Has Tamika Lawrence ever told you about the time she caught her (now-ex-) boyfriend swiping prospects on Tinder when she finally brought him home to meet her parents? Or the time her date ordered for her at a restaurant and told her to lay off the carbs? Or the time she had to take out her pocket knife when a first date told their cab driver to take them to his place?
If not, you can read about her dating disasters on DearTamika.Tumblr.com, her personal blog that she’s using to empower herself and others because, despite being in demand on and Off-Broadway (the 29-year-old actor has four Broadway credits to her name, as well as the major Off-Broadway revival of Rent), “this is what life is really like,” she says, when it comes to dating.
“Even when you do Broadway shows or you start doing TV and film,” she continues over coffee in midtown, “you have to wake up like everybody else. You deal with the same kind of heartbreak and disappointments, and you’ve still got to drag your groceries by yourself in the snow because you don’t have that companion with you to help you out. It’s the same. I just wanted people to know we’re all there. We’ve all experienced that.”
You may know Lawrence from If/Then, in which she played the smart and centered assistant Elena to Idina Menzel’s Beth. It was a high in her theatrical career, but she was facing a low in her dating life. When a man she was dating long distance planned to visit her in New York canceled and broke up with her by text message, “I felt my heart rip in two,” she wrote in her blog. “He knew I was working, that I was probably on stage doing a show that meant a whole lot to me, and ripped whatever joy I got from that from me.
“I had to grab my prop bag and go back on stage. I walked out and immediately began to cry. I was humiliated. I tried to hold back salty tears and prayed again that no one from the audience could see. When I walked off stage, one of the sweet dressers who noticed grabbed me and said it was ok if I didn’t bow. And so I didn’t. I went into a dressing room, curled into a ball, and cried my eyes out.
“There I was, highlight of my career thus far, and didn’t bow … I kicked myself for disrespecting the audience by not bowing.”
Dating is tough, especially when it comes to dating in New York City. Double that when you add Broadway and television actor to your online dating profile. Scheduling can be difficult (“Trying to look real cute at 5 o’clock and go to a wine bar and have cranberry juice at the bar and see if any guys come around, knowing that you have a 6:30 call, is not nailing it,” she jokes), showmances can come to a messy end, and determining your date’s intentions can be confusing.
“The guy that I had to pull the knife on—he would still write me,” she says. “I had to block him… He was a dentist, but he was trying to be a DJ or create mix tapes, so he Googled me and saw what I did, and was like, ‘Do you think you could get my tape to Idina?’ It happens all the time, so lots of times when I’m dating I don’t tell men what I do sometimes for at least a month. I want to see: Is this someone who I would like anyway? I have to examine my suitors.”
The city, itself, could be the problem. After all, we’ve all come here in pursuit of our wildest dreams, and the options are endless. Though it’s the most populated city in the United States, for the city’s singles, it seems impossible to hold down a long-term relationship.
“There’s something about New York City,” Lawrence says, smiling. “My friend calls it ‘The Land of Peter Pans.’ It’s this extreme hedonism, and I think because we’re so concerned with our careers, we kind of lose the training that we received from wherever we grew up—that decency, morality. It’s kind of like a relationship is the same as a career. If I need to do something wrong just to get what I need to get, that’s what I’m going to do.”
And, when you finally do get the alert that you’ve matched with someone on OkCupid, or Match.com, or Tinder, or Bumble, or Hinge, or JDate (there are limitless sites and apps), getting past the first date can be harder than your seventh callback. “Dating in New York, you have to have thick skin to do it,” Lawrence says. “It’s funny, but it’s a jungle. It really is a jungle out there because, as many talented and brilliant people move here, there are just as many crazy people that move here, too, and I always forget that, and then I’m reminded when I go out on a date.”
Though she’s had those crazy dates, like the time her alleged 6’1” online match showed up as a 5’5” guy determined to have their first date in a meditation class—“It was this weird class, where you’re laying down with your legs in the air and just shaking them and screaming out, and people are crying,” she says—she’s also experienced romance.
Most importantly, she’s not ready to give up. “My grandma says, ‘There’s somebody out there for everybody.’ I just feel like if you choose to live in the city, it’s probably just going to take you a little longer,” she says. “I think that’s why I started writing. I got tired of being sad, and I wanted to be more empowered. Dating in New York City feels like life is happening to you, and you don’t really have control over it. If you’re actively dating, it can get really depressing, so that’s why I started writing. I have less of those days now because I figured out a way to channel it.
“My girlfriends say, ‘Dating is so hard!’ And I’m like, ‘Listen, if we were all basic, we would all be married by now.’ It’s a choice, and I think that’s something that’s empowering to me, too. I could have gone home with Crazy Face that I pulled a knife out on, and, who knows. We could have been in a messed-up relationship right now, but because I choose to love myself, I have to remember that that is empowering, and that I am saving my heart for someone who will actually love and respect me because I love and respect myself.”
Michael Gioia is the Features Manager at Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.