What Keke Palmer Taught Me About Growing Into Your Sexual Self-Confidence

 

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A few weeks ago a friend and I decided to do happy hour. Nothing special really; we weren’t celebrating a birthday or a job promotion. I was just happy to get out of the house after being chased by a clingy one-year-old all week. I also enjoyed having an opportunity to get a little glamorous. Getting dolled up and pulling out the NYX Devil’s Food Cake lip gloss to do the dishes seems a little silly, but this was happy hour. I’d be in public among other living, legal drinking age adults, so why not? So last Friday afternoon I was prancing around the house to my “Pop Goes My Playlist” Spotify mix while getting ready, when my BFF’s comes knocking at the door. I answered the door to find her dressed in a hoodie and sweatpants, hair pulled back in a ponytail.

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I immediately felt overdressed in a knee-length leather skirt and low cut white tank that was making “the girls” stand at attention. My face was beat like Muhammad Ali went all haymaker with my Naked palette and my curly purple-highlighted hair couldn’t possibly get any bigger. This wouldn’t be the first time my friend retreated to the trusty “yoga pants and ponytail” look for what had planned to be a night out on the town and it made me wonder if I was doing the absolute most, or if she wasn’t doing enough.

The whole situation reminded me of women’s various definitions of sex appeal; what it looks like and when and where it’s appropriate. In my opinion there’s never a time to not feel sexy on some very basic level. Most importantly, sex appeal is more about how you feel than what you’re wearing, but we can’t deny that how you present yourself is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Kim Kardashian posing topless in a public bathroom may not be making a profound statement on women’s equality, but you can’t deny she’s sending us a message (albeit a repeatedly annoying message) that she loves the skin she’s in, preferably when she’s butt booty naked. And there is something about that for whatever reason that encourages me to like my sexual self a little bit more.

I think I take for granted that all women believe that pu**y is power. Actually I hate that phrase and I’m not completely convinced it’s true but I guess I just have always felt like there’s a certain confidence that comes with being a woman that started the day Eve convinced Adam’s horny ass to eat the apple. My husband told me something a long time ago about sex-appeal, “It’s all about confidence and the way you carry yourself.” I guess in that respect, whether you’re rocking a ponytail or the best beach wave lacefront money can buy, owning your sexuality is as much about what you believe about yourself as what you’re wearing.

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From Kim K. Prancing around her bathroom in her birthday suit to Keke Palmer popping that thing with a Firecracker popsicle to Rihanna’s, “Work”, there’s something about women owning their sexuality that makes me uncomfortably excited. When you truly believe you are sexy, you’re making a statement to the world that making the general public break their neck with just your very being is your birthright. Witnessing the emancipation of Ms. Keke Palmer is reminding me of JUST that. I mean at this point I think we’re all used to seeing Amber Rose’s bikini line but witnessing Palmer go from “True Jackson MVP” to grown woman is a memo to every woman that there is a whole sexual side to them that should exist regardless of if there’s a man in their presence or not.

A few weeks ago Palmer proved she’s come a long way from “Akeelah and the Bee” when she premiered a dance video to the Rihanna hit single “Work”. The vid sent so much traffic to her website that it shut down for a few minutes. In the video, Palmer is twerking on the floor of a deep freezer, licking her lips with her hair twists dangling across her waist with every wiggle. A routine that many of us have more than likely done in our bedroom mirrors on a Saturday night in or for some of us more extroverted personalities, in the hip-hop room of a nightclub after one too many Blue Long Island Iced Teas. Initially I found my eyes rolling into my head thinking, “Here’s another Disney kid doing the damn most to prove herself by getting too sexual, too soon.” But when I silenced the hate (because truth is, Keke is looking dope beyond measure and it’s making me kind of miss my twenties before c-section scars and the need for coffee to exert any real energy) I have to admit she pretty much killed it. In fact, I preferred watching this version over Rihanna’s official vid where she’s pretty much just dangling her nipple piercings and grinding on Drake.

As much as I wanted to say, “Keke put some clothes on. You’re a role model. How dare you be sexy?” The truth is Lauren “Keke” Palmer is a 22-year-old grown women who handles her business and is every bit sexy as she is smart. She’s an accomplished singer and actor who has spoken out articulately on everything from anti-bullying to #BlackGirlMagic. Most importantly she’s managed to balance being about her business and being herself, making it clear with recent singles like “I Don’t Belong To You”that she’s living her life the best way she know how for herself:

“I don’t belong to anyone else but myself. I have to make my own decisions. Happiness is defined by me. My sexuality is defined by me. And that can change and this can change and I can make it what I want to make it because I’m the one who makes that choice. So that’s what ‘I Don’t Belong to You’ is saying. This song feels right. It feels right and it’s telling who I am. And it captures my identity.”

It’s like finding a thong in your little sister’s underwear drawer or seeing an old-school picture of your mother in a mini-skirt. You’re forced to recognize that inside of every woman whether it’s your daughter or your sister there’s a sexual being that doesn’t make her any less sweet or sophisticated, but that much more human. There’s a beauty in that balance that still makes so many of us uncomfortable, that still makes us question if Amber Rose can rock a g-string and still be a good mother or if Keke Palmer can have a kissing scene with Cassie and still be your kid’s role model.

