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Black and Single, I Got '0 Matches' on Dating Apps

How I learned to embrace a life on my own.

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illustration of dating profile with zero matches
Ellis Brown
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In 2000, faced with the lengthy dating website questionnaire, I balked. There were so many questions to answer. Some were basic. What is your gender? What is your relationship status? Do you have children? Where do you live?

Then, there were the challenging questions. What are your spiritual beliefs? What are you passionate about? Seeking a friend or a mate?

Wanting to be totally honest, I scrutinized my soul. It took me two days to complete the quiz. Then, I waited another night before submitting. Beyond honesty, I worried about letting someone into my life via impersonal technology.

Finally, I hit “send." Nervously, I waited for the Internet to deliver the perfect companion.

Maybe a Black woman, like me, should be okay with being a single mother with one daughter. Maybe I wouldn’t find someone attracted to a person who loved animals, read books, was spiritual but not religious, artistic but not crazy, and enjoyed everything from Joni Mitchell to Be Bop jazz. No Rap, please.

Then came — zero matches.

First, I questioned myself. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t find a single match? Axe murderers deserve zero matches (though I suspect they would be smart enough to lie about the ‘activities they enjoy’ on the questionnaire). I was a good person. I’d survived an abusive relationship, had a child, and yes, I was shy, maybe not classically beautiful — but zero matches?

Alone in my home, I doubted my self-worth.

Now in 2024, I did a quick online search. “Is it normal to get 0 results on a dating app?” The Internet delivered a Quora message board discussion showing how normal my experience was — and still is.

The comments also instructed me to revise my profile, add a better photo or try another dating website. I had none of that wisdom in 2000.

Now, I also wonder what role race played in my zero responses. The app I used wasn’t specifically for Black people. I’m willing to date people of other races and cultures, but the feeling might not be reciprocal. Many online daters have been discouraged based on their race. A quick search on Reddit asking “Is online dating harder for Black people in America” elicited a lot of yeses, such as posts sharing that they got zero responses on Tinder.

(Note that this 2024 Forbes report on the best dating sites for Black singles includes eHarmony and Silver Singles.)

With my zero results, I felt horrible. In the Hollywood version of my relationship dreams, I would’ve had a meet-cute moment with someone who turned into the love of my life.

That’s not what happened. I stopped with my one dating app attempt. It felt too threatening. I was too shy and too introverted to pursue a mate in real life either. Plus, it felt more important to mother my daughter, and further my education in graduate school.

Now in 2024, at the age of 62, I reside alone but live in communities. I belong to an urban yoga group. Through online sites, I meet up with others to paddle on the water or walk in the woods. Thankfully our world has evolved. Living alone is now looked upon more kindly. In fact, one of the coolest terms I’ve heard for women who live alone is “Hermette.” It’s the feminine version of the word hermit. Hermette references a secret society of women who prefer a solitary life.

Within the Black community, Kris Marsh coined the term SALA (Single and Living Alone) for the generation represented in her book The Love Jones Cohort, made into a popular Black romance movie from 1991. Marsh’s research is centered on the intersectionality, economics and politics of the Black middle-class.

The Black, single woman demographic is a burgeoning population. According to BlackDemographics, 47 percent of Black women have never been married. And, increasingly, many of us choose not to be.

I was single by choice long before The Love Jones or the terms SALA and Hermette were coined. It can be lonely at times. Going through the lengthy COVID-19 shutdown was especially challenging. Fortunately, within my circle of friends, I found someone who needed a home. She rented my second bedroom for six months. We became very close and though she’s moved away, we remain tight.

Friendships have also formed in different ways. I offered a walking meditation class through my home yoga studio a year or so before the pandemic. A young Black woman signed up for a session. It was just the two of us, finding little-known trails in our community —sanctuaries, peaceful paths hiding just beyond the trees here or just past that stop sign there.

As we talked and covered ground, I shared about places I've seen and experiences I’ve had alone. The young woman, who was at least half my age, asked me a question.

“How did you find the courage to do those things on your own?”

It threw me off balance. I didn’t seek a solitary life, but it’s the one I’ve lived. I reflected on the younger woman I once was, seeking a partner on a dating app, and the woman I’ve grown into, mostly standing solidly in my own footprints, but within a community.

“If I waited for a partner to choose me, or other people to approve the things I wanted to do, I wouldn’t have done half of what I’ve accomplished,” I responded. Completing graduate school, becoming a certified yoga teacher, kayak instructor and trip leader, caring for my elderly parents, writing a book, and manifesting the life I choose to live.

Recently I discovered social scientist Dr. Bella DePaulo, a prominent expert on single life, and author of many books on the subject, including Single at Heart. She reminds people that being single is not a half-hearted choice. Rather it is full and rich on its own terms.

As she puts it: “One is a whole number.”


Have you tried online dating? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

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