BOOK CLUB: Dating Expert Nikki Novo
With the dreaded Valentine’s Day coming up, those of us who are single all have the same thoughts: self-loathing, bashing those in relationships - they will be SO over in two months anyways! - but most of all, thinking about why we are alone. This one day seems to bring out the Debbie Downer in all of us single people, and we need somebody to snap us all out of it. We knew we needed to bring in a dating expert, so why not bring in one of the best in the country? Nikki Novo started off just like the rest of us, but parlayed her experience into becoming the dating advice expert, as she writes about in her new book, Will I Be Alone Forever? We chatted with Novo her personal dating journey, the positive message she tells everybody to keep in mind, and where her book title came from.
Labeling Men: How did you first start writing about dating?
Nikki Novo: Well let’s see. It was 2008 and I was already an editor at a local luxury magazine in Miami. I was dating this guy and he told me, "Oh you should start a blog, if you're really serious about writing, you should definitely start a blog," and I was like, “Okay, what should I write about, like am I even somebody that should HAVE a blog, do I have any point of view or something to say?” He said, "Well I'll set you up and you never know where it takes you." He told me I was great and to start it up, so he set it up and put me on blogger and everything and I wrote my first post and two weeks later, he dumped me and I was left with this blog. Originally I thought the blog was going to be about living in Miami, but then because I was dumped I thought what I'm going to do is go on a bunch of dates and I'm going to write about it so that my ex-boyfriend feels bad about dumping me. It was totally revengeful and it was completely my intention. Well I'm just going to write about it and hopefully he'll read it, which of course, it didn't work out that way, but I did go on a bunch of dates and wrote about them. Initially it was just trying to deal with the pain from being dumped and the best way to numb it was to go on these dates and pretend that I was ready to date, and what I ended up doing with it was look inward and learn a lesson from every date, which was something I didn't expect at all. Every time I would go on a date, I'd learn something about myself, about life, about dating, and I wrote about it. I really didn't think that anybody was really reading it besides maybe my ex-boyfriend, which he was not.
N.N: But everybody else in Miami was reading it. So from there, people kept on reading and started asking me questions. By no means was I an expert on the topic or anything, I think because I was putting my stories out there, people were relating to me, and from there, I got a column with the Miami New Times, which is owned by the same company as the Village Voice, same setup. So I ended up doing a weekly column for them called "Relationship Rehab," where it would be basically, a lot of people want to give you honest dating tips like “don't text for four days after he texts you” and I feel like insecurities in dating is so much deeper than just dating, so I really focused on building up self-esteem and once that is in place, you'll be awesome at dating. That is what the column was really based on, in a funny Miami way, but always giving advice where you would look in yourself and find that love within yourself and you would know what to do. A lot of people give advice where it’s formulated so if it doesn't work, then you're like, "Holy crap, I did this wrong," but I don't like that stuff because it’s not a "one size fits all.” Building up your self-esteem, giving advice that is more sustainable that you won't need me once I pump you up enough to learn those lessons, you can be off on your own, be a pro-dater in no time, and that’s what the column was all about. From there, I got involved with Disney, they have a site which has a relationship section, they asked me to a column there too, so that was random. eHarmony found me through Twitter, so I write for them as well.
L.M: Do you currently write for them now?
N.N: Yes! eHarmony is the only one I still write for currently.
L.M: Is it weekly?
N.N: Right now, it’s about once a month.
L.M: It’s really cool; they are kind of huge.
N.N: [laughs] Yeah, when they retweet me, I go, "I just got retweeted by eHarmony!"
N.N: They are really great. Right now I'm writing for their UK version as well. It’s funny because the UK has a lot of dating. For some reason there is a lot of dating conversation in the UK, they have a lot of websites dedicated to dating; eHarmony UK does really well there.
L.M: We were reading on your website that you do some hypnotherapy...