Palmer recently announced that she’ll be adding “author” to her already impressive resume, with a book that shares the name of one of her recent singles. She describes “I Don’t Belong To You” as an inpirational memoir and self-help guide:

“It’s about the inner-hero we all have.”

Even though she’s ten years my junior, Ms. Palmer is teaching me a lesson about owning my sexuality that I almost forgot. Too many times I’ve come across women who think that unless they’re gonna be getting some, there’s no need to shave your legs, put on perfume, or even just feel sexy. We place our sexuality along with other sides of our personalities in separate categories that can’t be opened unless the others are closed. But owning your sexuality is about more than who will be in your bed by the end of the night. More than what you’re wearing, sometimes you just gotta be sexy for your damn self and nothing more. Whether you’re posting yourself topless in a public bathroom and calling it “feminism”, going with the bold, red lip for happy hour, or shutting ish down on Playstation 4 in a pair of yoga pants, it’s my belief that women should feel sexy every single day. Owning your sexuality is about allowing it to co-exist with every part of you and not just reserving it for special occasions. Because if Keke Palmer has taught me anything, it’s that you deserve to feel desirable, passionate, and damn it the slightest bit turned on by no one but your damn self.

Having trouble tapping into tour inner sexy?  Whether you’re closing a deal like a damn boss in Zac Posen pumps or secretly twerking in your bedroom to Drake’s “Come Thru” wearing nothing but some Beats headphones, these tips will help you get any stalled sexual-self confidence going:

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1. Get a stripper song.

You can’t tell me I’m not at Magic City making Drake empty his account on my thighs whenever I hear Ne-yo’s “Stress Reliever”. You don’t have to go all “Player’s Club” on a pole to adopt the sexual self confidence of a stripper, but a good slow jam to bring out your inner sexy is always a great way to FEEL sexy even if your think you LOOK silly.

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2. Embrace your inner ratchet.

Everytime I hear a club banger like Chris Brown’s “Strip” drop, my tongue instantly falls out of my mouth and my hips begin to pop. You might as well make a meme of me saying, “Heyy!” while looking back at it. It’s extra ratchet, but it’s unapologetically me. Embracing all of your ratchet quirks is confident and confidence is sexy.

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3. Be honest about what gets you off.

Beyonce’ made it clear that she wanted a “soldier” when she belted out, “We like low-cut Caesar’s with the deep waves.” Whether your weakness is for a man with a fresh haircut or even a woman who actually knows what the hell she’s talking about when it comes to all things Marvel and DC comics, it’s important to acknowledge and be proud of what gets you feeling some type of way.

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4. Find your inner Sasha Fierce.

When you’re having trouble finding your inner sex goddess in everyday life, it helps to have an alter ego. Mine is a mix of Mindy Kaling and Vashtie- awkwardly clever, and cool while dressing my ass off and the superpower of creating a great playlist. Whenever I feel like I’m not nailing the sexual confidence, I try to look to these gals to remind me of how awesome I have the potential to be.

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5. Assume the position.

Think of sexual signature move that no matter how off or awkward you feel, you know will give you the ability to bring any man to his knees. Rihanna knows even if she puts out a single that does double tinfoil, a proper Dutty Wine will have us all bending over backwards (literally and figuratively). It can be simple as swinging your hair while flirting or complex as pulling off a triangle pose…in the shower…with your bae.

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6. Applaud your anatomy.

Much like your signature move, on your worst days when the one eyebrow won’t cooperate and you’re in much need of a manicure, there should be one part of your anatomy that you know no matter what is always on 10. Kim K. breaks the internet routinely with body parts that never get tired no matter how many times we’ve seen them. Beyonce’s hips and confident swagger command attention whether she’s walking on stage or across a beach with a baby by her side. Pick a body part that makes you fall in love with yourself over and over even on those days where you may be bickering with the rest of your anatomy.

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You Mad? Ciara Doesn’t Deserve To Be Saved, Because She Doesn’t Need To Be

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While women everywhere are swooning over Ciara’s Disney-like love story  and being blinded by the bling her engagement ring is giving off something proper, a few men think Russell Wilson is breaking major bro’ code and setting a bad example by seemingly running in to save the day.

See, it was only a few years ago that Ciara was slithering on the floor in something black and sexy for rapper and now father of her son, Future. When news broke that the pair were indeed a real life thing,  it didn’t take long for female fans everywhere to become BFF’s with the singer in their heads pleading with her to keep those “goodies” in the jar. Nayvadius Wilburn better known as Future, the raunchy rapper behind hits like “Dirty Sprite” and “Same Damn Time” already had five children by three different women at the time in 2013. Fans pleaded with Ciara via social media to proceed with caution and up until that point besides a few backbends and a twerk here or there, most would have considered her a “good girl” in R&B. I mean there was a fling with rapper 50 Cent, but for the most part Ciara didn’t have any sex tapes, no arrest record, no reality show ratchetry and the most questionable thing she may have done in her career was date Bow Wow. Fans expectedly were shocked by her entertaining a typical hip-hop bad boy.

