Back in 2009, I started a blog for single women who desired to be married. Actually, to be more specific, it was for women who desired to be in a marital covenant (check out "Until Death Do Us Part — For Real" to see why I believe there is a difference). Not a week went by when I didn't receive at least a handful of women who were, how do I put it, anxious beyond measure.
For them, being single wasn't something that they cherished; it was merely something that they tolerated. Yeah, I won't even get into how many of them wrote me about how they truly believed that God told them that someone was their husband whether they knew the guy or not, whether the guy was interested in them or not or whether they had already said that very thing five times before…or not (God is not the author of confusion; the Good Book says so in I Corinthians 14:33). It was like being a bride and then a wife was all-consuming in their world. Personally, I found that reality to be really…well, sad.
It's not because I don't desire to married someday myself. It's just that I think sometimes we can be so caught up in—if not flat-out obsessed with—wanting something (or someone) that we don't even really know why. It's like the desire has been a part of us so long that we don't make the time to truly process why we want it so badly in the first place.
If for you, what you want more than anything in the world is marriage, listen—marriage is a beautiful, sacred and purpose-filled thing. But if your longing for it has you totally ignoring the also beautiful, sacred and purpose-filled season of singleness, I've got a few things that I'd like you to ponder. The answers that you provide just might reveal some hard truths to you. And that? That can be a good thing—for the sake of your single present as well as your potentially-married-someday future.
Is It Because Everyone Around You Is Married (or Is Getting Married)?
At 45, I'm at a point in my life where maybe two people in my inner circle are single. I think because I deal with the topic of marriage so much and I get to see what's really going on in people's relationships, the thought of being a "third wheel" at my married friends' homes and functions doesn't bother me. As I say often, "Marriage ain't for punks", so I'm more on the tip of "kudos" to all of those who are attempting to not only make their work, but make it thrive as well. That doesn't mean that I don't know quite a few single women who aren't in the same headspace. Many have expressed to me that they are jealous of their married girlfriends, they are sick of going to weddings and they are feeling lonelier than ever.
If this is you, you have the right to feel how you feel. With that being said, I have witnessed far too many unhealthy marriages. That's why I can promise you that it's better to be single with bouts of loneliness than to get up into a union that you'll end up regretting. And so, if the main reason why you're so consumed with getting married is because you want to be like the rest of your friends, do yourself two favors. First, ask the wives in your life about the challenges that come with being married (everything has its ups and "downs"). Second, start finding more people to hang with. Single people.
When it comes to that second part, the reason why I say that is because, if all you're around is marriage, it makes sense why you would think that that is all there is to life. It's not. Singleness is what you make it. And there's some pretty dope perks that come with not having a husband. Happy, healthy and content singles can certainly vouch for that.
Maybe It’s That You Feel As If You’re Running Out of (Baby-Making) Time?
I'm pretty open about my pregnancy journey. In 1999, I had my fourth and final abortion. My period still comes on time and my health is in great shape. But unless God comes down, sits on the side of my bed and tells me to get pregnant in this season of my life, that ship has sailed. I'm at peace with that. For so many reasons.
But man, I know a lot of women between 34-45 who are in a very different space. I get it and, as much as possible, I also empathize because when there's nothing you want too much more than a child of your own (from your own womb), a ticking biological clock can be the loudest sound in the world. To that, what I'll share is this. I know a couple who just knew that they would be pregnant on their wedding night. In fact, the husband told me that was the main reason why he wanted to get married. Several years later, there's no baby. What they do have is a pretty toxic relationship, though. There's no guarantee that when you get married, conceiving will be a breeze or even possible. That's why, getting married just to have a child is NOT a good, smart or wise idea.
Yet what should you do about your longing for a little one? If you are a woman of faith, pray. Sarah (Abraham's mom) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist's mom) were not spring chickens when they got pregnant; they still did, though. Also, be open to parenting in other ways too. I've shared before that one of my all-time favorite adoption stories is about a little girl named Chloe. Sometimes the plan that we have is so much smaller than the one God has for us. He sees your desires. Trust that He knows what's best in the midst of them.
Have You Been Consumed with Being a Wife Since…Forever?
If all that you can think about is being wife, first, that's not anything to be ashamed of. It's also not something that you should bear the total weight of either. On so many levels, it's something that our upbringing, our social circles and even the Church has filled our minds and hearts with. I mean, even when Adam and Eve were handed out the consequences for eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden, one of the things that he said was, "Your desire shall be for your husband…" (Genesis 3:16—NKJV)
At the same time, you're really doing yourself a colossal disservice if you choose to live your life like being a wife is all that you have to offer—or even if it's like the best thing that you have to offer. On the biblical tip, it goes over a lot of people's head that the first thing that a wife is defined as being is a "helper" (Genesis 2:18). Men need our help. Help requires a lot of personal investing, time and hard work.
We don't come out of the womb being a wife. We come into it being a single individual. Why wouldn't you want to use your season of singleness to, ironically, help yourself? Help yourself to find your purpose. Help yourself to achieve some goals that would be so easier to reach as a single woman. Help yourself to learn more about what you like and what you want. Help yourself to becoming your best self.
An ex of mine's mom once told me that while she loves her children, in hindsight, she wishes that she had never gotten married. At a late fall stage of her life, she didn't travel as much as she wanted to, she didn't get to take the kinds of risks that she should have—her life was all about giving to her husband and her kids.
I know far too many single women who can only see being a wife. So much so that they don't even acknowledge all of the benefits that comes with being single. After getting married is an unfortunate time to have regrets. Embrace all of what you can do as a single woman now. This brings me to my fourth point.
Do You Hate Your Life As a Single Woman?
