Former music video performer Karrine Steffans — also the author of two tell-all books about her life and career — offers tips and tricks for man-hunting in her latest book, “The Vixen Manual: How to Find, Seduce & Keep the Man You Want.” Here is an excerpt from chapter one.
Chapter one: Single vs. singular
So you’re a single girl. You’re Mary Tyler Moore, throwing your hat up into the air, thinking you’re gonna make it after all. Maybe you’re Laverne (or Shirley), skipping down the sidewalk, determined to make your dreams come true … doing it your way. Hell, maybe you’re even Samantha Jones, the outspoken PR maven and sexual libertine from “Sex and the City,” sleeping with every available man, and occasional woman, who crosses your path. Whatever the case, honey, you’re single, and no matter what your theme song is, it has the potential to suck.
Odds are you’re also singular, which is pretty easy to be when you’re not in a relationship. You define yourself by setting your own boundaries, doing what you want whenever you want, mistress of all you survey within your domain. There’s no one to answer to, no feelings to consider. When a relationship enters the picture, however, it has the potential to change everything, including the singular dynamic. It becomes much more difficult — at times, nearly impossible — to focus only on yourself, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your identity. One of the primary keys to a healthy relationship is for both of you, though no longer single, to remain singular. There’s a fine line between being in a relationship and being absorbed by one, and that’s what will happen if you’re not sure of yourself as an individual first.
As a nurturer, I have the tendency to covet and consume my mates. For most of my life, I have believed in the now-comical mantra, You complete me. So there I was, looking for a man to complete me, giving him all of me in the hopes he would return the favor and make his every waking breath my own. With each boyfriend, I wanted to go where he went and do what he did, and I would make myself available day and night, without compromise. In one of my more intense relationships, I even canceled sections of my first book tour to follow my lover as he traveled the country. I was a no-show at Temple University and several other prestigious higher learning establishments, skipping speaking engagements just to be “completed” by him. He was a nocturnal creature and, though I cherished my sleep, I would force myself to stay awake in the wee hours of the morning to be with him, forsaking rest and comfort. I would hop atop his kitchen counter at four in the morning as he juiced fresh, organic vegetables and fruits and would never share in the nectar. I’d watch him drink. I just wanted to be near him. I just wanted to be “completed.”
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I lost myself in him and, ironically, began to resent him because he had his own life and I didn’t! He didn’t complete me after all! We even made a funny little saying that wound up not being the slightest bit funny: “You deplete me.” That, ladies, is the sum of all parts when you cease being a singular individual before, and especially after, you are no longer single.
For me, it’s always been difficult to not become absorbed by my relationship. It takes an enormous amount of effort to stay on track and to live my life as if there weren’t this hunky piece of man flesh laying in my bed just begging to be ravished. The only way to keep on track is to write out a schedule and stick to it every day, no matter how difficult it may be to leave his side. Make certain things rituals; wake up, make the bed, take the kids to school, go for a walk, shower, and head to the office. For those of us who work at home, it is twice as difficult to concentrate, which makes having a schedule even more important. What has worked for me is to save most of the personal time for after business hours, after I have completed everything on my list for the day, everything from tidying the house to running an office. Take care of yourself first and, trust me, he’ll be there when you’re done. But, to ensure this, make sure you don’t become so self-absorbed that you forget to schedule lots of time for him, as well.
Of course, being a single woman can be fun, especially when it’s done on your own terms. There’s something very fulfilling about not needing a man to buy your drinks, take you shopping, and show you a good time. Still, even in your singleness, you can find yourself not being your own person, a singular woman. You may look for others to validate you by making you feel pretty, worthy, smart, or desirable. These are the feelings that should come from within. There’s an old saying along the lines of “If you don’t go within, you go without.” Giving others the ability to define how you view yourself means you’ve surrendered your power. By expecting others to give you what you need — dignity, pride, self-esteem, confidence — you become a hostage, subject to their whims and insecurities. You must learn to mine your own strengths, which you already possess in great abundance.
If you’re the type of woman who can’t bear the idea of leaving the house without being in the company of a gaggle of girlfriends, you’re not a singular individual. Men are attracted to a woman’s independence and strength. There’s nothing more magnetic to a man than seeing a woman confidently strutting by with a sense of purpose, not checking for who’s checking her out, because she’s apparently got somewhere to be, something to do — something that matters. It’s hard for a potential mate to see who you are when you’re lost in a cacophony of women, all of you laughing and huddling and talking over each other. This may seem communal and fun, even necessary at certain times, but make no mistake — it is not attractive, especially when your objective is to be viewed as an individual.
Eventually, most of us women tire of being single, always hanging out with the girls, meeting up for margaritas and club crawling, only to have to slink back home to an empty bed. We begin to long for the fulfillment of a relationship. This doesn’t have to mean we’re lonely, unable to be in the company of just ourselves. It simply means we no longer want to operate alone. Romantic companionship can be tremendously enriching, enhancing all areas of our lives, under the best circumstances. There’s something uniquely beautiful about Blockbuster nights under a fluffy duvet with someone special, our feet touching, our bodies entwined as we steal each other’s warmth. If only for a season, we all experience a very visceral need to couple, to be touched, and to at least feel loved. If it happens with enough repetition and mutuality, you may soon find that you’re no longer single. The trick, however, is to still be you. Even though you’ve found Mr. Wonderful, or just Mr. Seasonal, it’s important to remain singular and not get so lost in this wonderful (possibly seasonal) bliss that you disappear as an individual.
Make sure you have a strong understanding of who you are and what you stand for before you set out to be in a relationship. Know your singular self. The more you know about you, the better equipped you’ll be to participate in a healthy relationship, and you’ll be much less likely to tolerate what you don’t deserve.
- One of the primary keys to a healthy relationship is for both of you, though no longer single, to remain singular.
- If you don’t go within, you go without.
- It’s hard for a potential mate to see who you are when you’re lost in a cacophony of women.
- Romantic companionship can be tremendously enriching, enhancing all areas of our lives.
- Know your singular self.
Reprinted with permission from “The Vixen Manual” by Karrine Steffans (Grand Central Publishing).
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive