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So What Do You Do, Jozen Cummings, Blogger and Dating Columnist for the New York Post?

'I don't look at my job as a matchmaker. I'm a date-maker.'

- November 6, 2013
The ingredients for the standard-issue fairy tale typically include love interests, some kind of dramatic conflict and an unrealistically idyllic happy ending. If those elements always played out in the reality of modern-day relationships, Jozen Cummings would have very little to write about. His fans heave a hefty sigh of relief for the material.

If you can compartmentalize the creative agendas of a writer, his go like this: By day, he's the dating reporter for the New York Post's Meet Market column, where every week he pairs two singles and sends them on an expense-paid blind date. By night, he pens refreshingly thoughtful posts to his own blog, Until I Get Married, to share the experiences, challenges and honesties of his bachelorhood.

"I didn't realize I was starting a relationship when I was starting my blog, but that's what it's been," he explains. "It's been a passion project. Ultimately, I'm trying to create work that has a lasting effect on other people." Perhaps the fairy tale here isn't just the journey of the man finding his bride, but in the man finding and living his writing dream. Here, Cummings talks singlehood, blogging and the art of date-making.

Name: Jozen Cummings
Position: Blogger for Until I Get Married and dating reporter for The New York Post's weekly blind-date column, Meet Market
Resume: Began journalism career in 2004 as fact-checker at Vibe magazine. Hired as web editor at King magazine in 2006. Returned to Vibe as online editor and articles editor in 2008 until the mag was shuttered in July 2009. Launched blog, Until I Get Married, in August that same year. As a freelancer, contributed articles to outlets, including NPR, Essence, Complex, New York Times Magazine and The Wall Street Journal's culture blog, Speakeasy. Also worked briefly as online editor at XXL magazine and staff writer at The Huffington Post. Contributing editor at The Root.
Birthday: July 18
Hometown: Seaside, Calif.
Education: Bachelor's degree in news/online journalism from Howard University
Marital status: Single
Media mentor: Danyel Smith
Favorite TV show: Scandal. "I love the whole experience of watching it. I make sure I'm on my couch exactly [when it comes on], and I probably haven't done that since The Wire."
Guilty pleasure: Twitter
Last book read: Long Division by Kiese Laymon
Twitter handle: @jozenc
Describe the science of strategic bachelorhood. What kind of experiences should an eventually marriage-minded man get out of his system before he even dreams of settling down?
I think that bachelorhood is misrepresented in a lot of ways as being somewhat juvenile. The idea that a man is not ready to settle down is always associated with "oh, he just wants to go around and sleep with as many girls as he can." Basically, bachelorhood is viewed as some sort of selfish behavior, but I don't believe that's entirely true. Don't get me wrong -- I'm still making mistakes in my dating life that are probably contributing to me being single. But I feel like I'm more of a man than I've ever been, and I don't think that I've ever had this desire to get married so that more people look at me as a man. I truly believe that you become a man on your own terms. Don't let bachelorhood define your manhood. Let your manhood define your bachelorhood.

"Being single and wanting to date is something that crosses all demographics. I want everyone to be able to see a bit of themselves [in the column]."

Your background is in arts and entertainment, so how did you end up a dating reporter? What was the original concept for Meet Market?
I inherited Meet Market. I believe one of the editors told me that it's been around for six or seven years. I've been doing it for about a year. I heard about the opening when a friend sent me the link on Mediabistro's job board, so it's actually kind of poetic. It was the first job that I ever got where I went in not knowing anyone. But when I saw the opening for Meet Market, I said "This is the job for me. This is the job I want."

I know that people know about my blog, but I never use it as a way to sell myself or my qualifications. I still feel strongly about this: you want a professional job, you've got to show the most professional work that you possibly can. So none of my clips were dating-related or anything like that. But I knew that it would help to show that I care a lot about this topic of dating, so I did send a link to my blog. Kind of like a bowtie, [it was] just an accent to say "Hey, in addition to my professional experience as a journalist, I also have this blog that I do on the side where I talk about this very thing."

How did you improve on it?
It's tough to say. I didn't even read the column before I applied for the job. Of course, once I sent in my materials, I started looking it up. It's one of the few sections in the paper where you see normal, everyday people being normal, everyday people. They're there simply because they're single and want to go out on a nice date and they're open to having a little fun with that. Being single and wanting to date is something that crosses all demographics. I want everyone to be able to see a bit of themselves [in the column]. This city is the most diverse in the world, and I want this section to reflect New York as much as possible. I take a lot of pride in that.

