This fall, a new person of interest has caught my eye on my commute to work. He’s tall. He’s handsome. He dresses well and seems artsy as fuck. He’s beautiful, and beautiful people deserve beauty in their lives just like everyone else. This is where I come in.
I have the face of an angel, a Texas hottie body, and a great personality (ha) so it should be easy to make something of these moments; the moments where I breeze past him in a cloud of Viktor & Rolf Sage Spell perfume and desperation, my lust barely disguised by my downward cast eyes every time we cross paths. I had the perfect opportunity to say something the other day: he was standing outside the station, casually dangling an unlit cigarette from his lips with one foot resting on the steps before him (yes, this really happened and yes, somehow I am still attracted). Maybe if I spent more time finishing YouTuber and Sexologist Shannon Boodram’s latest book, The Game of Desire, instead of watching Love After Lockup with my hands resting in my pants, I’d be able to make a move. The book covers the journey of five women as they traverse the Boodram’s phases in an effort to win the game of desire. Thankfully, she gave me a lot of good advice in the interview below too.
How does the advice in the book apply to someone in their early twenties, when they are historically known for being self-centered and just terrible to date? Common advice that I’ve heard is to not even try to date and to just focus on yourself and your career.
I don’t agree with that advice. I think that relationships are a very big part of life. One of my favorite sociologists, David Brooks, has this incredible book that talks about how the quality and quantity of our relationships will dictate two-thirds of our happiness. We’re told to focus on things that benefit society and not things that will benefit self. A lot of the mass messaging that we get isn’t promoted on a healthy, fully-shaped life that is centered on wellness. Relationships are a really big part of individual wellness.
People’s feelings of satisfaction with their life rarely have to do with how much money or award they’ve achieved, but if they feel loved and are able to love others. They feel like they left their mark on this planet through the people that they care about the most. That notion of not focusing on relationships is counterproductive and counterintuitive to a happy life. I really question why somebody would spread that.
"The top skills that it takes to be good at loving people can’t be achieved by hoping that when it counts you’ll be able to pull them up at a moment’s notice, especially when you’ve invested no energy in learning how to love other people and how to connect with others."
That whole advice that you shouldn’t focus on dating and it will just happen for you; I would love to know where else you would apply that? If I made an intention to get really good at math and being good at math was important to me, when would I ever be told, “If you want to succeed at math, you probably shouldn’t think about it that much. You should just live your life, and it will just happen when it happens.”
If you want to be good at something, you have to invest the time, and look towards the help of experts; you have to read up and practice the kind of qualities you want in a relationship in low-risk environments, and that means that you have to practice being a good connector, a good flirter and good at dates. You have to practice being good at talking to people in the line at Starbucks, in the line at the DMV, wherever.
The top skills that it takes to be good at loving people can’t be achieved by hoping that when it counts you’ll be able to pull them up at a moment’s notice, especially when you’ve invested no energy in learning how to love other people and how to connect with others.
"For a cheat-sheet across the board: Apply the 2:1 method. For every one question someone asks you, ask them two in return. It will make you a better listener on dates, it will make you more intune as a partner and connector, and ultimately the people around you feel like they can talk about themselves."
Do you think that messaging is more specific to American culture? The idea of individualism over family and community?
Yes, but I do think there’s value in that, because according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s the people who have all their basic needs met that are the happiest and most fulfilled. Once those needs are met, that’s when you can focus on others. That goes back to the analogy of the oxygen mask on an airplane: you need to put your own oxygen mask on first. When you have oxygen, you’re actually better able to assist those around you. Trying to do something for other people without that covered doesn’t make you as impactful.
So, there is value in saying put yourself first and that individualistic idea, but ultimately, career success is not equated to happiness in life or health in life. The things that we’re [society] pushing to give you happiness in life, rarely do for most people. My dad was a paramedic and he said that the number one thing that he would ask rich people on their deathbeds was, “Do you have any regrets?” They would say, “Oh I wish I spent more time with my family. Or I wish I had spent more time with my lover, my partner, or looking for love.”
