Play To Your Strengths

It's completely OK to be a one-trick pony.

“Christine Everhart: You’ve been called “the DaVinci of our time”; what do you say to that?
Tony Stark: Absolutely ridiculous. I don’t paint.
Christine Everhart: And what do you say to your other nickname, the “Merchant of Death”?
Tony Stark: That’s not bad.”
-Robert Downey, Jr., “Iron Man”

With a burgeoning dating and relationship expert market – especially one for Black men – afoot, it is par for the course for someone like me to see videos, podcasts and books by peers pretty much advising (Black) men to be a kind of “man for all seasons” – a great lover, an adventurer, a de facto knowitall, etc., et. al. Sure, what (Black) woman wouldn’t want all that, right? But, is it realistic? And, what if you simply aren’t cutout for that “Renaissance Man” life?

To be sure, there are guys who truly can be a “jack of all trades”, but these are few and far between and everyone – especially Black women – knows it. Today, I want to make the case that it is perfectly OK NOT to be “all things to all people” – that, in fact, it is a powerful thing to play to your strengths. Let’s get started!

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First, a quick primer for some and a refresher for others, as to why so many Black women have that infamous “list” – you know what I’m talking about – that list of qualities and traits the ideal Black man “must have” in order to be considered for a mate. This came about as a result of many millennia of evolution – Black women in the ancestral environment of Africa had to figure out how to solve the many adaptive problems they would have in the mating dance, among them being, how to determine which Black man was more likely to be kind and loving; which Black man was more likely to be generous with his resources; and which Black man was more likely to have the size and strength needed for her physical protection. These and many more traits that we would today identify on a Black woman’s “list”, are in fact, a suite of traits and qualities most desired in Black men by Black women and all of them serve a very important function and purpose; they are NOT merely “superficial” or “shallow”.

The excellent landmark work, “The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating” by Prof. David M. Buss, outlines ten(!) specific traits most desired in men by women around the world; they are as follows:

1. Economic Capacity
2. Social Status
3. Age (By which is meant, somewhat older)
4. Ambition & Industriousness
5. Dependability & Stability
6. Intelligence
7. Compatibility
8. Size & Strength
9. Good Health
10. Love & Commitment (pp. 22-45)

While Black women in particular are known for their loooong and rather florid “lists”, upon closer inspection, each item is just another iteration of one of the aforementioned ten traits on the above list given by Prof. Buss. To illustrate, let’s consider the following YouTube clip featuring Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey (“The Ideal Man? One Woman’s 43-Point List Stuns Steve Harvey | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN”, Aug 21, 2014). “Lynell” is the first Black woman up (light-skinned in a red sweater). She has a whopping 43(!) items on her “list”, but since we won’t have time to detail them all, let’s just take the first ten and see how they match up, shall we?

1. African-American/Dark Complexion
2. Tall – 6’2″ or taller (See? Told ya!)
3. Atheletic Body Type
4. 230lbs on average
5. Dark eyes
6. Straight White Teeth – all 32
7. God-Fearing; Spiritual
8. Attends service regularly
9. Millionaire; Financially secure
10. Sense of Humor

Now, this is VERY interesting, isn’t it? I say that because, of the “top ten must have traits” Lynell desires in a Black man, HALF were focused on “size and strength” (Tall, atheletic body type, over 200lbs on average), which is number eight on Buss’ list, and “good health” (Dark eyes, good teeth), which comes in at number nine. Meanwhile, “God-fearing & spiritual” and “Attending service regularly” would fall under number ten and five respectively, “Dependability/stability” and “Love & Commitment”. “Millionaire/financially secure” of course, falls under the number one slot on Buss’ list, “economic capacity”, with “Sense of humor” bringing up the rear; on Buss list, this would fall under “intelligence” at number six (Humor, particular in males, has been strongly correlated with higher than average intelligence and in mating terms, is a powerful proxy for women to get a quick gauge on a man’s potential IQ. For more on this, see “Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males”, Gil Greengross & Geoffrey Miller, Psychology Today; “Funny People Have Higher IQs: Here’s Why Humor and Intelligence Go Hand in Hand”, Newsweek, Oct 16, 2017; “The Humor Gap”, Scientific American, Oct 1, 2012). I must admit that I am at a loss to place Lynell’s first item on her list, which was her desire to have a Black American mate, on Buss’; definitely room for more research, since it is a fact that people tend to mate with those of their own “tribe”, so to speak. Interestingly enough, Essence magazine has noted that Black women tend to place a much higher emphasis on physicality and good looks in a mate than other races of women do – no surprise to readers here (“Why Is It So Hard For Black Women to Find The Love They Deserve?”, Nov 5, 2015).

Small world.

But what we also learn from Lynell’s example, is that all women, in this case Black, may not place equal importance on all ten most desirable traits in a Black man. Clearly in Lynell’s case, commitment, dependability, earning potential and even intelligence, clearly took a back seat to size, strength and good health. And while we can say with a reasonably degree of confidence that most Black women are inclined to agree with Lynell, all hope is not lost for the Non-Select Guy. Read on!

