Self-love can be the best love but most of us have had to go through a journey of self-hate, or at least intense dislike, before we reached the pot of gold on the other side. From loving ourselves at any size to embracing the quirkiness we can't seem to shake, we were all built and wired differently for a reason. And the sooner we welcome this and all that comes with it, the better. The best part? We're not alone. As women, we are all on our own journey of getting to a space where we love ourselves and embrace all that we are.
Seven women have bravely and vulnerably shared their journey of self-love, what they've had to go through to get to a healthy space, and how they make sure it never leaves their side and life.
Photo by Taylor Perez
"Self-love is undoubtedly incredibly necessary to a person's well-being."
I think the term "self-love" is incredibly saturated right now, so it's important to give yourself the time and space to define what it means in your own life, that is, without getting stuck in surface-level wellness practices like manicures and solo-dates. I like to pamper myself as much as the next person, but to me, self-love means finding the courage to dive into the deepest, darkest parts of your relationship with yourself. It's becoming comfortable with your shadows and listening to and nourishing your mind, body, and spirit accordingly.
I struggled with loving myself for most of my life due in part to subconscious conditioning from my upbringing and just being a young American girl growing up in the 90s; a time ripe with societal pressure to believe and consume, consume, consume.
Growing up in a traditional Latinx-Caribbean family, I was predisposed to having a contained view of what wellness looked like for "people like us". Severely important topics like mental health were kept hush-hush unless it pertained to major events like a mental breakdown or suicide. I grew up believing that therapy was only for "crazy people".
Years of unaddressed anxiety, depression, and panic attacks prevented me from loving myself fully and not loving myself prevented me from having healthy relationships with others. It wasn't until I had my own mental breakdown where I was debilitated for over a week with anxiety and suicidal thoughts that my family considered that I might actually need help.
Over a decade later, I am still healing through self-care practices like therapy, eating more whole, plant-based foods, and spending honest time with myself, but I have fully acknowledged that there is nothing wrong with me. I love myself fully even though my mental illnesses are something I have to navigate daily. Knowing that I am worth a love that fills every part of me has allowed me to heal my relationships, including the once painful relationship with my husband. Remembering who I am and loving myself like I know it is a full-time job, one that I'm now well-versed in.
Self-love has evolved with me through the years. I am a mother to a beautiful, brilliant brown-skinned girl now, so knowing that my self-love will influence how she forms her thoughts about herself and love, I am deliberate about loving every part of me. Aside from doing the work at home, I've created a career around holding safe spaces to talk about self-love and the dark, uncomfortable "symptoms" that come with it. I take pride in being vulnerable with the world as a way to teach the world to be vulnerable with themselves. That's how important self-love is to me.
Photo by @lifeasro_
"Self-love is having self-respect, confidence, and truly being happy with who you are as a person."
When my dog passed away, I was really depressed and started eating to take my mind off things, thinking it would make me feel better. I began to gain weight and became so disgusted and disappointed in myself because I couldn't fit any of my clothes anymore and I had no one to blame but myself. I stopped taking pictures of myself and started declining invitations to go to events unless I really had to go because I hated how I looked.
I realized that the only person standing in the way of me getting back in shape was myself. I wasn't putting the right food in my body, so I took the initiative to start juicing and working out regularly. I also realized that just because I gained some weight didn't mean I wasn't beautiful. I accepted myself at the stage I was in and really pushed myself to start to get back to how I used to be. I am still not where I want to be yet, but it's a process.
Now, I'm intentional about practicing self-love regularly. I always try to start my day by thinking about one thing that I am grateful for. I also celebrate my wins, no matter how big or small they might be and honestly, I am very patient with myself. I have the tendency to be very hard on myself, so I take moments to acknowledge my persistence and truly appreciate where I am now because it's so much better than where I was years or even months ago.
Photo by Victoria Saperstein
"To me, self-love means loving yourself unconditionally. It means embracing your individuality and trusting yourself to forge your own path with confidence."
If there's anyone that understands how difficult it can be to love the skin you're in, it's me. I don't think there was ever a time in my life that I wasn't aspiring to reach a goal weight, but I struggled the most in my late teenage years.
