Joi-Marie McKenzie had been living in limbo for years, waiting for her boyfriend to propose—and she was restless.  

The Baltimore native was 28 years old and ready for the big fairytale wedding, the children and all of the trappings of marriage. To her, he was “The One,” the first guy with whom she ever thought about spending a future. And, she was eager to get started on their life together.

Joi-Marie McKenzie

Joi-Marie McKenzie

“I knew it was going to happen; I just didn’t know when,” McKenzie told the AFRO. “My friends kept saying, ‘You’re next.’”

The problem was her man wasn’t moving fast enough. So at year four, McKenzie, 31, talked to her older and married sister, Jasmine Saint-Jean, who suggested she hatch a five-point plan to get him to propose.

Step one was listing all of the qualities McKenzie wanted in a husband so she could clarify what she needs in a man. Step five was cooking him “engagement chicken.” The recipe is available on and purports to make a man fall in love with you.

“Thus begins my road down to passive aggressiveness to get my ring anyhow,” McKenzie said.

Want to know what she did for steps two through four? You’ll have to read “The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ to Marriage and ‘I Do’ to Me,” McKenzie’s first memoir. The tome, published by Hachette Book Group, was released nationwide on April 4.

McKenzie admits she’s a hard charger by nature.

She has earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. And, right now, she’s living in New York City, working as an entertainment and lifestyle writer for ABC News. She has interviewed numerous celebrities, including Kerry Washington and Jill Scott.

McKenzie actually got her start in journalism 10 years ago when she penned a blog for the AFRO-American Newspapers called “D.C. Fab.” The column chronicled the District’s nightlife and celebrity scene. Today, the blog has grown into the Fab Empire to include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

In fact, McKenzie met her man outside of Tuscana West, a now-shuttered nightclub in McPherson Square. She couldn’t understand why landing a husband wasn’t as easy as her other accomplishments.

McKenzie was obsessed with marriage and felt internal and external pressure from family and friends to get hitched. She even downloaded the Tiffany’s Jewelry app to look at engagement rings. She regularly watched “Say Yes To the Dress.” Her man talked about ring shopping at random but, by year four, he didn’t mention marriage once, she recalled.

“I was just frustrated watching people getting married on TV,” McKenzie said. “I was looking at Facebook and people posting pictures of their hands with the rings on it and my mom saying, ‘OK, when are you guys thinking about getting married?’”

McKenzie’s five-step plan worked and by year five, her boyfriend was ready to jump the broom. But McKenzie felt unsettled about having to use a plan to coerce her man into marrying her. So she made the difficult decision to walk away.

“I knew in my heart that there was a better way to get engaged than playing games,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie started writing about the entire experience in her diary — after an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” triggered her frustration at still being single at her relationship’s five-year mark. She sent the first 20 pages to her mother, Vashti McKenzie – a published author, bishop in the AME Church and former AFRO board member. Her mother sent them to Adrienne Ingrum, an editor at Hachette Publishing. Things took off from there.

McKenzie acknowledged she probably wasn’t ready for marriage at the time. One mistake she made, McKenzie said, was not focusing on the kind of wife she would like to be in the future. And she said she should have ensured she and her then-boyfriend had the same timeline for marriage.

“We have to have conversations to ask for what we want and then trust that the person we’re choosing to love is going to give us that,” McKenzie said.

These days, McKenzie doesn’t feel pressure to get married. She doesn’t see herself through the lens of men and has come to appreciate her life—without a husband. Her parents are healthy, she has loving friends and family members, an enviable career, as well as the means to travel and live in New York City.  

“My life is good,” McKenzie said. “That is a blessed life.”