It never fails. Even though I’ve been writing on relationships for well over two decades at this point and have been counseling couples (especially married couples) for about 17 years now, at least once a week, someone will ask me what qualifies me to be an expert being that I’ve never been married before and I don’t have any children.
Well…when it’s church folks who try to come at me with their cynicism, I’m quick to remind them that out of the three biblical characters who spoke the most on marriage in the Bible — Moses, Christ, and Paul — only one of them was actually married when they did (Moses). Plus, humans don’t need other humans to qualify them for a particular purpose or calling in life; that’s God’s job.
Okay, but what do I say to all of the other people from other walks of life who seem to think that their similar line of questioning is somehow supposed to stump/trump me or something? That’s a really great question, especially since it’s been widely reported that by the year 2030, 45 percent of women will be single and childless in this country. That’s a lot of single voices out here. That’s why I thought it might be helpful to share some food for thought for other single women who may have folks who try and challenge them in this department too.
If you happen to be a single woman and a part of you is either hesitant to speak up whenever the topic of relationships comes up, or you’re not sure what to say when you see (or read) social media posts that say, for example, “If you’re not married, you don’t need to be talking about marriage” — here are a few things that can definitely checkmate some of the skeptics who are in your wake.
Never Forget What Singleness MeansGiphy
Back in 2019, two articles that I wrote for the platform are “10 Words That'll Make You Totally Rethink The Word 'Single'” and “10 Bona Fide Benefits Of Being Single.” There are two (main) reasons why I did so — one is because I think it’s always important to remember that each relational status has some major benefits to it, and two, chile, if you only knew the number of married folks who tell me that they wish they had embraced and hell, even respected their singleness prior to saying “I do”…it’s more people than not at this point.
Indeed, although marriage is a beautiful thing, in life, it is not the ONLY thing. Not only that, but the daily sacrifices that must be made in order to keep a marriage thriving? Those are things that single people never have to worry about. And listen, if marriage was the “end all to be all” for this world, the Most High could’ve come up with a way for us to get married sooner than most of us do (or even should).
Singleness isn’t a deficit or even a consolation prize. For starters, just look at some of the words that are used to define it (definitions) along with others that are directly associated with it (synonyms): distinct from other things, unique, original, special, exclusive, exceptional, peerless, rare, undivided, unrivaled, uncompounded and unusual.
Hmph. I don’t know about y’all, but personally, I would have no problem with people who are defined that way speaking into my life. Just saying. #Elmoshrug
Have You Checked Out the Divorce Stats Lately?Giphy
Our culture can be weird as hell sometimes. Like, why is it that so many people want to low-key shame singles out of offering up insights, perspectives, and even pearls of wisdom on relationships, yet divorced people aren't challenged in the same way? Because while single folks may have never been married before (I count “single” the way the IRS does: single until married, and technically, divorced people are classified as being “divorced” because, again, Uncle Sam), divorced means that two people were, for whatever the reason, unsuccessful at making their marriage work — so that sounds like they aren’t exactly experts either.
And being that the divorce rate for first-time marriages is still about half (although some studies say that it’s between 40-50 percent these days) and the rate for second and third are significantly higher — I never got why being divorced vs. choosing to not get married so that there’s no way that you can end up divorced, seems to earn more credibility. Who came up with that? Divorced folks?
It actually reminds me of a divorced aunt who tried to be slick and say to me several years ago, “How are you out here getting paid to talk about marriage when you’ve never experienced it before?” I mean, we share the same DNA, so I don’t know why she thought I wasn’t gonna “return the serve”: “I would prefer to never be married than be a divorce statistic. You’re one…right?”
Listen, when it comes to divorce, sometimes ya live, and ya learn and I have had many conversations with people who happen to fit into that demographic and have had some profound words to share, no question. Yet when it comes to actually believing that divorced people have more credibility, there are two things to keep in mind.
One, as someone who has been working with married and divorced people for almost two decades now, you’d be amazed how many individuals from both demographics say that they took a lot for granted while they were single. Not only that, but they wish that they had paid more attention to what their gut warned them about before becoming a husband or wife. In other words, many have said that they had a lot of relational insight when they were single…they just ignored it.
And two, if I were to compare singles to divorced folks, I would use studying a test vs. taking a test to further illustrate my point. Don’t assume that just because someone has never taken a test before that they have not studied, sometimes ad nauseam, the content that’s on it. And, at the same time, sometimes the ones who already have — taken the test, that is — and were unsuccessful at passing, they ended up in that situation because they didn’t prepare as much as they should’ve.
Because, let us not forget (or ignore), that the ultimate goal when it comes to being in a relationship is not just “being in one” — all of us can do that. No, the key is to be in a healthy relational dynamic. People who are learning, striving, and respecting what it takes to be in those? That’s who we should be taking heed from.
This brings me to my next point.
