Life is a funny thing. A few weeks back, when the whole story about a Charlotte-based beat-master being discovered by Meek Mill went viral, I smiled. For a few reasons, actually. First, it was another reminder of how your passion will pave a way, oftentimes in ways (and at times) that you never would predict. Second, it was also a reminder of the power of social media. One tweet, by a guy who had 10,000 followers at that time, caused not only Meek to find Trizzy butBillboard,BuzzFeed,The Jasmine Brand and so many other publications picked it up, that it really is too many to count. The third reason why I found the story to be pretty dope is because the co-producer of the song that Trizzy sampled—"In My Mind" by Heather Headley—was created by a friend of mine, SHANNON SANDERS, an award-winning producer who recorded the original, original version 20 years ago this year (check it out here; it's pretty dope too!).
Now watch how all of these dots connect, because they do. With all of the hype that surrounded the song, I went back and watched the visual for the Heather Headley version of "In My Mind". For one thing, the song is still bangin' all these years later and two, honestly, for nostalgia's sake. It took me back to late 2006 and having a breakfast meeting with SHANNON. I had mentioned to him that I had a book that came out two years prior and, because India.Arie wrote the foreword for it and he was her musical director at the time, he wanted a copy. After checking out the first couple of chapters, being the big brother to me that he is, he teased, "Who was this guy you were all in love with?" After providing a few details, he said, "You mean...[so-and-so]?!" (I'm leaving the name out on purpose.) "I've done some work before with him. He's a cool brotha." Lord, how small can the world be?!
Ever since SHANNON found out that my first love was a former creative client of his, whenever I would see him, SHANNON would sing the chorus to "In My Mind" (see how all of that came full circle?). And you know what? Until I ended up running into my ex, a whopping nine years later, that song made me believe that it was gonna play out a lot like the lyrics did—having a difficult time seeing him with another woman, running into one of his relatives and it choking me all up, feeling like no matter what was going on, I would always consider myself to be his lady.
Boy, music can have you out here creating all kinds of scenarios that aren't even close to reality. That's how powerful it is.
But here's the thing. When I actually did run into my ex—randomly at a Kroger's and yes, he was with a woman—while I was in complete shock and, because he was my first love, there was a bit of a "jump" in my heart and stomach. I didn't feel what Heather—or SHANNON, for that matter—sang about. He has always been fine, but it wasn't the kind of fine that I recalled or was even super drawn to; he had changed some. The woman he was with caused me to SMH, but not because he was with her; it was because he's never not with a woman (that was a part of the problem that we had in the first place). One of his cousins lives in the same area that I do, so I tend to run into him every few months or so. He always says something slick about me and my ex being destined for one another.
Ironically, the last time he said something along those lines, it was while running into him at the same grocery store, on my ex's birthday. My casual response was, "Tell him 'Happy Birthday' and that it's probably time to settle down and get a wife." And by "wife", I did not mean me.
So again, while both versions of "In My Mind" claps, bumps and does whatever word the younger-than-the-millennials would use, running into my ex actually did not bring forth the experience that that song speaks of.
Hmph. Come to think of it, none of my run-ins with exes have. I remember running into an ex at a church function, chatting it up for a bit and thinking to myself, "Wow. We have nothing in common anymore." I ran into another one and asked myself, "Did you always look this way?" because I didn't feel one ounce of attraction. Not one. Then there's the ex that I saw at the mall who totally made my stomach turn because, even though he was with his wife and one of his children, as I walked past him, he found a way to wink at me while his spouse wasn't looking. Then there's the one who, when we first ended our situationship, I was mad at both him and God (not necessarily in that order either), but when we met up to discuss what happened and where things stand now, I realized that, no matter how much I loved him, I had been spared—and then some.
And all of those instances got me to thinking about what a lot of women used to write and tell me back when I was running a single woman's blog. That out of all of the things that they dread happening to them, they'd rather get a pap smear, see their dentist or work an 70-hour work week than run into an ex of theirs; especially one who they really cared about or one where the break-up was hard or even devastating. If that's you, I hear ya, loud and clear. Still, unless ole' boy was abusive or a stalker, I'm actually hoping that you do because, from my personal experience, that can play a significant role in the healing/closure/full resolve process.
I'll use the ex that I saw at a church function as an example. When we broke up, it was pretty difficult for the both of us. So difficult, in fact, that I was quietly hoping that we could avoid each other forever because, while the relationship had definitely run its course and needed to end, there was a part of me that thought that seeing him would still be painful. If I had only processed all of this in hypotheticals, a part of me would have remained stuck. Not so stuck that I couldn't date someone else but stuck in the sense that a part of my heart would've still had a bit of an unhealed wound on it.
I didn't actually know how healed I was until we locked eyes, then walked up to one another, then awkwardly hugged it out and then tried to hold a conversation for 15 minutes or so. It was then when I was like, "Wow, that season is truly over and yes, I am really over you." Before running into him, I assumed that to be the case; actually seeing him is what confirmed that to be so.
In the Classic Amplified Version of Scripture, there is a verse that says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly of the Lord [even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him]." (Proverbs 16:33) It's a reminder that everything happens for more than a reason; there is a purpose to it. I mean, just think about all of the things that have to line up in the Universe in order for you to "run into" anyone who you don't have a daily dealings or intimate relationship with. And so, if you see your ex at a gas station, a concert, in a parking lot or anywhere else, don't take that to be random. Also, don't find a way to run from the situation either. This is a customized opportunity for you to look your past, that's all up in your present, directly in the face and figure out where you are with everything.
If you still need to heal, now you know that.
If you actually want him back, now you know that.
If you are truly over him, now you know that.
And as G.I. Joe used to say, "Knowing is half the battle." Now you can truly assess the next steps you need to take, instead of listening to Heather Headley on loop—or worse, totally avoiding the song altogether because it puts you in shambles every single time you hear it. Not only that, but another wonderful—yes, wonderful—perk of running into an ex is, once you do, you no longer have to fear doing it again. Although I'm not out here seeking out the exes of my past, I certainly have no issue seeing them, giving them at least a head nod and keeping it moving.
I now have total peace that what is done is done. "Running into them" helped to give me that.
So, if you do happen to run into your ex, don't run from the moment; embrace it. I promise you that if or when it happens, life is trying to teach you something. And, if you're open, that however-long-exchange between you and your past can get you ready for something that's about to go down in your future. "Ready" in a way that you truly didn't know that you needed to be.
You'll be able to hop into your car and play "In My Mind", either version, on full blast, and hear it as being a dope love song. Nothing more, nothing less. Because you now know, that you know, that you know that you are fully, totally and completely over your ex. Congrats!
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
How To Get Closure If Your Ex Won't Give It To You
Why Staying Friends With An Ex Is Okay (& Healthy)
How To Reclaim Your Time After A Bad Breakup
Have You Brought Ex Baggage Into Your New Relationship?
Feature image by Giphy
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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