How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
When Ayana met Bola, she was just leaving something long-term and entering her new life as a single mom.
They had no idea Twitter DMs would lead to a chance meeting, a chance meeting would lead to an unlikely connection, and that the like that would eventually follow would pave the way for a love story neither of them could have guessed were in their futures. Back then, the 27-year-old Ayana Gibbs and the 29-year-old Bola Okoya were three years younger. The photographer felt an instant attraction toward the life coach/project coordinator/founder of Authentic Convos. But he, too, was just getting out of something serious.
It would take some time and the mutual enjoyment of shared simple pleasures like walking in the park and talking on the phone, but timing would find them exactly where they needed to be. The only hesitation for Ayana would be the fact that her and her daughter, Ayo, were a package deal. Luckily for her, she fell for a man who had no intention in awakening the love within her without committing to building a relationship with her daughter as well.
In this edition of How We Met, the couple of three years talk the importance of a friends first relationship, love lessons, and challenges they overcame to forge a love stronger than any meme.
How They Met
Ayana: He stalked me (laughs). It all started in the DMs on Twitter, years before we met. He wanted to know who I was and why he didn't know me since we lived in the same town. At the time, I was dating someone and replied, "Because I have a man," and cut the conversation short. About two years later, he asked me to be a part of his photography series and I agreed because I liked his work. It was platonic. A year later, I hired him to shoot my grandmother's 80th birthday. We became friends and kept it casual until we didn't.
Bola: I first spotted her on Twitter. Oddly enough, we found out that our mothers knew each other, but we had never met each other. After that first interaction, we kind of friend-zoned each other until we reconnected a few years later.
Bola: [I felt an] instant attraction when I first saw her but could only admire her from afar.
Ayana: I thought he was quiet and I found that interesting, especially since most guys I dated in the past were not. My attraction developed over time and started with getting to know him.
Ayana: I don't think we ever had an official first date. Strange, I know. Since we started as friends, it was a natural progression that intensified over time. I can share that we had many moments that were simple pleasures, like walking in the park and talking on the phone or in-person for hours, sharing our dreams and desires.
Bola: We didn't officially have a first date, but if I had to choose a time when our friendship grew, it had to be right around the second time we did a shoot together. We had gotten a lot more comfortable with each other and speaking a lot more frequently.
Bola: I would say that it was a mutual initiation from both sides. I knew what I wanted in a partner and found that in Ayana. She challenged me in ways I hadn't been before.
Ayana: In my opinion, it happened in parts. We dated and stopped because there was a little hesitation from both of us. Since we were both fresh out of long-term relationships, jumping into a new one felt scary. When we finally took that step to be in a monogamous, it was definitely mutual.
First "I Love You"
Bola: About three months into our relationship, we took our first trip together to Dubai. We spent one week alone, and I didn't get tired of her. That's when I knew (laughs).
Ayana: I agree with his statement. He didn't make me want to choke him and that was a good sign. But, I knew before the trip and didn't hesitate to tell him. I genuinely loved being around him and the way he made me feel.
Ayana: [Being a mom] definitely had much to do with my hesitation in committing to another relationship. I was still in the process of healing and accepting life as a single mom. My time was precious, and I didn't want to commit to anyone who didn't recognize that we (Ayo and I) were a package deal. Honestly, Bola was always gentle and kind to both of us and I wasn't used to that. I didn't always know how to handle such kindness because I wasn't sure if there were other motives.
When you're used to dealing with boys that want to waste your time, it can be hard to recognize a man that wants to invest in you.
Bola: Although I knew what I was getting myself into, nothing really prepares you for dating a woman with a child. I admit, I had my hesitations going into the relationship, but this is why Ayana is the best person I know. I'll explain; I never felt pressure to be everything that her daughter's father wasn't to Ayo. Ayana allowed me to naturally build a relationship with both her and her daughter so that made this new experience one worth exploring and deepening our connection.
Bola: I don't think I had to communicate true feelings to anyone, not even to myself. So, when dating someone who knew themselves so well and who was able to communicate their needs and wants, there was a disconnect that I had to get right with myself. Something I'm still working on, for sure.
Ayana: I think we came into this relationship as prepared as possible, but there are things you just can't foresee. I had to learn he wasn't used to having boundaries, or [being] challenged on certain behaviors that didn't promote growth. As someone who's very vocal, I think he found me to be a nagger, which was quite the contrary.
I wasn't going to allow anyone, including him, to mess with my peace. I worked too
hard for it.
As far as my own bad behaviors, I had the tendency to lump his shortcomings with all my previous relationships by generalizing statements. Bola's an amazing guy and didn't deserve to carry the burdens of my unresolved anger.
Bola: I think it's fine not to have all the answers. I'm not the best communicator so I don't always know how to express my thoughts and feelings, and it's good to have someone that knows and understands me during those times I can't express myself the way I want to. I've learned that there is a constant give and take. Love isn't a given, you have to work at it. Also, you have to figure out new ways and things to love about each other.
Ayana: I can't be happy with him if I'm not happy with myself. Since we're both creatives, we need those outlets of outward expression. If my outlets aren't nourished, I become dull and unhappy.
My motto for our relationship: We are two individuals co-creating a life together.
We need healthy boundaries and communication to be our best selves. There's no perfect love story that doesn't have a few bumps along the way. Love is the ultimate sign of patience because you have to be willing to let your partner grow and have their own transformations.
Ayana: We moved in together in August of 2017. There weren't any challenges specifically, just clutter. We had to let a lot go in order to make the space our home. I still haven't grown tired of him (laughs), sharing the same space doesn't hinder our love. As far as finances, we've mostly split the bills. My favorite thing about living together is waking up next to my best friend…and that he buys full-size name brand detergent without price checking. My budget doesn't play those kinds of games. My least favorite thing is that he doesn't like to make the bed, still working on that.
Bola: There were no challenges [with moving in together]. It felt very natural. My favorite thing is that I get a home-cooked meal every night. My least favorite thing is making the bed (laughs).
Ayana: My favorite thing about my man is his giving spirit. No matter what I need, he is there, ready to be of service.
Bola: I like how she makes everyone around her better. She sees the good in people and makes them see it within themselves. And she has a beautiful smile.
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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 masturdating? 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 masturdating 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 Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. 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 masturdating 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 masturdating 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 masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
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 masturdating 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” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating 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 masturdating 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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