In my free time, I like to overthink all of the potentially embarrassing things I’ve ever done or said in front of other human beings. On the off chance that I have run out of things to cringe over, I give my nerves a break from roasting myself and instead put the heat on a topic that’s been hammered into my little noggin since I first developed spatial awareness: why do celebrities look so good, and how can I do it, too?!
Although I could be reasonable and focus on the facts (entire teams of people are paid to primp them and they generally have incredible genetics), there are a few incredibly cursed claims that I simply cannot unhear. If my brain sounds like a horror movie, that’s because it is. Except, instead of a bloody figure popping up in the mirror while I’m winding down for bed, it’s the ghost of a celebrity sponcon post touting a holy grail beauty product and a discount code that will essentially shave $1 off the retail price. Here are a few unrealistic things celebs have said about how they look so good. These tend to pop into my head usually when I’m perusing CVS for a product that will drastically change my appearance (without breaking the bank), or when I’m simply in a phase of blissful self-confidence, during which I’m convinced simply drinking enough water is making me objectively stunning.
Don’t Let Your Body Tell People How Old You Are
Do you have at least five Kardashian-Jenner quotes floating around your head at all times of the day, or are you normal? (I am truly just a girl caught between “phone eats first,” and Kim’s deranged mantra: “Instagramming photos of food isn’t sexy.”) Ever since Khloé shared her “new mom beauty routine” with Vogue, I’ve been unable to shake the sound of her voice from my subconscious when I get ready each morning. After toning, Khloé says she lathers SPF 46 on her face, hands, neck, and chest, “because this is where we all show our age.” Sorry, but that’s essentially my entire body? You mean to tell me that my entire body… shows my age? Damn. It really do be like that. Now, when I moisturize and apply sunscreen, I make sure to work the product all the way down to my toenail cuticles, lest anyone do the math and find out when I graduated college. Next, I cycle through five different photo editing apps and gaslight anyone with access to photos I haven’t doctored first. (But trust: I owe it all to the SPF.)
Stop Being A Potato
You know what will totally save you after a long night out? Potatoes. Unfortunately, you will not be eating hash browns, but you will be rubbing them on your face if you subscribe to the ways of Lauren Conrad, who once suggested, “to reduce puffiness, slice up a few refrigerated potatoes, soak them in water for a moment or two, and then place them over your lids for 15 minutes. Works like a charm.” Although, I have to wonder: if I am the kind of person who is whimsical enough to calmly sit with chilled potatoes on my face, what lifestyle mistakes am I making to suffer from puffiness in the first place? There must be some other habit I can eliminate. LC, LMK.
Enough With the “I’m Practically A Vegan!” Charade
During a chat with Extra, Halle Berry revealed that if you want to glow, you simply cannot be vegan. Relax, vegans, she did not call it out like that, but if you want to be beautiful, you’ll have to be able to stomach potentially seeing an animal carcass. Her skin care secret is simple: homemade bone broth. “You can go to the butcher and get all the bones they’re going to throw away and he’ll give them to you for free. Take the bones, boil them up for 24 hours… and you drink the broth. It’s so full of collagen that it’s crazy.” You heard it here, folks. It is officially free to look like Halle Berry.
Beauty Is Pain
Oh, the $28 Glossier serum you use to decrease inflammation isn’t working wonders? You should probably trash it immediately and opt for nature’s fix: letting a bunch of bees sting you. If you’re feeling skeptical, let Gwyneth Goop Paltrow calm your nerves: “I’m open to anything. I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy,” she told the New York Times. “People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful.” Perhaps the best part of Gwyneth’s suggestion is that even she doesn’t sound sold on it… which somehow makes me want to try it even more? It’s like when you meet a friend for a Starbucks run, and when she takes one sip of the $11 unnaturally colored drink and says, “This tastes like shit,” your first instinct is to grab it and try it for yourself.
But Also, Don’t Worry Because Everything Is Optional!
Bella Thorne has done a lot of things that made the internet collectively scream, “Oh no!” so it’s understandable if you missed the day everyone was spiraling over her beauty routine. The former Disney star revealed, “I don’t use moisturizer or anything,” which is simultaneously the most reassuring and troubling statement I’ve ever heard in my life. When a casual happy hour turns into all-night karaoke, the one thing I can typically manage to do when I get home is slap some kind of hydrating concoction over at least a portion of my face. If I lose sight of the most foundational skin care rule, I’m not really sure where I’ll end up next. But on the other hand, I know that even if I finally pull the trigger on the $70 Drunk Elephant moisturizer that’s been sitting in an online cart for a week, I’m still going to wake up and reenact Mia Thermopolis’ “This is as good as it’s going to get” scene from The Princess Diaries every day for the rest of my life.
Images: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Good American
For me (and pretty much every other vanilla girl out there), it started with Fifty Shades. As soon as Ana tripped over the threshold of Christian’s office, the world was captivated by Mr. Grey and the world of Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism (BDSM). Of course, it quickly became clear that their arrangement wasn’t a good representation of this lifestyle—in fact, it’s totally problematic. Still, as the coronavirus pandemic stripped me of happy hours and overpriced dinners, I dug out the dusty trilogy to revisit its scandalous world. This time, however, I found myself more interested in what the series got wrong, as opposed to the shoddy dialogue and unrealistic fact that Ana has a mind-bending orgasm while losing her virginity.
So, after a lot of wine-induced Googling, I found Mistress Rogue, a professional dominatrix (“dom” for short) whose brain I could pick regarding the series, her work, and what it means to be a part of the lifestyle. When I asked her about Christian Grey, her response summed up the entire community’s thoughts: “Oh, my God. Can you put that? That’s my quote,” she tells Betches. “It’s absolutely not accurate.”
While Fifty Shades might have completely missed the mark about what it means to be a dom (something most of us knew and ignorantly ignored), it turns out that the truth about the BDSM lifestyle is even more fascinating than the fiction. I asked Mistress Rogue all the questions you’ve had about BDSM so you don’t have to go down a Google rabbit hole.
What Does A Professional Dom Do?