With so many online dating sites claiming to put together happy relationships and marriages, what's the unique magic around a blind date set up in a newspaper column?
I think it's a very old school thing that's still new to everybody. It's existed for years and yet when you meet people who are about to experience it, they act like it's something that was just invented yesterday. That's what makes blind dating unique. You know what you're getting into, but then once you decide to get into it it's kind of like, "Oh, I didn't know the deep end of the pool was deep." You can safely say that most people who sign up for Meet Market have never done anything like it. I think they're challenging themselves to get outside of their normal dating habits and do something new. I would always encourage somebody to try something different when they're not getting the results that they want, but I would never, ever suggest that by trying something different, they're going to get a different result.

NEXT >> So What Do You Do, Michael Musto, Entertainment and Gossip Columnist?

What's the writing process for a dating column?
I work with OK Cupid a lot -- they send me single people and I work with their compatibility algorithm. I also created a questionnaire where I ask participants everything from what their favorite board game is to the type of places they prefer hanging out. I care a lot about the dates I set up. I know what time they're going out and where they're going. Even though I'm not anywhere in the vicinity, I keep my phone close in case they need anything. Then everybody who goes out is instructed to give me a recap of their date. When I get the email that's basically going to tell me everything that happened, I cannot tell you how nervous I am because I just hope that people have a good time. That's what I care about the most.

Have you ever put together any happily ever afters?
That's the most popular question I get and the answer is no. I've had people go out on second dates, I've had people become best friends, I've had people continue to date, but I haven't received any wedding invitations. And I think that's fine. That's not what I'm trying to do. I don't look at my job as a matchmaker. I'm a date-maker.

What have you learned from writing Meet Market that you've applied to your own dating life?
Well, if somebody wants to set me up on a blind date, I'd be more open to it now. I've been on one since I started Meet Market. It's funny because when that opportunity was presented to me, at first I was like, wait… what? Me? I've learned that there's something about the daytime that makes two people show up to a date a little bit more comfortably. When I set two people up to meet on a Sunday or a Saturday at 2 in the afternoon, there's a noticeable difference between how they react. Everybody says they have a good time. So now, I like to meet up on Sundays or Saturdays at 2.

I've also learned that, hey, you're not always going to hit a homerun on the first date. I think I used to swing for one, just wanting it to be absolutely perfect. Now I care more about getting along with someone well enough that I want to see them for a second date. I don't have to see my life partner in them right away. That would be nice, but I'm more resolved about just wanting to have a good time with them because that's what I want with all of my daters.

"One thing that I learned is that once you start writing for yourself, it's going to test how much you actually love doing this."

Your blog, Until I Get Married, drips with raw emotion. How has blogging been cathartic for you? Have you ever had an epiphany during the process of writing?
I didn't ever think that I would become a blogger. I'm a writer. Period. But nothing has saved my career as a writer more than blogging. I've been blessed to do what I always wanted to do, which is work at magazines, work at newspapers, be a writer, live in New York City. One thing that I learned is that once you start writing for yourself, it's going to test how much you actually love doing this. Do you really love it as much as you say you do? Because no one is telling you to get up and write. Every decision you make is a decision you have to come to for yourself. Blogging brought to light how much I care about doing this. It's become cathartic in a sense that it's a house of mirrors. When I go back and read things I was writing in 2009 and 2010, I'm like, "Whoa! Thank God I'm not that anymore."

Now that you've been kind of accidentally intentional with your blog's success, what advice would you give up-and-coming bloggers to optimize their blog's popularity?
I think the most important thing is to find a schedule and be as consistent as possible with it because that's the thing that people need in order to engage -- consistency. It's more important that you publish your post on the same day every week than it is for you to write five different times five days a week. Do it once a week for four weeks at the same time and then the fifth week, have a post ready, but don't post. Give it a day. And I guarantee there will be somebody who you didn't know was reading who will hit you up and say, "Yo, where's my post?"

Also, quit worrying about how many people are reading your blog. It may be to my detriment, but I don't look at the numbers. I do look at a post's comments, likes, retweets and shares on Facebook and sometimes I think, "Man this thing ain't hittin'." I just want to stop pushing it. Do not stop pushing it. If you're posting once a week, push that post every single day. You've got X amount of followers and X amount of friends on Facebook and not everybody is logging in at the same time, so a lot of people didn't even see the last time that you sent out the link. Give everybody a chance.

Janelle Harris resides in Washington, D.C., frequents Twitter and lives on Facebook.

NEXT >> So What Do You Do, Michael Musto, Entertainment and Gossip Columnist?

© Mediabistro Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The foregoing is the sole property of Mediabistro Inc. The opinions and views expressed in the interviews and/or commentaries are solely those of the participants and are not necessarily the views of Mediabistro Inc., its affiliates or subsidiary companies.

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