N.N: I do. My background is from fashion and beauty, and through this healing process - when I was dumped and wrote about it and everything - I would try a bunch of different healing modalities, because it was rough, I was dating the wrong guys, etc. I tried a bunch of different stuff, the time I was with Daily Candy, a lot of my job was trying out different things, and I stumbled upon hypnosis through a story that I was writing for Daily Candy. So I actually ended up getting certified in hypnotherapy because I learned that the brain is…what you believe in is gold. You can believe that you're going to be rich one day and you know what, you will be rich one day because you believe it, and then you can believe that you're going to be poor and sure enough, you'll be poor. So your beliefs are really the core to everything, and that was what I found, and when I learned that I thought that was amazing. Through hypnotherapy, you can get to the core of your belief to actually change it over time. When we are in the relaxed meditative state, you can get to the subconscious a lot easier and the subconscious is what holds all those deep beliefs. You can go through life thinking, "No, I'll totally make money one day," but if you deep down in your subconscious think that you'll always be poor...it’s what drives the car basically. I found that really fascinating because if I can change my beliefs on me never falling in love…One my beliefs for a long time was that I was never going to find somebody, that I was never going to fall in love again. I thought that if I could change this, it would be amazing. With my one-on-one clients is when I use hypnotherapy the most. When you go through a break up, you hold this person up on a pedestal and it’s really hard to change your mind about it. After they dump you and you're like, "Oh my god, what do I do?" It is hard to change that. If you can get to the subconscious and do a little bit of treatment there, you can start crawling out of that mindset and start believing in what you really want to believe in.
L.M: Building on that, do you feel that the dating advice you give them can translate to the rest of their lives?
N.N: I do. I think that once we really, truly love ourselves, then we won't put up with a shitty boss anymore. We won't put up with a shitty job anymore. When we truly love ourselves, we'll decide to eat the right stuff. You're going to think, "I love myself, my body is awesome, I really don't want to be overindulging in X, Y, and Z.” Same thing goes when you say, "I'm not going to date the shitty guy or girl anymore." I teach self-love and self-love can happen on several different topics, I just happen to teach the language of dating. But with self-love, you can teach that in career. With each person, it depends on what language they speak. I just speak date!
L.M: Do you think the attitudes that men have towards dating varies by city?
N.N: I think yes, definitely. I was in New York in September and a friend of mine was telling me that there was a lot of Peter Pan Syndrome going on over there, or that there is always going to be something out there that is better. She was saying that Tinder is a perfect app for New York because you can keep on playing. But in Miami, which is known for the beautiful women, guys always think that they can get one. But in the Bible Belt, people settle down earlier. I think that there is that cultural aspect, you'll see different things in different cities because of the different cultures. I also think that sometimes people feel - I wrote an article for the Huffington Post once - about people feel they have to leave their city to find true love. We find that it happens all the time. You're stuck in New York, per say, or even people move to New York to try and find love. My friend who moved from Miami to New York, thinking that the pool is bigger, “I'll have better chances there,” and now she's like, "this place sucks for dating!"
L.M: [laughs] Couldn't agree more.
N.N: Here is the thing, I think that no matter where you live, if you have the right mindset, if you believe in something healthy, I think you can find the right fit for you. Because we all know people that live in New York that have relationships and that are happy, maybe have children. Whatever your definition of happiness, we see that. In Miami, in Los Angeles, it does exist. It’s whatever you subscribe to, whatever you believe true to yourself is what you're going to find. Going back to my friend in New York, she complains about it, but if you look around at the people she hangs around with, you look at her lifestyle, it is not conducive to this mature relationship that she is looking for. She believes that what she wants doesn't exist so that is going to be true to her. As much as she wants it, she doesn't want to make that lifestyle change that needs to happen in order to get the relationship she is looking for. Culture for sure, but you can still find love anywhere.
L.M: That is a great answer, gave us some goose bumps!
N.N: Thank you! [laughs]
L.M: What is the biggest mistake that you think guys make on the first couple of dates?
N.N: I think that in general - on both genders – is, for lack of a better word, not being present. Guys and girls, they go into these dates and they are already thinking about the next step. They are on date number one and they are exchanging stories, thinking about a few months from now. Even guys that are afraid to commit, they are on date number one and they are thinking "Oh god, look at this person who is sitting across from me, they would be the type of person who would ask me to move in right away." Or - with both - "Oh, they talked about their parents, they must want to introduce me to their parents immediately." I think that they aren't sitting there and enjoying it, number one, they aren't really listening to the other person so they are actually missing out on the first date altogether. They are making assumptions before they can even tell the truth. They leave the date with what they already assumed, so why even bother going on the date?! There is a lack of listening and being present on both sides.