According to Merriam Webster, a dominatrix is “a woman who physically or psychologically dominates her partner in a sadomasochistic encounter,” which is pretty much exactly what the job entails. While the profession isn’t only limited to women (men can be doms too), the gist of it is these pros are paid or agree to control someone, whether it’s for a short session or for a lifetime. Sometimes the control is mental, sometimes it’s physical, and yeah, sometimes it’s sexual. Sessions can involve anything from chains and whips to diapers and dog kennels, and sometimes, they don’t take place in person but revolve around money or diet control (where the dom says what you can or can’t buy, eat, or do).
Mistress Rogue, who has been been a professional, full-time dominatrix for three years, spent over 10 years learning about the lifestyle and immersing herself in the world of BDSM. She trained under Mistress Mercy, who is the Headmistress for the Miami-based Goddess Girls (a group with whom Rogue still collaborates), and she’s the founder and Head Mistress of The Dom House, a company home to multiple male and female doms (as well as a few apprentices and submissives). Now, she has a fully loaded dungeon in St. Petersburg, Florida where she caters to a wide variety of male, female, and nonbinary clients.
Why Do People Practice BDSM?
There are lots of reasons people incorporate dominance and submission into their lives, the biggest of which is the endorphin rush. While it might seem like BDSM is all about physical acts, it’s actually very psychological. The goal of a session is for the sub to reach “subspace”, which is a euphoric, meditative state. On the flip side, doms (including Mistress Rogue) experience the converse and aim to reach “domspace”.
While you might think, Well, I’ll just get a whip and tell my boyfriend to go to town, that’s actually not what it’s about. Not only can it be hard to figure out what exactly you like, but it can be even trickier to learn your limits, especially in the space of your relationship. This is where the pros come in. Almost like a form of therapy, “submission is about letting go,” Rogue says. “You don’t have to be in control. It’s a very healing act and some people just need it.”
What Are The Most Common BDSM Fetishes?
“Spanking,” she says. “Everyone wants to get spanked and everyone wants to get blindfolded and gagged and paddled.” It makes sense. Long before Christian and Ana visited the Red Room of Pain, spanking and hair pulling were among the more common practices seen even in vanilla sex. Chances are, Mistress Rogue probably has more whip choices beyond the joke one you got for your birthday.
Another popular demand she gets revolves around foot fetishes. Though it’s an arousal point she didn’t quite understand when she started out, she’s now a big fan. “Foot fetishes are very much about true submission. You walk all over things all day long, and then you get someone to worship at your feet beneath you. It’s the true core of submission.”
As for what she won’t do? “Roman showers,” she admits, after a pregnant pause. This act is a very extreme fetish where the dom vomits on the sub. “It’s just because it’s painful for me,” Rogue says. “I don’t like vomiting.” Luckily, there are plenty of types of play she does like to partake in, like rigger, suspension, heavy impact, and strap worship. She also loves any situation that involves wearing her latex catsuit (pro tip: use lube when putting on latex. Her suggestion is ID Millennium).
What Happens At A Professional Dom Session?
Images: Austin Zeli
Prior to visiting a professional, you’ll most likely fill out an intake form that outlines everything you do and don’t want to do (and are and aren’t okay with). When it comes time to actually have your session, you’ll be told how to address the dom, what to do upon entering, and any notes involving your appearance (no matter what, please shower!). Normally, there will first be a meet-and-greet component where you’ll once again go over what’s going to happen and review the usage of safe words. “Sometimes, advanced sessions have no safe words, but that’s something they consent to,” Rogue says. First-timers will absolutely use stop and go words, the most common of which is the standard traffic light system (green is go, yellow is slow down, and red is stop immediately).
Then comes the “performance”, as Rogue calls it. Part of the dom’s duty is to create the experience, which she takes a lot of pride in planning. Basically, Rogue sets up different time blocks of what they’ll do, and sometimes includes breaks depending on how intense each unique session is. “It’s not like you finish in ten minutes and leave,” she says. Once the performance is over, one of the most crucial components of BDSM takes place: the aftercare. “It’s like when you watch a movie, and as you leave the theater you talk about it. What you liked, what you didn’t like, what you want to experience next,” she explains. This is hugely important for emotional wellbeing—not only in BDSM, but in all sexual acts.
“Imagine in a vanilla world, you have sex with your partner and you want to cuddle after, but they just get up and leave without saying a word. If you don’t know how to navigate it properly, you can feel used and broken,” she says. This is why consent and communication are the backbones of BDSM play. In addition to cuddling, chatting, or hugging, Rogue will also give her subs water and clean them up, because sometimes there are fluids like tears, sweat, or blood (consensual bleeding, of course) and this cleansing afterward is crucial to the bond.
Here’s What Everyone Gets Wrong About Sex Work
Image: Austin Zeli
It’s important to note that professional dominatrixes don’t have intercourse with their paying subs. Rogue says that some guys go into the session assuming she’s offering intercourse, an idea she quickly shuts down. “Yes, I am providing a service, but this is on my terms. It’s not about what they want; it’s about what I want. Professional dominatrixes do not have sex with clients. Ever. Period.” That being said, it’s still considered sex work. “I was surprised to learn that during the first year,” she says. “I was like: ‘No, I don’t have sex with them.’ But it’s still sex work and there’s nothing wrong with that.” There’s a lot of discussion surrounding sex workers’ rights in the mainstream media right now, and a push to decriminalize sex work, which is exciting to see, especially for Rogue, since it’s not just the legality of the work, but the stigma surrounding it that sex workers are grappling with. One of the biggest misconceptions Rogue personally takes offense to is the notion that it’s easy to be a dominatrix or sex worker in general.
“I work a lot on what I do. Preparing for sessions. Planning sessions. Buying equipment for specific sessions. Keeping my overall image. There’s so much that goes into this. No one wakes up and the next morning can be like, ‘Oh, I’m a dominatrix. Come to my dungeon.’ That does not exist.” As for what the general public gets wrong about dominatrixes, it’s that they “hurt and abuse” people.
