49 and her boyfriend is 27, the age gap has never been a problem for them – they always have fun together, and it helps that they share a love for music of all kinds. 

Thinking about her past relationships, Laverne says that her last three boyfriends (including her current beau) had never dated a trans woman before herself. She thinks that being famous made them more open to meeting her and exploring a connection. Laverne also adds from her experience, a lot of men who purposefully seek out trans women to date or have sex with, fetishize and objectify their targets. This is perhaps why she’s seen a pattern in dating men who haven’t dated someone trans before.

(12:04) Resilience in the face of objectification: I ask for Laverne’s thoughts on being fetishized since she is both Trans and Black and on dating apps. Laverne responds that even though there is always the chance of fetishization, we have to practice not bringing those traumas into making new connections.

Resilience is key. If you’re always defensive when meeting new people, you won’t be in your “resilience zone.” Practice meeting new people with an open and curious mindset, because the energy you bring to new relationships will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you give it enough power. Laverne notes her strategy is to always give people the benefit of the doubt until they show her otherwise, “and people usually show you very quickly.”

(16:03) Don’t disrespect yourself by accepting less than what you’re looking for in love: Laverne shares that when she was young, she really wanted to be in love. On the other hand, she had an expectation of what it was to be wild, young, and free. But in this instance, her fantasy of what she thought she wanted versus what she really wanted was not in sync (and nowadays amidst hookup culture, I think this happens a lot). So Laverne advises that if you want to have sex, no judgment – but it’s important to be very, very clear if that’s what you want.

(18:58) Love is love: I ask Laverne how she thinks race intersects with dating culture. Laverne remembers what the reaction was like from her fans when she first went public with her ex-boyfriend, who was white. She recalls that many people were disappointed she was dating a white guy and thinks this is because those people wanted their own fantasy for Laverne to be carried out in real life – i.e. wanting her to find her “Black King” or be with the kind of person they wanted her to be with. Laverne continues that it’s hard enough just to find someone you connect with, why would you limit your dating pool? And sometimes you have to be really open in that dating pool to find someone you actually vibe with on a spiritual level. As they say, LOVE IS LOVE.

via GIPHY

(23:31) Laverne’s dating app strategy & a few words on genital preferences: In her own approach, Laverne says her profile was a full-on thirst trap – even though her pics had hookup vibes, she says she used these types of photos only to get the guy’s attention since men are more visual. And surprise, surprise… Men weren’t reading her bio. 

She learned this very early on. Once she matched with someone, Laverne would ask the man three questions:

  1. “Did you read in my profile that I’m trans?”
  2. “Have you ever dated or had sex with a trans person before?”
  3. “If you’ve dated a trans person, did you introduce them to your family?”

Laverne explains that asking these questions upfront is all about eliminating the men that are going to have a problem dating a trans woman. It’s a safety precaution and saves time, so she doesn’t get too far down the line with someone before they find out she’s trans. 

Laverne also adds that some trans women think it’s transphobic if a guy doesn’t accept whatever genitalia she has, but she doesn’t hold it against them. Laverne believes it’s okay and perfectly normal to have genital preferences, just like we would have preferences for anything else in dating. And while it is absolutely NEVER appropriate to ask about a trans person’s genitalia or surgical status in a general setting, Laverne feels that it’s a fair question in the dating game. She says, “I think it’s a waste of your time as a trans woman if a man has a preference for a certain kind of genitalia that you don’t have.” 

(30:38) Your lack of boundaries is attracting the wrong people: Laverne recalls that when she was young, like many Trans girls in early transition, she desperately wanted to be seen as a woman. This created a lack of boundaries – since she wanted others to like her so badly, she would answer everyone’s questions about her body. But Laverne realized later that other people’s projections and thoughts about her transition are not her problem. Being trans is beautiful, and she doesn’t need to take on all that baggage. I think that the more you can share your authentic self and be transparent about what you want and who you are, the more you’re able to attract the right person

(35:12) Are you holding any limiting beliefs about dating?: Laverne describes how getting older has really made her confront the stories we tell ourselves about dating as a woman in her 40’s. She states that “ageism is a story that society has told women,” and a lot of women carry the belief that dating is hopeless once you turn 40. In Laverne’s case, once she embraced her age publicly, she was able to let go of the internalized shame around her age. In the end, finding love is all about shifting our belief systems and shifting our story of ourselves, so we don’t carry around all that negative stuff with us.

What do you do if you encounter someone who won’t date you because of your age? Shame is contagious so don’t waste your time and energy taking on other people’s shame about dating you. 

(35:12) Be a Love Warrior: We should strive to be the embodiment of love, and move through the world that way. She believes that whether you have a relationship or not, walking around and existing in a state of love is what we’re here for. Laverne adds that when we can raise our vibrations to “just being love,” we draw love to us in return. So think about the things that bring you pleasure and a sense of love and magnify that, walk around in that.

Check out my interview on The Laverne Cox Show here! And be sure to follow Laverne on all her socials, @lavernecox.

DEAR DAMONA (44:41)

Submit your questions on  Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and hear our answers live on the show! Here’s what our listeners asked about this week:

  • Email from Amanda – Thank you for what you do and all the information you share. My bf and I recently broke up after 10 months. We’ve both considered trying again but I’m unsure. He’s a nice guy but I have struggled to feel comfortable in the relationship. He comes off as very stand-off-ish, and doesn’t show much facial expression or spontaneous physical affection. That being said he’s been supportive helping me through life transitions (I’m 32 and he is 40). I wonder if I may have overshared in the relationship. I talked about my PTSD and boundaries which made him uncomfortable and he has continued to make comments about how he can’t be himself around me due to my boundaries. This is a bummer because I wanted to be open and build my trust in him over time. In addition, we struggled to laugh together, only went on dates when I asked, and rarely snuggled up for a movie night despite me asking for that as well. My stress got so bad I finally needed to be on my own. Do you think it’s worth trying again, or am I better off taking some time and finding a relationship where I can be more authentic?
  • Email from Bryant – Hi Damona. Hope you are well. I saw you on the Drew Barrymore show and I thought you would be a good person to ask this question. Do celebrities date regular people who are not in the business? If so, how would a normal professional man (me) ask a celebrity out on a date?