When I entered my first year of college, my obsession with weight loss hit an all-time high. One winter break while I was home in NYC, I made my way up to Washington Heights to visit a doctor who wrote diet pill prescriptions for anyone that could shell out $60. The pills essentially suppressed my appetite, and they were not FDA approved. You would take the pill, have coffee for breakfast, and eat spinach with 8oz of meat for dinner. That was it. I followed the diet and spent 45 min in the gym every day; it was such an unhealthy time in my life. My family begged me to stop, my doctor ordered me to stop, and only my closest friends knew what I was doing. I was in that routine on and off for two years.
It took me a while, but I realized I was trying to fix something that wasn't broken. I was so lost in my thoughts that I never stopped to appreciate the abundance of what I had: a beautiful, well-functioning body that was showing up for me every day. It also hit me that I would never be as young and beautiful as I am in the present moment. I used to have random flashbacks to my skinniest moments and think about how crazy it was that in those moments, I was still obsessed with losing weight. That was another major turning point because it made me realize that I had to change the narrative moving forward. I committed to honoring and loving myself no matter what.
It didn't happen overnight. Like all things in life, loving myself required work. Everything is connected, so learning how to listen to my body and follow its lead was important. I started paying attention to everything; the people I was surrounding myself with, the media that I was consuming, and how different situations made me feel. I eliminated all the bad energy in my life and stopped frequenting spaces that made me feel undervalued. I engaged in physical activity that made me feel confident and rested when I needed to.
I am so happy that I learned how to love myself unconditionally. Not only am I healthy, but I now have these amazing memories of embracing my body and empowering other women, which are some of my proudest moments!
To me, self-love means loving yourself unconditionally. It means embracing your individuality and trusting yourself to forge your own path with confidence. It means working towards achieving your wildest dreams with no shame. It means doing the work now so that you can look back at yourself in the future with no regrets.
I embrace self-love by seeking out what happiness means to me as an individual and developing a checklist tailored to my specific needs. I don't need to look like anyone else, obtain the same credentials, or live my life according to anyone else's standards.
Courtesy of LaKeidra
"Self-love is a constant journey."
I've had many moments in my past where my physical appearance caused me to have a difficult time loving myself, even recently. In addition, being in my early 30s and still working through my personal expectations of "where I should be" has also caused me to get down on myself from time to time. It's important to note that self-love isn't just about loving how you look.
Self-love revolves around acceptance and honesty for me. It's accepting who I am, where I am and how I show up. But it's also being honest with myself in instances where I am capable of more or deserve more. It's a balancing act and is about being in tune with yourself and your needs at any given time.
Going to therapy is key! It helps me confront the beliefs I have about myself and think about the practices I engage in day-to-day without knowing. Due to therapy, I have been able to be more self-aware and notice when I'm not feeling my best. When I notice, I take time for myself to breathe, calm my anxiety and affirm myself and then come up with a plan of action if needed. Literally this weekend, I sat down and took a few hours to refocus because I felt myself getting into old habits of comparing my journey to others and feeling less than. It definitely helps to pause and be present. I'm still working on it, but I'm taking control of my life as much as I can.
"As a whole and healed person, I know self-love to be caring enough about myself to unapologetically discard anything that doesn't hold me in the highest regard."
It's funny because about four years ago, I thought "self-love" was a concept people were using just to pawn off on me because I was going through a break-up. It felt like a send-off or a dismissal. Now, as a whole and healed person, I know self-love to be caring enough about myself to unapologetically discard anything that doesn't hold me in the highest regard. Anything that treats me or makes me feel less than? Gotta go! That's friends, jobs, sex partners, AND pants sizes! It's also being grateful for what I've been blessed with. Oftentimes, we long for something more when what we have is enough. His grace is sufficient, and so are my small boobs. They're fine how they are!
I've totally struggled with self-love before. I had no idea where to start because as a teenager, I'd become so attached to the idea that a significant other validated me. I thought, "If this kind of guy chooses me, that means I'm worthy. That means I have permission to feel confident." So, when I got in a relationship with a narcissist and he constantly critiqued and compared me to other women, I longed to be like those women because it'd satisfy him and validate me. NO MA'AM! Never again! Men will have sex with a bottled water; they don't care! Why should I base my confidence on some man?
