Being a 38-year-old woman who has never been married, it probably comes as no surprise that I have had my fair share of dating nightmares and relationship fails. After every experience, I learned a little about myself. I learned what I can do better, what I need, what I want, what I like, and most definitely what I don't like. Unfortunately that didn't stop me from encountering cheaters, liars, and time wasters. Nor did it stop me from experiencing ghosting, inconsistency, and words with no actions. It all honestly left a bad taste in my mouth and not very much hope in the male species. I was very close to just giving up and living my life as my nephew's rich auntie that travels the world solo.
That is until I met Brandon.
Now, before you start thinking that this is going to be a How Stella Got Her Groove Back story, let me disappoint you right now and say that is not the case here. Sorry, ladies. 25-year-old Brandon is just my friend. We have developed more of a big sister/little brother relationship. However, I learn just as much from him as I hope he learns from me. I met Brandon on Instagram after a mutual friend posted me on their page and he reached out with questions on how to start a blog. From there, we started to talk about everything from fitness, fashion, career, life, and of course relationships. It was when Brandon started talking to me about his girlfriend that I was truly intrigued. Compared to me, he is so young but he has such a mature view on love and relationships.
Brandon probably has no idea the impact some of those conversations had on me and what I took from them. Most are things I've heard a million times before but this time I guess I was ready to receive them. I think the things he said resonated with me so much because they were gentle reminders that weren't forced on me like they had been in the past. There was no arrogance or self-righteousness. He was simply sharing his truth and inadvertently helping a friend too.
Being friends with Brandon has taught me:
1.Don't give up.
If love is something that you really want to experience, don't give up. It doesn't mean you have to go searching for it but you do have to be open to receive it. Brandon shared that he too dealt with being unlucky in love and had his fair share of let-downs in the romance department but that all changed when he met his girlfriend. It was the gentle reminder I needed that I am not alone in this and that those that have found "the one" only did so because they didn't give up.
2.Men have to be "chose" too.
Brandon told me once that he was trying to be the best boyfriend he could be because he wants to be seen as husband material by his girlfriend. It made me think about how much pressure we as women put on ourselves to be "chose" by the opposite sex. We forget that we have a choice too ladies. We have to choose them to be our lovers, friends, boyfriends and husbands. Don't ever forget that. Take the pressure off yourselves about being "chose" and remember they need to prove to you that they are deserving of you choosing them.
I shared in an Instagram story once that I was carrying a pack of bottled water from my car to my building one day. In the parking lot, a guy asked me if I needed any help. I told him "no" and then proceeded to have every single bottle of water fall out of the pack. And yes, the guy was still standing right there. Brandon replied to my Insta-story and laughed profusely but after he gathered himself he told me that the guy could have been the one and asked why I didn't let him help. Besides being used to being super independent, I also realized that I was also closed off to the opposite sex. While it's highly likely no love connection would have been made between me and that guy, Brandon helped me realize that it doesn't hurt to be a little more open-minded when encountering the opposite sex.
4.Romance is not dead.
I remember one time Brandon shared with me that he had to pick up his girlfriend at the airport. Knowing that I practically live at the airport, he reached out to ask me some questions. I was touched by the level of thought he put into something that most think is a mundane task. He wanted it to be perfect, he wanted to be on time, and yep he got her flowers. He told me once that because of all of the amazing qualities she possessed, it wasn't hard at all to do nice things for her. He also told me once that he recognizes the importance of continuing to date his girlfriend and knows he has to continue to be all of the things that made her fall in love with him.
5.Everybody doesn't cheat.
One day, Brandon shared a meme with me that made a joke about cheating. My response was, "Facts." He was truly shocked by my matter-of-fact and negative response. I shared with him how many married men and men that are in relationships find their way into my inbox on a weekly basis trying to shoot their shot. His shock was genuine and also refreshing. I needed that reminder that while cheating is something that I'm sure will go on until the end of time, there are still people out there that don't.
In a world that glorifies the misogyny and disrespect of women, it was beautiful to hear such a young guy speak with such love about a woman. Brandon and his girlfriend are blessed to have found each other and hearing about them through his eyes was the gentle reminder I needed that it's possible for me too. Just like everyone else in the world I have kissed a few frogs (or two) but it will happen…when the time is right because I have no plans of giving up.
Thank you, Brandon.
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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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I tried sliding into my crush’s DMs like Vanessa Hudgens successfully did to her soon-to-be husband, Cole Tucker, after she met him during a Zoom meditation group call. For me, it was akin to a backfired romance in a Mara Brock Akil comedy series.
At the wiser age of 30, I stopped side-eyeing online dating and acquiesced to the possibility of finding love in the digital realm. My one rule: He has to take the lead. I wouldn’t strike up a single conversation once the confetti cues burst that we’re a match. That rule trotted out the door once I swiped on a presumably tall, brawn, and accomplished venture capitalist sporting a million-dollar smile.
