The pleasure principle: How a false start became the foundation for love

As theGrio wraps its weeklong celebration of Black love, Lisa Pilot and Gregory Slaughter share how they make mature love fun.

“He would deny me!” exclaimed Lisa Pilot when asked to describe the “meet-cute” that almost wasn’t with her fiancé, Gregory Slaughter.

Both were regulars at Norman’s Bistro, the popular Black-owned restaurant in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood.

“We would always run into each other,” recalled Pilot, a former model now self-employed in real estate management. “So one day, he said, ‘Hey, can I take you to dinner?’”

She agreed, and the two stayed close that evening, talking and dancing. Later, “he called … and then that was it,” she told theGrio. “No show, no, nothing.” 

Still, the two continued to cross paths and discover mutual connections — “[but] every time I would say to people, ‘Hey, I know him,’ he’s like, ‘Oh no, I don’t know who she is,’” Pilot laughed. “He denied me to my [twin] brother; he denied me to everybody. And finally, I saw him out again at Norman’s, and I was walking by, and he’s like, ‘Hey.’ I was like, ‘Uh-uh — no.’” 

Slaughter, an author and ERP consultant for businesses and educational institutions like Howard University, remembers things a little differently.

“I kept bumping into people who knew her, but I didn’t know her know her, you know what I mean? So when we finally did bump into each other that last time … I, of course, had not taken her to dinner, and I said I wanted to —”

“He didn’t think I was gonna go with him,” Lisa interjected.

“I didn’t think she would be serious about me; that’s just the bottom line,” he admitted. “I never did, and that’s why I didn’t reply, because I was like, ‘Yeah, she’s probably way above my pay level.”

Nevertheless, “We got to talking, and we had a good time,” said Slaughter, who gathered up the nerve to ask Lisa out again, “and this time, I invited her to dinner at my home.”

“The dinner was amazing,” she said. 

Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Pilot

Their connection proved amazing as well, quickly prompting both to cut any lingering ties elsewhere.

“I was dating a guy, but I had been dating him for five years wanting and hoping he’d get his s—t together, and he just couldn’t do it,” Lisa explained. “And I kept telling him, ‘Listen, it’s not gonna work anymore. I’m telling you…’ and boom.”

As for Slaughter, “He had two women — or three or four or five!” she joked. “He called them and told them there’s a new sheriff in town!”

“I just really was single — and I was intent on staying single, quite frankly. I was like, ‘I’m too old,'” explained Slaughter, who had been enjoying his independence (including casual dating) since his divorce many years earlier. “So that’s why I know I love this woman because all that’s changed … I got a good woman, and I’m gonna take care of that business.”

A little less than a year after they began dating, Lisa, who will be 58 in March, and Slaughter, 65, are planning a March 2025 wedding in the Caribbean. A second marriage for both, each will bring adult children to their newly blended family; Lisa’s daughter is 21, while Slaughter is father to a 40-year-old daughter and twins who will soon be 27. 

“He knows how to take care of a family,” said Lisa, praising her soon-to-be husband. “He’s a family man, and even though he’s gone through his divorce, he still knows how to hold a family together — financially, mentally, and spiritually — and that’s important. That’s the quality that I like about him.”

The couple are also blending personalities as they continue to learn one another other.

“We have our ups and downs because I’m learning,” Lisa said. “[Gregory] would say, ‘Sometimes, you act like a man.’ I say, ‘No, I don’t think, I act like a man.’ I think that what I do is I have an opinion at almost 58, and sometimes I have to work on how I present it as a woman to my man and not sound like I’m so aggressive because that’s not how I’m trying to be. … I submit, and I’ve had to learn how to do that, too,” she added.

Arguably, they are learning to submit to each other.

“I gotta stop being so independent,” Slaughter said. “I [no longer have] the ability to just say, ‘The heck with this. I don’t wanna be bothered; I’m out.’ That doesn’t work in a relationship … You have to work, and I know the deal — anything you want, you gotta work at it.”

“It’s not that difficult, because I really like her,” he added. “I believe people gotta like each other as much as they love each other. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her because I’m crazy about her.”

The feeling is mutual, said Lisa, who prioritizes communication and respect alongside the love and romance in their bond.

“I’ve always been committed to this relationship; I try to respect it at all times. Even when we have our little disagreements, we try to iron them out [and] work through them,” she noted. “That’s being committed; it’s how you work through. … We have to learn how to respect one another when [we’re] in that committed relationship so that it can flourish and be beautiful.

“I think the unfortunate thing is when people become insecure, or they’re really not explaining what their wants and their needs are in a relationship,” she continued. “And the other person doesn’t know; they don’t know how to get it. And so we have to get there.” 

“We talk about it, and if you see that there is something, then you have to work through it,” Slaughter added.

Recommended Stories

Nevertheless, he admits to occasionally being cavalier about his partners’ feelings in the past, largely due to his fierce independence and resolute approach to life. Having lost an arm in a workplace accident when he was only 20, “That changed my life, of course, but it really didn’t change that much with me,” he explained. “I still went on to do everything else: went back to school, got a master’s degree, had kids, was married, got divorced, the whole deal. So I really didn’t let it bother me in any major way.”

“But I do have one saying that I like to say, and I say it to myself: ‘You gotta be able to look in that mirror and like what you see.’ You really, really do,” he continued. “And if you don’t like it, you need to work on it and change it. That’s just something I live by.”

Indeed, the absence of a limb hasn’t kept Slaughter from accomplishing more than most, including writing a book, being a formidable competitor on the tennis court, or finding joy with a woman he once thought was out of his league.

“Lisa just enjoys life,” Slaughter said. “I’ll be working, and she’ll just break out laughing, and she sings and dances around, and she just makes sure that she’s enjoying herself in her life, and I like it. It keeps me going, too, because she doesn’t let stuff keep her down,” he added. “I just enjoy her being Lisa.” 

“You have to always stay in love and always make each other laugh. Have fun!” Lisa said. “For me, being able to communicate, and be uninhibited in bed with him — freaky with my man — I’m just free,” she laughed. “It’s really nice to be that way. We could talk about anything and everything.”

As they now map out the rest of their lives together, it’s not their differences but their shared goals that strengthen their bond. “I like the fact that we’ve got a vision of something together, and we are working at it,” Slaughter said. “That’s how I feel in our relationship; that we’re always trying to do something together.

“I have to say, [this is] a love for me that completely caught me off-guard,” he added. “I thought love like this had passed me long by. That’s how I felt — so now, I’m cherishing it because I didn’t think that this was gonna happen to me anymore in my lifetime.”

(Editor’s note: Portions of this interview were condensed for clarity.)

Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s lifestyle editor, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades of experience in fashion and entertainment, great books, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body: Words of Change series and the host of ‘Writing Blackon theGrio Black Podcast Network.

Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter