Recently, while being interviewed for a podcast, I was asked about some of the topics I was currently writing about. When I shared this title, in particular, one of the hosts said, "Wow. That sure is specific." Indeed. Sometimes, a man can come along and make his mark on your libido in a way that can rock you to your very core. If you let him.
Although it's possible that I could be the only one on the planet who has been with one person, loved the snot out of them, and still felt all tingly inside whenever my mind wandered over to an ex (or two)—somehow I seriously doubt that. And since I like to do all that I can to help others to either avoid what I've been through (or sent myself through) altogether or help them get past it sooner, I felt like this was as good a time as any. Time to do what? Time to provide some tips on how I was able to work through loving one man while still preferring (or missing) sex with another. It ain't (always) easy, but if you really want to move on (because you do want to…right?), it is indeed possible.
Here's how I did it.
So, You Know Good Sex Is Accessible Other Places, Right?
Some of y'all might be triggered by what I am about to mention. But you know how grandma (at least southern ones) used to say, "Hit dog will holler"? This might just be the case right here. Personally, I've never really been the person who subscribes to the whole "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" thing. We're human beings. At the same time, what I do, most definitely agree with, is the saying, "If two people are just alike, one of them is unnecessary". To be honest, this applies to gender differences too. Debate it all you want, but there is irrefutable evidence that there are certain things that make men and women different. For instance, like it or not, we produce more estrogen than guys do, and there are studies to support that the more estrogen that is in your system, the more likely you are to be emotional—and to emotionalize. That's not right or wrong. That's just the way it is.
Where am I going with all of this? Whenever I ask my male friends if they can recall the best sex (and/or head) they've ever received, basically all of them can call up a name, pretty much right off of the bat. But when I dig deeper to see why they aren't still "dealing" with that individual, they mention things that have absolutely nothing to do with the sex itself. Then they follow that up with, "Good sex ain't worth the headache. You can find good sex lots of places."
Yep. You sure can. Yet because a lot of us, as women, tend to tie our emotions into the act of sex, oftentimes separating the two issues isn't as easy for us. Even if our ex was a complete ass, if the sex was off the charts, some of us will still find a way to rationalize sleeping with our ex or, still remaining in some form of communication, just so the possibility of sleeping with them—or even getting back together with them—again can remain intact.
But if there's one thing that we can takeaway from a lot of men's mentality on this topic is, no matter how good sex with an ex may be, our ex doesn't have a monopoly on sexual satisfaction. Other men can please us too. Besides, the older and wiser we become, we tend to realize that good sex isn't just about what a man can do to our parts; it's about how well he "handles matters" across the board (see "What GROWN Women Consider Great Sex To Be").
It's a low bar to hold onto someone who really isn't good enough for you, simply because he can make your toes tingle. Besides, the sooner you move that joker out of the way, the sooner you can give yourself fully to the man who is in your life now. The one who is a part of your present—not your past.
You Also Know That Your “Feenin’” Ain’t Just About the Sex…Right?
On the heels of the point that I just made, if you're already in a relationship with someone else, but Jodeci's "Feenin'" keeps running in the back of your mind, as far as your ex is concerned, you know that it's more than just being a-dick-ted, don't you? No matter how good he may have been at hittin' the right spots, unless you are a love-addict-in-denial (which leans to being extremely delusional when it comes to how you process romantic relationships), you are probably still longing for him for reasons that have little to do with what went down in the bedroom. So that leads me to asking you if you are completely over your ex, on the emotional tip? And if you're not, why aren't you?
Is it because he ended it and you didn't it? Is it because you weren't able to get the closure that you needed? Maybe the new guy that you're with is more of a rebound relationship than anything else. Perhaps, while you may love your current boyfriend, you feel like you are still in love with your former one (it's pretty difficult to be "in love" by yourself, by the way. Check out "Like, Love & In Love: How To Really Know The Differences" to get what I mean by that). Maybe you need to do something similar to what I did and go on a "heart pieces tour" in order to get the part of you that you still feel like belongs to your ex back. Whatever the case may be, please don't give your ex so much credit that you think the reason why you are still fantasizing about him and/or putting yourself in the position to potentially sabotage what you've currently got going on, is all because of how many orgasms he could give you. If you really stop to do some processing, I promise you that there is so much more going on with you than that. And the sooner you can get down to the bottom of it all, the better—for you and your current situation.
If You’re Still Dealing with Your Ex, Stop. (At Least for Now)
Personally, I'm not what I would call "friends" with any of my exes. Not friends in the way that I've grown to honor the word (check out "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships"). Hmph. Come to think of it, if I had actually understood more about what true friendships require from the jump, they probably wouldn't have become a boy-friend in order to become an ex. But that's another Ted Talk for another time. Still, what I have made sure of is that there is peace between us. I don't think of them and instantly become pissed. I can run into them and ask, "How are you?" and genuinely mean it. If they needed something, including their own closure, and it didn't put me out of my own boundaries in order to help them out, I would. I'm healed and that's a good thing.
