Friday, March 29, 2013

You Better Talk to Your Kids About Sex

Photo by Hey Paul Studios
Every year my sorority hosts an event to empower youth called Youth Symposium. Chapters throughout the country do it. A local chapter asked if I could fill in for a presenter who had to cancel. She was a doctor scheduled to talk about sex and self-esteem. Most of the girls who attended were in middle school. I invited a colleague who is an outstanding youth and does mental health advocacy to co-present with me.  My sorors asked us to just speak about self-esteem.

Well, when we got there, the girls were insistent that we talk about sex too. It was hilarious. When I asked them to write questions about self-esteem, they didn’t have many. But when I told them they could include sex questions, WHEW those girls got to scribbling. I actually applaud them for speaking up for what they wanted. I figured I could handle the sex talk. I’ve written about black sexuality, have presented on sex and mental health, took classes on human sexuality and physiology, and I was in middle school once. I got this. Right?

I’m preparing myself to answer questions like, “What is ejaculation.” Or “When a woman gets pregnant why…?” What was I thinking? They wanted to know, “How do you say no to sex?” “What’s the difference between a booty call and when he wants you to come over?” “What does it mean when a woman likes rough sex?” All of these questions led me to believe some of the girls are probably sexually active. I wasn’t asking these kinds of questions until my 20’s, especially the one about rough sex.  Mind you, these aren’t high school students. They’re middle school girls.

One student, who looked no older than 13, told me a guy was pressuring her to have sex. She asked him, “Do you want to pay child support?” She shut him down!

We answered their questions. And I didn’t judge because I wanted them to be honest. My colleague and I encouraged them to ask whatever they want because we’d rather them learn from us than the hard way.

Teen pregnancy is supposed to be down. But as the CDC reports, teen pregnancy is highest about African-American and Latino youth. And the girls we spoke to were black and brown. One girl asked, “Why do teens get pregnant?” I answered there are multiple reasons: lack of access to birth control, lack of education about sex and sexuality, esteem etc.

 While teen pregnancy is low, pre-teens are having sex. And sex means intercourse or oral sex.

We still spoke about self-esteem as well. If I knew they were prepared to cause a revolt if sex wasn’t being discussed, I would have been more prepared. I would have encouraged masturbation and talked more about boys being accountable for their sexual behavior. So much is put on girls, but we need to tell these horny little boys to keep their zippers up or get them a bulk supply of lotion to take care of themselves.

Another thing I found just researching articles is that a lot of youth don’t use protection when they have sex. I hope you’re talking to your kids about sex. I imagine it’s not easy to think that your baby girl may be having oral sex. Or your son is poking girls with his one-eyed monster. But these kids are doing it! And if they’re not doing it, someone is trying to get them to do it. Or it’s on their mind. To some degree they can’t help it. Listen to the music, especially today’s hip hop. Most of the mainstream songs are about money, clubs and “hoes.” And I still don’t get why rappers call girls hoes when they sleep around with a lot of women. Doesn’t that make them hoes too? I hear some of those rappers sleep with men too. But I digress.

Another reason why some of our youth are turned on is the internet. Remember back in the day how hard it was to get porn? The magazine aisle in the bookstore or grocery store had them. But they were covered in plastic and I believe you had to be a certain age to buy them. What young kid wants to walk up to a CVS register with a Penthouse for everyone in line to see? Another way was boys went through dad’s collection. That’s a lot of sneaking. Now, kids can just look on their phones for porn and no one has to know.

After our presentation I contacted my teenaged sister and told her to ask me ANYTHING about sex. Just talk to your kids, educate them. It makes a difference. My mom taught me about sex but I had aunts who made themselves available to me when I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my mother. Sex ed, having people to talk to and making school a priority kept my undies up until college.

Talk to your kids. I’m telling you it makes a difference. And don’t make them feel bad about having sexual feelings. I told the girls that it’s okay to have sexual feelings. It’s natural. Sex feels good. Making out feels good. Heavy petting feels good. But early pregnancy and STDs don’t. And remind them, both girls and boys, that there is more to them than what’s between their legs or what they can do with their mouth. Their value doesn’t lie with their sexual abilities or willingness. They have so much more to offer the world.

Just FYI… Here’s a great personal of teen pregnancy from

Here’s some info from about having the “sex talk” with your children.

Monday, March 25, 2013

When You Don’t Trust Your Doctor

 Recently I went to the OBGYN for a procedure; an invasive, painful procedure that after some research I found that I didn’t need. Actually, the doctor said I didn’t need it, but wanted to do it just to be safe. I won’t go into details of what happened, but let’s just say, “How Many Dull Blades Must You Cut The Patient With Until You Find the Sharpest One?” was not fun. In fact it was carless on the doctor’s part. I left the hospital upset. I cried in the car because I knew what I went through was bullshit. When I did more research at home, and saw it unnecessary for my case, I was really angry. I was angry at myself for trusting some doctor (her name is Dr. Donde in Oakland by the way) that made me feel like a 2nd-year med school experiment. I was upset because I didn’t know if the nicks with the dull blades would cause an infection. Being in pain didn’t help either. This all got me to thinking about trusting medical professionals with your body. There are good doctors. And there are some who barely made it out of med school or got their degree at a drive through window. Just because they have those letters behind their name, doesn’t mean they have your best interest. Nor does it mean they know what’s best for you. 

