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Indicators That The Chemistry You Feel Is The Real Thing

Dopamine is a real thing, especially when it comes to new love.

Dating

Chemistry. It's a word that you will probably hear described a million different ways. A connection, a spark, or a bond. However, you choose to describe it, we all know it when we feel it. Or, do we really? We all know that dopamine is a real thing, especially when it comes to new love. Sometimes when it wears off, we find that what we thought was chemistry was just that good ole dopamine and you really don't have chemistry with the person. While I have absolutely no idea what makes you have chemistry with one person and not another, I do know that it is a real thing.

Before we go further, let me clarify that chemistry should not be confused with finding someone attractive. While it is important to be attracted to your partner, just finding them cute is not going to cut it. I have dated my share of FINE men (thank you very much) that I was so attracted to physically, but once I spent time with them, there was absolutely no chemistry. At all. I mean none. I'd rather wash my hair or walk the dog (and I don't have a dog) than spend time with some of them. We've all been there though, so how do you know that the chemistry you feel with a person is the real thing and not just the dopamine talking?

Eye contact.

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You can make eye contact with them and it's not awkward. Now that doesn't mean that you won't blush or sport that goofy grin when you look into their eyes every now and then, but when there is chemistry, making eye contact is comfortable for both of you. I've dated guys in the past where I would look anywhere but into their eyes because it just felt weird and uncomfortable. Turns out, I usually didn't have very good chemistry with those guys.

You can be yourself around them.

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We're all guilty of putting our best self forward on those first few dates so that we make a good impression. But ultimately, you should always feel as if you can be your true self around a romantic partner. If you can be yourself (good, bad, and ugly) around each other, it's usually a good indication that the chemistry is real. If you feel you have to be anyone but who you were created to be, it's not going to work. Trust me.

Silence is comfortable.

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Every space does not always need to be filled with words. I've dated guys in the past where I would just chatter away about any and everything whenever there was a moment of silence because it was so awkward. I couldn't relax. But in my current relationship I feel so comfortable around him that it's not weird for us to sit in complete silence. No talking, no tv, no radio. Just us. You not being able to relax and enjoy silence and just being with your partner is not a good sign.

You get butterflies.

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Everyone knows what this one means. That good nervous feeling. That flutter in your tummy. Yeah, that. When the chemistry is real, chances are you're going to feel them in anticipation of seeing your partner. If you're not at least a little excited to see your boo, chemistry is probably seriously lacking.

Time, what is that?

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If there never seems to be enough time or time flies when you're with your partner, that is a good indicator that the chemistry is real. If you're counting down the minutes until you can make your escape, you're probably bored and lacking chemistry.

Your body responds when they touch you.

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It doesn't even have to be a sexual touch. It can be as simple as a forehead kiss or a reassuring pat on the leg just to let you know that they are there. Your partners touch should make you feel something if the chemistry is real. Let me give you an example. My boyfriend and I take walks just to get fresh air sometimes. No matter how we start out I always somehow find my way walking on the outside of the curb. Without missing a beat he always places his hand on the small of my back and gently guides me back to the inside and I get goosebumps every single time.

You’re drawn to them.

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Have you ever been to a public event with your partner and you separate and begin socializing with other people? But something draws you to them. Your eyes find each other no matter how crowded the room is, and you share winks and smiles at each other. And while you're having fun at the event, you can't wait to leave with them? That my good sis is good old-fashioned chemistry.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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