“Everybody in the BDSM lifestyle asks for consent for everything,” she says. And when she says everything, she means it. Even before engaging in socially acceptable touching like hugging or shaking hands, she always gets verbal or written consent. “It’s very easy to get a bad reputation in the community, so you have to be careful,” Rogue admits. In general, however, “the public doesn’t understand that there are so many ways to make other people feel incredible without the sex part.”
How Is Dom Work Different During Coronavirus?
Because their work is all about interacting with people on an intimate level, it makes sense that the pandemic could cause some challenges for sex workers. “At the very beginning, when everything shut down and people were quarantined, everyone was staying home,” she says. “We had this emergency situation where I wasn’t seeing anybody because I was, you know, freaking out—and understandably so. And a lot of the time, I see people I’ve never seen before. They book online and it’s just a stranger.”
Once restrictions started to ease up a bit after a month or two, Rogue started seeing an influx of visitors again. “They had no jobs, were stuck at home, and completely desperate for some thrill.” So when the demand started coming back, how was she able to take on subs amidst coronavirus? “Even without the pandemic, I utilize a lot of safety measures. Before and after I see someone, we sanitize everything. I use gloves, I use masks, and I even keep my distance. You don’t actually need to touch someone personally with your hands to be able to deliver domination.” Think canes and riding crops, people!
When the pandemic started hitting harder, however, Rogue had to shift to a new model as business severely slowed (and stayed) down. That’s when she transitioned to virtual work. “While OnlyFans is really popular for vanilla and regular sex work, my OnlyFans is a little different. I have it set up for submissive or slave BDSM people who want to serve online. They have the opportunity to see what I’m doing or see me play with others. There are a lot of ways this can be done.”
Since she started offering more online options, she’s seen an overwhelming amount of demand from people who want to participate in BDSM sessions from the comfort of their homes—something she finds incredibly rewarding. She views her OnlyFans as a virtual dungeon, and she has subs complete tasks just like a regular session. “I can tell them what to do, they can get custom videos, request content, tip, or just talk to me,” she says. “Since it’s all online, anything goes.”
Okay, I Want To Incorporate BDSM Into My Life
Images: Jason Perrone; Austin Zeli
Whether you’ve always been interested in it or were titillated by Fifty Shades, there’s a good chance you’ll find something rewarding in a BDSM experience. As for how to incorporate it into your lifestyle, Rogue highly suggests seeing a professional, whether or not you’re in a relationship. “Some pros see couples and will coach and teach you,” she says, which will help you navigate not only the physical components but the mental as well. “Some of it is dangerous and that’s why people go to a professional,” she continues. “We know what we’re doing and can keep you safe.”
If you’re ready to dive in, it’s important to do your research and find someone who knows what they’re doing. “There are fake doms out there, usually men, who are looking to take advantage of women,” she notes. But how, exactly, do you find someone who’s not skeezy? “A dom with a good reputation will have at least some social media set up,” Rogue says. “Avoid sketchy ads, look for a good website, and consider how they talk to you. If they don’t want to negotiate in terms of the things you want to do, run.” Before visiting—and especially if you’re going alone—be sure to share your location with someone as an extra precaution. When going in, make sure they have a safe place, and if something feels off, don’t move forward. BDSM is all about speaking your limits, and finding your pro is no exception.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you look like or what you do for a living. “All I care about is your behavior, your manners, and your ability to follow instructions,” Rogue says. “A lot of people are scared of seeing a dominatrix, but we can be nice. And for anyone who’s very interested but is scared of committing, remember: I will not hurt you if you don’t want me to.” But chances are by the end of your session, you’ll be begging for more…
Images: Jason Perrone; Austin Zeli
The time has finally come. Whether you’ve always dreamed about having a family or you’re finally entertaining the idea because you’re fairly sure you want kids and can’t put it off any longer your biological clock is ticking, you’re seriously considering getting pregnant. On purpose. As beautiful as that is, the idea can be overwhelming. How do you even begin to prepare? Before you start tracking your ovulation cycle and lifting your legs in the air after sex, here are some things you should consider.
1. Your Financial State
It’s no secret that having a baby is expensive AF. Even if you’re not living in a major city where daycare costs the same as an additional rent payment, paying to clothe, feed, and care for an additional human being adds up quickly. How will this impact your current lifestyle? Will you have to move, and is that something you’re willing to do? Not only do you need to consider your income (and that of your partner, if you have one), but also your spending habits. If you spend most weeks subsisting on ramen because you blew through your paycheck or you consider withdrawing cash from the ATM your own personal version of Russian roulette, then it may be time to reassess whether you’re really ready to support another person.
2. Your Emotional Maturity
Right up there with the financial piece is whether or not you’re emotionally ready to have a child. Although we all know that having a baby changes your life dramatically, it’s important to think concretely about the ways it will change your life specifically. For example, if you, like me, are someone who likes to sleep in past 10am late on the weekends, you’re going to have to make peace with the fact that bringing a new life into this world is likely to give a whole new meaning to the word “exhaustion”. Similarly, if you’re used to going out every weekend, you’ll need to think seriously about whether you’re willing to have your social life take a back seat to bottle feedings and diaper changes. Having a baby is the ultimate act of selflessness, and it’s important to be confident that you’re in a place where you’re ready to be a little less selfish.
3. Your Support System
They don’t say “it takes a village to raise a child” for nothing. While many superwomen (and supermen) can and do raise children on their own, it’s incredibly difficult. Assuming you have a partner, it’s important to discuss upfront your expectations as far as the division of labor goes and make sure you’re on the same page. If you’re expecting to share feeding and changing responsibilities pretty equally and your significant other expects to only do, like, 10% of the work, dump that significant other it’s best to work out those kinks before the baby comes. If you’re thinking of raising a baby on your own, are there friends or relatives you can lean on when needed? The more support you have in place, the smoother the rough patches will be.
4. Your Health & Wellness
We all know that having a baby can wreak havoc on your body. But besides coming to terms with the weight gain, fluctuations in hormones, and other common bodily changes that come with performing The Miracle of Life, you should also make sure you’re prepared from a health and wellness perspective. This may mean talking to your doctor about any necessary dietary or lifestyle changes, the medicines you’re currently taking and the skin care products you use, as certain adjustments may be necessary when pregnant. If you’re concerned about passing on a certain genetic disorder to your baby, you may also want to consider pre-genetic testing for yourself, and if needed, your partner, so you have all of the information needed to make the decision that’s right for you.