I overcame my struggles with self-love by doing the work. First, you have to be willing, and I knew the way I treated myself (staying in a narcissistic abusive relationship, ripping myself to shreds in the mirror, skipping meals, etc.) wasn't working for me. It was only adding to my destruction. So, I watched more Iyanla, I read more books, spent time with people who love me unconditionally, I went to church, journaled, and I masturbated. I really did my work. The "work" looks different for everyone.
I still aim to embrace self-love by appreciating all stages of myself. Sometimes when I take my weave out, I have a beat of nervousness because I've grown used to the way I look with a Kardashian middle-part. My natural hair is a short bob. And I have to literally tell myself, "This is beautiful, too." I'm constantly working on re-wiring my brain to work for me and not against me due to my past relationships, and I feel like it's working for me. I'm proud of myself!
Courtesy of Jalysa
"I make time for the things I love and bring me joy. On the flip side, I take myself out of situations that do not serve me well. I think a big part of self-love is setting boundaries and doing what is best for you."
It is really easy to embrace the things we like about ourselves or feel great when we're really good at something. It's also a really beautiful thing to acknowledge and love our "flaws" because they are unique to who we are as a person. Self-love is accepting myself, flaws and all! It's also taking the time to do things that make you happy. Whether it's getting rest, doing your favorite workout, or spending time with loved ones. We are the best version of ourselves when we are happy.
I've been on this journey to self-love/acceptance since I was in high school. There was a point in time where I wished I had a lighter skin complexion, smaller lips, and was two sizes smaller. I really struggled with body image and my appearance for a long time. There have also been times where I felt like I never "fit in" and it really took a toll on my self-esteem. With social media being so big these days, it's easy to compare ourselves to others which is a terrible cycle to get stuck in. Thankfully, there are a few different things that have helped me over the years.
For starters, I am a huge advocate for therapy and know that it has helped me tremendously. I can tell a difference when I go more consistently. The company we keep is also extremely important for numerous reasons and I became very intentional with who I spend time with and energy on. I also made it a point to surround myself with more Black women. It was honestly something I never knew I needed but has been such an amazing life change for me.
I look at how far I have come over the years, and that alone makes me proud of who I am. We all have different struggles; but when we look back and see that we overcame them, who wouldn't love that? I try to surround myself with positive, uplifting, inspiring people and it makes such a difference. I make time for the things I love and bring me joy. On the flip side, I take myself out of situations that do not serve me well. I think a big part of self-love is setting boundaries and doing what is best for you. I take all of these things into account often and I truly believe that I am the best version of myself these days. Once I started implementing them, I noticed that others started telling me, "You look happy." That is one of the best compliments you can receive.
Courtesy of Keisha Nicole
"Self-love for me today is being sensitive to what I need, when I need it and just giving in to ME."
It's work. It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. It's less self-pity and more of mastering self-control and not allowing your thoughts to consume you negatively. It's appreciating the scars and turning them into beauty marks.
My struggle started with my family. My cousins are mixed with Black and Hispanic and my side of the family is 100% Black. I didn't always feel like I fit in because some of my cousins are lighter-toned and I wanted to be like them. As a young girl, I couldn't understand why I wasn't mixed like them. Then, I was from one of the only two Black families at my elementary school and again, I wanted to be what I saw around me. I can vividly recall the sting I felt one day at school when a little girl said to the kids around me, "Don't play with Keisha, she's a Black girl!" That truly affected me.
I also grew up as the chubby girl. I didn't have the most confidence, so I found other ways to make people like me which was through my personality. I was truly shaped mentally and emotionally by what people thought of me. That's where my struggle with self-love stemmed from.
I think one of the funniest comedians is Katt Williams. People give him a hard time or think he's crazy the way he speaks his mind, but he said something that resonated with me and should with anybody. During one of his standup comedy shows, he spoke to the women about self-esteem and said, "It's called SELF-ESTEEM... esteem of yourself!" That's where self-love begins or is taken away; when we're looking for it outside of ourselves, that influence or stripping of our identity can happen early. And you don't know this when you're a little girl, but over time and the older you get, you really start to see how it's shaped you in the wrong way. So, I had to really reprogram my mind, reprogram my thinking.
I took a step back and realized that I was throwing myself into like-relationships that didn't deserve me. I've always known that I had this really dope energy, but it just seemed like everything around me was sucking that energy FROM me. I literally started throwing myself into work. I became the ambitious, over-achieving, competitive and just "all-in" chick.
When I got my first big break, I left a radio station in L.A. and relocated to Louisville, Kentucky. I created an anti-bullying campaign for kids who were bullied. I knew how it felt to be talked about, judged or left out by other kids for what you didn't have or how you looked. The most pivotal moment of that experience was sitting with that same group of kids afterward, discussing what we had been through. It was supposed to be for the kids, but it ended up being life-changing for me.
Part two of me overcoming was when I started valuing myself and getting into shape. It wasn't about just losing weight, it was about the discipline. Getting disciplined in this one particular area of my life really helped me discipline other things, like my emotions and the people I allowed into my space. I was able to get clarity and focus on just ME. This is when I started learning to truly love ME.
Today, I practice self-love by saying no and not settling for less in one-sided relationships. There were times when I didn't love myself enough, I would stay in a situation where I KNEW someone didn't value me. When I think back on it, I'm glad that despite how I was feeling, I would wake up and tell myself every day that I'm a boss and push through; I had to do that for me and over time I grew stronger. I continue to protect myself from anything that makes me feel less than and I try not to allow any negative energy into my space.
Through my journey, I learned that self-love is unconditional. You have to be patient and you have to be kind to yourself. I value the simple things and make sure that I give myself mental breaks (so underrated). Even if that's just waking up on the weekends to take a bike ride. Self-love for me today is being sensitive to what I need, when I need it and just giving in to ME.
Featured image courtesy of Taylor Perez
Originally published on October 10, 2019
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Charmaine Patterson is a journalist, lifestyle blogger, and a lover of all things pop culture. While she has much experience in covering top entertainment news stories, she aims to share her everyday life experiences, old and new, with other women who can relate, laugh, and love along with her. Follow Char on Twitter @charjpatterson, Instagram @charpatterson, and keep up with her journey at CharJPatterson.com .
Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
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Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
So, back when I was a teen mom director for the local chapter of a national nonprofit because a lot of the girls (at the time) were at the age that some of my children would’ve been (read “Why I Named The Children I Aborted” for context), I would call them my daughters. And boy, the closer I got to some of them and the more they revealed, the combination of their relationships and lifestyle sounded a lot like a twisted hybrid between soap operas and Lifetime Television, especially when they would get into all of the stuff they were doing for “their man”…especially after I would inquire what caused a guy to earn that title and they would draw a blank.
“I mean, has he ever even taken you out on a date before?” would be a pretty common question for me to ask. And when they would respond with, “I mean, we sleep together” and/or “He comes over sometimes” and/or “Ms. Shellie, what do you mean — a date?!” — I…tell…you…what.
What’s really wild is they are not an anomaly. Meaning, there are a lot of women in college, in their 20s — shoot, some I’ve spoken to who are in their 30s and 40s who profess to also be in a relationship (which is probably more like a situationship-in-denial) with a guy where, when I ask the same question, they come up with variations of the responses I just provided — and that is unfortunate. Tragic even.
That’s why I think it’s important to tackle this topic. For the record, by no means am I gonna be on some unless-a-man-spends-his-rent-money-to-date-you-he’s-not-worthy-of-your-time ish. I’ve already stated my opinion about transactional dating (you can read it here), and y’all, I am so not a fan. At the same time, though, there is a reason why, when it comes to romantic relationships, there are “levels” to this thing, and despite how all over the place things seem to be these days, a foundational one should definitely be going out on dates. And that definitely should happen before you start using the term “dating.” Let’s get into it.
What’s the Purpose of a Date? What Qualifies As an Actual Date?
Purpose is something that I am really big about. I dig it because of what it literally means: “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” And yes, like pretty much everything that exists, dating does indeed serve a purpose. The problem is, because a lot of people have no clue what its purpose is (anymore), they end up doing what I believe, across the board, when it comes to the ignorance of a purpose: “When you don’t know the purpose of something, you are almost guaranteed to abuse it.”
So, why does dating exist? It’s so that you can get to know someone better. Simple. Where things get a bit complex is far too many folks think that you can do that anywhere — and while, to a certain extent, that would be true, the issue is that there used to be a time when “getting to know” had stages.