Still, at the same time, when I broke up with each of my exes, the perks that came with being a part of my world, they ended too. So, there's no need for any of them to get the benefits of still interacting with me if we've agreed that they aren't going to handle the responsibilities that come along with it as well. All that does is keep one or both of us stuck in the past instead of moving forward with our future.
That's why, while I do think that it is possible for exes to be cool and maybe even friends (someday), if you're currently still preferring anything about your ex to the point where you can't seem to let those thoughts go or it's affecting/infecting your current relationship, you need to break ALL forms of communication/interaction with that guy. No phone calls. No texting. No slick stalking him on social media. No listening to Heather Headley's "In My Mind" on loop. None of that.
Sometimes, when we're in a relationship with someone but we're still struggling to get over our ex, on any level, it's not about how much we are tied to the past of the relationship. The relationship sucked and we know it. But since we keep staying in the same place, emotionally, with that individual, we can make the need for them in our lives far bigger than it needs to be. In the bedroom and out of it.
In This Case, It Is Beneficial to Do Some Comparing
While typically, I'm not the biggest fan of making comparisons, especially when it comes to comparing past and current loves (talk about falling down a rabbit hole), if you're still sexually hung up on your ex, I will make an exception and recommend it in this case. Now, I'm not saying that you should compare body parts and sexual styles (sometimes, that's an unfair match, from the start). What I am saying is that you should really think about the pros and cons of both men and both relationships. The best way to do that is to take sex, totally out of the equation.
I'll give you an example from my own sexual past. There is one guy who was really good in bed. You know what else he was? A total ego maniac. I remember one of the last times that we had sex, it was in a hotel and there was an entire wall made out of a mirror behind the bed. Did you know that at least 80 percent of the time, this ninja was looking at himself in the mirror while we were doing it? It was right at that moment when I was like, "Oh…my orgasms aren't about me. They're about your narcissism and how it makes you feel to make me feel good. Got it." And when that ding, ding, ding finally settled into my psyche, it was easier to separate how good the sex was from how much of a jerk he was (and he was a Grade A jerk, chile).
When it comes to the guy who you are currently with, while he might not be able to make you sexually feel like your ex did (at least, not yet), if you separate the sex from the relationship, what does he do that your ex was never able to quite master?
Does he treat you better? Is he more attentive? Does he take proactive measures to make you feel wanted, appreciated and adored better than your ex did? Is he more honest and faithful? Maybe, unlike your ex, your new love desires the same things that you do in life. Perhaps, unlike your ex, he complements your life more, improves you rather than tries to change you and, with him, you just don't have to try so damn hard to make it work.
Sometimes, when trying to get over sex with an ex, we underestimate the foreplay that comes before the actual act. I don't mean sexual foreplay. I mean how a man treats us that makes us feel cherished, honored and closer to him. Even if you do prefer the act of sex with your ex (again, for now), when it comes to your current and present man, does he treat you better? Outside of the bedroom? Because if he does, that is going to prove to be of far more value. Trust me.
Great Lovers Aren’t (Always) Born. Sometimes They’re Taught.
You know something that my past 14 sex partners (and an almost 14-year bout of abstinence) has taught me? That sometimes, when it comes to who we qualify as being our best in bed, they are able to hold that position because we're lazy. Now hear me out here. What I mean is, there are some people who semi-rocked my world when it came to sex because there was either an already-established strong emotional connection or because our energy and chemistry were indescribable. It wasn't so much about "skills" or "technique" as it was that our synergy was so on point. This meant that we didn't really have to go out of our way to blow each other's minds. Honestly, that had already transpired before even touching.
Coming to this resolution meant that I could let go of the belief that no man would be able to make me feel that way again. It wasn't so much that the greatest lovers that I've ever had were naturally that way. We just "fit" differently than I did with other guys. The good news about that is, once I accepted that they weren't great lovers "just because" but it was more about how we worked together, I could accept that I really could move on. This meant that while the next guy may not be as "automatic" as men in the past, if we are willing to work together to please each other, we can have some pretty amazing sex too. It might not be the same—no two people ever are—but it can be its own kind of amazing. In a different way.
Do I think that it's possible to love one person and still desire someone else? Yep. But if you discover that is what's going on with you, I don't think you should just stew in that resolve. You can't change the past, but what you can do is give your present a fighting chance by not giving your ex so much power that you can't open yourself up to all of the possibilities that you can experience with your new man.
Because I promise you one thing. No matter how good your ex may have thought sex was with you, once he's ready to move on, he will do just that. He will be fine with you being a memory and cultivating some new ones with the next. So really—why not also do the same, sis? Sooner than later too.
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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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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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