Category Archives: Self Discovery

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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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.

Serving Up Color

At a recent awards banquet for a group of medical professionals, I sat in the back of the room where I could observe the proceedings of the night, take notes, and not insert myself too much into the affair.

One server seemed confused by my presence. She leaned over me with a concerned look on her face and asked, “Who are you here with,” seeing that I wasn’t mingling with other guests and my table was empty. I assured her that I was in the right place and that I simply wanted to sit in the back because I was reporting on the event and didn’t know anyone there particularly well.

She walked away, unsatisfied with my answer, and came back a few minutes later to say that she thought I would’ve been sitting up front, but not to worry, she would take good care of me anyway. In her next run by my table, she proceeded to share her work history with me, noting how she’d waited on President Obama for an event in that very room and how much he said he had enjoyed her, along with other public figures and celebrities who’d paid her similar compliments but neglected to repay her for her excellent service: “If I was so great, they should’ve taken me with them when they moved on up, OK.” (Insert stereotypical black woman high five.)

A male server, sensing that the woman had outworn her welcome, or was speaking at a level that was too loud for what she was saying in that setting, lightheartedly scolded her and told her to leave me alone, while yet another waiter came by to add her two cents. And still one more woman came by with a bread basket, asking,”Hey, you want some.”

It had begun to look like a black family reunion with me at the center of a host of servers, and I quickly found myself annoyed each time they made their rounds. Although I was appreciative of the friendliness, I was keenly aware of how others in the room must have perceived not only me, but also them.

Just a month prior, I was attending a luncheon with colleagues from my office and heard a man yelling “Hello” a million times from a distance. Who is yelling, why is he so loud, and why won’t anybody answer him, I thought, as I tried to figure out where the sound was coming from. I finally realized the greeting was directed at me as I saw a man waving his arms from the security desk several feet away. “How you doing,” he asked when I looked in his direction.

I thought the look on my face as I tightly mouthed, “Fine” would have been enough to tell him that this was not the place and certainly not the time; however on the way out, he yelled “Bye” about as many times as he had when he had greeted me on the way in, and just as loudly. “When you coming back to see us,” he shouted once I finally acknowledged him. I then turned to be confronted with confused, please-explain-what-just-happened/do-you-know-him looks on my coworkers’ faces. I shrugged and shook my head. I had no explanation. Read more @ Clutch.

White Boy Fresh

It never dawned on me that a colleague asking to come to my hotel room to borrow chapstick might be trying to get fresh, although as I read that sentence I have to wonder where my antennas were that night.

When I got the text from my colleague who was attending the same meeting as I, I thought nothing of it, as we had recently parted ways after innocently having a few drinks in the hotel lobby with mutual associates. I did acknowledge what I saw as irony at the time—that if this was a black man I would’ve known he was up to something, but because he was white, I thought nothing of it.

Innocently, I opened the door to my room, let him in, and offered him what I thought he came for. Quickly I found him seated on the foot of the bed. Small talk on his agenda, I conceded, happy to have finally befriended someone in my age range at these conferences which I typically found boring.

Casual talk about post-college years turned to questions about whether I was dating, how my last relationship ended, and when I would get married because I’m “so great,” as he put it. I sat flattered in my unsuspecting naivety.

It wasn’t until a few compliments later, a stretch out on my pillows, and an invitation to join him that I became aware of other intentions. I declined, noting that I had an early meeting, although it was suggested that I wake him in the morning.

It was a struggle for me to conceal my laughter—not at his game, but at the fact that as a grown woman, I’d found myself in a situation more befitting of a high school girl. Read more @ Clutch.

Damned If You Lose, Damned If You Don’t

It’s a new dawn, a new day, and everyone knows J Hud is feeling (and looking) good in her new size 6 figure. And while there’s a segment of onlookers who are congratulatory of her weight loss success with the Weight Watchers Points Plus Program, there’s a slew of critics who (a) suggest she is a fake and lost the weight through gastric bypass, (b) are anticipating and secretly hoping that she’ll go the Kirstie Alley route and be back in a size 16 by Memorial Day, or (c) think she’s sending the message that you have to be thin to be successful.

What is it about our society and weight? If you carry extra poundage, you’re ostracized and told to nix the Mickey D’s and get in the gym and work it off (as if it’s that easy); and then when we have an example of someone who has lost weight through hard work, negativity and skepticism still follow.

I suppose the assumption behind the gastric bypass rumors is that Jennifer had to be lazy to become overweight in the first place, so there’s no way such a person could actually do the work that is required to shed pounds. These individuals are one in the same with other critics who call her Weight Watcher’s campaign fraudulent because she obviously used a personal trainer along with the Points Plus program. Sorry, I don’t follow. “Everyone” knows weight loss requires a sensible diet AND exercise, and I wouldn’t dare consider a personal trainer taking the easy or elitist way out, as some have suggested. Personal trainers put you to (serious) work and plenty of everyday women hire them on a regular basis.