Getting someone’s number was a big deal. Holding a conversation that was longer than 10 minutes on the phone was a big deal. Getting asked out (OUT being the operative word) and someone accepting was a big freaking deal. And the reason why going out was wise is because you got to see how much someone was willing to invest in you. Again, I’m not talking about how many coins they were willing to drop. What I mean is, that when someone is truly interested in you, they enjoy putting some thought and effort into actually showing you so.
Not only that, but it helps them to get to know you when it comes to likes and dislikes and shared interests while being able to hold conversations that will reveal if you are a good fit on a billion different levels— or not. For instance, going to a live concert — you can learn about what they think about certain types of music, and that could lead to conversations about playing instruments as a kid, being in talent shows, or what their favorite artists were back in the day. Or if you went on a date that consisted of a hike and a picnic, you both could learn about how much you like — or don’t like — spending time in nature, what kind of foods you enjoy, and what your idea of romance may be.
Yeah, dating can reveal so much about someone, and the cool thing about it is it’s designed to do it in a way that takes a lot of pressure off. The reason why I say that is because, if after the first or fourth date, things aren’t working out…no harm, no foul. Everyone can go their separate ways without a lot of damage to clean up afterward. I mean, why would there be any if you’ve spent most of your time out of each other’s private and personal space doing things, being careful about how much of yourself you offer up and focusing on how to ease, ever so gently, into getting close to someone?
That said, even though I’ve already offered up some examples, if a part of you is like, “All of this can happen at his place or mine” — you would be correct. However, remember how I said that there are levels to this thing?
There used to be a time when someone being in another person’s home was seen as a huge honor and privilege…not just something to do. Your home is your sanctuary. Your home is your place of refuge. Your home is where so many intimate things about you can be learned and discovered — and I’m not just talking about in the bedroom. The way you decorate. How you keep a house. How you are when no one else is around. Where you’re able to really and truly just BE is featured in your house. Yes, someone should do things that show themselves to be worthy of accessing that type of information.
So definitely, if someone wants to be more than a friend in your life, you deserve to go on dates — you deserve for someone to plan something to do, that is not at either place of residence that happens more than once. You deserve this because, again, a date is about someone getting to know you, and you are worthy of being invested in.
A date requires a plan. A date requires effort. A date requires intentionality. A date requires creativity. A date requires wanting to woo a person. And so, if someone is claiming to “date” you, you should be able to provide evidence, via clearly articulated examples, of this transpiring to anyone who would inquire about your dating dynamic.
What Does It Mean to Be “Dating” Someone?
Okay, so all of that brings us to can — or more like should — you actually consider yourself “dating” if you’ve never been on a date with the person you’re giving that relational status to. I mean, if we’re going by what I just stated a date is and is for, the answer would be “no”…damn near a HELL NO. Because, well, let’s go back to elementary school for just a second. When you add “ing” to a word, that is verbalizing that some sort of action is taking place. And so, if a man is dating you, this means that he is actively taking you on dates. Therefore, if you’ve never been on a date with him before, how can the two of you be, well, DATING?
Again, I am not overlooking the fact that, eventually, dating can include things like him cooking for you at his place or you having him over to watch some throwback movies at yours. Yet it truly can’t be said enough that dating should be transpiring in levels, and so, if things start off that way, it’s really challenging to go backward, especially if you’ve let him know that he can just hang out at your house, pretty much from day one, and to you, that is dating (even though it’s actually not).
Now, I’m not saying that a man who never dates you isn’t “something-ing” you (LOL). I’m just saying that the word you are using, you probably shouldn’t. You need to open up a dictionary and look up another one that more accurately defines what is going on. Bonding? Maybe. Evolving? Perhaps. Shoot, before even finding other words, let’s get down to what may really be going on: SEXING. And no, sexing is not the same as dating.
SEX. IS. NOT. DATING.
Whenever guys tell me that they are so over women who think that sex should be a substitute for an actual birthday present or Christmas gift, I am totally on their side. It really can’t be said enough that sex is an even exchange of pleasure (and if it’s not, no one is making you stay; state your case or know that you can always leave), and so no, it’s not fair to think that on Valentine’s Day, you deserve the world of tangibles while he gets what he just got from you last Tuesday. Lawd, the manipulation of sex really needs to come to an end…and swiftly.