5. Your Parenting Style
Will you be a regular mom or a cool mom? All kidding aside, now is a good time to start thinking about how you would like to raise your child, especially if you’re sharing the responsibilities with a partner who likely had a very different upbringing than you. Aside from the more obvious subjects like religion, are you and your significant other on the same page about the kinds of values you want to instill in your kid? Will one of you take on the role of disciplinarian, or is that a role that both parties should share? Getting aligned now can save you from conflicts down the road.
While no one is ever 100% ready to have a baby, thinking through some of the things on this list can help you to get in the right mindset and confirm that you’re on the right track. If you’re making these plans with a partner, communication is key. You may not agree on everything, but an open dialogue now will pay dividends later, both for you and your relationship. What else should someone consider before having a baby? Let me know in the comments!
Images: Xavier Mouton Photographie / Unsplash; Giphy (5)
As many exhausted parents can tell you, there’s nothing more heavenly than a baby that will sleep straight through the night. But for many new parents, there is also nothing more elusive. The harsh truth is, bringing a newborn home from the hospital often means a good night’s sleep will become a distant memory, because the
tiny terrorists little cherubs will be crying a ton and feeding every two to three hours for the first few months.
That doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to never sleeping again, though! Babies and parents alike need sleep, and getting your little one on a schedule is crucial. We spoke to Dr. Sofia Axelrod, a sleep scientist and mom-of-two, to learn her most trusted hacks to get your little alarm clock to *finally* conk out.
“One of the reasons why I got involved with baby sleep is that if the baby doesn’t sleep, no one sleeps,” says Dr. Axelrod, author of How Babies Sleep: The Gentle, Science-Based Method to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night.
“So, there’s generally this terrible, trickle-down effect on the whole family, and if you fix your child’s sleep, then you will feel much better, and you can have a normal life.” So, what can a bleary-eyed mom and dad do? Sleep coaches and night nurses cost a fortune, and the SNOO, renowned for mechanically rocking fussy babies to sleep, carries a cost-prohibitive $1,395 price tag (even renting it will set you back $118 a month). But there are plenty of accessible ways parents can get their sweet pea into a predictable schedule, says Axelrod, who adds that her advice applies to babies and children up to age six.
A Full Belly Is Crucial
No matter if you breast- or bottle-feed, for the first few weeks of their lives, infants are literally non-stop milk-drinking machines. Trying to sleep seems futile, but there is a way to get baby down for longer stretches, so you can squeeze in a nap, too. “Ideally, baby feeds, and then they’ll pass out and wake up again after two hours,” says Axelrod. “But some babies don’t do that. Make sure they eat their portion, and if they fall asleep ‘on the job,’ so to speak, it’s okay to undress them, it’s okay to blow air on them. Get a cold, wet towel, and make them uncomfortable. Make them awake, so they eat, because only then will they sleep. Then everybody’s happy, and you can take a nap also.”
Put On The Red Light
No, not like the kind that TLC or Sting sang about, but like a real, red light bulb, which can work wonders for infants, toddlers, big kids, and even adults. Why? The hue encourages the body to produce more melatonin, the hormone that stimulates sleep. “During the night, when you have to nurse or feed or change diapers, only turn on the red light,” Axelrod instructs. Conversely, expose babies to natural sunlight—in moderation, and while using sun protection when outdoors—during the day. “Open the shades. lots of light. That signals naturally to their body, ‘Oh, okay, now it’s time to be awake!’”
Keep It Routine
Even though the pandemic has wreaked havoc on many parents’ schedules, Axelrod stresses it’s necessary to keep little ones in line. “It’s important for their sleep that things happen at the same time every day. It helps their bodies feel more adjusted. We’re helping them organize and recognize what it means to feel tired, what it means to be hungry. They don’t know that unless they have a schedule.”
Babies’ schedules can be a hotly debated topic—there are flexible routine suggestions to more rigid ones and everything in between—but there’s plenty of science to back up Axelrod’s claims. “Because what we show in science is that, if you do these things at the same time every day, whether it’s eating, sleeping, light exposure—the light being a cue that tells your body what time of the day it is—then you’re freeing yourself for other things because your body will run like a well-oiled machine. What I’ve said before about babies is also true for adults. You’re telling your body, ‘It’s 11:45. It’s daytime. Let’s make some digestive enzymes because you’re going to have lunch.’ Or, ‘It’s 8am, it’s time to get up. Let’s make some cortisol to feel really awake and happy.’” Or, ‘It’s like, 7pm, let’s make some melatonin so we’re sleepy and can fall asleep easily.’”
Regulate Those Naps
If your baby doesn’t sleep through the night, analyze the naps, says Axelrod, who also created her own app, Kulala, to help parents keep their babies on schedule with pop-up reminders. “The first thing, when parents come to me, they say, ‘Oh, my baby used to sleep wonderfully, and suddenly they started waking up again.’ And the first thing I ask is, ‘How much do they nap? And when is bedtime?’ And it’s always off. So, this is the biggest misconception: sleep begets sleep. Not true. Many people think that you need to sleep more during the day for a baby to sleep better at night, and that is not true. And there’s research that literally shows the opposite. There is a paper that has been done, very well-controlled, and the title of the paper is literally Daytime Naps Control Nighttime Sleep.” Axelrod says that we all have a daily sleep need, which is the total of any naps and nighttime sleep. That number goes down as we age, hence the need for less sleep. “If I put you down for a three-hour nap during the day, you’re just not going to be tired in the evening.” The same is true for your little one.
White Noise Is Your Friend
When fetuses are in the womb, they hear a mother’s heartbeat, digestive sounds, air moving in and out of the lungs, and even a rumbly tummy, which is exactly why a white noise machine is a must-have for new parents. “White noise just lulls right to sleep,” says Axelrod. But, she warns, “I would not overuse it. Use it when you put them down, and then, in the middle of the night, if you have a newborn, you have to feed them or change a diaper, turn it off for the duration and turn it back on when you put them back to bed.”
