Vaginas are dope. That's why I write about 'em so much. I like to provide tips on how to care for them, facts that you may not know about them, ways to keep them as youthful as possible, how to properly wash them, foods that you should feed them, what to do if yours is stressed TF out—the list really does go on and on. Well today, in honor of being just a couple of weeks away from Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to offer up a wish list on behalf of every vagina owner who is reading this right now. Because, when you really stop and think about all that your vagina—and vulva and clitoris—do for you, don't you think you should put together a little stocking with your vagina's name—relatively speaking, of course—on it? Me too, sis. Here are 10 gift ideas that your va-jay-jay will be oh so very thrilled with. I can promise you that.
1. Some New Panties
As we all prepare to go into a new year, an article that I wrote for the platform, a couple of years back, that I would encourage you to check out sometime is, "When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?" You might be floored by how much stuff you should've tossed—chile, years ago. When it comes to panties specifically, did you know that we're all supposed to get new ones every six months? A big part of the reason is because between passing gas and the washing machine, our panties eventually end up with tiny amounts of fecal matter that remain in them and can ultimately lead to an infection. So, if some of your panties have been in your life, shoot, since your college years, I can confidently speak for your vagina when I say that it's begging for you to treat it to some new underwear this year. At least 12 pair. Oh, and organic cotton is best if you want your vagina to "breathe", by the way.
2. A Menstrual Cup
As I sit here waiting to go into menopause (I'm not kidding; at 46 and in total peace about not birthing children, every time my period rolls around, I'm like "REALLY?!"), something that I wish I took more seriously, hell, years ago, is menstrual cups. I've been using one for many months now and it truly is one of the best things to ever happen to me. Since most have the expiration date of a decade, I don't have to spend money on pads (which makes them economical and good for the environment). When I make sure that it's "sealed in" properly, there is absolutely no leaking. Also, since they're made from silicone and adjust to the shape of my body, I don't feel them at all.
While there is a learning curve when it comes to putting a menstrual cup in and taking it out (without making a mess), I really could do an entire commercial, TED Talk and novella on the benefits of having a menstrual cup in your life. If you don't own one yet, it's a stocking stuffer for your vagina that you definitely will not regret.
3. An Herbal Heating Pad
If your period comes with cramps that would make you say all of the worst cuss words, if only you had enough strength to do so, I'm pretty sure that you probably already have a heating pad. This year, take it up a notch and cop yourself an herbal one. The cool thing about products that have all-natural herbs in them is the aromatherapy benefits are unmatched. Aromatherapy reduces stress, soothes discomfort, strengthens immunity, induces sound sleep and even kills bacteria.
And the great thing about a lot of the herbal heating pads that are currently on the market is you can zap them in the microwave for 60-90 seconds and they're ready to go. An affordable one that's worth checking out is located right here.
4. Padded Biker Shorts/Panties
If you like to ride your bike or you're in a spinning class, do your vagina a huge favor and invest in a pair of padded biker shorts. Not only will they help to take stress and strain off of some of your lower pressure points, they can reduce any irritation that can occur from all of the friction that comes from riding too. Another great perk? Padded biker shorts tend to absorb more moisture than regular ones, so that your nether regions don't cause you to end up with a nasty lil' yeast infection. Give thanks.
5. Vulva Exfoliant
Something that I don't think gets brought up enough is the importance of exfoliating—not your vagina (the inner tube that extends from your vulva to your uterus) but your vulva which is the outer part of your vagina (the outer skin that is around your vaginal opening). If you're prone to getting ingrown hairs there or you notice that your skin is slightly scaly or discolored, something that can help is a vulva exfoliant. Certain brands on the market that can help you out include Bikini Bump Blaster Ingrown Hair & Bikini Bump Eliminator, Grumari Body Exfoliant or (a personal favorite because it's Black-owned and I totally dig the name) Nookie For Your Cookie Scrub.
