I don't think anyone can escape their twenties without some relationship woes. My twenties were definitely wrought with emotional ties and severances. But as each year rolls by, I find that my most impacting relationships didn't come from any man I was dating, they came from my girlfriends.
I don't think I could've survived this last decade if it weren't for my friends. These women, both past and present, have seen me at my lowest, most vulnerable, most lost moments. Still, I can't say each friendship was without difficulty.
In fact, I believe my most heartbreaking and confusing relationships of my twenties are the ones I had with my girlfriends.
I wish I could say I had strong, unbreakable lasting friendships all throughout my twenties. I wish I could say my girls and I went through our growing pains together and now we have lifelong memories of our wild young days. But that wouldn't be true. As appealing as female friendship ensembles are, I'm a true introvert who can only handle a few friends at a time.
Plus, the downside about cliques is the clique behavior — the groupthink. It's not always all-for-one-and-one-for-all; it's usually a majority rules situation. Like, if you're the newbie in the group and one of the senior squad members decides they don't f-ck with you anymore, then they all don't f-ck with you anymore. Your relationship with one person in the group can determine and/or affect your relationship with the others.
I figured out pretty early that this kind of friendship wasn't for me.
When I was 21, fresh out of college and a long-term relationship, I was ready to blossom into the carefree, badass grown-ass woman I imagined myself to be, and the friends I had at the time helped me (attempt to) do so.
We partied, we bar-hopped, we talked about sex openly and honestly, we took all the youthful wild photos you'd imagine any group of 20-somethings would take. On the surface we looked like "squad goals", but in reality, I was only close to a few of the girls. I'm not the type to recruit a girl gang, I'm usually inducted into an existing one, and that was the case here. They were my friend's friends, but I quickly formed my own friendships within the group.
Even though we had good times, there was really no real substance beyond the laughs. I was about 23 or 24 when life started to get more serious and my depression began to take a toll. I started to feel insecure in all aspects of my life and I desperately yearned for safe spaces. Me being an add-on to the group, I started to feel like an outsider. The cattiness and shady jabs (which usually come along with young girl groups) got tired and I got tired of defending myself against frenemies. I started to isolate myself and ended up with fewer, yet more authentic friendships. And I was fine with that.
By 25, I fell into a self-discovery journey.
I spent the first half of my twenties obsessing over who I should become and decided for my last half, I should dig deep into who I already am — 25 was definitely an eye-opening year. I was finding my voice, shedding away the passive and submission persona I've worn for so long. In the midst of this change, the dynamics in some of my relationships shifted. In short, gaining a sense of self helped me build on fruitful friendships and also helped me say goodbye to ones that no longer served me in a positive way. During this time, I had two close girlfriends, but it felt like I was in some weird friendship triangle.This was probably unbeknownst to them and most likely all in my head, but I digress. I was straddling between a long-term friendship that understood me in the ways I used to be and another that was understanding the woman I was becoming.
I felt conflicted between the two, like I had to choose. As I was growing into myself and into this new friendship, I felt like I was growing apart from my old one, and that scared me. She too had grown into a new stage and new friendships, and the space between us grew further apart.
No one ever prepares you for a friendship breakup. To me, those are the worst of its kind and the hardest to get over. Even to this day, I find myself itching to send an ex-friend a funny meme that only she would get, or a text about a random memory from our glory days. The bond between girlfriends is sacred. It's the most intimate and profound connection that doesn't require anything more than you just being yourselves. So when my best girlfriend and I ended our friendship, I was distraught.
It felt like a divorce.
This person who I confided in, who has seen me at my lowest, who I loved so dearly just suddenly vanished from my life. I felt like a piece of me was wiped away.
Hindsight is 20/20 and as I look back on those two young women crying to be heard and understood by one another, I see that our issue was a lack of honesty. We were very close but we failed at communicating. We avoided the hard stuff. The relationships we have with our girlfriends require and deserve just as much work and dedication as any of our other relationships. I learned that the hard way.
This wasn't the only friendship that ended for me. My mid-to-late twenties were a tumultuous and lonely time. The woman who was like my sister became a stranger, I felt insecure about where I stood with other friends, I got rid of some toxic friendships (but not without some betrayal and a whole heap of drama), and I found myself becoming antisocial to any new connections. It's been both a peaceful and lonesome few years. But I think this was meant to happen to me. I had to learn the consequences of my passivity and unwillingness to open up about my feelings. I also needed to be alone to evaluate my own journey and what I need to do to continue onwards in a positive and healthy way.
It's not always fun but, alone time can be good. It can give you perspective and help you start over again. In the last couple of years, I've cultivated solid, beautiful, and loving relationships with some inspiring and genuine women. In my lonely, I reflected on what went wrong in my previous friendships and am continuing to learn how to be a better friend. Sometimes we operate from a "self-ish" (not necessarily selfish) place — we worry over what we are receiving and how others affect us, forgetting that we also affect others.
Now, as I enter my thirties, I have a better grasp of my boundaries and an acceptance of my shortcomings.
These days, I am not the most emotionally available person, due to many reasons I won't get into now. Instead of overcompensating for my limited emotional bandwidth by trying to fulfill the expectations and desires of every person in my life, I communicate my boundaries and reserve my deepest efforts for more significant friendships. I won't please everybody and I'm OK with that.
Adult friendships have taught me that not every connection has to evolve into a close friendship.
Womanhood is nothing without connecting with other women, pouring into each other with wisdom, love, or affirmations. These moments can happen even in passing. Especially as a black woman, it's incredibly important for me to engage with my sisters — women who share my same reality — even in the slightest ways. When I was 25, I worried over whether or not a new friendship would threaten an old one but now I appreciate the many offerings, both big and small, a friendship can bring.
Friendship doesn't take away, it adds.
Even though I never achieved the whole squad goals thing, I found sisterhood through individual connections. And through all these connections I've found something, which for me, feels deeper than a squad. I found my tribe — women from all walks of life who vibe with me on different levels and who help heal and uplift various sides of me. We may not always share the same circle of friends, but we share a powerful connection.
As I embark on my 30s, I'm making more space for healthy connections, forgiveness, patience, and understanding — both with myself and for my friends.
Featured image by Shutterstock
Originally published on May 22, 2018
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
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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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