Take a deep breath, because this part will pass and you will sleep again. Eventually.
Images: Minnie Zhou / Unsplash
The last few months have been riddled with the word “uncertainty”—an email was not an email if it did not address the “uncertain times” that the coronavirus pandemic spewed upon us this past winter, right before giving you 40% off All Shoes and Tops. A targeted ad on Instagram wasn’t effectively targeted if it didn’t acknowledge the unease you must be experiencing during these “uncertain times,” and how 10% off a wine subscription jussssst might quell those concerns. But alas, coronavirus is no longer the headlining act in the treacherous music festival that is 2020.
Around the same time we were basking in our uncertainty as to when we’d be able to go on Hinge dates again, Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Louisville, was in her own home, unarmed, suffering eight bullets from the police. Less than a month before that, Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was jogging in his own neighborhood in Georgia and was hunted and killed by two white men who thought he “looked suspicious.” And finally, as if guided by theatrics, Act III occurred on May 25, Memorial Day. The day George Floyd, a Black man, was kneeled on and subsequently killed by the police, while Amy Cooper was a few states east calling the cops on Christian Cooper, a Black man in New York, who did absolutely nothing but ask her to follow the rules. What ensued, as I’m sure you are currently living, has been weeks of (justified) civil unrest. People are waking up. People are paying attention. People are acting. And while much of the narrative surrounding these times still remains uncertain, there is one thing of which I can be absolutely sure: your Black friends are not okay.
I typically steer clear of generalizations, but this one I resolutely stand by. The Black people in your life are experiencing a pain that uniquely aches. The ache emanates in the form of grief, confusion, guilt, laughter, tears, anger, pride, power, defeat. The ache is physical, emotional, cerebral. The ache is for the present, the ache is for the past. The ache is silent, the ache is deafening. The ache is personal, the ache is collective. The ache is difficult to put into words, but I can assure you, the ache is there—it always is. But this time, these last few weeks, that ache is particularly onerous.
So this is me, your Black friend—one of them, at least—taking a break from the Real Housewives of Atlanta virtual reunion (which is actually very, very good) to urge you to please stop sending weird texts ending with a Black fist emoji to the Black person you met once at a coffee shop three years ago, and start supporting the Black people in your life in ways that are constructive.
Disclaimer: Some of the things on this list may hurt your feelings—I did not write this with your feelings in mind. Apologies in advance. But I urge you to consider that if the worst hurt you experience in this dialogue is your feelings, perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, you’re ultimately doing okay.
Check In On Your Black Friends Selflessly and With Intention
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I think it’s great that you want to check in on your Black friends right now—I really do. In fact, I think it would be irresponsible and, frankly, shortsighted to not reach out to someone you call a friend who is currently living in a world where the cultural dialogue rests on the question of whether or not their existence is valid. But when you check in on them, I ask that you do so selflessly and with intention.
First, let’s talk about a selfless check-in. I once had a friend send me a hand-written birthday card that spent exactly one line wishing me a happy birthday, and then two paragraphs telling me how enlightened she now was and how much she’d grown as a person in the four months we hadn’t spoken. It became immediately clear that this “birthday card” was entirely for her, not me (and why we hadn’t spoken for four months). This is not the time to self-flagellate, and tell your Black friends that you’re a bad, bad, sick, twisted white person who is not worthy of love or happiness. I mean, I don’t know you, maybe all those things are true, but this is not the time to put that weight on your Black friend. This is not the time for your guilt. This is not the time for you to apologize for that one racist thing you laughed at six years ago in their presence. Trust me, that time will come. But right now, the birthday card is for your Black friend, not you. The check-ins I’ve received that have felt the most genuine have been the ones that are the most concise: “I love you. I am here for you. I am thinking of you. I am fighting for you. I will do better.”
Now, let’s talk checking in with intention. Three years ago, my mom died. I had tons of well meaning friends send texts asking, “How are you doing?” And if I were honest with them, I would have said: “Lol well, my mom’s still dead, so not great!” It is not particularly effective to ask your Black friend how they are doing right now. I’m giving you the answer key for this one: not great! So, with that in mind, think about a more constructive, intentional way to check in on your friend’s well-being. “Have you eaten today? I’d be happy to make/send something your way. Know that I’m here if you ever want to talk, cry, scream, take a walk, drink some wine, dance, sit silently, whatever.”
Give Them an Emotional Six Feet of Distance
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All my work. All my life. I’ve always tried to figure out how I work with what I got. How I serve the community I’m from. How I serve the future to come. It ain’t in silence. It won’t happen with silence. So everything I do is a stretch towards freedom. For my daughter. For your sons. For all of our children. #artjustice #artsctivism #mentor #protest #poeticprotest #donate #blm #bailoutnyc
Once you check in on your Black friends, please, for the love of chilled white wine, leave them alone. I’m not asking you to be silent, I’m simply asking you to be quiet. Give them a moment—many moments—to process. To breathe. To be exonerated of the burden of having to reply to a text. Further (wrap those feelings up), your Black friends don’t want to talk to YOU right now. If your Black friends want to talk, they probably want to talk to their Black friends or their other friends of color who get it. Again, this isn’t me telling you not to reach out; but once you do, expect some quiet from your Black friends. And start to get comfortable with that quiet. If you’ve checked in effectively, they know where to find you if and when they’re ready.
Do Something for Them Without Them Having to Ask
I have always hated the solicitation: “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” Now, that is partly because I have been gifted with the horrific disease of recoiling at the thought of asking anyone for help (my two therapists and I are working through this). But also, and perhaps more aptly, I’ve always found that in times of extreme grief and mental turmoil, it takes a lot of emotional intelligence to know exactly what kind of help you need. I’ll return to my mother’s death a few years ago. A couple of days after my mom died, I remember coming home to find that my roommate had done all of my laundry for me. This was particularly moving because if she would have asked me “hey, how can I help you right now?” I would have never said: “Um, you can do my gross laundry that’s been sitting on my floor for six weeks!” Not only would I have never said that, the thought of “needing to do laundry” would have never crossed my mind. So, instead of asking your Black friends what you can do to help them right now, which puts the onus on them to have to find the emotional intelligence to try to figure it out, anticipate their basic needs and try to cater to them. Do their laundry, order them food, make them a sandwich, bring them a glass of water. You are smart and capable! If you really want to help your Black friends right now, you can think of some things to do for them without them having to ask.
Support Their Mental Health
As I’m sure you can imagine, your Black friends’ mental health is particularly vulnerable right now. Many of your friends are experiencing situational upsets to their mental stability that may have been triggered by the events of the last few weeks; others may have been battling preexisting mental health conditions that have only been further exacerbated by the current social climate. A friend of mine reached out to me a couple of days ago and asked if he could pay the copay for one of my virtual therapy sessions. This felt particularly constructive because not only was he recognizing that my mental state was fragile, he offered to do something tangible to contribute to my mental wellness. So if you’re looking to direct your efforts towards supporting your friends’ mental health, offer to help pay for a therapy session if they’re seeing a therapist; offer to pay for a month of Liberate, a meditation app created by BIPOC for BIPOC; music is therapy for so many people in the Black community, so offer to pay for a month of their music streaming service. A great way to constructively support your Black friends is to effectively support their mental health.
Speak Up So Your Black Friends Don’t Have To
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Last week, my place of work sent a mass email to all of its employees addressing the “current events” to state that their official stance was: “racism is unacceptable.” Pause for applause. (I hope you read that last sentence with the seething sarcasm in which it was written.) Upon receiving this email, my mind went to two places: 1) there is absolutely nothing of substance here—it is 2020, I sincerely hope I work for a company that “condemns racism” and 2) Great! Now I have to respond to this incredibly vapid statement because if I don’t, no one else will. What I’m asking is that you be that “no one else” for your Black friend, in this case, your Black colleague. As my newfound guiding light, Audre Lorde, said, “ the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes.” You have no idea how exhausting, depleting, and quite frankly, trite it is to routinely have to enlighten others on the whys. Why you can’t say the n-word, why you can’t touch my hair, why mixing me up with the only other Black girl in the room is inherently racist. At this point, you know the answers to those whys. So, if you received a bullsh*t email like I did this week, you respond so your Black colleagues don’t have to. If you see a post that says “All Lives Matter,” you engage, so your Black friends don’t have to. Give us a break—we’ve been fighting this fight for 400 years. We’re tired.
Support Black Livelihood
I want you to ask yourself a question: “How am I uplifting Black voices and Black lives in weeks when they are not violently slain in the streets?” If you can’t answer this question, or if your answer is “by listening to Kanye West,” I urge you to spend some time with this point, specifically. Supporting Black Lives Matter does not end with fighting the systemic violence against and murder of black bodies; it must also include uplifting and empowering us while we’re alive. An enormously constructive trend I’ve been seeing on social media is white professionals using their platforms and privilege to open the gates for Black creatives. Editors, writers, and casting directors are making themselves and their colleagues directly accessible to Black creatives who historically encounter enormous barriers of entry. If you hold the keys or know someone who holds the keys to the gates to your profession, share them with a Black person. Writing a screenplay? Can the main character be Black? Probably! Hiring? Can that executive be Black? YES. And to answer your grandfather’s next question: no, this is not a “handout”—this is merely leveling the playing field in a game Black people were never intended to play. Also remember that supporting Black livelihood means supporting Black businesses! Here’s a list of Black-owned companies you can support right now.
Understand That You Cannot Understand—But Like, Try!
I’ve been seeing this graphic make its way around the realm that is social media: it usually consists of a Black and white hand being held (lol), with the caption “I understand that I cannot understand.” And while these words are absolutely correct—there is no way that any non-Black person could ever understand the unsurmountable weight that comes with being a Black body in America—simply saying you “can’t understand” is reductive and effectively absolves you from the task of having to learn. This ideal, while well-meaning, is passive, and gleans no commitment to action. Which leads me to my last point…
Do The Work
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Absolutely nothing else on this list is of any importance if you are not committing yourself to doing the work. Your check-in texts, your Venmo gifts, your Black Lives Matter T-shirts are just futile gestures in an empty vacuum of performative allyship if you are not holding yourself accountable and doing the work. “The work,” “the work,” what do your Black friends mean when we keep talking about “the work?” “The work” is committing yourself to learning about the structural, deliberate, and systemic nature of racism that was thrust upon your friend as soon as they entered this world as a Black body. “The work” is learning that from an early age, your friend has had to learn how to navigate as a Black body in a white world as a means of, at least, fitting in, and at most, survival. “The work” is looking within; looking at your own actions, your own belief and value systems, and recognizing that, whether consciously or not, you have not only been complicit in, but have benefitted from and contributed to, a world that was designed to suppress Black lives. Luckily for you, there are mountains upon mountains of books, documentaries, theory, podcasts, accessible to you right now that unpack the 400 years of systemic racism in America, starting at day 1. Know that the work is arduous. The work has no finish line. The work will probably hurt your feelings. But the work is what is required of you if you want to constructively support your Black friends.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; rachel.cargle, mobrowne, wastefreemarie, officialmillennialblack / Instagram
Right now, a lot of celebrities are using their platforms to speak out about systemic racism, offer resources for how white people can continue to learn and help, and highlight peaceful protests. And many influencers are opening dialogues about race, highlighting Black-owned businesses to support, and sharing information about government officials to contact to demand change. But as with just about anything, other influencers and wannabe influencers alike are co-opting these powerful protests against police brutality and using them for likes. And this is why we can’t have nice things. Here are a few stories of clout-chasing gone wrong.