L.M: What is your biggest dating advice? To listen?
N.N: To listen and enjoy. Be there with that person and not necessarily get caught up in, "Is this person going to be the one,” "Are we going to go on another date?” I think that by getting caught up in that, you miss the magic of the first date. Even if it doesn't work out, you can still have a good time. After we go on so many dates, it’s so easy to get caught up thinking about what the next step is. We're tired, we're anxious, we're ready to know what is going to happen because we've already been on 15 dates this year and it’s exhausting.
L.M: We concur, it is!
N.N: And that is natural. I think if you bring that type of anxiety, that type of energy with you, people can pick up on that off of us. I think if you want the person on the other side of the table to look at you with a clean slate, you need to give them a clean slate. You need to go in there with a good attitude, let’s see what happens, and worse comes to worse, it is going to be fun. At the end of the day, if it’s not going to be that person, that person will eventually come my way. The attitude of, "Oh well, it’s anoooother date, let’s seeee…I'm going to be alone forever.” You almost come to terms with the idea that you're going to be alone forever because it hasn't worked out for the past three years. We all know it; science even proves it. The best thing you can do is give ourselves and the other person a clean slate on every date. If you would wake up today and not know anything about your past, and you think, "Oh, I'm going on this date,” you don't know that you were rejected twenty times. If you could think of every date like that and see if that changes it because if you've tried everything and nothing has worked out, how about trying this and looking at it in a new light.
L.M: That is some great advice!
N.N: After writing the column, teaching classes, and speaking engagements, I felt all these things that people were going through. I mean, I had also. But when you're going through it, you don't know if other people are as well. As I started doing the groups, I realized it was a universal thing!
L.M: Since we started our website and asked for dating advice, we can concur with you. We hear what others experience.
L.M: What do you think is the biggest fashion faux-pas a guy can make on a date?
N.N: I think that it is dressing for the other person. I think the biggest faux-pas is going in there and thinking, "I spoke to them and saw their Facebook page and I could tell that they are really into this kind of design" Or going, “he is hipster because he lives here.” I think the faux-pas is that when we dress for the other person rather then yourself. Whatever style you personally have or whatever you're feeling that day, putting something on the mirror and going, "I LOOK AWESOME," instead of going "Oh, he is going to love this." Just do it for yourself and not the date.
L.M: Your book just came out...
N.N: It came out on Amazon in November.
L.M: Tell us about it.
N.N: I never thought I was going to write a dating book, but I felt qualified to write it because of all the people that I was meeting and it came from my speaking engagements and my clients. I wanted to name it, "Date Like You Love It," because it’s really to teach people how to enjoy the dating process because we usually go into it as a means to an end, the end being partnership, marriage, kids. In my dating marathon, I was trying to heal the pain and trying to find a new partner. Towards the end of it, I thought, "this is awesome," and I learned to enjoy it. That was when all the guys were knocking on my door and I was like, "Oh, that is the secret!" Have a good time, enjoy yourself, love yourself, love your life. That was what the book was going to be about and called "Date Like You Love It.” As I was testing this idea in real time and in crowds, I realized that there was this anxiety more than anything and it was that question, "Will I be alone forever?," and other dating questions you wished a psychic would answer. At this point, one wants to know the future, they want to know, am I going to meet the one or not. It’s that frustrated feeling. It’s still the central idea of how to enjoy the dating process and how to love yourself in the meantime, and a new perspective. It’s a self-discovery process rather than this prison sentence in order to find happiness. In the process you can find happiness way before you find your partner. Once you do find your happiness, that is when the partner comes your way and that is what the book is about, happiness before the partner comes along.
L.M: You do groups as well as one-on-one, correct?
N.N: Yes, I do group speaking. With the process of it, one can feel super lonely, stuff that we don't want to talk about sometimes. Rejection is scary and once you do a class in a group, you can see that you aren't alone with these feelings. There really is something magical about the group settings.
L.M: Anything else that you would like to share with us?
N.N: I'm redesigning and relaunching my website in January, which is really exciting! There will be more dating content and relationship stuff up there as well.
L.M: Thank you very much, we really appreciate all the advice!
N.N: Thank you for taking the time to speak to me!
Interview by Nisim Frank