The romance quickly unfolded despite criticism from the fans and it wasn’t long before the couple announced they were expecting. Even I wanted to root for the two and hope they would beat the odds, but I’m a firm believer that a man’s track record speaks volumes. To me it wasn’t as much as IF the break-up would happen but WHEN. The rumors started flying of Future’s infidelity shortly after Future Jr. was born and my as well as other fans’ suspicions were proven true. Break-ups happen and sometimes you don’t see them coming, but I think it’s so important for women to go into relationships with men who don’t have the best reputations being well aware of their patterns and not buying into the unlikely outcome that they will be the exception.

Fast forward to early spring of 2015 when Seattle Seahawks and Superbowl Champ Russell Wilson is escorted by Cici to the Whitehouse Correspondents’ dinner. After a messy break up that included custody battles and Future talking slick about his most recent child’s mother to the masses about how she was rushing a marriage, it seemed as if Ciara was playing it cool by giving that fuccboi the ultimate message that she was over it and moving on. But now that Russell wants to make it official after a year of courtship and a very publicized pledge to celibacy on the couple’s behalf, men around the world are side-eyeing his surprise Seychelle Island proposal as the ultimate sucka move. According to one Facebook user:

“I remember when I was in college/ high school these so called “educated” girls were refusing to date smart guys “squares” because they were too nice or too much of a square. It wasn’t cool to date a square. So instead they would choose to be ran through by all of the ball players, goons, rappers, thugs, dope dealers etc. Then after being ran through till the age of 28-30, they would try to find a “nice corporate square” and were usually successful. This is how the game was ran. So to all my young, educated, successful, brothas out there. Do not settle for hood leftovers. No second chances. Especially hood and ratchet leftovers who have their ex baby daddy’s initials tattooed on their finger. And their ex happens to be a Goon.  Don’t do it.  You deserve the cream of the crop. Russell is setting a terrible example.”

When I read this initially I figured homeboy was just bitter because he felt like he was a good guy that got passed up by all of the fine girls in undergrad. I thought it was unfair because by 28-30, most people are bringing some kind of baggage to a relationship and it’s not fair to only single out attractive women who may have made relationship mistakes in the past. Shoot, Mr. Wilson is bringing a whole ex-wife to the picture but no one is calling out his less-than-perfect past nearly as much as we are focusing on Ciara’s relationship with Future.

Another thing that shady posts like these further confirm to me that most of us have forgotten what healthy relationships actually look like. The fact is Ciara seems finally happy, although some fans can’t find it in their spirits to be happy for her. We were giving her the side-eye when she was taking “us-ies” with Future’s other children’s mothers like she was a part of the sorority Zeta-Baby-Maker. But now that she her very own Disney vault love story, we’re still not pleased. It’s as if so many of us are used to seeing one Love and Hip-Hop surprise multiple pregnancy after the other, that when a man isn’t giving off Creep Squad vibes, we get leery. Or we’ve been through so many unhealthy relationships ourselves, that we begin to forget that a man treating a woman with respect and chivalry is actually a good thing.

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Even I’ll admit that Russell Wilson is making every cheesy effort to come for Prince Charming’s crown, but as much as we’d like to make real-life love a romcom, there are no clear cut roles for anyone. I’d like to think that on his best day Future has really great qualities that made Ciara believe she could build a life with him. It’s also possible that as much as we’d like to believe Russell Wilson is Ciara’s personal caped crusader, he’s not perfect either and he indeed has a past as well according to his ex-wife. When it comes to love, whether we’d like to believe it or not people are allowed to learn, grow and simply change their mind without judgment. Most importantly when it comes to following our personal paths in life, we have to do what works for us as individuals. If you’re basing your #RelationshipGoals on what the hottest celebrity couple is doing or the example the latest sex symbol is setting, then you have a lot to learn about love and relationships. And to “Angry Facebook Man” I hate to break it to you, but the last time I checked Ciara is a Grammy-nominated singer who has a multi-million dollar modeling contract with Wilhelmina Models and endorsements with Verizon and Adidas.  She may need a lot of things, but one of them ain’t saving.

But as hard as I fight against the patriarchal stereo-types and double-standards this post is bringing, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit “Angry Facebook Man” doesn’t have a point. Ciara’s whole situation is giving me “Band-Aid Boyfriend” vibes. Not sure what exactly a Band-Aid Boyfriend is? Allow me to explain. I had a Band-Aide Boyfriend through most of my late teens and early twenties. A “Band-Aid Boyfriend” is a guy that you’ve permanently placed in the friend zone. He probably landed there because he has little swag, doesn’t put you in your place when you’re out of pocket, and swears the sun rises and falls of your smile alone. When the swagged out dude who makes your draws drop because you think his disrespect is endearing breaks your heart, who is the first person you turn to? The Band-Aid Boyfriend. Because Band-Aid Boyfriend will play basketball with your boys, take your mama to church and have a dozen roses waiting for you at work. And suddenly all those sucka moves that may have landed him a 30-year fixed- mortgage in the friend zone will suddenly make him the man you want to marry. Band-Aid Boyfriend is the best because when you’re feeling your lowest, he’ll remind you of how you deserve to be treated and that a good relationship doesn’t have to be about drama. But here’s the thing: If you’re not feeling Band-Aid Boyfriend THAT way, it’s never going to work and here is where I find where I find men’s issues with “Ciara being saved” problematic.

I don’t think any women has a strategy to date the bad boy in their twenties to get their inhibitions out of the way so they can settle down with the “Band-Aid Boyfriend” at the end of the day, but what I will say is that she has every right to. Just like every man has a right to living his bachelor days with women he wouldn’t think of bringing home to mama, only to settle down with the “good girl”. If you feel like you’re getting love’s leftovers because of your “square” status, I think that has more to do with what you allow than how any women is actually treating you. When it comes to love, you determine what you deserve and if a man respecting a woman and her kids, vowing to be celibate and not shading her on Snapchat makes him a sucka, then I’ll take two please.

 

 

 

 

There’s A Bigger Issue Than Body-Shaming When It Comes to Zendaya

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It was just a few days ago that I was texting a friend and used, “She was giving me Monique ’skinny bitches are evil’ vibes,” to describe a former colleague and my failure to understand why someone I only interacted with via e-mail and social media most days seemed to always have an attitude with me. It’s something every skinny girl experiences at one point or another. You walk into a room of “pleasantly plump” women who aren’t that pleasant. And let me be clear, not for one second do I think all big girls are bitches who have issues with or want to be skinny mini’s. But the ones that do seem to be mentally chanting affirmations like “More cushion for the pushin’” and you can instantly feel the hate slapping you across the face like when someone’s bad breath singes your nostril hairs. It used to be that we could blame the media, cosmetics companies and men for these strict beauty standards that habitually have women defending everything from the arch of their eyebrow to their metabolism, but thanks to the gift of social media we can now take our mean girl attitudes to the internet and insult each other as entertainment for the masses.

I love a good, dark, cut throat joke as much as the next person. When Bette Midler clapped back at Kim Kardashian last week, I had a chuckle or two because it seemed like Bette was coming from a genuine place of comedy and not from a place where she too wished she could black bar her tig ol’ bitties for the Gram. See, the thing about comedy is that even some pretty grave offenses can be forgiven if the joke itself is funny as hell. And I’m sorry, Julie Klausner, you’re not funny. If anything, you seem kind of bitter and a tad bit envious.

If you’re anything like me and hesitant to stan for any comedian that doesn’t begin with “Mindy” and end with “Kaling”, you might be like, “Julie, who?” Klausner is a comic and the star and creator of the Hulu show Difficult People. When Disney star Zendaya took to the stage this past weekend to accept her Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award for Favorite Female TV Star, while we are were all listening to her give a heartfelt speech about inspiring young women, Klausner apparently couldn’t wait to pick apart her appearance (which by the way, my girl ‘Daya was slaying…all day…all night…all damn weekend). Klausner tweeted:

“Zendaya’s ultimate retort to Giuliana Rancic is starving herself down to the size of one of her elbowz.”

“You don’t have to have an eating disorder to attend the Kids’ Choice Awards….but it helps!”

Needless to say, Klausner received a lot of backlash for jumping on the body-shaming bandwagon and even got a little clapback from Zendaya herself who tweeted:

“Do you find this funny? I will write another paragraph to educate you aswell #youreallywannabenext?”

 

My initial response?

1. I still don’t know who the fuck Julie Klausner is but her Twitter is giving me Amy Shumer vibes (you know the girl Hollywood is presently forcing us to find funny) and she’s about as funny as an ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan on piano.

2. It’s NEVER a good look when a grown ass woman comes for a teenager. It just always makes them look bitter and like they start off all drunken conversations with, “Back in my twenties I was so damn skinny.”

But what bothered me about this whole messy exchange what the fact that Klausner attempted to use some sort of half-assed concern for the health of young women to defend what seemed to be a display of her own insecurities:

“I will never stop criticizing celebs who perpetuate dangerous beauty standards for a generation of girls who grow up thinking they’re fat.”

Since when did anyone with a Twitter handle and over five minutes of fame become an authority on health and wellness? It was only a few weeks ago, model Cheryl Tiegs threw a whole Sherwood forest of shade towards cover girl, Ashley Graham for representing “Team Thickness” on the cover of the latest Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

“I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women, because it’s glamorizing them, because your waist should be smaller than 35 (inches),” the former Sports Illustrated cover girl model expressed at a pre-Oscar arty a few weeks ago, “That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it.”

I’m sorry, but are any of these people undercover M.D.’s testing these ladies’ blood pressure and cholesterol levels? How the hell can you look at someone and make an accurate assumption about how healthy they are? “Healthy” looks different on every woman and something tells me Klausner’s jokes were more about a moment of self-hate and less about any actual concern about Zendaya’s health or that 13-year-old who is a size 10 and contemplating starving herself after watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show.

Look, it’s Klausner’s Twitter and she can do whatever she wants with it and if we don’t like it, we all have the option to unfollow. Klausner was quick to remind fans that she would not be backpedaling or deleting any tweets and that everything was said in good fun. Body-shaming celebs being the go to punchline for a few retweets is one thing, but every evil thought that passes through your brain doesn’t need to be shared. Who hasn’t had a mean-spirited thought after being bombarded by images on the daily of rich and famous celebs with perfectly constructed hip to waist ratios. Every time I see a fifty word article about Kylie Jenner’s new hair color I can feel an insult rising with the bile in the back of my throat, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be tweeted, no matter how funny I think it may be.  Especially when what you tweet speaks more volumes on how you view yourself more than your concern with the well-being of other women.

