Foreplay: sexual stimulation of one's partner, usually as a prelude to sexual intercourse
Prelude: a preliminary to an action, event, condition, or work of broader scope and higher importance
Off top, this might seem like a really strange topic to tackle, but just hear me out on why I think it's super relevant. Did you know that, in the United States alone, somewhere between 14-15 million people consider themselves to be in a long-distance relationship? Not only that, but out of those, only around four million folks are married (close to 33 percent are college-aged individuals), even though a whopping 75 percent of engaged couples admit to being long-distance during some part of their engagement?
Now do you see why I thought this was an issue that needed to be addressed? Just because two people may be apart, that doesn't mean that they still don't have needs. And, what I adore about the definition of foreplay, is it doesn't just lend to what a couple should be doing 15 minutes before penetration transpires. Foreplay is all about stimulating one's partner,, period and since the brain is actually the largest sexual organ that any of us have, incitement really should begin with what's going on between our ears, not our legs.
Hmph. The more I think about it, as challenging as being miles away from one's lover may be, perhaps one of the best parts about a long-distance relationship is how creative you can get when it comes to the fine art of foreplay (and it is indeed an art form, y'all).
Want some help with stoking the fires? I've got a few ideas.
Exchange Sexy Letters
As a writer who got my start as a poet, I've fallen for my fair share of writers—spoken word artists, rappers and singers—in my day. It's not just because of what I do for a living, but because words of affirmation is my primary love language too. And let me tell you—a well-placed and timed letter, poem or song could hit me in all the right places. That's why it totally resonated with me when I read an article that said that handwritten notes are quite powerful. So much in fact that increases positivity and an overall sense of well-being in both the writer and recipient.
So tell me something—when's the last time you went to a local office supply store (or a Hallmark), picked up some fly stationery and penned a sexy letter to your man, complete with some of your signature perfume on it, and mailed it?
A text or email are aight, but making the time to write about the way you love how he makes you feel will resonate on an entirely different level; especially if you both make it a mutual practice from time to time.
Create a Sex Bucket List
Speaking of writing things down, another way to get your creative sexual juices flowing is by creating a sex bucket list. Think of it as being a couples' vision board only, everything that is on it has something to do with sexual fantasies and desires that you both would like to try someday (hopefully sooner than later).
You could exchange ideas back and forth in an email. Or, you can both download an electronic vision board and swap thoughts that way. You can get a few leads on apps here.
Download the Kindu App
It wouldn't seem right to discuss how to better navigate through a long-distance relationship without bringing up some (other) apps since basically they are designed to make life—including your relationship—easier. Along these lines, one that you should definitely have on your phone is the Kindu app. The long short of it is, once you and yours download the app, you can go through thousands of sexual suggestions that the app provides. Then you both can discuss what you're willing to try, what's up for negotiation and what's totally off limits. If your relationship is relatively new or you've always been shy about discussing sexual intimacy, this is one way to broach the topic without feeling insecure or totally put on the spot. (Get it from the App Store here or Google Play here.)
Download the iKamasutra App TooGiphy
Another "benefit" of being apart is it can give you both some time to learn and/or brush up on your sex knowledge. Take sexual positions, for example. Did you know that there are technically around 230 different ones? With the iKamasutra app (App Store), you can learn about 110 of 'em via the free version and all of the rest for $2.99. They even have a feature that will help you to recreate some of the most memorable sex scenes from movies. Just think of how much you'll be able to, umm, demonstrate the next time the two of you are together!
Design a Sex Calendar
Something that one of my friend's husbands did for one of her birthdays was give her a calendar. If that sounds like he was leaning a little on the cheap side, just wait until I tell you what he did with it. He literally planned out dates with his wife, a year in advance. He didn't just write "date" on random days either; he had ideas, places and times too. Who said that romance is dead?
A cool twist to this is to design a sex calendar. You and yours can divvy the 12 months up and either come up with ideas on your Google calendar or mail the calendar back and forth. (Personally, I like the second idea; it gives you both something to look forward to!)
Mail Each Other SleepwearGiphy
Something that both husbands and wives tell me is a major pet peeve (and libido downer) is how their spouse decides to come to bed. Between the Fort Knox pajamas that a lot of women wear and T-shirts and boxers that should've been burned years ago that men have on, it's enough to turn anybody off.
Make this less of an issue for you and your sweetheart by coming up with your own Sleepwear of the Month Club. During a phone call, discuss things like one another's favorite colors, fabrics and lingerie looks. Then, commit to mailing each other what you'd like to see your partner in once a month for a year. Not only will you both end up with a new collection of sexy stuff to put on but imagine what an impromptu modeling session will be like!
Keep a Sex Journal
When a relationship is new, sex is pretty much always hot (here's hoping, anyway). But if you've been together for a while now and the distance is taking its toll to the point that it's actually wreaking havoc on the intimacy that the two of you share, something that you might want to do is keep a sex journal between the two of you. It can consist of anything that you want it to—the best sex memories you both have, the needs and wants that are important to you, even when you felt that sex was at its peak and when it seemed to take a bit of a dive, so that you both can pinpoint when things started to go left—just so long as the focus is sex and ways to make it better.
Sometimes, just the documentation and communication alone can help to put a spark back into the relationship.
Plan a Mini Hotel TourGiphy
Foreplay is all about building anticipation. Even if money is a little tight right now, that doesn't mean that the two of you can't dream.
Well, dream and save money. That said, I don't know one person (myself included) who isn't a HUGE fan of hotel sex. So, why not put together your own mini hotel tour?
First, research the sexiest hotel in the city where you both live and plan to spend at least one night there when you travel to see one another. As far as a tour goes, the Post Ranch Inn (Big Sur, CA); Salamander Resort & Spa (Middleburg, VA); Amangiri (Canyon Point, UT); Inn at the Market (Seattle, WA); Bryant Park Hotel (Manhattan, NY); The Standard Spa (Miami Beach, FL) and The Hermitage Hotel (Nashville, TN) are just a few other sexy hotels that can inspire you to meet in another location for a little extra excitement.
Come Up with Your Own Sex-Themed Emoji Language
A part of what makes a long-distance relationship challenging is, not only do you have to deal with being apart from the one you love, you also have to juggle your day-to-day demands. Although I'm sure the intention is to talk at least once a day, something that you can do to remind your partner that you are thinking of them is to text. Or sext. If you want to make it fun and a little more private, you can check out some private texting apps here (or you can try out Wickr or Confide). Then, come up with your own sex-themed emoji language.
Why emojis? Well, not only are they a faster way to communicate but, according to some pretty widespread research, people who use emojis have sex more than folks who don't. Oh, and if you want to nix deciphering between water splashes, eggplants and whatnot, there's a "naughty" emoji keyboard that you can download directly to your smartphone.
Emotionally Connect. Daily.
An actor by the name of Zara Barrie once said something about foreplay that is so on point— "Conversation is the sexiest foreplay, the perfect prelude to sex, the fiery banter that gets you heated, the stimulation of the mind that transmits to the body. Conversation is a give and take. Just like sex itself. And the best give and takes — the best conversations — lead to the best sex."
The married couples I know who have lasted the longest all have said that, when it comes to foreplay, it's about cultivating an emotional connection, most of all. It's a reminder that building true intimacy isn't just about sex; it's about making sure your partner feels wanted, heard and safe.
I could give a ton of tips on this too, but you know what's even better? Ask your partner. By simply saying, "What can I do to make you feel more loved by me?" will be sure to make them feel so much closer to you—no matter how far apart, physically, you may be. As a bonus, it will make coming together again, that much better too. Emotional connecting truly is the best kind of foreplay around. Hands down.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship
Is Scheduled Sex Really Better Than No Sex At All?
8 Ways My Husband & I Made Our Long Distance Relationship Work
How To Ensure Your Long Distance Relationship Leads To Marriage
Featured image by Getty Images.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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