His "D" felt like love.
His body on top of me was the hug that I needed.
It was the way his hands were gripped on my back that assured me of my place in his life. His tongue explored my body the way eyes explore a road map. The way he would stop at his destination, zeroing in on the target with concentration let me know that I was his focus, his priority.
Sex with him was a 1992 Sade concert and a Too Live Crew music video morphed into one; a 360 experience. My body would erupt at the near sight of him. The anticipation was an orgasm of its own.
I knew then that he was dangerous.
Since my youth, I've always had trouble following directions. I've always had a mind of my own; never accepting the fact that sometimes my mind alone was inadequate. I thought I knew everything and no one knew more. So, when I met him, I ignored all the whispers. You know, the whispers you hear when you post his pic to IG with a corny caption you found off Google that seemingly sums up your relationship, "I don't care about your past, I want to be your future," or "Life began when I fell in love with you."
People were shocked and curious. They whispered, "How could she fall in love with a guy who's never truly loved anyone?" and, "She posted his pic? Doesn't she know he's everybody's man?"
He was known around town for having several women, sometimes at the same time. I was known as the "good" girl (sorta). So, the odds of me falling in love with a guy like that was supposed to be zero to none. I remember when I brought him around my friends for the first time, they had so many questions, mainly, "What the f*ck?"
Of course, in my mind, they were being irrational. My response was, "Y'all don't know him like I do," and "Support me."
It took me a few years after the relationship to realize that what I really meant to say was, "Y'all don't know his penis the way I do," and "Support my love for his penis despite the stupid shit it 'makes' me do."
I never understood the power of penis until I was introduced to his.
Now, I know some of you may be thinking that I'm crazy, but please hear me out.
First, it's important to understand that I am not trying to undermine true addiction. I'm fully aware that addiction of any kind is a serious matter. So, I phrase my experience by saying, no, I am not a sex addict or addicted to penis; however, I am a woman who came across a massive, beautiful and shiny set of "tools" that sent my world into a spiral. I fell in love (and delusion) with his penis, ignoring the man. I drew false parallels between his talent in the bedroom and the man that he was.
In the beginning, there was no doubt in my mind that it was true love. We had fun together, we were affectionate, I knew that he loved me, and that I loved him. Then, one day he asked to use my car. My response was immediate, "Of course baby, the keys are in the kitchen."
Fast forward two months and I was taking the train to and from work so that he could have the car during the day. Eventually, we moved in together. One night he asked, "Baby, can you buy me something to eat?"
Again, I didn't think twice before responding, "Sure, a #3 from Popeye's?"
Eventually, I was taking cash out the ATM for myself and giving him my debit card for the day. There I was, allowing a grown ass man to live with me (because I was the only one on the lease, which meant that I was the only one who was technically responsible for the rent) and drive my car while I took public transportation 7 days a week (and get this, I was paying for my own subway ticket), all while giving him a daily allowance.
It didn't dawn on me at the time that a real man WOULD NEVER or that a strong woman WOULDN'T ALLOW! I was caught up! It took a few more instances before I realized that there was a problem. After three years (judge your mom, not me), I finally walked away.
The irony in a lesson is that you're often both the teacher and the student.
I taught myself how to identify false positives and I learned that the way he treats my vagina is not always the way he will treat me. I taught myself the importance of falling in love with the man, not the orgasm. Further, I taught myself to never confuse the two; an orgasm is a feeling, not a commitment. I allowed myself to be played. Yes, he was wrong for the way he treated me, but ultimately the blame rests with me.
I'm the one who's responsible for my happiness. It's my job to require the respect and consideration that I deserve. I believe it was Nicki Minaj who said, "Had I accepted the pickle juice, I would be drinking pickle juice right now." In other words, you're treated how you allow yourself to be treated. We all go through some crazy things, it's inevitable; however, just make sure you grow through them as well.
Come out smarter and stronger than you were before.
Good D is the chocolate and caramel dessert you crave in the middle of the night.
You want it, sometimes you even yearn for it; however, before you indulge, consider the consequences. Settle for the sweet nectar of your fruit instead.
Shanelle Ashley is a writer and content creator. She's established a career working in television for companies including BET and currently A+E Networks. She has a passion for storytelling and hopes to one day create a story that will touch the world. Keep up with Shanelle on Instagram and Twitter @ShanelleAshley_.
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 xoNecole exclusive, 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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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith went to social media to share their Thanksgiving holiday with followers. The pair were surrounded by family and friends Thursday, and both posted how grateful they were to be with the ones they loved. Yet this comes on the heels of Pinkett Smith’s whirlwind of negative opinions and critics forecasting her book would be a flop.
Despite the negative feedback she received, Worthy , Pinkett Smith’s memoir, still debuted at #3 on the New York Times ’ Best Seller list on October 25. The greatest backlash she received was centered around her relationship with Smith and the fact that the two had been living separate lives since 2016 .
