Take A Look At My Other Project – It’s All Lurve

Remember in my post about the type of work I’m looking for I said that I enjoy writing about love and relationships, and I previously said that my website was coming soon?  Well I launched it in April, and it’s going alright actually, thanks for asking.  For those who don’t know about it, it’s called It’s All Lurve, and as a lil intro for you, here are some of the stories I have featured:

Dating Rules DebunkedFORGET ALL THE DATING RULES YOU’VE HEARD – HERE’S THE TRUTH! (APPARENTLY)

A new book has come out that basically spits on all the dos and don’ts that women have been fed over the years.

Worst date3ASK THE PEOPLE: WHAT IS THE WORST DATE YOU HAVE BEEN ON, OR THAT WAS SUGGESTED TO YOU?

A friend of a friend met a guy.  When he suggested they go on a date, she agreed and asked what he was thinking they could do.  In all seriousness he said that they could take his dog for a walk in the park.

LDRIN A LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP? HERE ARE 5 QUESTIONS YOU’RE PROBABLY ALWAYS ASKED

Some people just can not get their heads around the concept.

Paul&Jill3HOW THEY LURVE: PAUL & JILL BRUNSON

It’s not necessary to introduce Paul Carrick Brunson, because if you are a regular reader, you’ll already know who he is and what he has to say.  But if you insist…

Dining in the DarkDATE REVIEW:  DINING IN THE DARK!

Dans Le Noir is a restaurant in London, unlike many others.  From what we’ve heard, you eat your meal in complete darkness and you’re not told what it is you’ve eaten until the end.  Imagine!

PCB - It's Complicated LiveWHAT WE LEARNED AT ‘IT’S COMPLICATED – LIVE’

Sunday 3 March 2013 saw online magazine Ivy Munro organise Paul Carrick Brunson’s second visit to London for a relationship conference and mixer.  If you haven’t heard of Paul, where have you been?

Let me know your thoughts!

‘I Had 2 Abortions In 3 Months’

When it comes to the subject of Abortion, I’m ‘pro-choice,’ but with stipulations.  I despise women who use it as a form of birth control, three, four, five times, it makes me mad.  I also don’t agree with women who decide to terminate their healthy pregnancies at the last moment for selfish reasons.

Last night I was watching Panorama on BBC1 which was discussing proposed new legislation regarding abortion laws in Ireland, where it is illegal, and doctors and women could face life in prison for murder if carried out.  It reminded me that I have an unpublished piece I wrote quite a few years ago when the subject of abortion was again in the news.  I had interviewed a woman I worked with, and hoped to get the story published in one of my favourite women’s mags, but it was never picked up.  Now that I have my own blog, where better to share her story with you?  Have a read and let me know your views on the subject:

pro_life_vs_pro_choice_

“I first met Andre* when were working voluntarily at a record company.  We never really spoke to each other, so I had absolutely no idea that he liked me, until we bumped into each other again about a year later when he asked for my number.   Although I was with my boyfriend Rene* at the time, I didn’t see any harm in just chatting to Andre from time to time, especially since Rene wasn’t making the effort he should have been.  Andre was cute, always made me laugh, and made me feel good about myself with his constant compliments.

When Rene and I decided to take a break it wasn’t so bad, because I had Andre there to occupy my mind.  We arranged to go on a date the day before Valentines Day – just a casual night out at the cinema – but he stood me up without a phone call or any kind of warning.  I was so angry that I immediately erased his number.  How dare he make me feel so stupid!

Four months later while out shopping, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise, but the voice I did.  It was Andre.  He apologised continuously, saying that something came up that night and he had forgotten to call and tell me, and it had taken this long to contact me because he was afraid of how angry I would be.  By this time I didn’t really care anymore and had practically forgotten about it.

We spoke on and off for the next few months, until one night he invited me round to his house when no one was home. This was the first time we’d been alone together, so initially we just talked and watched TV.  But eventually lust got the better of us, and before we knew it we were ripping each other’s clothes off and having sex.  It was amazing!  In the midst of it all we didn’t forget to use a condom – especially since we did it twice that night!  I left his house early the next morning, still buzzing about what had happened, but at the same time unsure about what this meant for us.