So, what's so bad about being single, anyway? Like for real, for real. I get that a husband provides companionship, support—and if he's a really good husband—protection and provision. But be completely honest with yourself—have you ever really taken the time to think about all of the benefits that come with the relational status that you currently have? Your time is ALL yours. Your resources are ALL yours. You can pretty much do what you want, when you want, without discussing it with anyone else. Shoot, you spent 18 years doing that very thing with your parents. Don't you want to enjoy at least a little more time before having to considerately run things by your life partner?
If you truly are planning on someday going into a marriage with the intentions of being with your husband for the rest of your life, I recommend looking at becoming a wife like becoming a mom. What I mean by that is once you're in, you're in. In many ways, life as you now know it will no longer exist.
One of my closest friends tells me that sometimes she envies my singleness because she isn't able to go to the bathroom alone. When I ask her if she's referring to her kids bothering her, she sighs and says, "Sometimes it's them. But girl, sometimes it's my husband." The last time I went to their house, she asked me to come into her bedroom to help her with something and I noticed that, even though she and her husband aren't the shortest people in the world, their bed was on the smaller side. When I mentioned it, she rolled her eyes again. "That ain't me. That's your friend who feels like some part of his body has to be draped all over mine, no matter how hot it gets."
My friend loves her husband. I know that, for sure. Still, I am super grateful that she is kind and vulnerable enough to tell me the real deal about marriage. A lot of stuff that she shares keeps me thankful that I can use the bathroom in peace, sleep on my entire bed and live my entire life without having to have a discussion with anyone else (except God).
How About You “Push Pause” on Wanting and Start Actually Living?
If you're not familiar with Kisses from Katie, check out Amazima Ministries sometime (it's an organization that was Katie's vision, by the way). The short version of Katie's story—which is a lot more like a testimony—is she went to Uganda at 18 for a mission's trip, returned a year later and never came back to the States (to live permanently). By the age of 23, she had adopted 13 Ugandan girls and was living her life, to the fullest, as a single woman and mom.
I really respect Katie's journey, so I tend to check out her site, every few months, just to see what she has going on. I smiled when she shared that she had met her beloved. And no, he didn't come at the time or in the way that she once thought that he would. If you watch this video, you'll see that, like a lot of single women, Katie once had the dream of a white picket fence, a husband and two kids. But God had other plans. At around the 3:00 mark, the narrator of the video says:
"As a busy mother then, dating probably wasn't Katie's highest priority. She had a huge brood to take care of, all by herself, after all. But she would find love nonetheless, when her future husband, Benji Majors, walked into her life. And, in a remarkable twist of fate, it turned out that Benji and Kate had both grown up in Franklin, TN, although the two had previously never met…It wasn't until he moved to Uganda, that he and Katie's paths finally crossed."
Chills. I'll let you watch the rest of the video to see all that happened since they met. What I will say is today, they are married and they have a son, Noah. Oh, do catch something else that the narrator said, though:
"Before her romance with Benji, however, she had never believed she'd meet a man willing to take on her and her 13 adopted children…Katie thought, 'It would be nice to be married, but I guess it's not in the cards for me."
Not here in Tennessee as a single student did Katie meet her husband. It was all the way in Uganda, with a purpose as wide as all get out, did their paths cross. At the right place and time. Not while she was pining away for a husband. But while she was living her life to the fullest! And the man that was meant to complement her life? He didn't just marry her—he is helped to raise all of her daughters.
If you want the right husband, you need to be out here doing your thing because you can best believe that a good man is going to be here doing his. You're probably not gonna run into him begging and pleading in prayer in the side of your bed. It's probably going to happen while you're in the midst of doing what you were put on this planet to do.
That's one of the biggest takeaways I've gotten from Katie's story.
Again, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be married. Nothing at all. But if you really dig deep into the whys behind it, they may reveal that your desire could be about more than just having a husband. Because just think about it—you don't want to just "get married". You want to be happily and continually married, right?
Let life do its thing while you're thriving as a single woman. If you're committed to that, no matter how it turns out, you'll have far less regrets than if you just sit around wishing for a husband all of the time. I believe Katie—and some of the married women that you personally know—can personally vouch for that. A million times over too.
So, do yourself a favor. Treat yourself to a "You've Gotta Go Through God to Get to Me" tee, and chill out. Wanting marriage is fine. Just try your best to be intentional about wanting a lot more for yourself than that. Because you are certainly worthy of more...than that. Feel me?
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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This 5-Minute Workout Can Help You Build Muscle Strength & Endurance
EMOM is short for "every minute on the minute." This form of exercise is quick and efficient; it will get your heart rate elevated fast while simultaneously building muscle strength and endurance. To start an EMOM, you select an exercise and choose the allotted number of reps you'd like to perform within the minute. The goal is to finish as quickly as possible, with the correct form, so you can get a longer break between sets.
In the 5-minute EMOM below, you'll complete the designated number of reps for each exercise listed without a break in between, and once you're finished, you'll rest until the next minute begins. At the top of the next minute, you'll repeat all the exercises again and rest until the following minute beings. Your goal is to complete this cycle for a total of 5 times.
A friendly tip before you begin is to make sure you have at least 20 seconds of rest between each set. Also, note if you're finishing with more than 30 seconds on your time. If so, add two additional reps to each exercise. (i.e., 4-inchworms would become 6-inchworms, etc.)
The goal of an EMOM is to challenge yourself and work towards simultaneously developing cardiovascular endurance, as well as muscle strength and endurance.
Exercise 1: Inchworms
Try to have at least 20 seconds of rest between sets and if you're getting more than 30 seconds of rest add more reps equally by twos to each exercise.
Repeat this EMOM 5 times for a focused warm-up, workout finisher, or when you're low on time and simply need to get your body moving.
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