This wasn’t my first encounter with a foolish physician. Around the age of 3 or 4 I was accidentally given adult medication at my grandparent’s home. My mother found me under the dining room table, curled up in a deep sleep. I was on some Lil’ Wayne, sizzurp OD sleep. My mother rushed me to the hospital. We get to the hospital and the doctor tells my mother that I need more drugs. Does that make any damn sense? Thank God my mother’s a smart woman and thought pumping my little borderline OD body with more drugs would probably kill me. She called my pediatrician and he said no more drugs for me. Luckily I have lived to tell this story. What my mother did was great. She could’ve easily listened to that idiot doctor out of panic. But she was skeptical and got a second opinion. Those two actions saved my life.

Sometimes you have to bring in a supporter with you to the doctor. They’ll step up their game if they know their patient has someone keeping an eye on them. I don’t know any doctor who wants a witness to their mistakes. I wish my grandfather had done this early on during his bout with cancer. When he began to lose his voice, the quack doctor he was going to gave him antibiotics and said it was some kind of infection. Even I, the B biology student knew that didn’t make any sense. My grandfather kept getting worse. But he wouldn’t allow any of us to go with him to the doctor. Well, after convincing him to switch doctors they ran proper tests on him and found it was throat cancer. Sometimes I wonder if would he still be around had he allowed someone with him early on to his hospital visits.

I can tell you other horror stories. My sorority sister is a doctor and she always tells me, “Don’t get sick,” because of the dumb, careless things some doctors and nurses do in hospitals. Working in mental health advocacy, I’ve heard stories about psychiatric hospitals that will seriously make you cry. I’m lucky that I have a great general med doctor. And even if I didn’t agree with her 100%, I’d get a second opinion.

I learned a tough lesson from that OBGYN. A  white coat, or  “Dr” in front of their name, doesn’t always equate to being a solid expert. I’ve heard stories of doctors who like to perform surgeries and recommend them to patients for the heck of it. Despite researching what to possibly expect during the appointment, despite Dr. Donde saying I didn’t need the procedure, I let my guard down a bit when she said she wanted to take a sample “just to be safe.” And the doctor telling me twice I was fine before performing the procedure should’ve been a red flag. But I’m not going to beat myself up for her bad call. I’ll just use it as a reminder for the next time I visit the doctor, dentist, etc.

There have been times when a doctor suggested a certain treatment or drug for me that I knew was ludicrous and I told them no. But what happened last week to my body, to me, will not happen again.

I encourage you to do your research before going to a doctor if you can. If they want to do a procedure, research it before saying yes. The web is not always accurate when it comes to health. But forums can be really helpful because there are others on there with the same experience or symptoms as you and can talk about it. And get a 2nd, 3rd opinion. Also follow your gut. If the doctor is a poor communicator, doesn’t make sense, seems like an idiot or just comes off as if he/she could care less, than you may want to think about hopping off of that exam table quick.  

Take care of your body. Love your body. Protect your body.

**I am not a medical expert. Consult your doctors before making any changes to medical care and/or routines.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pleasure 2013
The Beginning of Truly Enjoying Life’s Pleasures

Cheers to Pleasure in 2013! A trip to Napa is on my
Pleasure 2013 list. 
For the first time since I ever learned of a “New Years Resolution List” I didn’t make one for 2013. I know what I want. I know what I need to do. Instead, I made a promise to myself to not only live more passionately but with pleasure. After a lot of pain in 2012, I decided to make 2013 the year I begin to live life more pleasurably.

I want to be fully present with tastes, sounds, touches, sights, smells and good feelings. I’m still on my never-ending journey to “Switch It Up” and challenge myself to live out of the box. But I want to take more time to enjoy life. I love life, but I think I do so much, that I forget to take in what I’m enjoying. Now when I travel, I don’t just snap a bunch of photos. Now I actually take in everything.  I just stand back admire the beauty around me and then take photos.

Although we’re a quarter into 2013, I’ve begun to live with more pleasure. And I’ll post photos soon. Pleasure for me is traveling, eating good food, enjoying something new, and that even includes my work. I love what I do, and am working to make my media presence even bigger. This can be toiling and frustrating at times, but I’m working at finding the pleasure in it. 

I’m taking a page out of Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker’s playbook. They lived so passionately and didn’t apologize for their pleasures.  So far I’ve been to Washington, DC for the Inauguration, indulged in some good Italian and soul food, dared to be bold with red lipstick, and enjoyed taking in the sights of my new neighborhood. Next up is rocking out at next month’s Bon Jovi concert, solo.

Follow me on the all year as I write about pleasure in my Pleasure 2013 series. Twtter hashtag is #CocoaFlyPleasure2013.

How do you live pleasurably? 