Read the rest @ Clutch

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Blessed are the Meek?

There’s something about people who are always tooting their own horn that rubs me the wrong way—people who are unapologetically blunt, who profess their greatness as a matter of fact rather than opinion, who don’t understand why everyone else hasn’t achieved the same level of success that they have. And I’m even more baffled by the people who admire these individuals, who become disciples almost, constantly touting their praises, looking to them for advice and direction, only to be arrogantly shunned or patronized depending on the type of day their role model is having.

Still, I realize I’m a part of the crowd too. I follow these people on Twitter, I read the formsprings to see just how much annoyance will show up in their answer to someone’s question, I go to their websites and read their blogs, because there’s something about that very boldness that attracts people and makes them believers. It makes you question whether you’re being unfair because when someone knows they’re hot, who can tell them otherwise?

Growing up, I recall hearing comments about other women, like “she thinks she’s so great/cute/special/etc.” that sent the message that one shouldn’t think too highly of themselves. In church, I was taught to be the antithesis of a horn blower: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth; Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted; If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. And others would tell me, “People are watching,” as if to say that one has to tone themselves down for the sake of onlookers.

I understand what the Bible is getting at in terms of remembering that life on earth is nothing compared to what awaits in Heaven, and that our talents are gifts from God and we should not be too proud, but is it so wrong to think that you are amazing and to not care if others are looking? How do these messages affect our psyche and our personal relationships and even our professional lives? Read more @Clutch

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Identity Through Ancestry

I get jealous every time I catch Henry Louis Gates’ Faces of America special—and yes I’ve watched it enough times to recite Yo Yo Ma, Eva Longoria, and Mario Batali’s family histories from memory. I’ve always been obsessed with genealogy and I’ve longed for the ability to connect with generations before me in an effort to solidify my place in the world.

You know, the way that Beyonce, Tina, and Agnèz Deréon have that whole fashion designer connection, or how the Kennedy’s have been in politics since the late 1800s, or the English acting dynasty, the Redgrave’s—I’ve longed for a blueprint that gives me the basic direction that I should move in, on top of an already established foundation of ancestral success.

I’ve wondered was there a great writer somewhere in my family’s past, or women who were, at times, unreasonably independent, or someone who had the courage to move to a new city where they didn’t know a soul—something that explains how I came to be who I am and gives me assurance that I’m on the right path.

In college I had a project in my ethnic literature course where I had to trace my roots. Diverted by family members with short-term memories (and memories they chose to forget), I took to the web. I found little, but I did come across a deposition concerning my paternal great-great-great grandfather, Church Tipton’s, attempt to get a disability pension after serving in the the US Colored Troops.

Church eventually died before the pension was granted—you can imagine the amount of bureaucracy—so a “Special Examiner” was given the task of determining whether my great-great-great grandmother Ellen (the claimant) was his legal widow.

He wrote: “This claimant is one of the cleanest neatest negro women I nearly ever saw to be living on a farm. She is honest, reliable and is believed to be virtuous by those who know her best. The evidence herewith is deemed sufficient to show that she and the soldier were married by a ceremony, but without a license, during slavery times and lived together continuously, except the time he was in the army, until he died since which time she has not remarried.” Read more

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Saying No to Motherhood

Not too long ago I met a 30-year-old man at a networking event. He asked me (age 25) if I wanted children and I said no—a position I’ve developed since moving to NYC a few years ago. His response? “Oh you’re just going through your selfish phase. It will pass.”

His reply reminded me of the way that women tell men that they’re just scared of commitment when they say that they don’t want to get married. Because my anti-motherhood stance is relatively new and more fluid and dependent on current circumstances than etched in stone, I let the comment slide. But since I’ve come to find that this too is the reaction of my family to this choice, I can’t help but question, what is selfish about saying no to motherhood?

Click here to read to read the full article on http://www.clutchmagonline.com

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Reflections of an Opinionated 20-year-old

This weekend I’m doing some much needed cleaning (and more importantly dumping) around the apartment. So far I’ve come across a few gems: the blackberry curve with the crack in the screen that I threw across the room when my mom made me mad during a conversation a few years back (and the cracked G1 that I threw across the room earlier this year when my then-boyfriend made me mad. I don’t learn); the photo collage that my roomates made for me when I got my undergraduate degree; and my USB drive with writings from junior and senior years of college–gold!

I went straight to the  files from my column writing class Winter ’06, and a few words into the first piece I was dying with laughter. Since experiencing/living in NYC, my cynical personality seems to have magnified, but in looking at these columns from 4.5 years ago I see that I’ve always had quite a mouth on me. This was a comfort, as I’ve had fearful thoughts that NY “ruined” me (now I see that I’ve always been a hot, opinionated mess).

