A few weeks ago, I went to visit my godbabies. As life—and by "life", I mean God—would have it, all of us are Geminis which automatically makes us bonded in some pretty significant ways that only other fellow Geminis can even begin to comprehend. Anyway, as I was bonding with one who is right at three months and another who is 25—my bad, eight-years-old (she really is waaaaay beyond her years, though)—I was reminded of something that I truly believe about children—they come into this world with the ability to love unconditionally, to be remarkably creative and to be totally unapologetic when it comes to their "yes" and "no". It is our job as adults to nurture those abilities. Unfortunately, a lot of us…don't.
And since all of us were children at one point, this means that we also came into the world with these things. Some of us got them disciplined (in this case what I mean is beat) out of us (hurt people, hurt people…sometimes those "people" are our very own parents). Some of us were pressured to do and be anything but creative. And then there are those of us who had so many of our boundaries violated that, to this day, we don't know how to say "no"—or we feel guilty for wanting to.
I have always related to the quote, "Adulthood is about surviving childhood." Not that I think it should be that way, but it's simply the reality for a lot of us. But you know what? There's no time like the present to tend to the "inner child" and let her know what it is OK to love fully, live creativity and be fine with saying "yes" and with saying "no". "No" to what exactly? Let's start with this list right here.
Someone Disrespecting Your Boundaries
An author by the name of Suzette R. Hinton (who happens to be a Black woman which makes me like the quote even more) once said, "If the person you're talking with continues to press you for more or can't seem to accept your answer, then you are being harassed. I know that sounds hard for people-pleasers to accept, but it's true. No means no." Amen. Something that I'm very careful and cautious about, when it comes to my godchildren and children in general, really, is honoring their boundaries. I don't just scoop them up. I don't force affection on them. I try and put myself in their position and give them their space to come to me in their own time.
I think a part of the reason why I'm this way is because my boundaries—which are limits—were disrespected on so many levels while I was growing up. I didn't get the right to say "no" or if I did, I was treated like I was wrong for saying it or I was, as Ms. Hinton put it, harassed to the point of changing my mind.
Now? Don't even try it. Case in point, I was recently staying at someone's house and they asked me if I wanted to go out to eat early the following morning. I said "no". Boy, they spent a solid 15 minutes talking about the restaurant, how rise and shine time wasn't "that early" and why I should want to do it. Goodness. I said no. People tend to push past our limits so much that we don't even realize how much they are dishonoring us when they do. But even the Bible has your back on this—"But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37—NKJV)
Always remember—the same people who dishonor your "no" would have a fit if you did the same thing to them. "No" isn't being mean. It's simply a form of honoring yourself. Anyone who has a problem with that, has a real problem.
Abuse. Of ANY Kind.
Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Mental abuse. Spiritual abuse (if you wonder what that looks like, check out "25 Signs Of Spiritual Abuse"). Professional abuse (there's a good read on that here). Platonic abuse (toxic friends are abusive ones). Neglect. There's no simpler way to put it—you should not tolerate abuse of any kind. Ever and period.
By definition, abuse is "to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way" or to malign or misuse. But I'll be honest with you. As I shared in an article about date rape, if you have to wonder if you are being abused by someone, something is automatically really unhealthy. There are definitely some things that you should be putting your foot down on and saying "no" to. Anything that even mildly mimics abuse is one of them.
Toxicity. Of ANY Kind.
If there's one thing that we try and nip in the bud over here at xoNecole, it's toxicity. If you don't believe me, check out "The Self-Care Of Ghosting Toxic Girlfriends", "We've Said A Word About Toxic Fathers, But Who's Talking About Toxic Mothers?", "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members" and "Blac Chyna & Tokyo Toni Are Proof That Your Parents Can Be Toxic Too". I think the reason why it's so important to have a profound aversion to toxic behavior and people is because when something is toxic, it is harmful, poisonous and malicious.
As I was checking out an article (off of the platform) that someone wrote about toxic individuals, I found it really interesting that aside from mentioning things like jealousy, manipulation, control, backhanded compliments and playing the victim, something else that made the list was "They can't take 'no'". A person who doesn't respect your no is showing signs of being toxic. Wow. Just wow.
Doing Something That Violates Your Values or Principles
A few weeks ago, I watched comedian Corey Holcomb on The Breakfast Club go on about his lack of interest in monogamy. Before he got into all of that, everyone was discussing something that I agree with—the world is getting waaaaaay too sensitive. "Sensitive" to the point of being tyrannical. It's like unless you agree with what someone is saying, you immediately need to apologize or be canceled. That's unfortunate too because a lot of people who feel that way would be HOT if someone demanded the same of them.
