I’m gonna be real with y’all — when all of those ladies came out on social media talking about they were in their “soft girl era” or “feminine era,” I couldn’t get my eyes to roll back into my head far enough. An era is a period of time, and to be, as a Black woman, thinking that femininity is temporary — well, to me, that sounds just about as ridiculous as thinking that being Black is. In other words, what era? Either you want to bask in your femininity all of the time, just because, or you’re a chameleon about it because you’ve got a cryptic agenda as it relates to what you think femininity can get you.
That latter part? Perhaps we’ll discuss it at another time. For now, though, as I was thinking about femininity and some of its synonyms, including gentle, soft, tender, delicate, ladylike, and nurturing, I thought about something that I heard years ago about Black hair and Black women overall. Someone once said that something that we have in common with our hair is we’re both like silk — strong and fragile at the same time. Not fragile in the sense of being weak; more like fragile in the sense of needing to be handled with great care.
That has always stayed with me. And so, in the effort to encourage as many women as possible to not want to treat their femininity as something that’s temporary or you can “put on and off” and instead, something that is purposeful, beautiful, and very much needed in our culture and this society at-large — I asked 12 women (middle names were used) to share their own natural hair journey; it along with what, in their opinion, their natural hair revealed to them about their own femininity throughout the process.
1. Renaye. 24. Been Natural for Three Years.
“Once you get the hang of it, it’s so easy to just throw on a wig and go about your day. One summer, it was so hot outside that I couldn’t stand it, so I decided to go without and learn my hair. It was hard because I had never been taught before. I did a lot of online research, got my ends trimmed, and was determined to fall in love with my texture. Once I learned more about it, I wore wigs less. A lot of us are just ‘hair ignorant,’ which is a shame because our hair is really beautiful and worthy of being shown to the world in its natural state once you know how to properly take care of it.”
2. Noa. 41. Been Natural for 11 Years.
“Two things that I used to destroy were my hair and plants. They both require a lot of nurturing. And what I realized is I sucked at taking care of both because I had a very 'all or nothing' kind of attitude. One week, I was reading up on how to basically be a horticulturist and watching every natural hair care YouTube video I could find, the next week…nothing. Being consistent is what I had to come to, and then that ended up transferring into other areas — consistent spa days, consistent pampering, consistent bubble baths. Setting aside a good 20-30 minutes every day to do something for my hair — whether it’s a scalp massage, putting hair butter on my ends, or changing my style — has reminded me to have that mindset about treating myself as a woman, period.”
3. Belle. 25. Been Natural for Six Months.
“I didn’t realize how disconnected I was from my hair until I decided to let this relaxer go. Is it kickin’ my ass? Yes. But it’s also teaching me to zone in on my being and ask my hair what it needs rather than just doing whatever is easy or convenient for me — and that has taught me a lot about femininity because I think a lot of us don’t ask ourselves what our authentic selves need. We just do whatever to get to the next day. As my roots are growing out, I’m getting to the rootof my womanhood. That’s crazy. I just thought about it that way.”
4. Crystal. 30. Been Natural for 10 Years.
“Hair is strong and fragile at the same time. So is femininity. I’m not knockin’ the sistahs who want to wear wigs and weaves because they are super convenient. But if you look at it all in a metaphor, 'covering up' is what we’re encouraged to do so much in society. Learning how to care for my hair, the way it was created, reminds me, and hopefully, those who see me, that Black femininity has a strength that is multidimensional — just like our hair. And it must be loved on and handled gently…just like our hair.”
5. Eleanor. 29. Been Natural for One Year.
“Going natural has not been easy; I won’t lie. I think that’s kind of the point. When you make an appointment to get a retouch, and you don’t really give your hair much thought until your next appointment, you don’t focus on giving yourself what you need. Going natural forces me to have conversations with this head of mine every day. The weather is one conversation. The protective style is another conversation. What my ends want vs. what my roots need is another conversation. And all of this is showing me how to tap into what makes me a woman. It’s a difficult journey but isn’t learning about how to be a complete woman? I would think so.”
6. Yvonne. 50. Been Natural for Eight Years.
“Being a woman is about being a nurturer. And if you want to learn how to master that, take care of your natural hair. It teaches you patience. It teaches you empathy. It teaches you how to handle things with care. It teaches you how to deal with disappointment. It teaches you how to be gentle."
"It’s amazing, but I’ve actually become a better wife, mother, and even friend since going natural. My tresses were a master class.”
7. Bryn. 30. Been Natural for Two years.
“It is such a lie, a lie that we tell ourselves, that we can’t have long, thick, flourishing natural hair. It wasn’t until I went natural that my hair thrived in the way that it does now, and although there is something sexy about a sistah with a super short ‘do, there is also something so glamorous about being able to whip my hair around. It’s stretched-out cotton that’s soft to the touch and also elegant. Natural hair is amazingly feminine.”
8. Whitnee. 27. Been Natural for Five Years.
“The simplest way to put it is when you decide to embrace all of what makes you YOU, as a woman, nothing can be more empowering and affirming — that includes your hair, and Black hair must be seen as empowering and affirming and feminine. How could it not?”
9. Nevin. 34. Been Natural for Three Years.
“I decided to go natural, not really because I wanted to but because my scalp was getting damaged and my roots were becoming weak. All of the chemical processing from the relaxers and hair color was taking its toll. I had to get back to the foundation of who I am. Since doing that, I can teach a class on things like types and textures and which products work best. I can comment on things about being a woman that I used to leave up to my stylist — and that’s my ‘ah-ha moment’ about natural hair and femininity: I no longer rely on other people to tell me what works best for me. I have now learned for myself. Wow.”
10. Taaj. 42. Been Natural for Nine Years.
“The main thing that going natural has done for me is it’s made me a more gentle person. I used to see women with 4-type hair, and I couldn’t understand how it was so long and thick when I couldn’t get past my ears. And then I heard a woman say that if hair is growing from the scalp, you can have long hair; you have to learn how to take care of your ends. I used to be so rough with my hair, but when I started to treat my ends like they were a soft fabric, it changed everything. And as I learned to be kinder to my strands, I learned to be kinder, in general. As you can see, it’s almost at my bra strap now.”
11. Alyna. 29. Been Natural for Two Years.
“I’m a product junkie. It’s because it has taken me a while to figure out what works best on this hair of mine. But when it comes to your question, going into stores and searching online for what will work on this head has turned into me exploring products that will pamper my skin, make me smell amazing, and amplify my femininity. Not sure that would’ve happened had I not decided to do the ‘big chop’ and go natural a couple of years back.”
12. Leeah. 45. Been Natural All of Her Life.
“Even though I absolutely have memories of hot combs burning my ears and blow-outs that seemed to take for-e-ver, to this day, I’ve never had any kind of relaxer in my hair. You know how they say that children should be trained in the way that they should go? That’s my hair journey in a nutshell.
"My mom — really both of my parents — always wanted me to feel secure in what I was born with, and because she devoted so much time into caring for my hair, I’ve always had the right products, hair tools, and techniques to bring out the best in it. And what I love about that is, it’s made me a very confident woman and taught me that, just like one day my hair’s in a twist-out, then some cornrows, then some braids, and then big and fabulous, femininity has many facets to it. None of them should be hidden. All of them should be boldly displayed.”
Hmph. Couldn’t have said it better, sis. Now pardon me, y’all, as I pull out my scalp massager and Chebe hair butter and toast to my own locks and femininity. Amen? Amen.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masterdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masterdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masterdating All About?
Masterdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masterdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masterdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masterdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masterdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masterdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masterdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masterdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masterdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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