6. Sweet Almond and Avocado Oil Blend
When it comes to keeping the skin of your vulva nice and moisturized, it really doesn't get much better than sweet almond oil. That's because it's an oil that contains vitamins A and E, along with omega 3-fatty acids and zinc. Vitamin A helps to produce new skin cells, Vitamin E supports the healing of damaged ones, fatty acids prevent premature aging (yes, our vulva can age, just like the rest of us) and zinc has anti-inflammatory properties that can fade any scarring that you may have. If you add to sweet almond oil, some avocado oil, its Vitamin E, potassium and lecithin will help your vulva to produce more collagen while keeping its skin super smooth too. This non-irritating blend is ideal as a lubricant (only if you're NOT planning on using a condom; oil and latex do NOT mix) or if you want to apply an all-natural moisturizer to your vulva after stepping out of the shower or bath.
7. Rosemary, Mint and Parsley
This is definitely the cheapest recommendation on the list, but that doesn't make it any less relevant or necessary. Now listen to me on this—the belief that foods can make your vagina taste just like them is about as ridiculous as thinking that there is a product that can repair your hair's split ends (there's not). The reality is that, for the most part, vaginas taste like a combo of water, metal (blood), salty/sour (sweat). Based on how much water you consume and the time of month it is, some of those tastes may be stronger than others—and all of them are perfectly natural and normal.
That said, there are foods that can make your vagina taste less acidic and/or smell more inviting. For instance, try drinking water that has some rosemary, mint, and/or parsley leaves in it. Because rosemary is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial, mint is a great detoxifier and parsley is loaded with antioxidants, putting one or all of these into your water can help to make your vagina smell and even taste more refreshing (still like a vagina, though which is just fine).
8. Nonporous Sex Toys
Looking to get yourself a new (or upgraded) sex toy this year? If so, please make sure that you go with one that is nonporous. Not only do they feel a whole lot smoother, since they are also water-resistant, you can enjoy them in the bath or shower. Actually, though, those are not my main reasons for making sure that this goes on the list. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out in these streets who don't clean their sex toys as often and/or thoroughly as they should. As a result, bacteria gets stuck up in them and—I'm pretty sure I don't need to expound on where that can lead (eww). Nonporous sex toys make this a non-issue. So, although you still need to cleanse those bad boys, you significantly decrease your chances of irritating your vagina in a major way if your toys are nonporous to begin with.
9. At-Home pH Balance Kit
I'm pretty sure that you know, at least a little something about what a pH balance is. Still, just to make sure that we're all on the same page, the simplified technical breakdown is it's the balance that lies between the acidity and alkalinity levels that are within your system (for the most part, your lungs and kidneys play a key role). When it comes to your vagina specifically, a healthy balance is somewhere between 3.8-4.5. When it's too acidic (above a 4.5) or too alkaline (below a 3.8), it can result in an overgrowth of bacteria. One way to proactively prevent this from becoming an issue is to test the pH balance of your vagina from time to time. You can do this by taking an at-home pH balance kit.
And what if an at-home test does reveal that your va-jay-jay is a little "off-balance"? Well, if you're not noticing any itching, burning, or irritation (and you've been having safe sex), drinking more water, taking some probiotics, eating garlic (it is a powerful anti-fungal food), using condoms (semen can throw off your pH balance), getting more exercise, sleeping naked (so that your vagina can breathe) and de-stressing are all things that can help to bring your balance back. If you'd like to get yourself a few pH balance tests, some options are here, here, and here.
10. At-Home STI/STD Kit
Here's the deal about STDs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 20 million new STD cases annually with half of them being people between the ages of 15-24. Y'all, not only is that a good enough reason to wear a condom during sex, it's also a reminder of why it's important to get tested, preferably every six months, too. And when it comes to a new sex partner, if you want to be extra sure that they're "I'm good" is accurate, there are at-home STI/STD tests that you both can take. Many of them, you can take in five minutes and get your results back within one business week. I won't lie to you, at-home STI/STD tests aren't the cheapest things on the planet (they are roughly around $100). But if they can assure you that you and your partner and your vagina are safe—isn't it worth it? I totally agree. Happy Christmas (Va-jay-jay) Shopping, y'all!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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