Skinny-girl shame isn’t more acceptable by default because we feel it gives us an excuse to attack America’s narrow standards of beauty in defense of girls who feel awkward because Forever 21 considers them plus size. Being 5’2” and weighing 120 lbs. doesn’t mean I sail through life on a parade float of acceptance and admiration every day. I’ve honestly had women ask me in disbelief why I’d opt for a one piece over a thong bikini on the beach or remind me to clean my plate as if being thin grants me an all-access pass to high self-esteem that allows me to take low-brow Twitter comments and criticism on the chin. Shaming thin girls doesn’t magically uplift curvy girls everywhere. That’s not how it works. Instead of obsessing over the circumference of Zendaya’s forearm and who does or doesn’t want to look like her, why don’t we celebrate her confidence and the fact that there ARE women who actually like themselves whether they are a size 2 or a size 12.

If there’s more to  to be offended by than comments about someone’s size, it’s the attack on another woman’s”moment”. In her book, “Why Not Me?” my favorite comedian, Mindy Kaling makes a profound observation about the conflict that comes with being a confident female, “The scary thing I’ve noticed is that some people feel really uncomfortable around women who don’t hate themselves.” And I think that what bothered me the most; the fact that Klausner wasn’t just attacking another women’s waist size, but her moment of confidence. It’s a struggle for most women to like themselves in a world that makes it’s a daily mission to convince us not to and we should stop assuming that just because WE think a woman is beautiful means that SHE feels the same way each and everyday or takes the moments when she does feel like she’s kicking the world’s ass for granted. Whether we are accepting an award on national television, posing butt naked in a bathroom mirror, or finally found a pair of jeans that makes us feel like Beyonce’ strutting on the sidelines of an NBA game, every woman deserves a purely untainted moment where she feels like she is unapologetically the shit. One of the worst things we can do as fellow women is fuck with any moment a woman is truly feeling herself.  Because those moments for too many of us are far and few.

7 Reasons You Need To Make Him Take You On A Date…NOW

 

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The story of how my husband and I first met was far from a fairytale, and as happy as I am with where we are now, I often caution my friends that our situation had just as much of a chance of going wrong as it did right.

Back in the early 2000’s when all my high school friends had gone off to various parts of rural PA to begin their lives as undergrads, I was left working a job I had held through my teens at an ice cream parlor and spent a year or two doing random things you do as a young adult trying to figure it out. I spent the summer blowing minimum wage paychecks on Air Force One’s and hanging out with a guy who had nursed a crush on me since I was freshman.  He was a nice enough guy, but one of those guys that had no idea that I had all but re-financed a mortgage for him in the friend zone. Sometime in the summer of 2005 he ended up introducing me to a close friend of his who at the time I had no idea would be the man I’d eventually marry.

My husband had a lot of undesirable qualities about him, but one of them wasn’t financial management.  He was able to save and purchase a house at a very young age and provide what only I could call the hood’s version of Hedomism for all his friends. It was a bachelor pad that always had liquor readily available, T.I. and Madden NFL blasting throughout the night, and half-dressed girls parading in and out.  It wasn’t exactly the setting to fall in love. But somehow despite him being the host to these shenanigans, I ended up really liking the guy. Of course at this time he wasn’t the type to pick me up for drinks and late night walks along the riverfront. Our relationship began pretty basically, but instead of “Netflix and Chill” back then it was called a booty call and I settled for it. In the occasional night his house was quiet and he finished a shift at 12AM he would call me up and ask if I wanted to come over and watch The Wire which would always inevitably turn into Stringer Bell and Omar peeping our “under-cover activities”.

This went on for few years until I decided I wanted something more serious and was tired of settling for being the girl he knew he could call for a good time and nothing more. I also knew I was worth much more than only being thought of after 10:00 pm. Our first official date of many was a night at the movies to see Denzel Washington star in Book of Eli and although it may not seem like much, I think if a man feels like he never has to leave his apartment for you, it says something about how much he’s invested into you.

Reservations at Painting with a Twist doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve landed yourself a husband, but it will get you a lot closer than Netflix and chill ever will. Here are seven reasons you need to make him take you on a date right the hell NOW:

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1. Because it forces him to make the effort, and you deserve a little damn effort.

Ne-yo has a single on the last album that I love called “Make It Easy” which is about finding the one to spend your life with who makes living comfortable and drama-free. This, however, does not apply to the first few months of dating. If you are the one who is constantly driving to see him, picking up dinner and delivering ass along with a stuffed crust pizza you are a glorified Domino’s delivery driver, not a girlfriend.

I wouldn’t write it, if I didn’t witness it. When a man takes you out on a date it forces him to plan and muster up a little damn effort.  I’m all for being an independent woman and making the first move, but when you “do all the doing” you rob a man of the opportunity to make the effort that you deserve.  Even if his best effort is a Fandango transaction for tickets to the latest Leo DiCaprio flick and buffalo chicken sliders on him, it still required more energy than the dude who showered, threw on sweatpants and made sure his wi-fi was working.

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2. Because being broke is no longer a valid excuse.

