Stop Holding On So Tight to Your Type

by Janelle Harris

My cousin, bless his heart, has never dated a Black girl. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen him give a sister the standard-issue double take, the one where guys casually wait until a chick walks past and then snaps his neck to put her hindparts through close inspection. Holiday after holiday—and get-togethers and random visits in between—he’s been the proud drum major for a parade of white girls who’ve tagged along to meet his family. There was a Lindsey in there somewhere, a handful of Jens and the latest one is a Tiffany who, I’ve got to say, is my hands-down favorite. But I’ve chalked up the possibility of him ever bringing home a Tyiesha, or even a Janelle. That’s just his type, I guess.

I, on the other hand, gravitate to smart-alecky, big-boned, dark-skinned men. My resume is full of ‘em. Perhaps I’m subconsciously picking up on the love of chocolate that my dear cousin clearly lacks. There’s just something that inherently attracts me to that adorable I-was-a-football-player-back-in-my-heyday look. Even my old celebrity crushes tell the story: I was in love with Jadakiss once upon a time and I single-handedly headed up Team Cam’ron until he got slim (and more obnoxious). I didn’t intentionally align myself with the prototypical thick, dark dude with attitude. That’s just my type, I guess.

There’s no fighting the law of natural attraction. We like what we like. But sometimes we get so settled into being drawn to one type of person—the backpacker intellectual, the edgy thug, the quintessential pretty boy, the upwardly mobile business man—that we close ourselves off to other possibilities. And the way the dating pool is now, we need as many possibilities as we can get. Not out of desperation just to be attached to somebody, mind you. Being pressed out to have a man is so 1955. But most of us have life plans that do include marriage and family somewhere along the line, and limiting ourselves to one physical or one personality type, even without realizing it, is sentencing ourselves to round after round of the same ol’ same ol’.

An influx of statisticians, experts and random folks with an opinion have come out the woodwork to tell Black women that we need to date white men. But some of us haven’t even opened ourselves up to brothers like we should before we can throw up our hands and cross over the color lines. I know ladies who refuse to date dudes who didn’t go to college because, in their little high-powered corners of the world, a man without a bachelor’s degree at minimum and a fancy-titled white collar position couldn’t be their equal and therefore isn’t worth adding to their contact list.

Look, I’d holla at a bus driver or a construction worker so long as he knew how to make a living and had some ambition. You don’t need a degree to be intelligent and you don’t need to make six figures to be a good man. Anyway, most of the gals I know turning up their noses at blue collar dudes and dismissing them for being not their type don’t come from money in the first place. They’re Jack and Jill debutantes only in their heads.

Sometimes we just need to take one of those rare moments to pause and do some self-reflection. Why do you like who you like? Have you dated the same type of dude your whole life because that’s who you feel comfortable with and, give or take individual experiences, you pretty much know what to expect from them? There are all kinds of deep-rooted psychological reasons why we’re attracted to the same kind of men, and I’m certainly not the one to try to play armchair therapist and pick them apart. I just know they exist because I was caught up in the pattern myself—not just in my love of thickums, which is the most harmless part of my typecasting but because, after two relationships that boiled down to 11 years, one baby and no ring, I realized I was picking dudes who had maturity issues.

Fear of marriage. Fear of success. Hell, fear of growing up. And because they couldn’t cheerlead themselves, they certainly had difficulty supporting me in my ever-growing accomplishment-chasing. My attraction to snarky big boys had turned into a long-term love affair with dead weight.

A few summers ago, I met a guy who fit my physical type but lacked the swagger I was used to (yeah, I said I was going to give up that word but I haven’t found one to replace it yet). He was hella thoughtful and kind-hearted and all the things I said I wanted, but he didn’t present the challenge I thought I craved. I was used to trouble. He seemed like he’d be too easy, I had to check myself from rejecting the man because he wasn’t my type. We celebrated our two-year anniversary this week. Far as I’m concerned, even if we never stroll down the aisle, this is a success story because it forced me to try something new—not Sanaa Lathan’s or my cousin’s kind of way, though his is something old by now. But the spell of wanting only one kind of dude has been broken.

  • AM

    Oh no! I am holding on to my type, close to my chest. I have my reasons. Good luck in your dating endeavors!

  • MimiLuvs

    (looks up at Clutch’s ceiling fan)
    Nope, nothing is there yet.

  • justkellz

    LOVE THIS! Thumbs up times a million girl. I swear this are my exact thoughts….after analyzing my failed relationships I realized I had a thing for pretty boy a**holes. Could make me laugh, looked good, but couldn’t treat me right…….now I just want a nice man, a provider, with some ambition! Have some goals, a vision for your life! But nowdays I guess thats too much to ask *sigh*…..great article.

  • Tonton Michel

    Yeah everyone suffers from this and we wonder why things never work out. It usually takes a lot of gained maturity and intelligence or a whole lot of scars to break out of the habit.

  • Chillyroad

    You can’t negotiate good morals and character. You can let go of the superficial.

  • Verity Reign

    So I accidentally clicked “report comment” but meant to click “reply”! Sorry, Clutch! I just wanted to agree with you @justkellz! I too was attracted to the same type, but with a little hood swag factor (like a Nas), lol. I’m with you now though! Looks are still important to me, but above all else I just want to be treated right!

  • Cocochanel31

    Looove this!! Totally spoke to my heart! I am struggling with this literally every day! I am kind of tall and am always attracted to men taller/bigger than me, however, my last two relationships were with guys who were tall and handsome but lacked the morals/character/maturity needed to sustain a lasting relationship.

    I’m starting to think tall and morals/character for a man DO NOT go hand and hand and that I just need to give the short nice guys a chance. Thanks for speaking about what really matters!

  • J. Nicole

    Aside from a few stereotypes (he dated a few ‘Jen’s’…. I’m a Jenn and clearly not a white girl), this was an interesting post. But if he likes white women the great for him. Why expect him to date a woman of color if she isn’t his type? So she can feel like an experiment? And if it goes wrong he can proclaim “this is why I don’t date black women!”. There is nothing wrong with having a “tupe”, in fact I did a post about this (shameless plug) a while back. Sometimes a persons surroundings prevents them from stepping outside of their comfort zone. Having a “type” isn’t just physical or financial. Its also goals and morals as well.

  • Cocochanel31

    I struggle with this daily. I’m 5’7′ and I’m starting to think that a man taller than me is not in the cards. My “Types” have typical been tall with some sort of athletic type of build, but hasn’t worked out too well for me, so I need to now give the shorter brothas a chance, they seem to be the nicest anyway……

  • LaLa Fisher

    We have to learn to step out of the box, period. Sometimes, we hold on to superficial things and miss out on the one we are supposed to be with. When my people met the man who would become my husband, I was met with “he is not your type” by almost everyone. They soon saw how over the top happy this man made me. He is my perfect someone.

  • pinklipstick227

    Great article. I still believe that certain characteristics are non-negotiable. I cannot picture myself with a man who isn’t goal-oriented and ambitious.

  • Trisha

    I had to stick with my type. It has to be some physical attraction there. If not, every man or woman who walks thru the door, you will drool. In other words, I just couldn’t date a man standing at 5.2. It has to be something about that person which is alluring to you. Similiar to settling for a plain hershey bar when I know I want my perfect almond joy.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    Or how about if you try a hershey kiss with almonds and discover you love that even more though! LOL

  • Val

    It probably wouldn’t hurt if you gave up using the word, “hella” too.

  • onegirl

    BWAAAHHAHA!!! :)

  • Trisha doesn’t have coconut in it. You do have a point, though. In the end, hershey kisses are more resourceful. LOL

  • Miranda

    I was talking about this same thing with a friend the other day. There is nothing wrong with wanting an educated man, but when you’re doing it just to impress other friends, then it is wrong. My friend told me someone wanted to introduce her to a barber and she flat out said no because “what am I going to respond to so and so when she askes me what your man does”. This is so wrong, and I told her so. I told her, maybe he is the owner of the barbershop or if he isn’t he could be. She flat out rejected the option of finding love just because he is a barber.

  • tish

    my type is pretty much, male, psychologically stable, and can string together more than 3 words and make a coherent sentence.

    seriously, sticking to “types” are why many sistas in their 40s are single. and others who do not, have had a string of marriage proposals.

    much love, but i had to say it.

  • Robbie

    I have dated only black men that were not my type even though I have a type. It is mostly because the black men that like me are usually those that physically are not cute. I was always willing to see past it and I have to say that things did not workout because they were too caught up in looks. Friends always told me to stay away from prettyboys so I did and found out that even the ugliest brother was just as caught up in looks as any men.