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) May 31, 2020
Everyone’s least favorite YouTuber and the word “jackass” personified, Jake Paul, was captured on video at a mall in Scottsdale as it was being looted last weekend. While videos didn’t show the walking Twitter apology himself participating in the looting, he was in the crowd (and on camera) with other people who were doing it, and he didn’t exactly try to stop them. He has now been charged with criminal trespass and unlawful assembly, both misdemeanors. Paul said on Twitter that he was not participating in the looting; he was simply documenting it: “To be absolutely clear, neither I nor anyone in our group was engaged in any looting or vandalism,” he wrote, adding that he and his group were “not engaging.” He and his fellow Wrong Brother, Logan Paul, did post a video to their YouTube page and podcast urging white people to “acknowledge and weaponize” their privilege, and calling people who don’t believe white privilege exists “delusional”, though, so maybe we don’t have to throw the whole man away.
.@factswithfiona stopped someone boarding up a store in Santa Monica so she could hold the drill for a picture, then drove away. The video is now all over influencer tea accts. She’s since gone private but said nothing pic.twitter.com/K23qssYl0x
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) June 2, 2020
In Santa Monica, a white woman got exposed for posing with a drill in front of a boarded up storefront, doing a quick photo op to make it look as if she was helping, and then promptly leaving the scene, probably to go to brunch or something. According to CBSLA, the woman, who was later identified as Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, was a commentary writer at the conservative publication Washington Examiner before getting dismissed after the video went viral. (A Heavy article later referred to her as an intern. Burn.) Fiona posed with the power drill quickly while a man took her photo, before driving away in her black Mercedes, gabbing about her boyfriend being a good Instagram boyfriend. Lmfao. It’s so bad I almost want to think it’s performance art, for my own sanity. She ended up deleting her accounts, which is the correct response.
The Girl Who Took A Pic In Front Of A Smashed T-Mobile
I knew this would happen eventually pic.twitter.com/V3bB92iaPB
— influencersinthewild (@influencersitw) June 1, 2020
On @influencersinthewild, a young woman who has not been identified was captured on video posing in front of a smashed T-mobile, with her back to the camera, as a man took her picture. I’ve got to wonder what the caption on this post was going to be—I have a feeling it probably would have been about how “I support the right to peacefully protest but I just cannot stand by and watch innocent small businesses get destroyed”. What is even the use of taking or having a picture like this?? Do your 500 closest family and friends really need to see it? Why do you need to be in the picture at all?? Instagram boyfriends, please step up and refuse to let your girlfriends participate in this buffoonery.
Two Girls Who Pregamed and Went
Going to a protest right now is not like going to Coachella, or even the Women’s March—it requires strategic physical and mental preparation because there are risks of violence involved. What it definitely does not require is you putting on your cutest outfit, pregaming, and then heading out to take a few pictures with a homemade sign. And yet, that’s exactly what Instagram user @serafina.0 and her friend @tamella_kay did: they had a whole chat debating if they should go or not, decided to get drunk and then show up, but perhaps worst of all? They posted a screenshot of their convo to their Insta Stories (Close Friends, at least—smh, it be ya own close friends), probably thinking this convo made them sound quirky and cute.
Deadass fuck all these internet bitches forreal. pic.twitter.com/TYGncVS8P2
— leyahli (@goodgalbadrep) May 31, 2020
Well, it didn’t. @tamella_kay ended up deleting her account, and @serafina.0 went private.
It might sound like I’m just trying to drag influencers for the fun of it, but the truth is, attending a Black Lives Matter protest isn’t just like, a fun event to go to for clout or to say you went. Although the majority of protests have been peaceful, there is still a chance you could get hurt, given that police have acted violently towards protestors, firing rubber bullets, teargassing, and even driving police vehicles through crowds. Especially if you are attending as a white ally, you need to be prepared that you may be needed to use your body as a physical shield for Black protestors.
There are a lot of tips and resources for people attending protests out there, so I’ll just state a few that these influencers egregiously ignored. Number one, don’t pregame! You are going to need to have all your wits about you, and alcohol just makes you dumb and slow. Not to mention, it can make some people belligerent, which is extra dangerous if you’re going to be in a heated atmosphere in the presence of agitated police officers. Don’t wear contact lenses, wear comfortable shoes that you can walk in, and do not post videos or photos of protestors’ faces without their explicit permission. Maybe the one thing all these influencers got right is that you shouldn’t go alone and should go with a buddy or in a group if possible, but that’s about it. The bottom line is, it’s great to want to get involved, and do that if you feel comfortable and willing, but don’t do it for your Instagram aesthetic.
Stay safe if you are protesting, and if not, there are plenty of other ways you can help. You can donate to organizations or donate supplies to organizers, sign petitions, literally annoy the sh*t out of your local representatives, and more.
Influencers In The Wild (@influencersinthewild on Instagram and @influencersitw on Twitter) is doing a much more comprehensive job of covering people who are treating the Black Lives Matter protests like it’s Coachella 2020, so follow those accounts if you want more of influencers gone wrong.
Images: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com; jakepaul, taylorlorenz, influencersitw, goodgalbadrep / Twitter
The topic of wedding gifts, specifically whether or not a wedding guest must give one, is touchy. While it’s by no means mandatory to gift the happy couple, most consider it the right thing to do. It’s a gesture of goodwill and a lovely way to express your support of the newlyweds. That said, it’s highly likely that not every guest at a wedding will oblige. In fact, it’s been estimated that between 7 and 10% of guests at a wedding fail to give a gift. If, like me, you’re: a) petty AF and/or b) someone whose love language is receiving gifts, you may be wondering WTF is wrong with these people how to handle this situation. Fortunately for you, I’ve been through this and have some advice on the matter. To be clear, you should not accost every person on your invite list who failed to get you something off the registry, or make a passive-aggressive Facebook status derailing “how selfish people can be these days”. What you should do is take into account the particular circumstances, your relationship to the person, and act (or don’t act) accordingly.
1. The No-Show
Let me be clear. By “no-show,” I don’t mean someone that RSVPed “yes” and then failed to show up to the wedding at the eleventh hour. Barring a true emergency, that person should be ashamed and should absolutely send a gift to make up for the added stress and expense their last-minute ghosting caused. Instead, I’m talking about the person that RSVPed “no” from the get-go. While it’s certainly the classy move for such a guest to send a gift, it’s definitely not required.
