Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
If I'm being honest, I never truly grasped the truth behind that phrase until my most recent relationship.
There, I invested laughs, blood, sweat, tears, and years. And now, as I stare at my ring-less hand, I question not only my relationship, but myself. I know I'm not Beyonce, but if Jay-Z can put a ring on it, my Jay (yep, twinning with the names) could too, right? Wrong. You see, the "milk" in question is giving yourself to someone with or without demanding the respect and commitment necessary while being with them. Why rush to solidify anything that is already being received? For me, it was doing all of the things that a wife should do for her husband without being a wife. If I was real with myself, why would he ask me to marry him if he was already reaping the benefits?
There was no sense of urgency to gain what he technically already had.
Truth be told, it's difficult finding that balance. The line between being a girlfriend wanting to show the "wifey" side and actually becoming one is so fine.
When I first met him, the thought of us dating was absolutely out of the question and never crossed my mind. On the one hand, he was a breath of fresh air, hilarious, and we connected very well. We'd talk daily (several times a day at that), and things were blossoming into that rather interesting lustful phase. I was a single mother of one and freshly out of a relationship (or lack thereof). That was the first problem. Looking back, I'm not sure that I ever gave myself a chance to love me the way I needed to love myself before attaching myself to someone else. If only life came with an instruction manual, right?
To spice things up, I had a no-kids rule despite having one of my own. It was just something I chose not to accept or deal with because I didn't have time for the "baby mama drama." Well, what I failed to divulge until this moment is that he had one child under the age of one and another on the way. Red flag, much? Certainly.
But once you have a taste of "what can be," those red flags start to appear more of a faded red color, an almost pink hue.
So, choosing to swallow my pride and ignoring the questions inside, we continued what we started. I ended up briefly experiencing the aforementioned drama after all, learned what it meant to step outside of my comfort zone, and familiarized myself with his family who were indeed nothing like my own (so many funny stories behind this statement). I was welcoming it all with open arms and a year later, we were having our first child together and living in our first place. At that moment, everything felt right in our relationship, but perhaps for all of the wrong reasons.
From his infidelity to our financial instability, and simply being two people in "young love," we struggled.
There were times when I couldn't imagine life without him, but on the other hand, there were times when I questioned living life with him.
I remember moments where he'd come home and have such a cold demeanor towards me that I'd need to wrap up just to stay warm. I can recall moments where I questioned myself and wondered if I was enough. It had to be something about me that kept him from giving me what I wanted and needed, right? But then I'd think of the moments where he made me feel like I was the only woman his heart beat for.
It was Valentine's Day, 2009. He took me to eat, we went to play laser tag, and I came home to a riddle at the door. One riddle led to another to another, and eventually to a promise ring. Did this really mean that he was "promising" to make me his wife one day? Yes! Come through hopefulness! Let's face it, many of us have our weddings planned at the age of five or at least know that it's in life's ultimate plan.
Cut to three years later, in 2012, we were still going through the motions, have our second child together, and issues between us were becoming more common than not. I didn't notice it back then, but my love for him meant undervaluing myself and overvaluing him. I never thought to ask myself if I could even see myself marrying someone that didn't always appreciate what he had. After all of the time that passed, I continued to believe that if I gave him what he needed and was showing my extraordinary "wife-like" abilities, I'd still be blessed with the title.
I was guilty.
I was guilty of wanting to be a wife so bad that I allowed way too much. I'm guilty of letting social media dictate my life. I'm guilty of letting a relationship with him outweigh my sense of self worth. You see, what I failed to realize through all of this is that I was giving too much of myself with too little to offer. I was too available, too accessible, and too naive to notice. You hear the saying often, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"
And to that I pose a different question, "Why didn't I add a dollar sign to my milk?"
Why had I not realized that with so many of us being wives to our boyfriends, that that's all we'd ever be.
It really goes back to that notion of self-love, which is something I didn't have for so long. Without self-love, you tend to be more accepting of even the most hurtful things all for the desire to be loved by someone else. I constantly strived to fill that void, no matter how much it hurt me to do so.
However, there's a light at the end of this tunnel.
It didn't happen overnight, but I started valuing myself more. I began to stand for certain things instead of falling for everything. It took open dialogue, honest communication, and truly letting go of the past to work on our present and future. I remained firm in where I stood and made it simple - either love me the right way or leave me alone.
This new sense of self-worth and choosing to no longer accept crumbs where I needed meals prompted a change in him. After nearly years since we first started dating, the bad times became a distant memory and ultimately went out of the door. He started working harder at being my support system, friend, partner, and rebuilding the trust between us. He learned how to talk through his concerns, as did I.
We addressed what we felt was lacking and truly worked toward a common goal - making US work.
After all was said and done, he got his ish together and proposed in October 2017. Reflecting on it all, I realize that my situation may not work for others, but it certainly worked for me. I had to learn how to love me the way I wanted to be loved. During that time, I simply put my "milk" back on the shelf until I was ready to add a price tag. Not to get too religious, but God will never bless any of us with what we aren't ready for. He wasn't ready, and neither was I.
It took time and effort for both of us to see the bigger picture, but once we saw it, it was beautiful work of art with a unique story behind it.
Would I have done things differently, if given the opportunity to do it all over again?
Absolutely. I would've added a dollar sign to my worth from jump.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Erica "Ms EKlass" Pierce is a mom, radio/tv personality, and writer. She's a lover of music, all things Beyonce, Harry Potter, and yes, her interests are as diverse as her content. A proud graduate of Ball State University, Erica is always eager to paint a masterpiece through the art of storytelling.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images