I was motivated to create my Free Your Mind seminars, which encourage Black women to date non-Black men, after listening to an impassioned friend–an attractive woman in her late 30s–lament an all too common refrain from Black women as young as 25. With a master’s degree, an executive job, a mortgage in her name, and no children, she just couldn’t understand why she was alone when she’d done everything “right.” She wanted to find a nice Black guy and get married. She complained about being overlooked by Black men who pretended she didn’t exist, or worse, the ones who quoted the unfortunate ratio of Black men to Black women with a smile like the cat who had swallowed the canary. By the time she finished explaining, she had tears in her eyes. And I was thinking: life is way too short to be unhappy and way too long if you are alone when you don’t want to be.

I’d been in her shoes. Before I was an equal opportunity dater, I only liked light-skinned brothers who looked like Al B. Sure. Then I moved on to chocolate men that resembled Taye Diggs. I hadn’t even thought about dating anything but Black men. I’d heard stereotypes about what “others” really think about dating us, like how non-Black men will date Black women but not marry them (not true). I never thought about how my self-imposed limitations were holding me–and Black women like me–back, keeping us single and causing us to miss potentially enjoyable experiences.

I found out how non-Black men really feel about Black women while I was visiting Switzerland. The amount of attention I received was overwhelming. A man actually walked into a pole while checking me out. I never knew that so many non-Black men were openly enamored with our unique beauty. All the attention was empowering and I returned to the United States with a “new attitude.”

Since that trip, I’ve dated men–Indian, Latino, Italian, and Caucasian–not based on their color, but the content of their character. My first non-Black man was White, a tall blond-hair, blue-eyed Nebraskan, who was kind, respectful and very giving. We met at the gym when he started giving me daily tips on my workout. I remember telling my friends that he was everything I had prayed for, but I had forgotten to ask God to make him Black. His tip of the day progressed to coffee one afternoon so we could continue a heated discussion about Salvador Dali. While I was sipping my grande non-fat latte, he confessed that he had been watching me for months but was unsure on how to “make the move.” He proposed after we had dated for two years and though we didn’t marry, he remains one of the great loves of my life.

There are a few minor differences when it comes to dating non-Black men, but overall men are men. Without over generalizing, I have found Italians a bit more affectionate and bound to traditional gender roles. Germans are not big on small talk and like to be engaged in conversations about politics and philosophy. But on things that matter–like say, endowment–my friends who date interracially agree with me, there is no difference between Black men and everybody else.

When I tell other women to try my approach to dating, sometimes they say think I’m asking them to lower their standards, but what I’m really suggesting is that they increase their options. Some women hesitate because they don’t want to deal with the hassle from unsupportive friends and family who in 2009, will call them “a sell-out.” They also don’t want the negative reaction from strangers, especially Black men who can interpret their decision to date any color as a wholesale rejection of Black men. I’ll be honest, I’ve experienced this. On two different occasions, Black men I don’t know have tried to provoke my dates to fight them. These bad experiences usually happen when I’m on date with a White man versus men from other ethnic backgrounds. Fortunately, those experiences are not the norm.

If you’re ready to get past other peoples hang-ups, or maybe even your own, you don’t need to travel (though it’s a great way to start), you can meet men just about anywhere. Learn to smile at all men! Traditionally, Black women have not shown a big attraction to dating “outside the race,” so as a result, non-Black men think we are generally not interested in them. Also men of all colors sometimes have to be hit over the head to know that a female is flirting with them and non-Black men are no different. I’ve found holding eye contact a few moments longer than expected, or giving my business card so he has a way to reach me in case he is reluctant to ask for my phone number help the process go more smoothly. After you’ve freed your mind, love may follow.

The “Free Your Mind: The Black Girl’s Guide to Interracial Dating” tour will start in January 2010 with stops in Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles and Houston. To learn more about the tour. visit www.FreeYourMind.me.