    I have never dated my type because I never really went for it. I settled for what was available, and I was really disappointed by how these brothas who did not even look like Denzel were always finding something to say about my looks.

    One of them went as far as telling me that I should look like this/that woman every time we walked down the street. My self-esteem was getting really low. This time around, I am open and willing to go after what I truly want. Sometimes going for something that is not really what you want in order to expand your pool options is not the best thing to do. It did not work for me.

  • binks

    Agreed! I say be willing to be flexible but at the same time keep your standards high. People seem to think that since you are willing to be flexible on certain issues that you have to tank your standards overall when that doesn’t have to be the case. But side eye to the cousin…yeah…I always think it is odd when someone “type” has to be “insert certain race” only. But in dating you have to date a whole bunch of types to know what you want, I know many women who think or say they want “type this” but A) never dated the type or B) the guy didn’t go over well in reality than it did in their head. As the saying goes…you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. Usually, people end up with the opposite of what they thought they wanted…so shrugs

  • EST. 1986

    Men are going to be caught up in looks despite their own.

  • Chillyroad

    That’s pretty abusive. Ain’t nothing like a man who thinks you are flyer than fly.

  • Miranda

    your last paragraph. That was so wrong of him to tell you that. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Men could sometime be really mean creatures

  • Stanley

    I got to you, I’m too tall for any woman under 5’8″.

  • Dave

    Nothing wrong with having a type, unless of course you keep picking the wrong type and spend the rest of your dating life complaining about it…at which point the problem is you and not your partners. Their only crime was being your type. Follow?

  • isola

    If I waited for my type I would be celibate and alone forever. I learned to broaden my horizons.

  • Erin

    I never dated my so-called “type” (meaning the type of man everyone thought I was interested in… bald, bearded, possibly that wears glasses and is taller than me) until recently and BABY! Couldn’t be happier… :) Not saying you should only go after one type but there’s a reason why you’re attracted to them… I guess. LOL

  • JaeBee

    ITA. It’s good to be flexible in certain areas like looks or personality, but there will always be certain areas which are non-negotiable depending on the type of life you would like to one day lead. You shouldn’t have to give up your life goals just settle for a having partner–who you may eventually come to resent because they always lacked what you truly wanted

  • cabugs

    As a very average-looking woman, this article strikes a nerve for me. Men are never told these kinds of things. Expand your options? No, they are told to get the girl of their dreams. Refer to Robbie’s comment and I understand exactly what she is talking about. Personally, I know that I am average-looking, so I am okay with going for average-looking guys. However, all these average (and below average) looking guys are told by society that it’s okay to chase after the most attractive; go for the woman you want, the “dime”, so to speak. And then women get this? – Expand your options, don’t be so stuck on the pretty boy, or the jock, or the business man, or the pilot, or the sun kissed guy, or the dark chocolate, etc. etc. you get my point. Why? Why is there this double standard?
    I’m going to go ahead and say that I do absolutely see the merits of this article though and I agree with it. I don’t think that contradicts what I have said above at all, but what I did say still stands – why the double standard?- and is just another perspective. My comment is not meant to criticize the author at all but just to point this discrepancy in what society is telling men and women.

  • RenJennM

    My type is what I affectionately call “The Urban Nerd”: intelligent, quirky and witty with an attractive face, a great sense of style, and a love for the Hip-Hop culture. (Not to mention that I also like ‘em chocolate-skinned!) But my type never seems to be attracted to me! Shoo, I attract everything BUT my type! lol

    Don’t get me wrong: as long as a man IS physically and visually attractive to me, then I’m attracted to him (whether he’s Asian, white, Hispanic, or whatever). But chocolate brothas are my weakness. And if they’re “urban nerds” on top of that, forget it… I’m practically head-over-heels. But I’m never the one they’re looking at. My type always wants the “long-haired, thick, red bone” (as Lil’ Wayne puts it), the Asian girl, or the Latina. And I’m not that, so it hurts my feelings sometimes.

    Is it even possible to change what (or rather who) you’re attracted to? Because maybe I’d be a lot less disappointed if I was able to.

  • EST. 1986

    A love for old school Hip Hop? The influence that the Hip Hop of today has on men…

  • EST. 1986


  • chinaza

    I get the point of the article and I agree.
    But sometimes you have to be honest about what you like or you try to force yourself and the other person to fit a mold that breaks under the pressure. Even with the best of intentions and the broadest mind.
    Then frustration and resentment develop and you’ve cheated that person and yourself.
    So, maybe some women choose to be single and happy at 40 than waste their lives in a false relationship for 10 or 15 years and then be bitter. It all comes down to choice and we have to stop blanketing our single women with these negative connotations.
    Ultimately, we look for who we are in relationships and we have to be true to ourselves.

  • mecca f

    GIRL! I had to keep checking if I typed this comment as I kwas reading lol. I don’t know what it is about the urban intellectual brothas, I just feel like they have the total package (I love hip-gop as well so if they’re into that, it’s a done deal!).

    Alas, the ones that I like don’t like me back either *sigh.* I don’t think it is possible to change who you’re attracted to, or your type, per say – however, it is possible to be open to new people! Which in this new year, I am going to be 100%!

  • Ravi

    “But if he likes white women the great for him. Why expect him to date a woman of color if she isn’t his type?”

    I think that’s the wrong question. I think we should ask, why should he hold onto his self-hatred and embracing of white standards of beauty? or Why can’t he expand his idea beauty or type to include the beauty of the women that gave birth to him and raised him?

    I think there is something wrong with having a type if is born of white supremacy or Western society’s worship of white women.

  • Ravi

    I don’t think that is what society encourages us to do. I think there are many different and opposing messages being delivered to men by society. Some (usually other men) encourage men to chase after any and all available women like it’s a numbers game. Others encourage men to stop being so shallow as to only focus on a woman’s beauty. You get different messages based on who is giving the advice and who it is directed towards. If a guy has a preference for only women of a certain height, with a college degree, that will aggressively pursue him, I’m sure most people would tell him he should expand his options — especially given he is dateless and constantly passing over good women because of his very narrow pool.

    When I list my preferences, I have never been encouraged to pursue this ideal (not even by myself), because it is futile. There just aren’t a lot of women on the planet that will fit all of my criteria, so I stay open-minded on the surface details. I’m encouraged to see the beauty in those that might not be within my narrowly defined ideals.

  • Ravi

    It’s definitely possible. I’ve done it. Whether it’s tastes in physical attractiveness or even food or music, we are extremely malleable. It just takes an open mind and willingness to see merit in something where we didn’t see it before. Tastes can definitely be acquired or gotten rid of.

  • SpkKay13

    I completely agree with the point of the article. We should not place ourselves or others in a box, which ultimately increases the likelihood of us overlooking some worthwhile men. Now that that’s out of the way, I have to be completely honest with myself and what I’m attracted to and why. I’ve noticed that in my younger years, as a pre-teen, I was attracted to an array of traits within a person. However, somewhere between high school and college, I felt an undeniable attraction to Amistad hued men (special dark chocolate), extremely tall, (I’m 5’11′), career oriented, and spiritually connected. Although spiritually connected was initially define as “believes in God,” since maturation and me realizing what I want for my children, I knew that my husband would have to be serious about his walk with Christ. Also, the career oriented used to mean “has to be college education,” which was superficial and all about appearances. Whew!!! Thank God for growth. As far as my physical attractions, the author mentioned that our personal experiences play a role in what we find attractive and that is the case with me. I vividly remember developing a lot faster than girls in my age group, was considerably darker, and taller. I sincerely believe that the aforementioned physical traits would have gone unnoticed if my peers didn’t hurl names at me concerning my complexion. I also always ended up being close friends with fair complexioned girls in middle and high school and the fellas ALWAYS flocked to these ladies. It wasn’t until my junior year in college (7 years ago), that I actually began to embrace and acknowledge how God designed me. I think all of the above shaped my attraction towards darker hued men. It’s ironic because I discovered beauty in what others deemed unattractive.

    My height on the other hand seemed to attract shorter men and negative comments from relatives when I wear heels because “I’M ALREADY TALL ENOUGH SO I NEED TO FIT IN NOT STAND OUT.” Consequently, I always felt the need to date someone who is considerably taller than me so that I can feel more feminine in the sense that their height will trump mine, especially when I wear heels. In retrospect, I honestly believe that my idiosyncracies from childhood subconsciously shaped what I’m attracted to now. Needless to say, my significant other of almost 2 years is 6’3.5′, deliciously dark, loves my height and me in heels, tells me how beautiful & attractive I am on a consistent basis, and possesses everything else I’ve prayed for in a man.