A Google search for “dating on a budget” returns 71,400,000 results in .67 seconds which means that “I’m on a budget,” is no longer an excuse for refusing to leave the bedroom. Whether you grab a pretzel and people watch at a local park or you both volunteer for an animal shelter for an afternoon, being broke is not a good enough reason for him to refuse to take you out in public. Better yet why not visit a career fair or a networking event if he claims lack of coins is the only reason why date night is confined to his couch.

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3. Because it allows you the chance to see what he’s bringing to the table outside of the bedroom.

Being in public forces people to present themselves differently to the world than they would when the only social interaction they have is the occasional interruption by the guy delivering a quart of vegetable lo mein.

Does he get a bad case of social anxiety? Did he tip the server more than $2.00 or offer the mom with the screaming toddler a quick glance of sympathy? You can learn more about a person by how they act in public than you ever would from their Netflix queue.

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4. Because there’s the chance you’ll bump into his crew or the girlfriend he forgot to mention.

When a man goes out of his way to avoid taking you out in public (or if when he does you always have to go two counties away and can never hang out with friends) I always assume it’s because he has something to hide. Maybe he’s keeping you away from his boys because they probably won’t know you from the last three girls he brought around in the last week. Or maybe he doesn’t want to bump into his girlfriend’s older brother who frequents the best beer garden in town. Either way if you can’t seem to ever see the light of day with your date, rest assured the skeletons he’s got trapped in the closet aren’t either.

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5. Because the best memories rarely begin with, “Remember that time we were binge-watching Bob’s Burgers?”

Karaoke with strangers, dive bars in small towns and that little deli that makes the best corn beef specials: That’s what the best date memories are made of. If you’ve met a guy that you think you want to get serious with, shared experiences are what relationships are built on. They will be what give you character as a couple and help you bond. You don’t have to go rock climbing in South America or share epic life-changing experiences to become closer. Bonding can come through looking at the same old neighborhood hangouts in a different way through one another’s eyes….which requires leaving his apartment from time to time.

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6. Because a group date may allow your girlfriends to see things that you don’t.

They might catch him shifting uncomfortably or avoiding eye-contact or they may peep that he doesn’t pull off until your seat belt is buckled or how his eyes light up when you walk in the room. Your gut is usually spot-on, but friends and family can sometimes see things that love and lust alike won’t allow you to.

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7. Because ain’t that much “busy” in the world.

The saying never fails: A person will make time for the things they want to do, and excuses for what they don’t want to do. When my now husband/then love interest started to get serious about me, I noticed that even if was working 10 and sometimes 12 hours straight, he’d take the hour he had in between shifts just to bring me Johnny Rockets and sit on the porch and talk. I’m not saying he has to take you to a five-star-restaurant and end the night with a rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight” accompanied by John Legend on piano. But if a man can’t make time to poke your brain, but clears his schedule to penetrate other parts of your anatomy, it’s probably because that’s all he’s interested in.

 

Signs You Need To Let Go of Being “Young and Fly” and Come In For a Landing

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In case you all have forgotten, let me remind you again that in the past two years I’ve become a wife AND a mother (I’m still getting used to it myself, so I apologize if this is like the umpteenth article I’ve started that way). Every once in a while, when I’m able to steal a little “me-time”, I come up for air from the sea of Mega Blocks, Gerber Puffs and adult responsibilities I’m often surrounded by to see how out-of-touch I’ve really become. Priorities done changed, ya’ll. I used to look forward to what summer music festivals my friends would need to camp out on Ticketmaster.com for and lately all I’m looking forward to are a hot shower and the two hours of Nurse Jackie I can squeeze in when my toddler passes out. On the days I feel most pathetic, I’ll reassure myself I’m still doing the damn thing and randomly blurt out “I’m still young and fly” before my husband abruptly reminds me, “I know, babe, I know.”

The funny thing is, once you hit a certain age and have a few accomplishments under your belt, you begin to realize that being “young and fly” isn’t everything and you trade it in for a little “grown and sexy”. Your tastes change and you gain some experience that makes you feel confident enough to give advice to others. Don’t get me wrong, my twenties were all the way turned up. I remember dragging my BFF on a ten-hour bus ride to Toronto attend my first OVOFest and getting caught up in customs over pepper spray (Apparently the Canadians take aerosol defense sprays very seriously). There were also the “Thirsty Thursdays” of undergrad where we felt like the baddest bitches to ever hit Middle of Nowhere, USA. But in all honesty, even though there’s a part of me that misses being twenty-something with an adventure scheduled for every weekend, and even bigger part of me wants to leave my twenties exactly where they’re at, both physically and mentally. There’s a comfort that comes with routine and having your own. Thirty doesn’t have to mean the end of random bus trips through North America, but at least now maybe I can afford an actual flight without having to eat Chef Boyardee for two weeks to afford it.

Still not convinced you’re ready to say goodbye to your days of “young and fly”, here are a few reminders it might be time to come in for a landing:

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1. Getting dressed becomes a chore.

It’s one thing if bae is treating me to that new Mediterranean place for monthly date night and I muster the effort to throw on a pair of 5” heels, but my days of putting on winged liner for game night with friends are long gone. For one thing, when you have a baby it takes an insane amount of time for your family to get out the door to do any damn thing. A trip to the bank requires a fully stocked baby bag and unrealistic goal of hoping you can make it to the car before your kid covers their outfit in snot or poop or both. More and more I find myself reserving the energy to look fresh to death for when it counts.