How To Handle: This one is understandable, especially if the guest in question isn’t a close friend or family member. You may feel disappointed if the guest is someone near and dear to your heart, but there’s not much you can do or say without looking tacky. Make peace with the fact that this is perfectly acceptable and move on.
2. The Flaky Friend
We all have that one friend who is all over the place. They flit from event to event, and can barely remember to brush their hair, let alone put together a wedding gift. It’s inevitable that this friend is going to neglect to send a gift, even after a reasonable amount of time has passed.
How To Handle: What is a “reasonable amount of time,” you ask? Tradition has it that guests have up to one year to send a gift. But seeing as how we live in the age of next-day delivery and most of us can barely remember what we ate for lunch yesterday, this seems a bit antiquated. A couple of months appears to be the new norm. If at least that much time has passed, you consider this person a good friend, and are fairly sure it was an oversight, it might be worth having an honest conversation. But it’s important to make it about your feelings and emphasize that the nature of the gift is of no importance. For example: “I consider you a good friend and it hurt me that you didn’t even acknowledge the wedding with a card.” A true friend will immediately own the gaffe and make things right.
3. The Reciprocator
This should go without saying, but if you attended someone’s wedding and did not get them a gift, then you have no right to complain if they return the favor and arrive at your wedding empty-handed. While technically, two wrongs don’t make a right, your petty self should respect the game and do better next time.
How To Handle: Zip it, acknowledge your hypocrisy, and fix your life start practicing the Golden Rule.
4. The One Who’s Gone The Extra Mile (Literally or Figuratively)
It’s no secret that weddings aren’t cheap, especially when you consider all the other related events such as an engagement party, bachelor/bachelorette, or a bridal shower. For those guests who aren’t flush with cash, these costs can build up quickly, and adding a wedding gift on top of everything else might understandably be more than some guests can handle financially. It’s also important to consider the guests who have expended considerable time and money traveling to the wedding and other events, especially when these events are more than a brief car or train ride away. This is especially true for the members of your bridal party.
How To Handle: The best approach here is to be grateful for everything this guest has contributed up until the wedding. Whether it’s the bridesmaid who has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on celebrating you multiple times leading up to the wedding (and buying a bridesmaid dress she can never totally wear again), or the friend who flew in from a different continent to be there for your big day, try to channel your inner Elsa and let it go. If you really can’t help yourself, you can try sending a subtle hint in the thank you note by thanking this guest for their presence and see if they pick up on the signal. If they don’t, move on.
5. The Borderline Invite
This is by far the most frustrating one of the bunch. There’s always going to be at least one guest you’re hesitant about, who you ultimately decide to invite, whether it’s a colleague you’re lukewarm on, a distant high school friend you lost touch with, or some other rando. In my experience, these are often the people that treat the open bar like it’s their last night on Earth and/or end up half-dressed on the dance floor busting moves that even a dad would find uncool. This would be fine, except for the fact that these same people are the ones that conveniently forget to bring or send a gift, leaving you wondering why you invited them at all.
How To Handle: If you can’t avoid inviting this person and they do end up disappointing you, cut your losses and try to distance yourself where possible. When you do see them, be polite, but there’s no need to dredge up the subject with someone you didn’t care much about to begin with.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t care at all about wedding gifts, you’re a unicorn and I commend you for your magnanimous spirit. For those not so blessed, it’s perfectly normal to feel slighted and a little offended, but it’s important to consider the specific circumstances and remember that it’s the gesture that matters (not how much money your guest dropped on the gift). And for those who want to drag me in the comments for having a strong opinion about this, to you I say:
Images: @oceanswide / Unsplash; Tenor (1); Giphy (5)
There are certain age-old questions we all must contend with at one point or another: What is the meaning of life? What is my calling? How long should I wait before sleeping with the new person I’m dating? OK, so the third one may not be quite as existential as the others, but it’s one that has boggled the minds of many a
lost soul dater in this day and age. Countless books have been written on the subject, and people like Patti Stanger have made careers out of telling people, most often women, that they shouldn’t get into bed before being monogamous with a partner. But *Oprah voice* what is the truth? There’s no hard and fast rule (despite what the Three Dates Truthers tell you), but there are various factors to consider on both sides. I’ve compiled the arguments for and against waiting to have sex with the new person in your life so you can decide for yourself.
The Case For Waiting
The Case For Doing Whatever The F*ck You Want
Of course, we can’t always reduce human behavior to a formula when every relationship and individual in one is so different. Those who eschew rules about waiting for sex have a problem with the fear-based beliefs that allow such rules to be born in the first place, like the idea that men are wild stallions who must be tamed and trained and women who refuse to do so will end up trampled and abandoned. Ideas like these lead us to create rules that provide some semblance of order, but are these fears really warranted? Andrea Syrtash, co-author of It’s Okay to Sleep with Him on the First Date: And Every Other Rule of Dating, Debunked, thinks not: “A recent survey of 1,000 18- to 35-year-old women found that over 83 percent felt that men will lose interest and respect if you hook up with them too soon. But 70 percent of men said that’s not true—if they’re interested, it doesn’t matter. Getting naked won’t affect if he calls the next day.”
It’s true that men and women are different, but according to experts like Syrtash, subscribing to the notion that biology equals destiny reinforces antiquated gender roles and potentially keeps us from taking risks in love that might very well pay off. While it
seems indisputable may feel like every guy is a f*ckboy, that’s not actually the case.
So when is the appropriate time to have sex? One of the more enduring rules states that you should wait until the third date. However, one recent study found that the average was closer to eight dates. Ultimately, only you can know when you’re ready to sleep with someone new. There are compelling reasons to wait or to dive right in. On the one hand, rules allow us to feel safe and help to create order in what can often be a chaotic dating world. On the other hand, reinforcing old-fashioned stereotypes about sex is… well… not very 2020.
Rules are never one-size-fits-all, and these rules are no different. Being true to yourself and your desires is the most important factor of all. Whatever camp you find yourself in, it comes down to trust, both of yourself and the partner in question, whether that takes one date or one hundred. As long as you’re doing what feels right to you and not in response to pressure or some sense of obligation, there’s no wrong answer. You do you (or him/her/them).
Images: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash; Giphy (2)