We all need to be considerate and compassionate. Hopefully, that goes without saying. But to expect folks to go against their core values, principles, passions or interest, simply because you feel a different way than they do is…dangerous.
That's what this current president of ours is on. It takes courage to do or not do something based on your own core set of beliefs, but if someone tries to bully you into doing just that, while it may not be popular right now, it's still OK to say "no".
Doing Something Before You Are Ready to Do It
One of my favorite quotes of all time is "You'll never be good enough for a man who isn't ready." When someone is ready to do something, it means that they prepared, equipped and in the right condition. On the relationship tip, it is NOT our job as women to "get a man ready". It's actually violating and pretty disrespectful to volunteer to take that role on. I actually know many a man who are now husbands who are pretty miserable because they were "ultimatum-ed into" their marriage; they were pushed to move before they were ready to do so. Not to say that those men don't need to take some personal ownership for being pushed because if you're not ready to do something, you need to say "no". At the same time, the person hearing that needs to either accept the response or move on.
The same thing applies to all other matters. Being ready requires desire, time and focus. I don't care how "ready" someone thinks that you might be, only you know how ready you truly are. If they respect you and your knowledge about yourself (ain't it a trip, how many folks think they know us better than we do?), they will respect your "back up, not yet" or your flat-out no. It really is as simple as that.
Conceding to Compromises That Offend Your Spirit
A writer by the name of Stephanie Lahart once said, "Let today mark a new beginning for you. Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn't have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions."
There are some things that I will say "no" to, for no other reason than it doesn't sit well with me. Sometimes even my friends will look at me like I am crazy, but if my spirit isn't at peace, I'm not at peace. Peace of mind can keep you out of all sorts of unforeseen or unpredicted foolishness. Don't ever betray your spirit. It's got your back in a way that no one else ever could or would.
Relationships That Lack Reciprocity
Almost every chance that I get, I bring up how important it is to have relationships that are reciprocal. To tell you the truth, when you think about the fact that the root word for relationship is "relate", I'll take it a step further and say that if you're in something where mutuality does not exist, it's not really a relationship anyway.
People who are willing to take without giving in return are users. Not all of them are entirely conscious of this fact, but they still are. And you know what? Your time, resources, and heart are far too valuable to be out here sharing yourself with those who leave you empty in return. The sooner you say an emphatic "NO!" to folks who drain rather than fulfill you, the better off your quality of life will be.
I recently read an article on Inc.'s site that said having a self-deprecating sense of humor is connected to great leadership skills. By looking deeper into the piece, I agreed with this line—"People that can admit to their failures or shortcomings with a smile are more approachable." But it's one thing to not take yourself so seriously, to be self-aware enough to know what your own flaws are. On the other hand, it's a horse of a totally different color when you don't know how to take a compliment, you try and make yourself the butt of every joke and you are constantly speaking negatively about yourself.
For one thing, it seems like you're begging for attention and affirmations which can become exhausting. Secondly, it does a real number on your self-worth and esteem. So, while we're out here talking about all of the things outside of yourself that you should say "no" to, self-deprecation is an internal issue that you should deny, each and every time the temptation to tear yourself to shreds comes to mind.
Cyclic Patterns, Habits and Behaviors
Along the lines of what I just said, sometimes, the main one you need to be saying "no" to is yourself. Whenever you do that, it's called self-control. I once read somewhere that people who can control their appetite for food and sex are empowered in ways that few ever are. I get why they said that because when you can master how not to give into urges, simply because you have them, it trains you to become unstoppable in so many ways and on so many levels.
It's an article within itself to explore what constitutes as an unhealthy—or at the very least, counterproductive—pattern, habit or behavior is. But for the sake of time and space I'll just say, anything that holds you back, keeps you stagnant and encourages you to be the kind of person that you don't want to be or become, that is something you should definitely say "no" to. Right now, please.
Someone Wanting You to “Justify” Your No
I remember being in my late 30s and my mother asking me if I had ever had sex with a particular person that she had known since he and I both were kids. Then she looked at me like, "Well?!" Sometimes, I think people don't realize that receiving any kind of information about someone else is not a right; it is a privilege. This includes parents who want to know the business of their adult children.