SHAMELESS PLUG AD BREAK: Like what you’re reading now? Wait till you see my very first book, “The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman”! Here’s YOUR chance to help me bring the dream to life, by supporting “The Book of Obsidian Fundraising Campaign”! All the details are over at Now, back to the article!

As noted above, while Black women clearly have their “lists” and have a marked preference for the physical on them, this need not be a death sentence for the Non-Select Guy. Keeping in mind the fact that not all (Black) women place the same importance on some traits in Black men as others, keeps things in perspective. Not only that, but it is very possible to have, less than half of the traits on Buss’ Big List and still do well for oneself out on the mating market.

The fictional Tony Stark, known to the Marvel universe as Iron Man, is an excellent case in point, and by now you’ve noticed his quip above in response to a very blonde reporter who wound up spending an evening with him. In a world full of enhanced people endowed with superhuman powers, Stark is but a mortal man – but he is a stompdown GENIUS and in a very real sense, walks among gods (He even tangled with a thunder god in the first Avengers flick!). His ability to create novel inventions, including one that saved his life after a horrible accident by one of his own weapons in Afghanistan, is a testament to his intellect. Years later, he was the only Avenger able to go toe to toe with Thanos – imagine that! – thanks to his newly upgraded armor that was comprised of millions of nanobots.

Not only does Stark use his brains to create witty inventions and make an even bigger fortune than the one he was gifted with by his father (Yea, he would definitely have “economic capacity” on the list!), he also uses it to devastating effect in his interpersonal actions with others – especially women. If you closely study the clip that forms the basis of the leadoff quote/interaction Stark has with the reporter, you’ll find that his repartee is lightning quick with a sharp wit (“Tony Stark Meets Christine Everhart | IronMan”, YouTube). Known in the pickup world as “Cocky Funny”, this style of humor and delivery really does turn women on, because it is an irrefutable sign of intelligence – something that can’t be faked.

As a matter of fact, contrary to popular opinion, nerdy or geeky guys are excellent candidates for learning things like pickup, BECAUSE they’re so damned smart. Don’t believe me? Read “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” for yourself. Famed pickup artist Mystery tells author Neill “Style” Strauss that one major reason why he picked up, well, pickup, so quickly was because he was a smart guy.

So trust me, “Intelligence” – ranked number six on Buss’ Big List – can definitely take a Non-Select Guy a long way.

SHAMELESS PLUG AD BREAK: Like what you’re reading now? Wait till you see my very first book, “The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman”! Here’s YOUR chance to help me bring the dream to life, by supporting “The Book of Obsidian Fundraising Campaign”! All the details are over at Now, back to the article!

In a recent on-air discussion I had with “Saint” Kevin Samuels and Bernard Riley, I said that the “secret sauce” to what I do is that I take popular wisdom and convention and turn them on their head. When it comes to mating and dating in contemporary Black America, I raise questions, through my actions (Always remember Law Number Nine, fellas: Win Through Your Actions!). When I visibly changed my appearance and paired that up with my growing social media presence and influence as one of the principal architects and “founding fathers” of the Black Manosphere, Black women’s discussions about me changed in a very noticeable way. To be sure, I may not be their cup of tea, but they simply couldn’t say that I wasn’t going places or not making things happen. All they could say is that I wasn’t their cup of tea – which is a major, marked departure from the tired, old saw Black women have been playing for many decades now, about how their inability to find a man is the fault of some existential crisis and eternal dearth of eligible Black men (“Cup of Tea”,, Jan 20, 2020). I have played a direct role in changing that narrative forever.

But another thing that I’ve done, is seriously challenged the notion of what makes for an “ideal” Black man. Black women are slowly but surely realizing that maybe they might have to “rethink” what they previously thought and believed about dating, relationships and Black men – especially the so-called “Non-Select” ones. After all, if Black women can make the case that female beauty isn’t contingent on body shape, size of complexion, why can’t male desirability be free of height and muscle mass? If Black women can demand to be accepted for their “fierceness”, why can’t brainy guys like me be accepted for our smarts? And if “colorism” and other “isms” against Black women – like sexism, for example – are impediments toward “Black Love”, why stop there – shouldn’t we feel the same way for our disabled brothers – many of whom got that way, while making a better life for everyone in this country?

Speaking of being disabled, I’ve pretty much singlehandedly made canes and walking sticks sexy again; instead of merely accepting what I call the “old fart canes” you see at the local drugstore, I decided to brandish mine with style and elegance. In fact, I have a cane now for just about every occasion – including those I use when I’m working out taking my walks, etc. – and I’ve always gotten very nice compliments from the ladies while out and about.

What I lack in the areas Black women traditionally look for in a mate I more than make up in intelligence, ambition and a degree of social status – all of which have taken me far.

And it can be the same thing for you.

So, don’t worry about fitting into all the boxes – think outside of it!

Now adjourn your asses…

Mumia Obsidian Ali is a citizen journalist, podcaster, talk radio show host, newly minted dating coach and soon to be author. You can catch his daily live shows on the global livestreaming radio website Mixlr, as well as the all-new members-only Obsidian Radio Zoomcast, and his podcasts on YouTube and Black Avenger TV, as well as his weekly dating coach column at the Negromanosphere website. He’s also a semi-professional pest.

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