The Game of Desire was created out of a six-week program ran by Shannon where she chose five women in Los Angeles to guide through the intimacy space, in order to help them become better daters and connectors.
Shannon, what were some of the greater challenges of running the program and writing this book?
The greatest challenge was my own arrogance. I have been in the intimacy space for thirteen years now. One, that means I have a lot of information over a long period of time and two, my brain is in practice for adopting new practices and techniques in this area. My brain is already accustomed to self-insight because I’ve been doing it for so long.
I originally planned this to be a six-week program. I was like, “I know exactly what I’m going to teach” and boom! It never dawned on me that teaching people is one thing, and their speed of learning it and actually being able to understand, absorb and adopt it, is a completely different thing. You can hear a concept, but for it to really hit home for you, you’re probably going to have to hear it fifteen, twenty-something times over the span of months. The women in the book– I’m still in touch with them today.
One of them is in a relationship, and I make a joke that we’re in a “thruple” and it’s the three of us. I’m still working with them and helping them. It’s not a six-week course at all, but a lifelong journey.
If you read the book in one sitting, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you read through it quickly you should go back a second time to practice, to learn to analyze, to ask questions, to start to make changes in your own life, and talk to yourself and see how this information could be best applied to suit you.
How did you cope with managing such different energies throughout the program? I was reading that when everyone first met, they were all kinds of shy and no one was really forthcoming, and over time everyone got more comfortable. I’m sure there were instances where dealing with people sometimes can cause a drain on you if you’re not aware of how to fulfill yourself and be a people person.
Yes! It definitely was a lot harder than I expected, and I think that a lot more of the book could be about the challenges we faced gelling. In the end, it was to service the overall goal, and that helped everything click into place. It’s interesting to have the fact that these people have never been friends. All of us are people that would have never bumped into each other, didn’t have any crossover in jobs, looks, anything. It was very different walks of life with one shared goal, which was to become better connectors and to get to know ourselves better.
As much as we were different, I think our common goal just served as a shared purpose. We didn’t necessarily have the most comfortable time being in the group, and all the differences were so apparent, but the common goal gave people justification to keep coming back. So as the leader, all I needed to do was hone in on what that goal was. You can’t highlight the differences or try to appease one person. We’re all there to get to know ourselves better and to know how to love other people better and to make better connections when we go out there into the world. We’re here to start training ourselves and counting ourselves in when we walk into any space to be looked at, to be spoken to, to be seen.
"I would say that this book is singularly focused and there's a lot of information that I think is really important about sex and relationships that I didn't put in because it didn't serve that one goal: How do I make people better connectors?"
How long did it take for you to narrow down the information that you put in this one book? I’m sure all of the information you know could fill like 5 encyclopedias. What was your process for narrowing that down?
I really just focused on the connecting aspect of it. I made a joke in the book that it’s bizarre that you don’t even see sex until page 200 of the book. For someone who has made a career of talking about sex and has branded herself as a sexologist, it’s bizarre that you don’t even hear about sex until late in the book. However, it’s by design because you don’t need to know how to make someone change religions with your charm in order to have a great conversation with them or to be seen and have you see them. The only focus in this book is the art of making connections.
Emotional intelligence is really missing in our society, so this book provides basic information that we all have been robbed of. This information has been withheld from us and a lot of people are experiencing a lot of heartache and pain as a result of it. It goes back to the foundation of the five phases of the book. [Phase] One is know: Who am I? A lot of people don’t know the answer to that question and can’t answer it in a way that’s surveyic and conclusive.
We all have very abstract ways of defining ourselves and we don’t have a universal language for doing that. That language barrier itself is going to cause a massive miscommunication error. In Phase One, it’s all about getting on the same page of defining ourselves through actionable language that other people can understand and know to treat us and love us better as a result. That all starts with knowing yourself and seeing yourself clearly, flaws and all.
