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Mariah LeeFebruary 14, 2024 at 11:00 AM6 min read

The Fairytale of Finding Love


Source: Mariah Lee

It’s that time of year again. Bouquets of flowers are everywhere. Boxes of chocolates are on display. Rom-coms are even more recommended on my Netflix account. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, I will treat myself to a self-care night. Maybe, pop open a bottle of wine. Heck, I might even take a page from Miley and buy myself flowers. Because this year, like most years, I am Valentine-less.


I am a Black, heterosexual, professional soccer-playing woman living in Adelaide, Australia. This is my fifth year as a pro, playing in my sixth country (others having been Switzerland, USA, Scotland, Denmark, and Spain).


C38800F6-0D1C-462B-BFA8-D3306AC8963F_1_105_cSource: Mariah Lee

The longest I’ve lived in a place since graduating college is 9 months. As you can imagine, moving around so frequently definitely throws a monkey wrench straight into the path of Cupid’s arrow. 


There are, however, a host of other barriers to dating men at home and abroad that aren’t quite as visible. 


For starters, Black women are the least desirable romantic partners in heterosexual relationships. One of the ways this can be measured is through trends on dating apps. Black women in America are swiped on the least by men. Data shows that Black men swipe on Black women at roughly the same rate as they do for other races. However, the pool of desirable Black men in America is scarcely low.

While what connotates as “desirable” differs from person to person; criminal history, education, and income typically factor into a woman’s decision-making when selecting a partner. With a criminal justice system that hyper-incarcerates Black men, nearly 1 in 3 Black men are incarcerated in their lifetime.


The educational attainment gap is most pronounced among Black men and Black women, meaning Black women earn bachelor’s and secondary degrees at a rate significantly higher than Black men. (So, if I were looking for someone to match my level of education, I’d be combing through a mere 7% of Black men.)


Lastly, Black men make less money than men of other races even when performing the same job, at the same location, with the same amount of experience. With the group that is statistically most interested in me, the odds of snagging a good one are incredibly stacked against me.  

What about dating outside of your race? 

Dating men outside of my race poses challenges. White men in particular are less likely to be conscious of racial oppression and how racism affects my lived experience, which can reduce their ability to offer empathy and support. In addition, it’s less likely that men outside of my race will value and embrace my culture, as well as know how to parent Black children.

Regardless of the man’s shade, I’ll still be far away. Unlike our male counterparts, most professional female athletes can’t afford to support a partner financially. This means if I find a nice gentleman while I’m home in the off-season there’s no realistic way to avoid a long-distance relationship. I don’t have the luxury of telling him to drop everything and follow me from place to place while I cover all of our expenses. Whether I’m looking to date Black men, white men, or someone in between, living abroad isn’t conducive to finding an American partner.  

What about foreign men? 

Before I can even get to cultural compatibility – where do I even find this man? Where I’m currently living is in a superb location. I’m ten minutes from downtown Adelaide, the fifth-largest Australian city.


However, most of my soccer experiences haven’t been in nearly as desirable of locations. During my first professional stint, I lived in an Alpine village of about 80 people an hour from the nearest city on public transportation.


The Danish team I played for was located in Farum, a rural city with a population of about 20,000, a 45-minute train from Copenhagen. The male players got paid enough to afford an apartment in the city; the female players, on the other hand, suffered in the boonies.


IMG_4663Source: Mariah Lee

Finding a mate also requires communication. In two of the five foreign countries I’ve lived in, the overwhelming majority of people did not speak English. Even in the places that did speak English, understanding what was being said was another matter entirely. A thick Aussie accent can cause me some trouble, but a true Glaswegian accent – it sounded like they were talking to me underwater.

Even if I’m in the same vicinity and can communicate with the eligible bachelors, social customs can impede finding a mate. For example, the Danes are notoriously shy around new people. Compared to Americans they seem very cold and uninviting.


Sparking up a conversation while waiting in line? It’s like pulling teeth. Being approached by a guy at the coffee shop? Think again. Having a man offer to buy you a drink? No chance.


Apparently, it’s more common for women to approach men in Denmark. On top of that, it’s customary for men and women to split the tab. Outside of my opinion on the matter, being ignorant of the dating customs makes dating a whole lot harder. 

Speaking of ignorance… As a Black woman abroad, I come across a lot of it. For example, I’ve had this conversation more times than I’d wish to share:  

Where are you from? 
Where are you really from?
No, like where are your parents from? 
Yeah, I’m a descendant of slaves. We don’t know where our ancestors came from in Africa. 


The thing about ignorant comments is that they burden me with always having to do the explaining and educating. That gets exhausting. In addition to ignorance, there is downright fetishization, exotification, and hypersexualization.


A perfect illustration of this is when I match with a man on a dating app and he messages me straight away saying, I’ve never had sex with a Black woman before.


At that moment, I am no longer being seen as a person; instead, I am being used as a means for him to realize a sexual fantasy that conforms to the stereotypes that paint Black women as promiscuous jezebels. 


Last, but not least, there’s the fact that at the end of the season I’ll be leaving. Most people don’t want to voluntarily embark on a relationship with an expiration date. Some of us playing abroad have found our Prince Charming. For most of us, and especially those with melanated skin, choosing to pursue our career is like being locked in an ivory tower – the prospect of finding love is slim to none. 


About Parity

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Mariah Lee

Mariah Lee is a professional soccer player for Adelaide United and a freelance writer. She holds a B.A. from Stanford University and a M.S. from the Wake Forest School of Business.