The commentary about their marriage overshadowed the reality that this book is ultimately about her journey to self-worth and the path she’s had to take in order to get there.
Social media comments about her book tour ranged from, “Me counting all the times Jada woke up and chose to embarrass Will Smith,” to podcasts like The Joe Budden Podcast saying, “Take me out the group chat,” which was a sentiment shared by many celebrities and fans alike. Yet, a point made by comedian KevOnStage proved that even though people say they don’t want to know about the Smiths, they’re secretly interested and want to know more.
Since the Smiths were wed in 1997, people have been fascinated with their marriage, and rumors about their marital arrangement have always been a topic of conversation. People continue to speculate that the pair is gay and swingers , and even new allegations have come out that Smith and Duane Martin shared an intimate relationship at one point.
However, despite their consistent united front throughout their marriage in recent years, Pinkett Smith has borne the brunt of backlash in the couple’s relationship, from her entanglement with August Alsina to Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards to the recent truths she’s shared about the couple’s marriage in her memoir.
Individuals are consistently running to the internet to support Smith and villainize Pinkett Smith, from podcast guests saying things such as “She doesn’t like Will, she likes the lifestyle” to deeming her “mean” or "manipulative" because of her facial expressions and demeanor.
Likewise, when you have hosts of daytime talk shows such as Ana Navarro saying , “I think she’s having a relationship with her bank account,” insinuating Pinkett Smith only shared stories about Smith to increase her book sales, it begs the question of where was this same energy when Smith released his memoir?
In Will , Smith discusses both of his marriages and how, in relationships , because of his upbringing, he needed constant validation and praise from his partners to feel secure. He also shared the reality that Pinkett Smith never wanted to be married, just as she never wanted the huge estate they share in California, but he wanted to give it to her despite her feelings about it.
Smith admitted to creating this family empire that only further boosted his ego and what he wanted his legacy to be instead of actually asking his family what they wanted or needed. People praised him for his vulnerability and said his book was an inspiration.
So how is it that one book about a person’s family, upbringing, and journey to self is praised, and another is villainized? The glaring thought that comes to me is, does likability often trump accountability?
People love Smith and his “good guy” persona; he’s always been an attractive, charismatic man that people can relate to, so even when he speaks about the way he mismanaged his marriage and family, it’s seen as growth. On the contrary, because Pinkett Smith doesn’t constantly fawn over him and shares how miserable she was in their marriage, she’s the villain.
People still blame her for not stopping Smith from smacking Rock at the Oscars and share their sentiments about how she embarrassed Smith with her entanglement with Alsina. Though this is a celebrity couple we’ve all followed for years, the question must be asked, how much accountability must Black women be subjected to in relationship to their partners' actions?
Why is it that the media is more interested in the marriage between Smith and Pinkett Smith than her childhood, or the fact her memoir consists of writing prompts, meditations, and methods for other women to find their sense of worth ?
Could it be that the larger society doesn’t value Black women having the tools to find their own sense of worth? Or is it that Black women are expected to accept whatever is given to them regardless of how they feel or what they want?
The exclusive interview with Eboni K. Williams ( @ebonikwilliams ) and Dr. Iyanla Vanzant about if she would date a bus driver seems to have a lot of people talking. You can watch her response tonight on #theGrio . Catch the full interview, here: https://t.co/ctxE0zKFWj pic.twitter.com/BhIO52T2fg— theGrio.com (@theGrio) May 2, 2023
When Eboni K. Williams shared that she wasn’t interested in dating a bus driver, the internet blew up with individuals saying that Black women need to be less selective with their dating prospects. The commentary around this conversation shed much light on the reality that this demographic is expected and invited to settle in love if they actually want a life partner.
Black women aren’t often given the space to find their joy, fulfillment, or even self-worth because of the responsibility they’re forced to acquire in order to support their families and communities. Yet, “high value” Black men speak vehemently about Black women’s masculinity and inability to submit. We’re often inundated with podcast guests sharing that they’re not impressed by our success and are uninterested in our aspirations.
Black women, from a young age, are taught to place their community first and cater to the men around them regardless of what they do or how they behave.
We see this when young girls are told to put on pants when male relatives come around, we experience it when domestic violence survivors are encouraged not to press charges against their perpetrators, and we even see it when Black women face backlash for dating outside of their race.
The way Pinkett Smith has been treated since sharing the truth about her life and journey of discovering her self-worth is another example of how the world isn’t receptive to Black women being their most authentic selves.
It’s another example we can hold up to illustrate how Black women are expected to be magical but not human.
Even with this article, I’m sure there will be many who want to argue why Pinkett Smith was wrong in her narrative, but at the end of the day, it was her story to tell, and no one has more authority to share her lived experience than her.
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Featured image by James Devaney/GC Images