  • Tiff

    The new word that should replace swagger is swank.

  • Tearyne (@TearyneG)

    I’m too tall for any man under 5’10″, but let a woman say that in public and it’s the call for a crucifixion! Feelings get HURT, REAL fast! I’m 5’9 (and three quarters. yes, it matters :[) I’ve tried dating shorter guys but the sparks just aren’t there, no matter how you dress it up. I’d rather be honest with a guy and let him know up front than to drag it out with him. Attraction is attraction. Seeing as how I’m not as rigid about my other “qualifications”, you’d think I’d get a break instead of the flack I get.

  • Tearyne (@TearyneG)

    As a woman who is a quarter inch away from 5’10″, I am sending hugs your way. Know how you feel. I can’t compromise on height, but I wish you the best!

  • Treece

    I think this article is right in a sense……I wish someone would let men in on this tidbit of info….

    I typically go for tall guys. I love a 6 footer with a pretty smile. Good teeth is another requirement. A jacked up grill can just damn it all to hell. But I have crushed on a coworker of mine who had a gorgeous smile, nice body, smelled wonderful, but…..he is only about two inches taller than me (which makes him all of about 5’6″). Not the first time this has happened, so I’ve found that I should have some more flexibility in that category.

    I also have to say that I understand the whole educational level requirement. I think it’s more about finding someone that you’re more likely to have common interests. Most women I think believe that if we’ve both been to college and achieved a certain level of education, we’ll have more in common and things won’t be awkward. A lot of times we hear horror stories about men being jealous of their girlfriend/wife’s level of education or salary. I don’t really adhere too strongly to this one either…..just as long as you are intelligent and read something other than the sports page or hip hop magazines we’re cool. I have a B.A. degree from a 4 year college so a little post high school education wouldn’t hurt either (technical school, associates degree, something….).

  • Humanista

    “There’s just something that inherently attracts me to that adorable I-was-a-football-player-back-in-my-heyday look.”

    Funny, that look TOTALLY turns me off.

    Athlete-looking men don’t really do anything for me. I always preferred medium-build guys that did other random physical activities, like martial arts or tennis or marching band, or constructing things, but I’ve dated outside of that

  • Cocochanel31

    AAmen! You have given me hope for the tall spiritually sound brotha!!!!

  • student

    I know it when I see it.

  • http://me j

    Theres def a difference between having a “type” & self hate- its a very thin line for some .

  • Mademoiselle

    @Ravi I disagree with a lot of this. From my understanding the “numbers game” is meant to always have a woman on your arm, but I’ve witnessed my guy friends either clown each other or downplay the longevity of women they date as if the non-super models they run into are just placeholders for the time being, but the premise is always that the one they settle for will be the 10. I’ve also known men (including some that I’ve dated) who would do a very shitty job of masking the fact that when they take their women out, a large part of it has to do with showing off her beauty and how well he did with his catch. I rarely hear men get reproached for holding true to their “lists” (even the superficial ones) but always see side-eyes given to women who even let it be known they have lists of their own.

  • Ravi

    That’s not the numbers game I was referring to. You can have only one woman and always have her on your arm. I’m talking about getting a lot of different women.

    You haven’t really disagreed with what I said, given my point is that men are given many different messages. The fact that you have different experiences only supports my view. You spoke of what you have seen with your friends and that is nothing like what I have experienced. That proves that there are different messages being delivered.

  • Mademoiselle

    @Ravi No, I do believe the message to men is not to settle. We’re talking about the same numbers game: keep a bunch of women around, but the one you settle for (the one you drop everyone else for) is the one that meets all sorts of criteria (including the shallow criteria of looks) in order to be the only one on your arm, while women have to be willing to settle for the guy that only measures up part of the way.

  • Ravi

    but I am a man. I assume you are not. I think I am a better authority of the messages that I receive as a man. That has never been a message that I have received nor is it a message I have heard of any other man receiving. I’m not saying that you haven’t seen it, but there is no possible way that your very limited experiences can define some general for men across the board, especially when a man is telling you that is not there experience. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for you to believe that there are many different, conflicting messages that men are being bombarded with. Being told to settle is not something that only women are being told and men are not uniformly told to not settle. I’m living proof that this is false.

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