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2. Everything that comes on the radio sounds the same (and a tad bit annoying).

This is like the number one sign that you are now your parents. Maybe hip-hop and R&B truly has fallen off significantly, but the truth is we’re probably just old. But that’s OK, because every time I see a 45- year-old man dressed in skinny jeans blasting Fetty Wap from his car, a part of me dies inside. I think as you grow older your taste in music should too; it’s OK if you’re like my husband and don’t know WTH a “DM” is and what goes down in them. There’s nothing wrong with a little trap music to go with some shots of Bacardi every now and then, but most days I can’t tell Jhene from Kehlani. However if New Jack Swing ever makes a comeback, I’ll be waiting with open arms.

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3. You have a liquor preference.

Congratulations if you pass judgment on anyone drinking alcohol out of something that resembles a Capri Sun pouch. You are officially an adult with decent taste. In my twenties I would drink anything that was over 60 proof regardless of what Kool-Aide color it came in. Now my liver has a little more discretion and I’m able to have good time without feeling like I went headfirst into the side of Buick the next day.

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4. You kind of start to give a damn about your health.

There’s a “snatch back” that plagues your twenties that makes you think you can survive ANYTHING. You can pass out from alcohol poisoning one night and wake up the next morning ace a final, pull a double at work and then have sex until the sun comes up. But when I hit 30 all I can remember thinking is, “Damn, I know people who have gotten cancer diagnoses at this age.” Seriously, I had a sharp pain on my left side for a few days that I swore was the end a few months ago. It was actually just gas, but the good news is getting older makes you realize your mortality. And realizing you won’t be here forever makes you take your health a little more seriously and make better choices.

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5. You start to care about quality and use discretion when spending your money.

I lie to you not, one of the best purchases I’ve ever made as an official adult is a quality mattress. Once you sleep on decent furniture, you’ll wonder why futons are even still available for purchase. When you begin to build a work history and recognize the amount of work you have to do to earn so many dollars per hour, you’ll want the things you spend it on to be worth something. You’ll start to pay for quality and convenience, and stop spending your coins casually on things you know won’t survive past a month. Sure, that IKEA nightstand looks cute, but if it falls apart as soon as you put your contact case on it, is it really worth the hassle?

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6. You realize how little time you have for the BS.

When I had nothing but air and opportunity, if my home girl called me up and wanted to ride the Petty Pony when it came to man drama, I was there. But now I have responsibilities and I’m almost tempted to make my friends sign a disclaimer that begins, “If I ride out with you to destroy this man, do you solemnly swear you will not go all #RelationshipGoals with this dude in the next year taking his mama to church and making him omelets in the morning?” As I get older, my time becomes more and more valuable and I refuse to entertain BS. Every moment of my life doesn’t need to be dedicated to serious spiritual growth and introspection, but I just don’t have as much time for the shenanigans anymore.

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7. Comfort and convenience become major factors in most of your decisions.

This doesn’t translate into meaning it’s OK to become lazy as you grow older. Your thirties and beyond should still be filled with plenty of challenges and moments of discomfort to keep you sharp so you can continue to grow. But sometime a few years ago, I started to feel like I no longer had anything to prove, and there was no point in inconveniencing myself just to prove that I was making the most of my life every minute of the day.

I once saw a comedian that gave the best advice when he said, “By the age of 30, I know what I don’t like.”  There’s something about being at peace with the things you know you have no interest in. In other words, just because all of your friends are making vision boards with trips to Dubai, if you truly know you couldn’t care less about seeing the Burj Khalifa or rather have a cheese steak instead of shawarma, there’s no need to defend what makes you happy. You don’t have to push yourself to limit to things that simply aren’t that important to you just to prove your life is epic and amazing.

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8. You stop caring about being “young and fly”.

As much as I still enjoy my share of Nicki Minaj and Love and Hip Hop, I’m noticing the lifestyle I aspire to have affects my priorities. I don’t care as much about designer labels and turning up as much as I care about getting my daughter into a good school and making sure I don’t have to work a 9-5 to survive when I’m sixty. If spending a little more time learning about how a 401K works or taking the time to learn who exactly is my city council person means sacrificing knowing the juicy details of Meek Mill’s latest Twitter rant, I will make my peace with that. My role models have changed as well as my values and I take that as a good sign that I’m growing as a person.

Why I’m Proud to Be a Mom in the Middle of #BlackGirlMagic

I swore I was having a boy when I became pregnant in spring of 2014. I carried low, had no morning sickness and my baby bump left my beauty still intact. Even the Chinese birth chart took my age and the month I became pregnant and confirmed I was #TeamBoy. In hindsight I realize those old wives tales have very little say when it comes to DNA. But when the ultrasound tech left me and my fiancé in front of a screen of fuzzy white and gray patches that April, we questioned if the anatomy was THAT obvious that they shouldn’t have to tell us if we’d be getting a “Camden” or a “Cairo”. A few seconds later the doctor soon reassured us that we’d have a lifetime of training bras, Barbies and braids to look forward to. Ok, so maybe I wouldn’t have bow ties or a starting forward in a team of testosterone-pumped boys who adored their mother to prepare for, but I wasn’t disappointed. And as I see my fearless baby girl attempting to climb anything she can get steady footing on from her high chair to my face at the occasional crack of dawn, I realize how blessed I am, because I get to raise her in the era of #BlackGirlMagic.