Saying "no" doesn't require a follow-up statement. Anyone who feels otherwise, I don't care who they are, they are not honoring the limit that you set by saying "no" in the first place. When you are pushed past your no, when you are expected to defend or justify it, they are basically telling you that they don't respect your limits and you need to provide enough information until they do. That is not even close to being the truth.
Whew. I don't know about you but even writing this has gassed me up to find something to say "no" to (kidding…kinda). Bottom line, "no" is not a bad word. It's an empowering and necessary one. Use it with care, intention and maturity but do use it. Today, if necessary. Tomorrow and the next day too, chile.
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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 email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Food is the star of the show for Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest: dinner wouldn’t be anything special without a good tablescape. Decor is a significant part of the holiday season! Garlands, pumpkins, candles, and other decor can take your Thanksgiving spread from bland to brilliant! However, we understand the stress of making a whole feast for family and friends.
We sat down with Beth Smith of Beth Diana Smith Interior Designs to learn how to create the perfect tablescape for any dinner party.
Set the Tone With Dinnerware
Carolyn Ann Ryan/Getty Images
“Focus on the meal you’re serving and make your dinnerware set the tone and be the highlight of the table,” says Smith. The dinner is why your community is coming together and is arguably the most crucial centerpiece. Decorative pieces are nice, but food and what we use to eat can make it much more special. Smith suggests, “I recommend the Nguka dinnerware set from 54kibo, which is stunning, unique, and beautifully made.”
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, The Stoke Collection by ceramic artists Althea’s Meade-Hajduk is intentionally created to visually enhance any meal experience.
Have Fun With Your Color Palette
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In the world of nude palette overload, it’s nice to see color occasionally. Color is a natural mood booster that can bring excitement to the room - or table! “Create a thoughtful color palette that is not the standard Thanksgiving palette of fall colors,” says Smith. Having fun with colors and moving away from a traditional setting can bring uniqueness to your tablescape.
There’s also no chance of your tablescape having the same color palette as everyone else on social media. Smith adds, “If pink has grabbed your attention, this dusty pink set from Our Place has different plate and bowl size options.”
Incorporate Florals Through Bud Vases or Bouquets
Who doesn’t love florals? This look is accepted year-round, not just when romance is involved. “You can’t go wrong with florals for a tablescape if you’re setting it for your family, friends, or a group of singles,” says Smith. Florals are an easy way to make any event look elevated without having to try as hard. If you’re worried about hypoallergenic guests, you can purchase artificial flowers from Amazon. Here, you can find various floral options and even create your own bouquet.
“A floral tablescape can be budget-friendly or as extravagant as you may like. You can select a few bud vases and strategically place them around the table using a bouquet you bought locally,” says Smith.
Unsure of who is your local florist? Black Girl Florist is a site that helps you source local florists in your area. Click here to find a florist in your neighborhood! And if your budget is a little tighter than usual due to the holidays, Smith has a solution that will save you money altogether. Smith suggests, “You can also use dried-up branches and leaves from your backyard, which would be free.”
Elevate Your Tablescape With a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards have become all the rage on TikTok, and for good reason. Mixing your favorite meats, cheese, and grapes has made snacking visually tasteful. Smith says they can also create a fabulous tablescape - killing two birds with one stone. Smith says, “You can never go wrong with creating one large charcuterie board. This makes food the decoration interesting, colorful, and delicious!” This could be especially great for Friendsgiving, and you want to avoid cooking a turkey twice.
The beauty of charcuterie boards is creating a food palette unique to you or your guest's needs. On the flip side, we also understand how overwhelming it can be to decide precisely what to put on your board. Smith has a few recommendations that can be helpful, “You can include cheeses, crackers, and meats, but you can also add specialty items like deserts, chocolate, and truffle mustard.”
Smith refers to the Truffle Mustard by Truffiest, an award-deserving mustard infused with summer truffles from northern Italy. This mustard can be paired with crackers, cheeses, meats, and shredded turkey if you want to stay on the theme.
Build on an Artsy Vibe and Add Layers
There’s no shame in bringing it back to basics. Bring out the old tablecloth your family member gave you a few years ago; it’s vintage! “The goal is to make the table look and feel like you have everything you need and more,” Smith says. Everything you need and more can consist of four main ingredients: tablecloth, napkins, cups, and, most importantly - wine glasses. “Make the tablescape feel artistic with funky dinner napkins and tablecloths. Then, layer with oversized plates, long-stemmed wine glasses, and after-dinner cups.”
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