More importantly, though, I think the columns were quite good, aside from blaring grammatical errors. As a “professional journalist,” I can now see the places where an editor was clearly needed, but aside from that I am proud of what I wrote. It takes me back to the person that I was at 20 and I’m proud to see that I still have the same attitude towards foolishness that I had in school. I may have actually lightened up on some of my zero-tolerance standards, and in need of this not-so-friendly reminder.

Anyway, since I wasn’t blogging then and I feel these pieces deserve more eyes than mine and my professor’s, here are the reflections of Brande Victorian as a 20-year-old:

Everybody’s a Rapper (Not): 1/11/06

Everybody’s a rapper these days. “I want to be a rapper” has replaced the “I wanna be like Mike” dream of the 90s. According to sports psychologist, Todd M. Kays, an NBA team drafts 0.03% of high school seniors; I would contend the chances of being a big time rapper are about the same if not less.

In an article about what kids want to be when they grow up on the Family Education Network website, an 8-year-old boy named Eric said, “I want to be a rapper or something because it just seems fun.”

Nothing is wrong with aspiration, but a strong dose of reality and common sense needs to accompany it. This is no knock to rap music, I am actually a fan of the genre; however, I am knocking the ambitionless, get rich quick mentality that characterizes a large proportion of individuals with this dream.

It would be different if this skill emerged from a passion of say, writing. You’re telling your life story and struggles, you’ve been doing it for years as an emotional outlet, one day you add music to it and bam- rap. Then you strive to be the best rapper you can be and you make it big. Congrats, we need more hard workers.

But how about these guys who have grown up on the streets, realize they have a skill but all they do is battle rap a few times a week with other local amateurs. They really aren’t doing anything progressive, yet the first time somebody questions what they’re doing with themselves they say, “I’m going to be a rapper.” Are you really? Read More

Run that By Me Again: 1/18/06

Women who drink at frat houses deserve to be raped. Ignorant I hope is the initial response when reading such a statement; it certainly was in my women’s studies class. This ignorance flew from the mouth of a humanities professor–social critic, Camille Paglia. A woman.

Had a macho anti-feminist group sick of playing the rape blame game made the statement, one might simply excuse the sexism. Had a “less-educated” person, living under a rock, oblivious to the fact that rape is about power rather than beer and short skirts said it, it could have been ignored. But from a well educated, female professor-not so easily.

What sort of twisted mentality gave birth to this ignorant statement of such grand proportions? Read More

Abercrombie and Thong Thong Thong Thong Thongs: 1/25/06

 Thongs–women love ‘em, men love to see women in ‘em, heck songs have even been written about them. Mad TV recently did a parody about a mother who purchased a diaper thong for her child because the regular one was too bulky. While funny in that context, it brought to mind a more serious issue.

Next time you opt to by undies for your little girl, don’t expect the Hanes Her Way 8-pack with bunnies and hearts. You’re more likely to see catch phrases like “eye candy” and “wink wink,” and not on boxer briefs, on thongs.

“Just who is her little butt suppose to be eye candy for,” concerned mother Martina Harmond, questioned.

Apparently for their seven to 14-year-old counterparts, since this is the targeted female market.  Read More

VDay–Not That Serious: 2/15/06

Pillows everywhere are still hanging out to dry all because Tuesday was Valentines Day. Personally I don’t get it. What happens between 11:59p February 13 and 12:00a February 14 that makes a woman’s worlds turn completely upside down?

A couple of my friends simply anticipated being sad. “Tomorrow I’m going to be so depressed,” my roommate said, “everybody wear black!”

Who prepares for depression? It’s a mindset that you allow by letting you seeing someone with a $1 carnation in their hand and a box of chocolates on one day all of sudden make you feel insignificant. Read More

Don’t Trust the Midas Touch: 2/28/06

After spending more time with the mechanics at Midas this week than with my roommates, I thought it necessary to issue some precautionary advice to unsuspecting car owners everywhere.

The issue: A flat tire

Fix: AAA replaced the flat with a donut

Next issue: I need a tire

Fix: I go to Midas, spend one hour waiting for the mechanic to tell me that my tire cannot be patched. I wait another hour for the tires to come in because of course it’s “better” to have two new tires than one and they don’t have them in stock. Finally, I wait another two hours for those tires to be put on with a short interval consisting of the mechanic telling me that I must have new lug nuts which will cost me an extra $40.

Yet another issue: My car is now rattling and ticking like a time bomb.

The fix: Pending…

In the course of this week-long extravaganza, I’ve made some key observations about car repair. Read More

And an article from my feature writing class senior year–

“Buying Black” Hair: 2/27/07

“Buy black” may be nothing more than a token phrase to throw around in our community. Sometimes we purposely make the effort to get the car from the black dealer or buy a suit from the black vendor, but somehow this idea has not translated into the hair care industry. Talk is circulating about the prevalence of Asian beauty supply stores and the regularity with which we frequent them, but it may be our only option in some instances. On the flip side however, many black beauty supply owners are finding it is just as hard to buy Korean as it is to buy black. Read More

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