Wisdom, Knowledge and Discernment Do Not Relationally DiscriminateGiphy
An artist and author by the name of Tamara Kulish once said something that I rock with wholeheartedly: “Everyone is my teacher. Some I seek. Some I subconsciously attract. Often, I learn simply by observing others. Some may be completely unaware that I’m learning from them, yet I bow deeply in gratitude.” I like this because it amplifies the fact that when you are truly serious about and committed to becoming the best version of yourself, you appreciate wisdom and knowledge in any form that it comes.
That said, there are countless married and even boo’d up couples who tell me that I continue to offer up ways of looking at relationships that they have never considered before, even though they are in a relationship, and a huge part of the reason is that I study the topic. I am literally a student of marriage (no joke). The number of books that are in my possession, articles, podcasts, and links that I have bookmarked, Scriptures that I have analyzed — you have no idea. Plus, being single, even if/when you go by my definition, which again is “never been married before,” doesn’t mean that you don’t know about relationships at all.
I’ll give you another comparison: back when I was in these streets, as far as sex goes, you have no idea how much foresight, intelligence, and basic common sense I received from virgins — that’s because, just because they never had sex before, that didn’t mean they didn’t know a thing or two about self-worth, avoiding temptation and waiting for what was right instead of settling for what was around. I would’ve been an idiot to write them off on some, “Girl, if you’ve never had sex before, you can’t talk to me about sex.” They might not know how to fully address the actual act (I frame it that way because many virgins are that on a technicality; they’ve done something before), yet they can definitely help me to think about some things that will help me to make wiser sexual decisions.
Single people are no different when it comes to marriage (or serious long-term relationships) — believe you me, you get a hold of the right single folks, and they can give you plenty to think about as they offer up a myriad of seeds to give you some “ah-ha moments” that can do you some real good. It reminds me of something that my mother used to say: “Discernment prevents experience from being your teacher.” Some of the wisest people in their world are ones who don’t believe that they have to go through something in order to be insightful about it.
Case in point. As a doula, sometimes when I’m being interviewed, and I give advice on some parenting-related matters, a person will say, “How do you know all of this if you’ve never had a child before?” More times than not, my immediate response is, “I’ve never been a mom. Oh, but I’ve been a child. You’d be amazed how much I remember about that time in my life.” (Plus, I used to be a teen mom director for the local chapter of a national non-profit). And honestly, sometimes that’s what I tell people about being a marriage life coach too. Chile, your mind would be blown to sit at the feet of child/adult child survivors of their parents’ divorce…but that’s another topic for another time.
The point that I’m trying to make with this particular point is wisdom is about applying knowledge with mature judgment; knowledge is about obtaining facts, truth, and principles through various forms of study and investigation, and discernment, by definition, is about judging matters, wisely, with a heightened level of understanding.
Now, based on the meanings of these three words…sounds to me like anyone who says that a single person can’t enter the relationship discourse with their own level of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment is pretty ignorant of what those words actually mean. Therefore, they should probably start there. #Elmoshrug
You Are a Voice in This WorldGiphy
Somebody really needs to give actor and singer (because she really can sing her ass off) Tisha Campbell her flowers because she really has been a part of some of the most classic moments in Black culture — including the time when she had a guest role in, what continues to be one of the most iconic television sitcoms of all time: A Different World. The real ones will remember when she played a young woman by the name of Josie who had HIV. During a particular scene where she shared her story, her professor (Whoopi Goldberg) said to her, “You are a voice in this world.”
Now imagine how ridiculous someone would sound to say that Josie doesn’t need to speak about relationships because she chose not to date because of her condition. Josie had a TON of insight because she saw life from a perspective that a lot of people didn’t have — and if they respected that, what she offered up was priceless. Yes, she was a voice in this world. And a powerful one at that…so much so that I still remember that episode to this day and (lawd) that was 32 freakin’ years ago.
Even with as much daily and consistent work as I do in the realm of marriage, of course, I would be quite arrogant and presumptuous to think that some things do not come via experience; that as I am sharing wisdom and knowledge on the topic with various married people, they are teaching me as well, just by being a husband or a wife. And divorced folks, at the very least, they can speak on what not to do. At the same time, though, no one is capable of silencing my own voice just because of my chosen relational status.
If anything, the ones who aren’t parroting what they hear others say, they have applauded me for taking what I have learned seriously enough to treat marriage as sacred enough to wait until it's right…for me. That move alone has caused them to honor the voice that I have…in this world.
So single ladies, don’t worry about the haters. Humble people who want to grow get that this world is a school and everyone is a teacher in it. Houseless people (what I call “homeless” ones) can give insights on finances. Substance abusers can give insight into sobriety. Atheists can give insight into religion. People without kids can give insight into parenting. Women can give insight into men. Men can give insight into women.
And yes, single people can give insight into marriage and relationships.
You are a voice in this world.
With the help of wisdom, knowledge, and keen discernment, make sure that you do.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The face of tennis is changing, and it’s about time. Over the years, if you were asked to name any Black tennis player, two would come to mind: Serena and Venus Williams — and rightfully so. But as new tennis sensations like Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka rise to fame for their athleticism and tenacity, it’s clear that there’s a new era of tennis taking shape to bring forth a fresh take on representation and reclamation on the courts.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now for Black Girl Tennis Club co-founders Virginia Thornton and Kimberly Selden to lead the charge of making tennis more accessible to Black women and girls so the next Serena and Coco can emerge.
What began as your everyday lunch chat between friends to discuss their mutual dream of owning a boutique hotel turned into a proposition to start a tennis club together. With Virginia being a tennis player since adolescence and Kimberly entering the sport as a hobby in her adult life, the two jumped at the idea of making a space where Black women could discover a new hobby and not feel like the “only one” on the tennis court.
“The club kind of started for selfish reasons, but not in a bad way,” Virginia tells xoNecole. “We realized that there was actually a need for this.”
Kimberly adds, “Now we're literally disrupting a whole industry. We didn't plan it, but it felt divine; like we were called to do this. Black Girls Tennis Club has been a catalyst for personal growth in all areas of life, and we would have never anticipated that.”
Since establishing the Black Girl Tennis Club in 2022, the two have made it their mission to cultivate a space for “Joy Equity and Radical Wellness.” Their platform serves as a means to inform, inspire, motivate, and reshape the narrative around Black women and girls in the tennis world while highlighting the transformative power of sports and play for liberation.
With approximately 78% of tennis players being white and only 6.8% being Black, and the average cost of a private tennis lesson being $60 per hour, racial and economic disparities within the sport are vast. To help close this gap, the two founders have banded together to develop free tennis instruction clinics for girls aged 8-18 and local tennis events that bring adult offerings through programs like the Self Love Tennis Club and Cardio Tennis Classes to HBCU campuses in Virginia.
Both Virginia and Kimberly understand the power of their mission and believe that they were brought on each other’s path to execute it together. “It’s the power of alignment,” Kimberly says. “I think when you're doing the right thing and you're obedient, and answer the call, that’s when things start to happen, and the universe conspires to make them happen.”
We caught up with the founders to discuss their mission, the importance of representation, and how they plan to disrupt the tennis industry one court at a time.
xoNecole: Could you talk a little more about your CARE pillars with change, access, representation and exposure?
Kimberly Selden: As we started to do the work, we saw that there were so many equity issues. Although we knew from our own personal experiences that there are barriers to tennis being an expensive sport, we just acknowledged it as the culture of tennis. Because it's predominantly white, that transfers over to the fashion, the dynamics on the court, the attitudes, and the mindset. And so we knew this required a culture shift for us to ever really feel comfortable.
We were exposing kids to tennis, and then after the clinics, they're like, "Okay, now what?" It's still expensive, and they still may or may not have had access to it if they're not with us. We don't want to just pop in like, "Hey, here's a clinic, bye!" So, the culture change is just a reflection of what our existence looks like. Access is about being able to access the sport through courts, programs, or a coach. Representation is that we can't believe it until we see it.
Granted, there are a lot of pro Black women tennis players taking off, and we love that. But we think about media representation as well [as] representation within the USCA, in the boardrooms, and the people that are making the rules around the game.
xoN: Why do you all think it’s important for Black women and girls to reclaim their space on the tennis court?
Virginia Thornton: It's rare, at least in my world, where you're in a space and see nothing but women who look like you. But it makes me feel great when I can be my authentic self, especially on a tennis court. Just shedding all the weight of pretending to be anything else. You feel at home when you're around nothing but Black women. Even small things like seeing a young Black girl being okay with how God made them is amazing.
KS: [In] the Atlanta clinics we did, everyone was crying. It's just clear how desperately we need it. Connection is the key to a long life. So many of us — especially from the pandemic and working from home — are isolated. With every clinic, it's just fun to be there, and it just fills you up. I think people need hobbies. I think a lot of people, especially people in big cities, feel that way and were confronted with that during the pandemic.
xoN: How did sports play a role in helping you two find your voice and confidence both on and off the court?
VT: I think what people don't realize is that tennis is such a mental sport. You could be a 4.0 player and have a bad mental day, and you will play like you've never picked up a racquet before. So, the mental piece is super important. For me, it's like ‘you against you,’ even though you are playing somebody.
If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court. I had an issue on the court where I have a habit of saying, "Sorry," — I think a lot of Black women do, honestly. Then I realized that they wouldn't say sorry or they’d use my kindness as weakness. I've learned a lesson in that because everything translates on and off the court.
"If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court."
KS: It's easy for me to do things that I'm good at, but it's not easy for me to do things that I'm not good at. Tennis is still challenging for me, but it pushes me. It’s a reality check for me; I know when things are aligned, and when they're not. It feels like a big metaphor for me because it's pushing me to do something that's uncomfortable and makes me work for myself more.
xoN: What do you hope the long-term impact of Black Girl Tennis Club will be?
VS: We want to have a space for people who might be workaholics or might be going through depression. It's always great to have a hobby, whether that's knitting, sewing, or what have you. For me and Kimberly, it’s about creating hobbies for Black women and girls but also knowing that it’s okay to not be amazing at it. You don't have to be amazing at tennis; you could hit around the court, and that's okay.
The next Serena or Venus might come from Black Girls Tennis Club.
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