This is for us to be accountable, not just for the pain that’s happened to us in the past, but the pain we’ve caused others. I would say that this book is singularly focused, and there’s a lot of information that I think is really important about sex and relationships that I didn’t put in because it didn’t serve that one goal: How do I make people better connectors?
So will you be writing a follow-up book?
I would love to. I would love to write books all day, but it’s hard to sell books. I would write books all day long, but the success of this book determines that. Interviews and support like yours are so important because people are always asking what the next is, but you have to really support and uplift what is right now that creates demand that will allow me to continue this education.
I watched a video where you were talking about how you had the same crush from kindergarten to senior year of high school?
No, it was all the way to grade eight. In grade nine, it kind of fizzled out as I went to high school, but it was probably a solid ten years.
Do you have any celebrity crushes?
Yes. Do you know who Neymar Nunor is? He’s a soccer player and I did not know who he was until a meme. I was like, “This man is beautiful.” I started following him, and he’s just always having fun and emits so much joy. I don’t know if that’s just a persona that he puts out there, but he’s super successful and great at what he does and really cute. He always seems like he’s having the best time, and that’s why he’s my celebrity crush.
So outside of your crush in elementary school, did you have any cartoon characters or people in movies that you were watching at the time?
I went to the B2K concert earlier this year and that was definitely one of my earlier crushes. But outside of that, I’ve never really been much of a fantasy crush person. I get attracted to people I have access to. I have tons of crushes on real-life people, and I married one of my crushes. I think that’s a part of me but in truth most people I’m interested in, I know of.
I watched your video about the disappointments of dating as a black woman; do you think it is harder for black women to experience the kind of dating enjoyment you mention in your book or are there tools that you advise for overcoming the disappointments and struggles black women face when dating?
One of the things we did in the book was go to a male dating coach, and he specifically targets Asian males because Asian males don’t have a preference in the dating marketplace. They have not been advertised nor have benefited from the marketing that a White male may receive who has a clear preference in the dating world and the job market for that matter.
So, you have to acknowledge it’s different. Not saying it’s worse because, at the end of the day, meaningful connections can happen for anyone. I don’t like to use the qualifying terms “better” or “worse”, but “different” is important to signify. By acknowledging the difference, you open up the room to develop a strategy.
Would you be down to play Hitch in a remake of the movie?
I am not a good actor at all, and no part of me feels like that would be good. I’d definitely be down to extend the story and help consult. One of the things that I focus on in the book is that you are whoever you consistently choose to be, so I try not to use concrete statements like, “I am not an actor” or “I cannot act” but I’m sure if I put my mind to it and I practiced, enlisted the help of professionals, and researched, I would be great at it.
I do think that this story is one I’m interested in. My whole goal as a sex educator, in general, is to make the average person aware that learning about this part of your life can massively make improvements in every area of your life. It is not a niche area that only a couple of people should get to know. We’re not talking about crocheting, where it’s a hobby that maybe five people will be interested in. We all make connections. We are all social beings. We should all have a vested interest in learning about this part of our lives, but again this is not necessarily something that is really pushed or preached to people. My job and what I feel like my purpose is in this world is to get more people excited about learning about their intimate selves. That movie is a really great entry point for a lot of people, so that’s something I’m interested in, but I don’t have the skill to put my name to that for sure.
You could definitely be a consultant or writer though.
Right? Exactly. If today they were like we’re doing it tomorrow, that’s what I could do. If they were doing it tomorrow and said, “Could you act?” I’d say, “Let’s not disappoint everyone in the room. Please give me six months to a year to figure out that part.”
The Game of Desire is a road map to figuring out how we can successfully make connections with one another. If you’re smart (like me), you’ll stop relying on cinematic standards of love to dump someone in your lap and take control of your dating life yourself. Instead of bemoaning the fact that I haven’t spoken to beanie-cigarette-artsy-commuter-man yet, I’ll develop a strategy for opening up the line of communication and nailing that first impression. Maybe I’ll even talk to the next cute person I see at the station too.