When my period was a couple of days late, I didn’t really worry about it – it wasn’t the first time and I was getting my usual warning signals – slight cramps and very tender breasts.  But a couple of days became a week and a half, and I started to get nervous.  I called Andre and asked him whether anything had gone wrong in our night of passion. “I don’t think so,” he said. “But to be honest, I don’t really remember.”  His words didn’t fill me with much confidence, so two days later – a week before Christmas – when my period still hadn’t arrived, I decided to visit my local Family Planning Clinic for a pregnancy test.  Hearing the words: “It’s positive, you are pregnant” made my body go hot.  I couldn’t believe it. How could it be?  We used protection.  We were careful.  What went wrong?  The nurse did some routine tests for STIs and any other infections, but the whole time I was just in shock.  I called Andre as soon as I left the clinic and broke the news to him.  My own mind had already been made up – I couldn’t have a child with someone I hardly knew, and as selfish as it sounds, I had no money, no room for a baby, and I was mid-way through a degree.  Fortunately, Andre agreed with my decision; he wasn’t ready to become a parent.  He was trying to forge a successful musical career as a rap artist.  But he told me he would honour his responsibilities and stick by me through whatever lay ahead.

I had to wait until the New Year before my next appointment, and during the Christmas period I don’t think I had ever done so much thinking in my life.  I must have changed my mind a million times, but I knew what I had to do.  Even though I had made my decision, I still didn’t want to do anything to harm the embryo in the meantime, so I kept away from alcohol, and made sure I wasn’t too active.  It made me feel less guilty somehow.

I attended the clinic alone that day, because Andre had made some feeble excuse about being unable to accompany me.  The nurses and consultants asked me a load of questions about my health and my decision, making sure that I wasn’t being forced into it.  They also explained the Vacuum Aspiration procedure I was to undergo, and its risks and medications.  I had an ultrasound scan to see how far along I was, but the nurse turned the screen away from my view just in case it upset me.  By now I was 8 weeks gone, and my termination appointment was made for exactly 2 weeks later.

woman-with-head-in-hands

I only told two people about my pregnancy – my best friend and my closest cousin.  On the day of the abortion my cousin accompanied me to the clinic, because once again Andre let me down (only this time he didn’t give me an excuse, because I couldn’t even get through to him).  If anything, this confirmed to me that I was making the right decision.  If he couldn’t be there for me for one day, what would he be like for the next 18+ years?  Although my appointment was at 9.30am, it took about two and a half hours before it was my turn to go into the operating theatre, during which time we sat in the waiting room with a dozen other women of all ages, reading practically every magazine on the table.  It wasn’t until I was eventually called that I began to get extremely anxious.  I was told to get on to a stretcher, placed outside two huge double doors, and the nurses and doctor prepared me.  The last thing I remember was the doctor asking me questions about my day so far, while the nurse injected the biggest needle I’ve ever seen into my arm, but I don’t know if I replied him. The next thing I knew I was being woken up after what felt like hours of sleep, only to discover 15 minutes had gone by.  I was no longer pregnant.  Instead I had period-like cramps and I could feel myself bleeding.  I was wheeled down to the recovery room, where I could finally have something to drink.  About an hour went by and I was given antibiotics, then my cousin was able to take me home.  I felt guilty about what I had just done, but I think I was also slightly in denial, because I wasn’t as sad as I thought I’d be.  After two weeks of bleeding and a final check up, I was back to normal.  Andre had tried to call me to find out how it went, but I ignored his call. I didn’t need such a weak man in my life, and I didn’t really care what he had to say.

For the next couple of months I carried on working and studying, and not much else was happening, until one day Rene showed up at my house unexpectedly.  I let him in and we spoke for a while, clearing the air.  I knew I didn’t want to get back with him, but I still found him very sexy, so when he started coming on to me, I didn’t resist.  We ended up having sex that night, but as always we used condoms as our protection, except this time it was quite vigorous and the condom ended up coming off inside me.  Everything seemed in to be tact though, so I didn’t worry too much about it.  I was expecting my period about three days later, but when it didn’t come I still wasn’t really worried – I put it down to a change in my cycle.  After a week I started to get the feeling of deja-vu, so I reluctantly decided to go and visit the Family Planning clinic for a test.  There was no way I could be pregnant again, that just doesn’t happen twice in such a short space of time – but the nurse told me differently.  The test came out positive again, and I was in complete shock.  A million things went through my mind at the same time, all topped off with ‘This can’t be happening again!’  I told the nurse that I needed a night to think about what I would do, so she told me to visit the clinic the next day.

My life’s situation was no different to the way it was when I was pregnant the first time round, so I knew deep down that I would definitely not be having this child, but this time I didn’t tell a soul.  I went back to the clinic the following day and booked an appointment for my first consultation at the Abortion Clinic.  I told the doctor about my previous termination, and he in turn explained the options opened to me, one of them being non-surgical abortion – the Abortion Pill.  As I had already been through one surgical procedure, I decided to go for the pill, which I was told could be taken within nine weeks of pregnancy – I was just over 3 weeks gone.

Two days later I was back at the clinic to start the procedure.  I was given two tablets (called Mifepristone) to take orally in front of the doctor.  He then gave me two bottles each containing another two tablets, (known as Misoprostol) which I was to insert into my vagina 24-48 hours later.  I didn’t start to bleed (or miscarry) until about four hours after taking these tablets.  It was like having a heavy period with very bad cramps and nausea.  I was upset about what was happening, but at the same time it was too late.

I haven’t had sex since then, mainly because I don’t want to.  On one hand it’s because I’m not in a relationship at the moment, but on the other hand I’m nervous about what might happen.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that I could have been a mother by now, and I worry that I may not be able to conceive when I am ready.  People may think I have been irresponsible in my actions, but I would just say that everyone is different – what may seem as the right decision to one person may not be the same for the next.

* Names have been changed

New Beginnings

Spring time is considered the season of change, the time for a fresh start, a “spring-clean.”  We’re so used to using New Year’s Day as the date we decide to start afresh, and we always say that’s when we’ll give up smoking, we’ll lose weight, we’ll find a new job – the list is endless.  It always feels easier to use a landmark as the date that things will start to be different – a Monday, the first of a month, a birthday, and especially the 1st of January.

Realistically though, if we want to make a change, we don’t have to wait until the start of a season.  We should do it now.  I realised it last year and made a change of my own.  I was very unhappy in my day job, and decided to quit to pursue my journalism dream.  I was working in administration at an accountancy firm  and becoming frustrated because it was nowhere near what I wanted career-wise, so after a lot of thinking and a little deliberation with friends, I decided to take a risk and make the leap.  I didn’t have any concrete plans, just knew that come Christmas I wanted to be out of there, and that’s just what I have done.  The death of my cousin also helped me put into perspective that despite the fear of the unknown, life really is too short not to at least attempt to achieve something we want.

It takes a whole world of reasons for people to decide to change something, and more often than not it is sparked by a certain event in their lives.

Depression

Adam Brown:  “Back in 2008, I was recovering from Meningitis and after that it was clear that I needed to change my life.  I was working in a high pressure job in IT support for a finance company.  I decided to make a radical change in my life, so I moved city (from London to Bristol) and changed job.  As a lifestyle I stumbled from relationship to relationship, looking for love and not finding it.  My family was (and still is) a wreck. A father with a alcoholic past has caused me much hurt.  I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and back then I did have thoughts of suicide and self harm. I was also unhappy in my job – a very bad manager.

The turning point came when I found God.  My turn to faith has changed my life beyond measure.  I was invited to a gathering by a friend at the time, just a small church, nothing fancy.  I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go along, but it was better than staying at home, as there would have been a large chance I would have hurt myself.  The speaker was talking on a passage in Luke, and it really resonated with me. It was then I decided to give my life to God to change my life.

If you want to make a change in your life I would say take slow steps. Think about your life and what you would like to change.  Keep your goals achievable and clear. Do not beat yourself up about things that have happened or chances that have not been taken – you can’t change the past, only the future. If you want something, get it. Do not be afraid.”

Loss

Eddie Ofei:  I changed the direction of my life in all aspect – friends, career, and lifestyle.  My parents split up when I was young, and my dad left to go and live in Ghana. My mum was left to raise my brother, sister and I alone and so growing up was quite unstable in terms of us being settled in one home. 

Although I finally graduated from university in 2008, I was unemployed for many years, and so was generating income from clandestine ways.  I was financially comfortable, but I wasn’t happy, because I felt that I wasn’t fulfilling my full potential, and I knew I could do better if I was around more ambitious people who wanted to make something of themselves, instead of the circle I was in.  If I wasn’t careful it would have only been a matter of time before I’d end up in jail or dead. 

The turning point was fuelled by the deaths of so many close friends.  At one point I lost three friends in one year.  I believe I am still here for a reason, and you definitely have to quit while you’re ahead.  The kind of people I am around nowadays are not from the same background as me.  They are all mainly highly educated “goody-goody” types, who haven’t really experienced the situations I have. 

I now live in Ghana, and import and distribute commodities – I wouldn’t change it for the world!  It took me a while to get used to being around such different people, but humans are made to adapt.  My stress levels are minimal.  I would tell someone who is contemplating making a change to take the leap and don’t look back. Grow some balls!  It’s better to shoot and miss than to not shoot at all, and always wonder what could have been.  You have to forget all the “ifs” and the “buts”, because without sacrifice you will get nowhere in life.

First published in Candy Mag UK, June 2011

Being a Stay-At-Home Dad

All too often we hear about men who are deadbeat dads, those who only send pittance in child support once the CSA have caught up with them, or those who don’t even recognise the children they have created.  If there are positive stories, they usually come in the form of men who are trying to get to know their children, but are being denied access, and a few about rare single fathers.  But there is another type of dad we should celebrate as we hear almost nothing about them, and that is the stay-at-home dad.

As reported in The Guardian online in June, Britain has around 600,000 stay-at-home dads, and more who freelance or work part-time to help look after their children.  Richard Huie is one such dad, and here he describes a typical day caring for his two-and-a-half year old daughter, in a role that is predominantly seen as a mother’s job.

“Originally I decided that I would quit my full time job and be a stay at home dad.  However when I went and gave in my notice, my boss suggested part time work to give me the best balance and to keep my foot in.  Financially it was better that I was at home to look after Leo, our daughter, full time.  My partner and I both strongly felt that we wanted one of us to be there to bring up Leo, as we wanted to have a child and not just pass her into childcare.  After the offer of part time work, we also decided that Leo would benefit from a day and a half at nursery purely for social reasons.

“On a typical day I get up at around 7am, either by myself or woken by Leo.  We get washed and dressed and go downstairs for breakfast.  Usually breakfast is followed by art activities, gardening or straight out for shopping.  We don’t do a “big” shop but shop daily in small batches.  We usually have lunch by 11.30/ 12pm, unless we go swimming, which we do on a weekly basis.  If there are no plans for meeting friends, Leo will have a nap for 1.5 – 2 hours max.  This allows me to do the cleaning, washing, cooking and ironing.  Depending on what time Leo gets up, we’ll try and make the 1 o’clock club or the park.  We try to meet friends after the park/ 1 o’clock club till late in the afternoon or just on our own.  We would have cycled somewhere so would need to cycle back during the late afternoon.  This also gives me an opportunity to catch up with shopping.

“If we arrive home in the earlier parts of the afternoon and there isn’t any food cooked, I’ll cook from fresh, otherwise we’ll get back by about 6pm for dinner.  I try to ensure that Leo has dinner by 6.30, so that we can have a bath from around 7pm.  Leo has a daily bath due to her eczema with a special bath oil. It’s good to allow her to have a soak for a while.  Usually Julia, my partner, is home between 7.20pm and 7.40pm, so I’ll aim to keep Leo up so she can give her the bath and get her ready for bed.  I like to ensure that Leo is in bed by about 8pm, so that Julia can get some time in the evening with her.  Once Leo is asleep I’ll clean the bath, wash up and tidy up.  By 9pm I’m knackered and will enjoy wasting away on the couch!

“It’s a pleasure to be able to do what I do.  I get to sit and be a central part of her growth.  I see her changing and developing daily which is an amazing privilege.  I feel it’s important to do stuff.  If I didn’t then I’d find it really tough.  I try to ensure that we get out each day and do something.  There are many things to do from walks in the park, museums, 1 o’clock clubs, cycling places and getting around the shops.  I strongly feel that a regular routine helps us both get through the day.  Simple activities like painting, coloring, digging, role-play and reading help.  Things like this make me feel really pleased that we organized it, so that I can spend so much time with Leo.  Time with your kid is priceless!

“I definitely feel that other people look at me and question my role as a ‘man’, but it doesn’t make me feel any less of a man.  The doctor recently asked: “Where is the mother? How come you always bring her?” A couple of our local shop keepers have also asked.  Some women look at me with concern in their eyes like I’m just about to do something totally wrong.  Countless questioning eyes and opinions from health workers delving into a situation wondering how like how I can best assess the health of Leo.  I get random women on the street telling me to make sure I do this or that.  Most people seem to be jealous and very envious of my time and relationship with Leo.  Many don’t realise just how challenging a day is, mainly non-parents, and think that all I do is chill and relax.

“I would 100% recommend other dads to experience being a stay-at-home dad.  We have kids to have kids.  From my early experiences, children change on a daily basis and so many changes are easily missed.  I look ahead and see that in a year’s time, by the time Leo is at full time school, I can get back to working full time.  Being part of her early experiences, I feel that I really know my child.”

Male Depression

To say “I’m depressed” is quite simple.  You didn’t get the job you applied for, or you’re temporarily broke, or you’ve just had an argument with your partner.  All these feelings of upset are usually summed up by the word ‘depressed.’  But what many people fail to realise is that depression is actually a disease of the mind.  With true depression, the symptoms last continuously for at least two weeks, and affect the sufferer’s daily activities.

The World Health Organisation defines depression as “a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.”  It can affect anyone at any time, yet we don’t really seem to hear about it within the black community, and especially among black males, since they are notoriously known for not speaking about their feelings for fear of appearing weak.

Don, 30, is a happily married father of one, who acknowledges that he suffered a form of depression during his teens, when everything in his life began to go wrong.

“It started when I was 14 years old.  My parents separated while my mum was heavily pregnant with their fourth child, and I found it difficult to digest.  In that same week I had been playing basketball after school with friends, and as I jumped to catch the ball, someone pushed me from behind.  As I landed I heard a click in my back and I fell awkwardly.  I was in constant pain after that, but I refused to go to the doctor, because even up till now I have never been a fan of them.  The pain I suffered meant that sometimes I would have to call my mum to help me sit up in bed.  I was dependent on her.

“When I turned 15, my parents were still separated, but my back pain wasn’t as severe – not because it was improving, but more to do with the fact that I found a way to live with it.  At the time I thought my life couldn’t get any worse, but I was wrong.  During another basketball game with friends one rainy day, I lost my step while running and fell over, which caused me to cut my fingers, but I just ignored it.  Later that week the cut became infected, so I reluctantly went to the doctor who couldn’t understand why I was developing black bumps on my hands.  He advised me to just leave it as he couldn’t do anything.  I took it upon myself to use a needle and scissors to pick and cut at it, but it just grew back bigger, and I eventually counted 24 all over my hands.  I tried to forget about it, which was difficult every time I washed my hands or tried to write or shook a hand.  It also affected my confidence with girls, as I didn’t want them to get too close in case they spotted my sores.”

Don’s confidence sank to a low, but he attempted to seek solace in the one thing that came naturally to him – sport.  In 1996, at the age of 16, he received a letter from Charlton Athletic FC, inviting him to try out for them after being scouted while playing for his school.

“I was over the moon.  I felt there was light at the end of the tunnel.  The football pitch was one place I could forget all my problems.”

The following day, while practising his skills in a match during his school lunch break, an opponent tackled Don awkwardly.

“Straight away I knew what had happened, because I heard a snap.  My ankle had broken, and I could see the bone sticking out through my skin.  I was taken to hospital where they operated, and then told me that I wouldn’t be able to rotate my ankle the way I could before.  From that moment I felt my whole world come to an end… I wanted to die.”

For almost a year Don sank into depression, but kept his feelings hidden.  “I hated my life, I didn’t go to school for months, I felt weak, and I wasn’t eating or sleeping.  There were many times I would limp over to the River Thames with my crutches and contemplate ending my life by just leaping over, and one particular day I was actually convinced I would go through with it, but I chickened out at the last minute.  My mother never knew how I felt, since I was able to pretend I was fine, but I’m sure she knew something was wrong.  I felt that way for at least the nine months it took me to learn to walk without the crutches, but my chances of playing for Charlton were well and truly over.”

Although Don never sought professional help with the aid of anti-depressants or therapy, he credits his mum with introducing him to church and his Christian faith with helping him to come to terms with the events in his life.

Cynics have dismissed depression as mere laziness, believing that often some people just get into a lazy rut, then become used to doing nothing, labelling it ‘depressed’ to justify their laziness.  Could this be true?  After all our quality of life is better than it was for our parents and grandparents, who weren’t exposed to the luxuries we currently enjoy, rather having to physically graft harder to provide a life for their families.  Or is it more the case that we set ourselves extremely, almost unattainable goals, and when they are not reached, our minds are unable to cope?

The reality is that depression is an illness that exists and can strike anyone.  It is not a sign of weakness, but can rather be triggered by certain risk factors, including inherited genetics (having a parent or grandparent who was a sufferer), the death of a loved one, drug use, and more common factors such as stress.

If you feel you or someone you know is suffering from depression, the advice to follow is:

Don’t bottle your feelings up, talk to people about how you feel.

Try and keep as active as possible, as sitting and constantly thinking about your problems can make them seem worse.

Do not increase your alcohol intake by drowning your sorrows.  It will only make the depression worse.

Remember that depression is an illness and not a case of simply ‘pulling yourself together.’  Talk to your GP.  Depression is very common.

First published in Candy Mag UK, May 2010

What Makes Good Hair?

Yesterday I attended a special screening of Chris Rock’s docu-film Good Hair, at The Ritzy cinema in Brixton, South London.  The evening also featured a should-have-been-much-longer Q&A session with Mr Rock himself.

This film is practically old news in the U.S., as it has been out since at least October 2009, but I guess we should be thankful for small mercies.  It looks at what black/African American women go through to achieve their desired hairstyles, and was prompted by Chris’ young daughter walking into the house one day and asking him, “Daddy how come I don’t have good hair?”

I really enjoyed this movie.  It is funny, entertaining and informative, and features appearances from Nia Long, Raven Symone, Salt N Pepa, Ice-T, KRS-One, Eve, Maya Angelou, Reverend Al Sharpton, Melyssa Ford, Andre Harrell and Lauren London among others.    He looks at the most popular ways in which most black women choose carry their hair, predominantly relaxed or weaved.  With relaxer we learn its scientific name – Sodium Hydroxide.  That just sounds scary.  Imagine having a conversation with your friend: “Hey, what are you up to on Saturday?”  “Oh I’m just going to the salon to put Sodium Hydroxide in my hair.”  And for those of you who don’t already know, yes it is as painful as it sounds.  We are even shown the damage that the chemicals in a relaxer do to a soda can.  After some hours the can is transparent, and after a day it is completely burnt off.  We also saw Chris visit the site of the Dudley’s – a black owned company in North Carolina who provide hair products for the black community (one of very few hair companies in America that are black owned), and we watched the process of relaxer, aka, The Creamy Crack, being made.

Chris Rock with actress Nia Long

Actress Raven Symone sporting her beloved weave

I think the saddest moments of the film are hearing that a woman once approached a hair stylist asking what relaxer she can use on her 18-month old daughter, because she doesn’t want to deal with her hair.  Chris also chats to another woman who is at a salon getting her 6 year old grand-daughter’s hair relaxed, a little girl who doesn’t enjoy having her hair relaxed, but advises Chris that his daughter should also have hers done because “you’re supposed to.”  Dear oh dear…

A young girl having hair relaxer applied

On the subject of weaves and hair extensions, Chris visits Chennai in India, one source of human hair extensions.  Women there are sacrificing their hair to their God, not knowing that it’s rather being used to make someone else rich.  We see hair being sorted, cleaned and added to wefts, ready to be shipped around the world.  To me, seeing the hair being willingly given up kind of reduced any feeling of guilt I may have as someone who wears hair extensions, but we are also told that sometimes women’s hair is ‘stolen’ while they sleep, or cut off without their knowledge while they watch a film at the cinema.  Imagine the cheek!

Throughout the film we see preparations being made for the Bonner Brothers hair show, which was basically more about ‘show’ and less about hair.

Funny moments come courtesy of the featured celebs.  Some such as:

Paul Mooney – “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If it’s nappy, they’re not happy.”

Eve (on her hair extensions) – “This hair is 100% human hair and it’s even been prayed over” (Does that make it Halal hair Eve?)

Chris:  How old were you when you first got your relaxer?

Maya Angelou: Oh god, I was about seventy.

Chris: Seventy? You went your whole life…

Maya Angelou:  Not my whole life, I’m still alive!

The Question and Answer session lasted all of about 15-20 minutes, and that’s only because some people forced their opportunity to get their question heard.  I think the organisers should have had a bit more compassion for this ‘special’ event.  Nonetheless, Chris answered with honesty, bearing in mind he’s not a hair specialist, just someone who made a film out of curiosity.  My favourite moment was when a lady at the back of the room asked why he didn’t make the film focus on the positive hairstyles, like those who ‘locs’ (natural dreadlocks) their hair, and Chris said he didn’t have any questions about that, he respects and admires those hairstyles. “It would be like making a film about someone who doesn’t drink,” he said.  Agreed!

A Blindin’ Drinking Game

Do you remember the days when drinking games consisted of playing – for example – a board game, and every time an action of your choice happened, the ‘unfortunate’ person had to take a shot of alcohol?  Or maybe the days when we just had tequila shots with the salt and lemon, and that was enough to get us in that nice and tipsy place, and any drink after that may just have taken us that little bit further?  Well it seems those types of games are old hat, and there’s a new challenge in town that you would not believe…

…Vodka Eyeballing.  Yes, Vodka Eyeballing.  It’s exactly as it sounds.  Vodka in your eyeballs.  Apparently this is the latest craze to sweep through Britain’s universities, and is said to have started in the U.S. when barmaids performed tricks for more tips.  It consists of  pouring a shot (or bottle, your choice) of vodka into your eyes, which supposedly induces the feeling of drunkenness and provides an instant high.  Devotees who spoke to the Daily Mail claim that this is because it passes easily through the mucous membrane and enters the bloodstream directly through veins at the back of the eye.  But medical experts have not backed this theory, saying that those who participate in this practice are usually already drunk and just convincing themselves that the eyeballing is making a difference. So far reported cases have seen some young people with eyes that are constantly watering, which in turn run the risk of causing the loss of sight.

I’m not actually sure when the last time was I heard of anything so stupid.  Are students nowadays so hell-bent on having a good time, that they risk their health even further than the damage that is more-than-likely already happening to their liver?  I for one am not into self-harming in any way, and that is what this is.  This craze is another way for them to score points with their peers, showing a competitive side that probably didn’t really exist in the first place, and if we want to look deep into it, it’s rather a lack of self-esteem that would push anyone to want to partake in this nonsense.  Some of these students will now graduate with more than the grade they bargained for…

Boy Toys – To play or not to play?

On a recent night in I watched the DVD ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back.’  When I originally watched this movie back in 1998, I don’t think I was at a place to fully appreciate what the storyline was about.  It was another black film with eye-candy (though Taye Diggs doesn’t do it for me as much as Tyrese or Morris would have).  But watching it this time round made me actually think more about older women/younger men relationships.  More so, because I recently met a guy who is as hot as they come – we’ll call him The Body – but when I realized he is younger than me, I felt a little uncomfortable.

I have always had problems with guys being younger than me.  I think it’s because I have two younger brothers, and the thought that my ‘man’ could be my brother’s mate is very off-putting.  But there are plenty of women out there who don’t share my discomfort.  Demi Moore married Ashton Kutcher, where there is a 15-year age gap.  Guy Ritchie was 10 years younger than Madonna, and at the age of 50 she is currently dating a 22-year old.  Nicole Scherzinger was ‘29’ when she started dating 22-year old Lewis Hamilton in 2007.  Vivica Fox famously dated and temporarily lost her mind over 50 Cent, and even Angela Bassett’s real life husband is younger than her, though it’s not as bad as her character Stella, whose new love was 20 years old – exactly half her age.

Angela Bassett and husband Courtney B. Vance

Admittedly at six years younger than me, the gap between The Body and I is not as wide as those previously mentioned, but unfortunately that doesn’t ease my discomfort.

Kay is 30 and happily dates below her age.  “I actually prefer younger men, in all honesty.  I have no problems at all being in a relationship with a younger man.  As long as they are mature thinkers, then what the hell?!  Life is too short to be deliberating when you can be having fun.  Plus, the older you get, the more you should experiment and increase the options available to you.  It’s a sad fact, but men die before women, so if you have a younger man you’ll get to have him around for much longer!”

Thirty –year old Angel disagrees.  “It depends on the age gap, but I personally don’t think there’s anything sexy about dating a younger man.  It’s hard work moulding the ones of age, let alone trying to explain things to younger guys.  Aren’t women mentally a few years ahead of men anyway?  That just sounds like too much hard work!”

Madonna with 22 year-old toyboy Jesus Luz

This leads me to my next point – if we women are more mature than men our age, why not rather go and find someone older so that he is, at the very least, on the same level?

“Age has got nothing to do with whether a man is clued up or not,” say Eka, 32.  “It is rather his life experiences.  If a man isn’t where he needs to be spiritually, financially, emotionally or mentally then it doesn’t matter.  I’ve met guys older than me who were hopeless, and likewise with the younger.  If you’re looking, just find a man who’s decent, regardless of his age.”

In the case of The Body, communication has been made clear as to what I am looking for, but it seems he may not be quite there yet, which adds more fuel to my fire.  He just wants to have ‘fun’.  Don’t get me wrong, I want the same, but I am at a point where I want to have a different type of fun.  Does that make me boring?

Darryl, 26, has had predominantly older women relationships – some as much as eight to ten years his senior.  “The thing is to find a balance.  When dating someone younger you run the risk of them behaving like a juvenile and having no sense of priority.  But if you date someone too old, they may be at a stage where they want things that you’re not ready for, for example kids if you have none.  You know – ‘biological clock’ and all that.  Older women can teach you a lot though.”

According to the majority of men spoken to, one appeal of an older woman is the status it will bring among his peers – the bragging rites.  A younger man will appear bigger if he is known to be sleeping with an older woman, and will also become a focus of desire among her circle friends.  Another attraction is the stability it brings.  Older women have their lives sorted, know what they want and know how to get it.  There is also an element of nurture, one not too distant from that given by a mother.

My biological clock ticks, but the sound is not yet at a deafening level.  It doesn’t hurt to try new things in a relationship, whatever type of relationship it may be, so I might just go there, do that, and wear the t-shirt.  I’ll let you know if it fits.

First published in Candy Mag UK, 2009

Baby-Mother vs. Single Mother

In recent years there has been a slight pattern that reoccurs in certain relationships I have had with men, that ultimately causes me to put an end to it, because I find that the hassle simply is not worth it… and this would be their baby mothers.

Now I am not saying that the fact that these guys had children before being with me is the sole reason for our break-ups (let’s be honest, it’s also partly my fault for picking the wrong men).  But that same reason is why I often have to reluctantly give in to a situation that causes friction, because realistically which man would put his girlfriend before the mother of his child?

Part of me wonders whether I am being unfair in labelling some unwed mothers this way.  After all, aren’t they just single women doing right by their children by trying to have the child’s father in his or her life?  Or is the man to blame for the way he treats both parties?  As someone who is yet to have a child of my own, I am just trying to understand the behaviours displayed by some of the women who do.

When you hear the term ‘baby mother’ does it come with positive or negative denotations? Is there a lot more to being unmarried with a child that makes someone a single mother?  If you are a mother raising your child or children on your own, do your actions determine how people view you?

According to Wikipedia, the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Baby mama’ as: the mother of a man’s child who is not his wife or (in most cases) his current or exclusive partner.”  A ‘single parent’ is defined as: “a parent who cares for one or more children without the assistance of another parent in the house.”  But nowadays it seems people have their own further definitions of what a baby mother actually is, and what separates the two types, with words like ‘lazy,’ ‘jealous,’ and ‘ghetto’ thrown into the mix.

Natalie, 29, has an eight-year-old son, and considers herself a single mother.  “If anyone called me a baby mother I would slap them.  I am a single mother.  I solely take care of my son.  I buy his clothes, feed him, take him to school, help him with his homework, provide him with a home, and generally care for his well being.  His father has absolutely no input in his life, and that has been his choice.  I’m sure that if he even dared to mention me or my son, he would say that I am his baby mother.  I have experienced what I think a baby mother is, with guys I have been out with and their exes, and that isn’t me.  Baby mothers are crazy and have no life, so they allow the father of their child to take advantage of them, and then cause drama when there’s no need.  They call other women’s phones, threatening them with violence if they don’t leave ‘their man’ alone, and some of them go as far as to try and have the guy arrested, because he won’t be with them.  I have never behaved in such a way.”

In the U.S the word ‘drama’ almost instantly follows the term ‘baby mama,’ and not just because it rhymes.  “I don’t have any kids,” says Mikki, who lives in New Jersey, “but from what I know a baby mama is a woman who has a child out of wedlock, and most of the time she thinks she is in a relationship with the man, but she isn’t.  Some baby mamas resort to using the child as a weapon to get what they want from the man, and if he is in another relationship, she may try and cause trouble which then becomes ‘baby mama drama.”

For an example of a single mother, I don’t have to look very far.  My own mother became a single mother of three when my father left during my teenage years.  Watching her work as hard as she did, and still provide my brothers and me with pocket and lunch money has made her the strongest person I know.  She could easily have done her best to cause trouble with my father and his new relationship, by demanding money and threatening to withhold any contact he had with us.  Instead she held her head high and did what she had to do for her children.

Not everyone feels the ‘baby mother’ label is all bad.  Sammy, 37, is a father of eight (with different mothers), and has experienced the stereotypical behaviours previously mentioned.  “Personally I think that title is okay, but others may not agree,” he says.  “It just means ‘the mother of a baby’.  I would call a girlfriend who has my child my ‘baby mother,’ but they usually don’t like to be addressed that way.  At the same time I do think there is a difference between a baby mother and a single mother.  A single mother is self-reliant, but a baby mother still has eyes for the father and still thinks she has a chance.  She sometimes gives in to him, whereas a single mother does not care if he’s around, she just gets on with it.”

Ladies let’s come to an agreement.  If you are currently not a woman with a child, and you should happen to find yourself in the position of unwed / unattached mother, simply do what you have to do for yourself and your child while displaying a sense of decorum.  No one is saying that single motherhood is easy, but rest assured there are enough stresses to deal with without adding the negative opinions of others to it.  Those of you who may recognise yourself as a ‘baby mother,’ stop and think about whether the jealous behaviour is really worth it.  No man deserves to be put on a pedestal if he is not putting you up there too, and if he is telling you one thing and saying something else to another woman – she is not to blame!

First published in Candy Mag UK, 2009