Monday, March 11, 2013

COVERGIRL, Janelle Monae and
My Hunt for the Perfect Red Lipstick

For a long time, wearing red lipstick was not an option for me. I’m talking red, red. I’ve worn brick red colors (red with a hint of brown) or berry reds. But not bold, siren red, reds. I was hesitant to try red because I have very full lips. I wasn’t sure if the red would pop too much and make me look like a clown. I was also unsure if it would compliment my darker complexion. Red lips have long been associated with sensuality. Naughty girls wear red lipstick, is what I heard. Silly right? And so I avoided red lipstick for years.

I had a change of heart after attending a pre-Blogalicious conference event in Oakland last year. Veteran makeup artist and beauty blogger Tracey Brown of Blinging Beauty gave a makeup demonstration. She encouraged us to all have a red lipstick. Some of us looked at her like she was crazy, including me. But when she applied a brilliant red blush on a woman darker than me, I thought it looked gorgeous.  And I wondered if red lipstick would work on me, like the red blush worked on her. From then on, I wanted red lips.

This photo of Janelle Monae sold me
on the shade Hot. 
The hunt for the perfect shade of red was on. I visited drug stores and a couple of makeup counters. Then I found THE red lipstick while surfing online. One of my favorite artists, Janelle Monae, is a COVERGIRL. I  visited COVERGIRL'S Pinterest page and saw pictures of Janelle Monae modeling LipPerfection Lipcolor in Hot #305. She looked absolutely stunning. Hot #305 was fire and I knew I had to have it.

I'm still excited about Janelle Monae being a COVERGIRL. She's perfect for their image. Janelle is empowering, fun, beautiful. She brings a special energy to their image and her work,  which is why I'm a fan (see my article on her for the Huffington Post). 

Back to my quest for red lipstick. I thought the hunt would be easy after setting my eyes on Hot. Just go to a drugstore and pick up the lipstick, maybe a pack of gummy bears too. Easy right? I went to the CVS in my area and they were out. I went back three more times. Nada. I went to another CVS twice. They were out of Hot. I even tried Walgreens, Walmart and Target. No Hot.  This went on for about a month. When I want something, I go for it. Then I thought, I’ll order it from the P&G e-Store. They were out! My hunt for Hot was getting cold. 

I was ready to give up. Just for the heck of it, I decided to Tweet Janelle Monae and COVERGIRL a beauty S.O.S. I thought maybe they could suggest another alternative of where to get Hot. They both responded and were very sympathetic to my makeup woes. The people at COVERGIRL must have appreciated my determination. They not only sent me Hot, but the LipPerfection lip liner Passion.  Good things come to those who wait.

The arrival of my
 goodies from COVERGIRL.

As you see from the pictures above, I am in love with Hot. Putting on the shade just brought out so many sides in me. Red lips are bold, sophisticated, sexy, classy, edgy, liberating and fun. And LipPerfection Lipcolor lasts for a long time. Looking back, it’s not that red was a bad color. It’s just that I wasn’t ready to wear it. Now that I’m more confident in my 30’s, bold red lips truly compliment my complexion and my energy. And there’s nothing hotter than a woman comfortable in her skin.

*Special thanks to CoverGirl for the makeup.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Even Strong Women Have Depression

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I remember my early battles with depression began around 14 years old. The years of enduring bullying for being smart, nerdy and having darker skin started to get to me. And I fell into a deep, deep sadness. People told me to “cheer up,” ignore those hating on you and be strong. I mentally beat myself up for not being strong enough. I was a talented, young black woman from East Oakland with a very bright future. But I thought depression was hindering me from becoming the strong black woman that is expected of women in my community.

When depression hit me hard in college, I still saw myself as weak. Which in turn made me feel less authentic as a black woman. The family issues I tried to brush under my mental rug were weighing me down. The stress from academics and attending one of the least diverse schools in the University of California system didn’t help either. I was hard on myself for being tearful and feeling hurt when relatives or friends intentionally tried to hurt me. I was supposed to have the “forget you” attitude, and feelings of steel when people attacked.  I was supposed to just let it go and cheer up. But depression takes more than just cheering up. And while I struggled to get out of that abyss for a number of years, I kept putting myself down for actually having feelings. Sounds silly doesn’t it?  Somehow I forgot I was human.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Real Talk About Anxiety

I host two awesome podcasts, Cocoa Fly and Mental Health and Wellness Radio. I love them both and they're a lot of fun to do. I hosted a show about anxiety disorder for MHWR, and we kept it real. I mean real, real.  I've been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, which actually comes in handy in my field since I'm always on deadline. But it can also be a problem sometimes. I spoke about this with journalist Jay Scott Smith and Dr. Eugenie Hsu, a psychologist in Berkeley, Calif.

It was a great, great discussion. Jay and I talked about our own challenges, Houston Rockets player Royce White, triggers and Digital Underground. Yes, the Humpty Dance came up in conversation. See why I love my show?  Dr. Hsu and I talked about treatment and anxiety versus fear. It was an awesome discussion. Give it a listen.


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