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
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
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
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
Just FYI… Here’s a great personal of teen pregnancy from
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, who I’ll call Dr. DB (for
Dull Blade) 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 Dr. DB. A white coat, or h “Dr” in front of their
name, doesn’t always equate to 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. DB
saying I didn’t need the procedure, I let my guard down a bit when Dr. DB said
they 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 Dr. DB’s bad call. I’ll just use it as a
reminder for the next time I visit the doctor, dentist, etc.
And 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.
am not a medical expert. Consult your doctors before making any changes to
medical care and/or routines.
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
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 CocoaFly.com all year as I write about
pleasure in my Pleasure 2013 series. Twtter hashtag is #CocoaFlyPleasure2013.
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
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.
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
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.
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 TheGrio.com 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.