Jozen Cummings approaches our table at the Harlem Tavern with his cell phone in hand. I can’t see what he’s typing, but the intensity of his fingers gliding across his iPhone implies that he’s likely contacting a woman (or women). He’s wearing shorts, a loose hanging red fatigue inspired tank top and Chucks–a look that’s Brooklyn enough for tonight’s Erykah Badu concert at AfroPunk. When I ask if he’s going, he dismissively says, “Nah, I’m staying Uptown.” I introduce him to my table of friends, (all of whom happen to be male), he shakes their hands when one of them says, “I read your blog man–it’s good stuff.” “Thanks,” he says, taking a his seat with his face buried back into his iPhone.
For the past three years Jozen has authored the popular relationship blog, Until I Get Married, a mix of personal stories, advice columns and other musings from the 31 year-old Howard grad. One of his most recent posts was to inform his readers that he did, indeed, find a wife for his best friend via his blog (though he vehemently and almost painfully feigned any credit for it). His attempt to distance himself is likely a way tame expectations of his abilities–like most people who gain celebrity via the Internet, Jozen has been forced to assume a perceived identity—The Washington Post once referred to him as some sort of new-age “Hitch” (something he didn’t embrace until recently). His newest gig at the New York Post, setting up willing singles on dates for the “Meet Market” section, has only exacerbated the public perception that, when it comes to relationships, Jozen has insights more profound than your average Joe. His exes, however, may beg to differ.
I met Jozen 10 years ago when we were summer interning at magazines, (may they rest in peace), during our college years. Legend has it, one night while out at a club, I lost my purse, (which I often used to do), and he spotted it sitting safely behind the bar. Instead of pointing it out to me, he asked the bartender to give it to him so that he could deliver it to me personally. As I frantically searched for it, Jozen walked up with purse in hand. “I found your purse,” he said. I leapt in to his arms praising and thanking him. In hindsight it was quite the smooth move, except, ultimately we became great friends instead of lovers. Back then, he thought in ten years he’d be making a career writing about music, not setting up dates.
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Currently Jozen describes himself as super single. “I’m just taking some time to myself right now—mostly because I want to.” Despite his keen ability to understand and even diagnose himself–in his own life, Jozen stumbles to make the right decisions in his quest for love. “I don’t think I’m ever qualified in a way, like, when people say someone is really qualified to do something. There’s no degree or formal training. I write about my experiences in relationships, and because I’m so open and honest about those experiences, other people feel comfortable asking me for advice.”
As we walk down the streets of Harlem, I confide in him about my current long-distance romance situation—I confess I’m hopeful that my new romance can survive the year of loneliness and stress long-distance can bring. Before I can even finish catching him up, he’s already launched in to his own personal testimony, “I’ve messed up a lot of situations with girls who were really awesome because they were going away for a year,” he says. “That sh*t goes by real quick—and then, they get back and they don’t want to give it another shot because I was unwilling to stick it out with them.” I assure him that I think my current situation is worth giving a chance. He replies, “I told you, the heart isn’t going to let you do anything you don’t want to do.” He did, in fact, tell me that three weeks ago—he is, it seems, correct.
But being right about other people’s dating lives poses a tough conundrum for Jozen, who is often accused of living his dating life out for the blog. “If someone knows what I do, there’s usually skepticism about my intentions, but then again, most women are skeptical of guys intentions in general. But this isn’t all women, just some women.” Other women, seem to have no problem with it at all–right now, he says, “I’m dating some girls.”
Perhaps it’s his unabashed honesty about who he is that makes him alluring to his dating prospects. In a recent blog post titled, “A Look Back On Being 30,” he openly shares how difficult the past year of his life has been:
I spent the majority of my 30-year unemployed, freelancing my life away while trying to figure out if I could qualify for food stamps. Times got hard. I went to housing court, not once, but twice, an experience I will dedicate a whole chapter to in that book I’ve been spending my whole life writing… Meanwhile, the personal life is, as it always was: A mess. I’ve made mistakes here too within the past 12 months. I broke someone’s heart; someone broke my heart. If you’ve read the blog over the past six months, you could get a sense of what it felt like to be in both positions.
It’s pretty insightful stuff coming from a guy who’s also penned posts like, “Talk To Your Man Like Ho,” and “How To Tell Your Woman To Lose Weight.” But it would be both unfair and untrue to say he doesn’t care about what people think. Living life as an open blog has had it’s drawbacks. “Even my closest friends read my blog; my mom reads my blog, so I have to worry about what they think of me because I care about what they think. But, I explain to them that my blog isn’t a shortcut to my personal life. If you know me in real life, don’t think you’re getting updated as to what is going on because you read my blog.” But what is considered real and unreal is often blurry on the Internet, and so, in a strange way, his insistence on being known in “real life” seems particularly naïve.
As we approach my stoop, our conversation finishes with a bit more advice from the so-called relationship “expert.” “You gotta go all in,” he tells me. “No one can ever say anything bad about you if you go all in. So you make a fool of yourself for him, you won’t ever regret that.” I shrug, but he’s got a point.
With that as our closing dialogue, we say goodbye. I don’t ask where he’s off to, but I watch him take off down the block, face down, hurriedly sending a text to someone on his iPhone.
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