The clock was ticking; our match would expire in mere hours if one of us didn’t take the gambit. Screw it. I made the first intro, and the suave VC responded. Turned out we had a close mutual friend, too.
He had an upcoming business trip but said he’d reach out once he returned. I never heard from the VC guy until one year later when I mistakenly ambled into what felt like a zombie ambush at an intimate Thanksgiving gathering our mutual friend held. Then and there, I vowed never again to take the lead at the precipice of dating!
At 36, however, I surreptitiously stumbled across a mutual acquaintance who left me breathless at one of my girlfriend’s husband’s 40th surprise birthday celebration.
Mobilized by swoon-worthy anecdotes from countless women who successfully found love because they weren’t too shy to slide into their dream man’s DMs, I heeded the enticing call to a fortuitous meme: “Ladies, this is your sign to shoot your shot.”
He strolled into the decorated backyard, late, while the rest of us were enthralled by illusory magic tricks performed by a bookish magician; the real enigma was, who is this man who’s left me utterly captivated?
I tried to excavate more intel from my girlfriend, but she was incredibly tipsy from one too many of her husband’s themed cocktails to divulge. From the time I sashayed to the bar to standing across the extended dinner table for 30 – where we locked eyes and grinned at one another – until the end of the night, where I lolled in line for photo booth fun, I noticed Mystery Crush staring back at me.
“You have tree shrub on your butt,” a handsome guy with a stocky athletic build, who’d later introduce himself as B. warned me with a heavy southern drawl, as he and Mystery Crush chuckled. I blushed in embarrassment and swept the debris off my derriere.
Bright, professional lights flashed. I shook off the flub and angled every curve on my body, accentuated by my slinky black, backless dress.
“Let’s take a pic together,” B. smiled. I peered over my shoulder, watching Mystery Crush gazing back. Why couldn’t he be as vocal and proactive as B.? I agonized.
Later, as celebratory glasses clinked, B. boldly asked for my number, in hopes of snagging a copy of our photo and getting to know each other over lunch.
“I haven’t dated anyone in almost two-and-a-half years,” I hesitated, conjuring up any truthful excuse after B. casually revealed he was close friends with Mystery Crush.
Still, my racing heart couldn’t leave the party without officially meeting Mystery Crush. I had to know if his voice, intellect, and character matched his sultry vibe.
Channeling my inner badass Beyoncé, I meandered to him and introduced myself as I firmly shook his smooth cocoa hand. Aside from us exchanging names, no in-depth camaraderie followed.
That should’ve been a clue to relinquish any lingering feelings, but as a single woman who often comes across a smattering of gentlemen who rarely generate a mutual, palpable connection–coupled with a recent missed romantic opportunity in Mexico, I felt compelled to take the leap.
Hey. It was really great meeting you. You seemed afraid to talk to me, but I was really wishing you weren’t…
I hadn’t expected him to respond, however, within a couple of days, he DM’d me with his number. I replied with mine, squealing in excitement. Maybe taking the initiative favorably worked after all?
“Don’t call him. Wait for him to call you.” My sage hair stylist instructed me as she ran her fingers through my curly coils. “Of course not. I believe in attracting, not chasing.” I grinned.
Seven days passed since I first slid into Mystery Crush’s DMs. My optimism waned as calls from family, friends, and aggressively pesky scammers filled my phone log, but none from him, leaving me temporarily deflated. I resurfaced feeling empowered for confidently seeking after what I wanted–not from a place of desperation, but from a well of self-certainty and wholeness.
I’m a type A, go-getter accustomed to proactively risking it all for the unknown and receiving unrequited outcomes. It works wonders for my career; my love life… not so much.
A month prior, I’d just returned from an invigorating solo trip to Cabo, where I met two, late-30-something eligible men while I was enjoying an al fresco brunch buffet, overlooking the Sea of Cortez. One included a charming Black resident doctor who lived near me in LA. He struck up an amusing yet fruitless conversation while we picked over steamy mini waffles and dispensed fresh pressed juice. His geeky friend, however, mustered the courage to ask for my number.
As I was boarding my flight home later that day, a white middle-aged couple, who recognized me and my flowy white linen maxi dress from brunch, probed if the cute doctor connected with me after he expressed he was smitten.
“I told him he should’ve asked you, but he said he didn’t think you were interested,” the wife lamented. “That’s too bad, because I was waiting for him to ask me.”
The doctor’s misinterpretation of my interest and lack of initiation fueled my otherwise reserved proclivity to slide into Mystery Crush’s DMs.
I’m still a traditional millennial woman who appreciates the chivalrous elements of courting, and I’m perfectly content in waiting for my future love to spark the dating communication.
That’s how I’ll know he’s divinely meant for me.
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