The same thing applies to sexing someone being put in the same category as dating them. While sex is definitely a way of getting to know another person on a profound level, I don’t care what pop culture says: it’s still an honor and a privilege for someone to experience you like that. It’s also achieving a different goal than dating does. What I mean is, that dating is about getting to know someone better, while sex is more about two people doing something that gives them physical pleasure.
Please take what I said into context because, if you’ve read enough of my articles on sex, you know that I think that it ultimately holds more value than merely a climax. However, what I’m saying when it comes to what we’re talking about today is, on a very basic and carnal level, you don’t have to be intimate with someone you have sex with — not mentally or emotionally. You can be as self-absorbed as you want to be by looking at the activity as a way to get something that you want…without really knowing much about who helped you to achieve that particular goal at all.
On a date, you want to know someone else. During sex, you can totally put up that wall, still get a need met, and go on about your business. And you can do this for weeks, months, even years if someone allows it. Because if you’ve already decided that sex is all you want, sex is all that you will give.
And that’s why I had to tell my “daughters,” damn near on repeat, that if you’ve never seen anything with him beyond his bedspread and bedroom ceiling, sweeties, you’re not dating that man. You’re having sex with him (and as teens, I don’t even know how good that is). The reason why he’s letting you use the word “dating” is so he can get what he wants without giving you what you actually deserve. Unfortunately, I’ve had to share that revelation with some grown women, too.
Yes, you can have sex with someone you are dating. At the same time, sex is not a date.
Even “sex dates” require planning beforehand and oftentimes aren’t the cheapest dates on the planet (when’s the last time that you’ve booked a hotel reservation?) One more time for the stubborn ones in denial in the back: for a man to be dating you, HE NEEDS TO TAKE YOU OUT ON ACTUAL DATES.
Is Not (Officially) Dating a Deal-Breaker?
As I was having this conversation with a 20-something woman not too long ago, I saw the light bulb come on. She asked me if, after almost a year of un-dating-while-sexing, should she end the relationship. If you can relate and you’re wondering the same thing — I can’t tell you what your deal-breakers should be. What I will say is if you realize that you want more, you should have it. What I will say is if that guy truly cares about you beyond being glad that he can just plop on your couch or get you in his bed without much effort on his part, and you bring all of this up, he will take note. What I will say is no woman should look back on her life and realize that she never experienced real, true, and actual dating before. What I will say is if you feel like you’re settling, you probably are. What I will say is what people value, they will invest in.
Listen, I’ve been with guys who I’ve been on dates with. I’ve been with guys who I was sexing. I’ve been with guys who we spent a lot of time together doing neither (translation: we hung out a lot and never really went out or made it to the intercourse stage of things). And while I’ve had some great sex and cool memories with Door B and Door C, by far, my fondest memories are the men who I dated and who dated me (because I don’t mind taking men out on dates sometimes; another article, another time). Because I felt cherished. I felt appreciated. I felt seen — with no strings attached. And that’s another thing that actually and literally dating someone does.
So, I’ll just say for me, that I won’t lie to myself and say I’m dating someone if I’ve not been on an official date with said person. I won’t let a guy get away with saying that he’s dating me either (I actually know a man who used to say that he was dating multiple women because, to him, if he ever took you out at all, that constituted dating….NAH).
Through trial and error, observation, and emotional evolution, I get that when someone is for real dating me, they have plans for us — short and long-term — in a way that someone who isn’t dating me (even if he’s sexing me) probably doesn’t. Because if they did, we’d be on dates due to the purpose that they serve. But hey…again, that’s just me.
As I wrap this up, if you’re on the fence about where your dynamic stands, forward this to the guy in question. Let his response/reaction influence what you should do. Because if you get an Elmo shrug, I’m not sure if there’s going to be much in your future beyond whatever you’re currently doing and accepting. If he wants to discuss it — good. Looks like you might get a date in your future. And once you’ve had a real one, it’s hard to go back to not.
Life is short. Bedrooms aren’t going anywhere. GO. ON. SOME. ACTUAL. DATES.
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