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Remember in “Keep Ya Head Up” when Tupac rhymed, “Had me feeling like black was the thing to be…”? He was talking about #BlackGirlMagic. I can’t wait for my Camden’s black girl pride to piss off anyone that thinks she should settle for less because of the melanin in her skin or her unruly red afro. I can’t wait to reveal to her that Black privilege is the blood coursing through her veins rich in “run shit”. At one-years-old, she is just learning what her body parts are called, and can barely say more than 5 words. But already, bedtime is not about Cinderella getting saved or Rapunzel getting rescued from a tower. My daughter’s superheroes are Mara Brock Akil, Ava Duvernay and Issa Rae. I can’t wait to show her that time Beyonce shut down the Superbowl with a tribute to black heroes of the past  as a reminder to everyone that no matter how much they try to dim our shine, we are still here, overcoming and ish like it’s any given Sunday. Women like them are the storytellers that are weaving the narrative web of what it means to be a black girl today. Because that’s what black girl magic is: turning the impossible into definitely doing the damn thing and doing it well.

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When I was an middle school experimenting with my own sense of style and building my self-esteem, I anxiously awaited when my sister’s copies of Seventeen or YM would land in our mailbox once a month. Once in a while she’d even treat me to a copy of Sophisticate’s Black Hair that usually resulted in me taking gel, spritz and a roller set to my head in hopes to emulate Reagan Gomez-Preston’s latest style. I hoped that Lark Voorhees or Karyn Parsons would grace a page or two and my best friend and I would attempt the beauty routines meant for olive-skinned girls because they were the girls who were the closest matches to our caramel and chocolate chip skin tones. Usually we ended up looking more “Drowned and Overdone” than Wet & Wild, but it was because at that time it was easy to feel like no one understood our particular beauty. There was no Instagram or Twitter where we could get a little daily validation of “Black girl, you are beautiful.” The closest we got to that is an Aaliyah video premiere or a monthly subscription to a magazine where the token black girls were all identical and almost always looked more like Lisa Bonet than Lupita Nyong’o.

Today I can literally turn on the TV and see bonafide Cover Girls in Zendaya or Janelle Monae: two very different but distinctly beautiful women of color. Let’s not forget the Amandla Stenbergs, Keke Palmers and Yara Shahidis that my daughter can look at and honestly say, “Mommy they look like me.” And not only are they beautiful, but they’re bringing far more to the table than lip gloss and #OOTD’s. They have a voice, they have opinions, they are changing the conversation. And that my dear, is #BlackGirlMagic at its best. I’ve dedicated most of my career to educating and empowering young women, and now I have one walking around with my DNA that is my living say in what the world becomes.

I remember years ago praying for a world where the diversity of black women would not only be respected, but celebrated and desired. I think there’s room for Amber Rose AND Ava Duvernay and it’s important for my daughter to see that she can be anything from a banker to a ballerina.  It makes me excited for the changing world that she is growing up in where she will no longer be expected to be the authority on gum-popping, twerking, and what type of Virgin Remy is best. For the first time it truly feels like she can be anything. Because pulling hope from the haters and making the limitations disappear is what magical black girls do. No disrespect to all the ladies with mama’s boys, but I couldn’t feel more privileged to be raising a little black girl during this time. You can keep the sugar and spice. I’ll take the sass, class and a little kick-ass: That’s what #BlackGirlMagic is made of.

Murphy’s Law For Babies: Because Despite Your Best Effort, You Won’t Be Prepared

APTOPIX Fashion Kanye West

Even with being a parenting educator, I was able to make it to age 30 with little to no interaction with those cute poop suppliers we call babies. I mean sure the big concepts of parenting are great: “Lead by example.” “Put the phone down and listen to your kids.” “Balance discipline with love.”  But none of that really prepared me for the everyday struggle that is parenting a newborn. And that’s the thing about parenting: No matter how often you babysit your best friend’s kids or how many Pandora charms you’ve been given for best god mother of the year, the truth is parenting is one of those things you have to learn on the job. It’s also something you won’t completely comprehend until you have your own clumsy, drooling creature with nothing in the world to defend themselves with but you and two bottom teeth.

With that said, there are a few things that I’ve been noticing that when it comes to babies WILL go wrong if they CAN go wrong, also known as Murphy’s laws. This becomes especially apparent when your baby becomes mobile. Since my daughter managed to master crawling, she’s made first six months of her life seem like we were on a Royal Caribbean cruise. I mean sure there was some crying and crankiness, but nothing that couldn’t easily be solved with a pacifier, a fresh diaper or food. Now that she’s 8 months and her father and I are using the parental power of the word, “No!”, she’s discovering that just because she can reach it, doesn’t mean she can have it and that has turned into frustrating battle of control. Oh and let’s not forget she’s mobile but has separation anxiety which means I can’t pee or blink without her in my lap, crying or attempting a freefall off the edge of the bed.

Here are a few things that are going to happen inevitably when you have baby.  You won’t be prepared, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try: