The Homie Box

On Tuesday, I was a guest on Kareem Taylor’s live radio show “PillowTalk” discussing “The Homie Box,” that friends with benefits-type of situation women sometimes unknowingly get mixed up in without realizing that they’re not really benefiting from the pseudo-relationship at all.

On the show, I talked about what the homie box is, the difference between that and being friend-zoned, and how to avoid getting yourself caught out there in one of these types of situations.

Listen to the show here and tell me what you think!

Getting Out Of The Homie Box

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So Technically I Have Daddy Issues — Or At Least I Used To

I’ve never been one hundred percent behind the whole “blood is thicker than water” saying and I stand completely behind the idea that being family doesn’t mean you‘re exempt from getting cut out of my life. No one ever questions people’s decisions to break ties with friends who drain them or eliminate men from their lives who are no good, but for some reason when said person is a parent, the idea is suddenly taboo, forsaken, perhaps even sinful if you believe you must always honor thy father and mother. But cutting my father out of my life is exactly what I decided to do a couple of weeks ago.

I always suspected this day would come. I envisioned it, dreamed about what I would say, made up an entire monologue in my head even, yet secretly knew I’d frankly never have the balls – or so I thought – to say any of those things, until one day I did. I knew the time had come when I’d sent my father an email asking him why a payment he’d committed to making didn’t go through. Essentially, I asked what was up and whether something had changed that I was unaware of. Rather than give me a straight answer he danced in circles like he was practicing the waltz telling me he was thinking about how he demonstrates love within our family relationship, suggested that I do some introspection regarding how I demonstrate love to my family, and added if I wanted to have a real conversation let him know. I basically read that as an “eff you, holla at me if you have beef” response and proceeded to let him know just how I felt about the love he so arrogantly thought he’d demonstrated to me all my life in a 1,768-word email because I’m a writer and that’s how I communicate best.

To be clear, my reaction wasn’t just about this one, passive aggressive incident, it was about a pattern of behavior that I had had enough of. And so, after running down all the times I’d felt let down, and his constant lack of consideration for how his actions affect me (like not doing something he said he would), and all the guilt trips he’d taken me on from the time I was a little girl with no heads up that I was packing for baggage I’d be carrying as an adult, I was in Keyshia Cole mode. I just wanted it to be over. I was confident in my decision and frankly didn’t even want a response from him because I knew he would only confirm that I was making the right choice. And sure enough that’s exactly what he did by way of a 90-word note that suggested I should get therapy to find the peace that surpasses all understanding and that I could never dismiss him as my father. Or so he thought.

The thing is, I’d long accepted that the man who contributed half of my DNA makeup was not and never could be a father, and at my age I’m too old for that. The daddy lessons and experiences I missed have already shaped me into the woman I am and I really see no need for that type of figure in my life at this point. Had he always been there, it would be different. But to try to catch someone up on 27 years of a life they missed and then rely on them as some sort of source of wisdom when they can’t even acknowledge their own wrongdoing isn’t something I’m interested in. And clearly neither is he, from the response he sent me when I laid out our relationship for him in black and white. I didn’t go on an emotional rant; I didn’t even call him the names I normally do in my head. I provided a chronological, factual, and logical list that I thought he could appreciate. It included the times I’d been disappointed and shunned and the ways he didn’t fulfill his obligations as a parent while simultaneously trying to blame me for the fact that we don’t have a relationship. The bottom line, from my view, was that it was his job to establish that bond when I was a child, particularly when he lived in a different city. But instead he was too busy trying to prove that I wasn’t his to actually find out who Brande is and how he could get to know her, then taking credit for my accomplishments whenever he could as if he had anything to do with them.

Read the rest on MadameNoire.

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I Don’t Feel Like Being Black Today

I know this post is probably going to come back to haunt me in some way, but hey, wouldn’t be the first time. Allow me to clarify that in saying I don’t feel like being black, it doesn’t mean I want to be white (or yellow or red), it’s just that right now I don’t feel like having an in-depth discussion about the complexity of who I am. I don’t feel like being critiqued. I don’t feel like being picked apart for my hair texture, my skin tone, the size of my nose, my dialect. I don’t feel like being under a myopic microscope. I don’t feel like over-thinking my behavior, and I damn sure don’t feel like explaining it either. I don’t feel like being damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I don’t feel like chronicling the type of household I grew up in or my socioeconomic status so someone can get a better glimpse of the simple life of a black women. I don’t feel like worrying about upholding stereotypes or breaking other ones down.  I don’t feel like being a statistic or trying not to become one. I don’t feel like exploring my reality or trying to downplay it. I just want to be.

When you write about black issues all day every day, it can be hard to turn off your race radar. Eventually, every time somebody looks at you sideways it’s becomes a “because your black” thing, when really they just need you to move your big ol’ purse out the way so they can grab that seat on the train.

It’s overwhelming to constantly discuss, observe, and witness so many problems plaguing the black community and not have the slightest clue how to fix any of it. Exploring race, culture, sexism, racism, discrimination, and just plain hate on a daily becomes akin to watching Roots, Rosewood, A Time to Kill, The Help, The Ghosts of Mississippi, and any other racially charged movie you could think of in one setting. It would be the saddest movie marathon ever, and by the end of it, you might find yourself in a beret pumping your black power fist ready to set some ish off, or crippled by the pessimistic view that some things are just never going to change.

Then you wonder if by writing about “the troubles of this world,” as Mahalia Jackson might say, are you making the problems bigger than they are, or constituting a necessary dialogue? Some days you write about things and think, it can’t be this deep. Other days you uncover the racial complexities of a topic and wonder how is it that nobody else cares to scratch beneath the surface? Most days you just want to put something out without the words, black, hair, misogyny, racism, discrimination, hater, bitter, or angry even coming into the discussion. You want a story about meeting a new guy to be just that, not turn into a trilogy on the estranged relationship between black men and women. You want getting your hair done not to turn into a natural versus relaxed debate. You want wearing make-up to not determine that you’ve subscribed to euro-centric standards of beauty. Alas, you want a utopian society where racial and gender differences still exist, they just don’t monopolize every aspect of your being, from what kind of food is socially acceptable to eat in the office, to who you bring home to meet the parents. You want to be black without the weight of Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, James Earl Ray, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Jim Crow, Trayvon Martin, and Barack Obama on your shoulders. But, that ain’t gone happen today.

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It’s All in a Name on the BBC

Earlier this week, I wrote an article on Madame Noire titled, “Black vs. African American: Do You Have a Preference?” The piece was basically about the resurgent movement by some in the community who think it’s time to do away with the label of African American and strictly be racially defined by the term black.

BBC noticed the article and today I was asked me to be apart of a segment on World Have Your Say discussing whether this label matters or not. I took the same stance that I voiced on Madame Noire and basically said both terms are applicable and there’s no need to try to disassociate from your African heritage by discontinuing use of this label for black/African Americans and I think I stated my point pretty well. You can listen in on the discussion here and tell me what you think. The segment starts around the 39-minute mark. Enjoy and share your thoughts!

World Have Your Say Feb 15, 2012

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Is Your Perception of the Opposite Sex Based on Reality or Internet Responses?

The more I’ve written the less faith I have in the divide between black men and women ever being repaired. The slightest mention of a black man doing X or a black woman doing Y in an article can cause a spiral of hate-filled, generalized, I-don’t-need-you comments that remove attention from the true topic being discussed and place it on what’s wrong with every member of the opposite sex. And every time I observe this situation and read the anger in these responses, all I can think is where are you getting your information, blogs or real life?

About a year or so ago I had to take a serious break from visiting black websites. Everything I read basically told me I had no chance in life, particularly when it came to relationships, and the information was honestly starting to weigh on me. Despite understanding the internet balls phenomenon, it was still clear to me that even though a person might not say in person what they were bold enough to type online, that didn’t mean they didn’t really think and feel what their message portrayed. So if a commenter used derogatory language to describe their hatred for a woman like me, in some ways I internalized it and the paranoia followed me into real-life interractions where I wondered if the people around me had the same thoughts as these internet instigators but just weren’t saying it.

It wasn’t until late last year that I had an epiphany of sorts. I had come back to my apartment after being harassed by one of my neighbors who told me he was going to keep bothering me until I gave him the time of day. That’s when I realized my real life experience just didn’t match with the hate men online said they had for women like me. Let internet trolls tell it, an educated woman who could stand to lose a few pounds and hasn’t had the best dating history in the world is trash they wouldn’t even bother to look at, but in reality, every time I left the house a man was trying to get my attention. It could have been something as simple as “hey sis” or a call for my number or someone telling me to smile. But I remember in all of my why-do-men-always-have-to-say-something-to-a-woman attitude, I thought, black men do still love black women and black men still love me.

This is why I have a hard time when the generalizations about black men and women turning their back on one another and not wanting to be with each other get under my skin. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve said before, I’m no “let’s go black man” cheerleader in the sense that they can do no wrong. I’ve been known to cue up Trina every now and then and I certainly have my issues with some of their choices, but when a nod to a black man’s success conjures up a “he’ll probably go get a white woman like the rest of them” response, or a suggestion that doing X,Y,Z, could help you attract a man is met with “I don’t need a black man to step all over me, I’m going to find a white man to put a ring on it,” something is wrong. Why so much anger? Everyone comes with a little baggage but the price for bringing that crap with you isn’t even worth the trip. At some point you have to accept the 1,2,3,4,5 men that did you wrong at some point aren’t totally representative of the whole race—particularly when evidence to the contrary is staring you in the face.  The same goes for men.

I think some of us just want to hold on to our anger or incite it in other people and unfortunately social networks and blog sites have provided a huge platform to spread it. What people don’t realize is their not just spreading anger, they’re spreading ideas and stereotypes that some readers are taking for face value and using to build grudges against the opposite sex as well. If we complain when white people do it why are we doing it to ourselves?

It’s OK to speak from the heart and from experience with passion but next time someone gets ready to throw out a negative comment about a black man or black woman, I wish they would think about whether what they’re saying really reflects the experiences they’ve had in their own lives or is what they’re about to say solely based on perceptions they’ve developed of the opposite sex as a result of internet banter.

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The Myths

In December, I had the pleasure of being interviewed along with two other women for a friend’s film project on the myths of black women. Each of us discussed some of the stereotypes that have affected us professionally—-especially the myth of the angry black woman (shout out to Michelle Obama). Below is just a rough cut of the film, but check it out anyway and tell me what you think. Hopefully I’ll have the full feature soon.

Special shout out to up and coming filmmaker Dana Butler.

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I’m a Boss

I didn’t consider myself my own boss until my best friend had to break it down for me the other night. I was going off about a few comments I’d received from people who assumed I’d just been twiddling my thumbs for days on end since quitting my job, and for someone who prides herself on her work ethic, the remarks were pretty much a slap in the face. One person asked why I was tired since I have no responsibilities, and when I was telling someone else why I hadn’t taken care of X,Y, and Z, they asked why not because it’s not like I work all day. Wanna bet?

So as I went on and on and on again to my best friend about how nobody understands what I do and I consequently hate everybody in the world, she explained the real issue to me: People don’t understand what it is to be your own boss.

I didn’t think of myself as my own boss mainly because I still have editors to answer to. They can either give me the go ahead with an idea or shut me down altogether so I felt like they are the ones really in charge. But the truth is I’m a free agent. I control how much I make by how many hours I choose to put in, how good my ideas are, and how hard I grind to get my work published in multiple areas…and that basically makes me a boss.

What my best friend said about people not understanding the idea of being your own boss makes sense when I think about the full-time job I previously had. Whenever I said I was working from home people always assumed I was just chilling in my apartment watching Golden Girls and eating takeout. Yea, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia were on in the background but I was still working. When you work from home, you often end up working longer and harder than you do in the office. There’s no commute time, less distractions (if you turn off the TV), and I personally used to break my neck to make sure I answered emails immediately because you just had a feeling that if you took too long to respond someone would assume you were doing more relaxing than actually working.

I think that same attitude applies to freelancers, business owners, and any other person who is their own boss, especially when they start out. It’s no lie that in the beginning you put in way more hours than you did working a 9 to 5. Not only are you actually doing what you’ve been contracted to do, you’re also scouting out new opportunities, being your own accountant, probably updating a website for yourself, and wearing a million other hats. You enjoy doing it because you’re building your business or your brand but that doesn’t make it any less tiring. A little less stressful? Maybeut it’s still hard work. If I’m not physically writing, I’m looking for something to write about and that can be just as time consuming as writing itself. I’m also creating invoices, seeing what’s already been covered, checking the traffic on my articles, responding to last minute requests, etc. My days are more like 8 to 8s than 9 to 5s but when I look at all that I’ve accomplished in the day I don’t mind because I know it was effort well spent.

Of course no one knows all that you do in a day when they can’t physically see you but I felt it was necessary to shut down the assumptions about the lifestyle of a free agent. When all is said and done I know I’m working harder than most people punching a time clock, and that makes me a boss.

P.S. Check out my tips for how to go after the career you really want on Vibe Vixen.

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A Dream Realized

A month ago I set a goal to start writing one post per week on my personal blog, and so far I’ve failed to do so. But with today marking the start of a new year, I figure it’s the perfect day to get started.

In many ways things have changed dramatically for me in the past month and half, but I haven’t really stopped to grasp how life before November 18 differs from life today. November 18 was my last day of work as an editor of a medical trade publication. It was the day I said goodbye to hating my job, to not sleeping at night, to upset stomachs and dreading going to work. It was the day that symbolized my first real step out on faith.

Since then, so many opportunities have arisen that my life has just been in a steady state of go without my even realizing that I’m doing some amazing things—-things I’d dreamed of doing in high school and college, and believed I’d never really have the chance to do when I worked in medical publishing. In college essays I’d always written about how I wanted to be a journalist and write about issues concerning black women—-viewing Essence as the holy grail because at the time that was the only outlet for black women. Since then, online magazines and blogs have offered a multitude of venues for us to share our opinions. In October, I began working as a news writer for Madame Noire, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized I was actually living my dream of writing for black women and I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, and honestly amazement, at what had come to be in such a short period of time. Despite contributing to Clutch magazine and The Fresh Xpress prior to that, I felt that my writing for those sites was just a hobby  I had to find time to do on the side while spending most of my days doing something I didn’t have any passion for. Now I spend entire days writing about things I truly care about and I share news of interest with women I can identify with. The change has shown me that I absolutely made the right choice when I decided not to let fear of the unknown overshadow my true desires.

Even today, as I was going through old magazines, I found copies of Vibe Vixen that I’d kept since 2005. I had to take a moment to wallow in amazement that I now write for this online publication. Never in a million years did I think six years ago when I was flipping through these pages that I would be a contributor, but I am. And now I feel an obligation to not just write to get my name out there and have articles on as many sites as possible, but to create quality content that really serves a purpose for readers by making them think, helping them accomplish their goals, or just making them laugh at life’s little oddities.

I’m more excited about 2012 than for any other year in the past because I know my leap of faith has put me on the right path to achieve more things I never would have imagined, and I look forward to everything these next 365 days will bring.

J Hud & Hubby Split: The Cost of Her Weight Loss?

You would have to be blind or extremely naïve to not have seen the reported split between Jennifer Hudson and fiancé David Otunga coming. The two seemed like an odd pair to me from the get go, but once comments came out about David not being too thrilled with J Hud’s new look, you had to see the proof in the low-fat pudding.

Jennifer’s comment on Jay Leno about David adjusting to her weight loss and not liking the change seemed innocent enough — except questions like “Why do you have to get all dressed up to go out” and “why can’t you just go out like you used to?” had jealous, ego-threatened boyfriend written all over them. Now that after three years together (plus a 2-year-old son, a set wedding date, a dress chosen, and ring) the two are allegedly calling it quits, you have to ask how much of a role did her weight loss play? (Because even if there is not an actual break-up, there is clearly some tension.)

I believe the saying that men get in relationships hoping the woman never changes, while women get in relationships hoping to change the man. But when the change is for the better, i.e. improved health, and the man can’t adjust, you have to wonder does he, or did he ever, have her best interest at heart?

Read more @MadameNoire

Men: Please Stop Trying to Solve Our Love Problems

On Saturday, CentricTV will air Michael Baisden’s documentary, “Do Women Know What They Want?” I saw the previews for the film last weekend, and as I watched the snippet on the website, it’s clear the special is of the Steve Harvey ilk: “Let me fix women’s expectations about men so they can stop whining about why they can’t find one. Oh, and don’t forget to give white men a try and step up your sex game if you expect your man to be faithful.” Thanks.

Aside from the obvious reason that single black women’s problems have now become big business (books! TV specials! magazine spreads! depressing films!), why are even more men jumping in to try to solve our relationship problems otherwise? The market is totally saturated. Don’t they have enough to do, or someone else to save? Every time I go to a panel or click on someone’s website, there is a man claiming to have written the “foreal foreal” book on men that women need to read and that other men are too scared to write. Instead of a book on men for women, how about a book on manhood for men? I’m looking at you, Hill Harper.

It is beyond annoying to be constantly bombarded with messages from men who:

(a) Are not experts in relationships,

(b) Are saying the same thing we’ve already heard,

(c) Have no genuine desire to really help women get the man they want, and

(d) Say expand your horizons and date outside your race — even if a woman says she wants a black husband.

Read more @MadameNoire

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