Cracking The Relationship Code with ‘Guy Code’s’ Damien Lemon

July 11th, 2014 No comments

Not to brag or boast, but in case you haven’t noticed, there is a small trend developing here on this site when it comes to the comedians I interview. Not long after they allow me the opportunity to have a conversation with them for this site, they tend to blow up. Don’t believe me?

Behold, exhibit A: Kevin Hart for UIGM in 2010

And now, exhibit B: Hannibal Buress for UIGM in 2012

I have a feeling Damien Lemon is going to be next on the list, my exhibit C if you will. If you are a fan of MTV’s “Guy Code” you’re already hip to the way he can make something funny simply by the way he delivers his guy-isms.

But for those who haven’t seen him on the MTV series or haven’t witnessed him on stage, holding his own, you should check him out Saturday, at 12 AM. Damien will be the featured stand-up comedian on Comedy Central’s “The Half Hour.” Full disclosure: I’ve known Damien before he even started doing stand-up. He was working in marketing and events at VIBE when I was just starting myself, and off-top, he was not only one of the nicer people I met, he was also one of the funniest people. I don’t think there was one conversation I had with him that I didn’t laugh, and, as you can see in this clip, his funny isn’t an act. It’s a natural part of him. The same way he’s talking here is the same way he talks in casual conversation.

A few days before his Comedy Central debut, Damien was kind enough to give me some time so we could chop it up on a variety of topics. Schedules didn’t allow us to meet at our favorite spot for chicken in Harlem, so instead we talked on the phone about everything from how he’s handled his growing celebrity while being in a relationship to the tricky thing about giving advice to other guys. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

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Ten Years A New Yorker

July 9th, 2014 7 comments

Today marks my official New York Birthday. In 2004, I flew into JFK, a young, fresh-faced college graduate who finally accomplished one of my major life goals up until that point: Get a job at a major magazine in New York City.

That magazine was VIBE and the first job was as a fact-checker. As for residence, well, I didn’t have my own place yet, but I had a plan. My brother was already living here and would let me crash on his couch until I found a place of my own. Within a month of me landing in my new home, I was moving into a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights with my friend Ashley, who I met the summer before when we were interning at VIBE. For two years, we stayed there on W. 164 and Broadway, a block away from the ballroom where Malcolm X was assassinated.

Life was good, and even in hindsight it seemed too good to be true. Hugh, one of my best friends from college was living in Fort Greene, not far from three other former classmates of ours E, Neems, and Ash who shared an apartment. Every day, we would go back and forth exchanging emails, debating, talking smack, cracking jokes, then gather on the weekends at the girls’ apartment, the five of us acting out a real-life version of “Living Single.” Since I was the lone Uptown resident, I would either pack my stuff and take it with me to work or I would go home, pack, and then make the long trek from Uptown to Bed-Stuy.

I like to look at those first two years in New York City as an incubation period, my version of graduate school. Aside from the unexpected murder of my uncle, which happened in California two months after I left, there were very few real moments in my reality within those first 730 days I was here.

But then, very suddenly, everything started changing.

Hugh was leaving NYC for a new job opportunity, and my roommate was doing the same. This meant I was going to be here without one of my best friends and I had to look for a new place (and possibly a new roommate).

As luck would have it, I was able to secure an affordable one-bedroom apartment in Central Harlem, on 150th and Frederick Douglass (or, as the native New Yorkers call it, 8th Ave). I signed my lease and moved in, turned 25, and began a new chapter in my career as an editor at KING magazine all within the same week.

This morning, I woke up in that same apartment. It is one of the few things from my time here that has remained the same. Most of everything else around me has changed. Some of the changes were part of my plan, most of them were God’s plan for me, the only thing that has never been on the agenda is an exit plan. I’m sure that day will come, but one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned since moving to this city ten years ago is that this city and I are a good match.

I will always make sure people know I grew up in Seaside, California and that I am a proud alumni of Howard University, because my Pop told me to never forget where I came from. But today’s post is about where I am and have been for the past 10 years.

No one can seem to agree on how long one must live in New York before they become a New Yorker. I’ve heard some can become one in six months, but that’s a lie. In my first six months here, I still thought the train ride from Uptown to Brooklyn wasn’t too bad. Instead, I would like to think today, ten years after I picked up my luggage off a carousel and told a cab driver to take me to 792 Columbus Ave, I can now claim I’m a New Yorker. I’m not from here, but I am of here, and just like people tell me to this day they can hear the California accent when I talk, whenever I travel out of this city, people will think it makes sense when I tell them I’m visiting from New York.

To commemorate my 10th New York Birthday here are ten lessons I’ve learned about living in the concrete jungle.

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Free Agent Friends: A Collaboration with Black & Sexy TV

July 7th, 2014 1 comment

Are you familiar with the term “Free Agent Friends”?

It’s a term reserved for those who have decided to make the bumpy trek from lovers to friends and it’s the type of smart phrasing that can only be found in a series like “Hello Cupid.”

I have been a fan of this series since coming across it last year in the midst of a routine browsing of my Internet. The series, which is about two best friends Whitney and Robyn and their online dating shenanigans caught my eye because, well, admittedly, the actresses who play Whitney (Ashley Blaine Featherson) and Robyn (Hayley Marie Norman) are fine. But it didn’t take me long to get past the superficial and see a well-produced, sharp, fun web series that was just as good as anything on traditional television. Once they added in a male lead who goes by ProudDad aka Cassius (played by Brandon Scott), things got only more interesting and I was hooked. Before I knew it, I went through the whole first season, which didn’t take much time considering each episode was made-for-web, and no episode ran longer than 17 minutes.

Admittedly, this is a show I probably should have written about sooner, because if you’re a fan of this blog, chances are you might be a fan of “Hello Cupid.” But time sometimes has a way of revealing when it’s good for everyone, and that is exactly what happened when earlier this year, Black&Sexy TV, the production company behind “Hello Cupid” asked me to be a part of the series as a story contributor.

Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 10.44.53 PM

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Everything Will Be Okay: The Feeling of Losing A Job

June 30th, 2014 5 comments

To this day I haven’t received a more cryptic text message than the one I woke up to on this day five years ago.

First message:
Hey man, just want to tell you tomorrow is going to be a day, be ready.

Second message:
Just do your normal routine, make your breakfast, and come to the office at the usual time.

Third message:
If it helps, just know I’ve already cried about this several times, but we’re going to be okay.

The messages were from Ben, my editor and boss at VIBE. At the time, I was an articles editor, but my main duty was online editor. I had just started working under Ben after reporting to Danyel, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and Ross, the head of digital, for the better part of a year. Ben was not a new employee, he was one of the more senior people on staff, but we never worked as close as we had within those last couple of months.

Reading those text messages from Ben made my heart sink straight into my stomach. At the time I received them, I wasn’t home. I was at the apartment of a girl I was seeing. During that time, it was customary for me to wake up an hour before her and quietly step out to go home and get ready for the day. But on that morning, I was too scared to even move. I woke her up instead.

“What do I do about this?”

She was half-asleep, but attentive enough to calm me down. “It might not be as bad as you think,” she said.

“But it’s definitely not good, right?”

“Well, yeah,” she said. “If he said he cried, it doesn’t sound good.”

I sat on the side of her bed and just stared at the drawn blinds covering her small bedroom window. The fear that I was going to be fired paralyzed me momentarily. The time was 6:30 AM, and it would be at least another three hours before I found out anything.

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The Talk About Having Kids Now

June 19th, 2014 2 comments

There was no one single conversation that led me to this point, it just happened over time, I grew tired of talking about kids I did not have.

Some women might be surprised to know, men talk about the idea of having kids just as much as women. No we don’t have to worry about the biological makeup of our bodies one day putting the kibosh on our ability to make a baby, but I’ve heard plenty of men say they’re not trying to be some old ass dad. They want to have kids too by a certain age. But even before that time in their life, I’ve heard men talk about what kind of kids they want, how they want to raise them, since those men were boys. I too would partake in the conversation innocently.

I remember in sixth grade, one of my classmates had rules by his parents that were so strict my friends and I constantly made fun of him until one day he said, “You know, I’m going to raise my kids the way I’m being raised.” A reminder, this was sixth grade. We all laughed at him, but then it led to this conversation about what kind of rules we were going to enforce, whether or not we were going to spank our kids, and all that other stuff that is fun to talk about. Only a few years ago, the only men in my life who were receiving a Happy Father’s Day were men much older than me. Guys my age would only say it to one another as a joke, sort of like a prank call to one another that would go like this.

HOMIE 1: Yo, happy Father’s Day.

HOMIE 2: Man, get out of here.

HOMIE 1: What? I know you got a kid out there somewhere.

HOMIE 2: Yeah, you’re my son.

We would then laugh, because we knew the idea of us as fathers was a joke.

This past weekend, on Father’s Day, I called some of those same men to wish them a Happy Father’s Day because they are indeed fathers now. The men who still aren’t, I don’t play that prank with them anymore, and nor do they with me.

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We Need To Stop Telling People What Age They Should Get Married

June 10th, 2014 3 comments

Yesterday I made another appearance on Huffington Post Live to discuss the pressure men feel to get married by a certain age. For the sake of yesterday’s show, we used the number 30, an age that is two years behind me.

If you watch the clip, which I have embedded below, one of my fellow panelists entered the conversation with a very aggressive take on this subject. Evan, the guy you see furthest to your left asked my fellow panelists and our moderator how old we all were. Then he proceeded to tell us how our ages have given us a better chance to know thyselves and what we want. His suggestion was based on a statistic that says people who get married before 30 are more likely to have their marriages end in divorce, and people who wait until their thirties (or even late 20s) to get married are more likely to stay together.

These are the kinds of statistics people like to spew when defending their decision not to get married before a certain age or when they’re upset that they haven’t found a reason to get married at an age they thought they would be. I know this because as I was creeping up on 30, I was very fascinated with the fact that it was shaping up to be something very different than I thought it would be when I was growing up. I would have bet all the money I made at my part-time jobs in high school and college that I would be married by the time I was 30. When I realized I wasn’t even close, I began to explain away why that wasn’t the case with statistics just like the ones Evan wanted to mention.

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A Guide To Making It Known You’re In a Relationship

June 5th, 2014 7 comments

*“I don’t have a girlfriend. But I do know a woman who’d be mad at me for saying that.” – Mitch Hedberg

It was like most Saturday afternoons at Sons of Essex. I made a quick lap around the place, dapping up folk I knew, exchanging pleasantries, taking a welcome shot while my boy Doc went straight to the bar to open up a tab. The entire place was well into party mode, people who were seated at tables were getting up from them and dancing if their jam came on, the pit was a sea of people. She was one of the first people I saw when I walked in the restaurant, sitting down with one of her girlfriends, mimosa in hand. Cute, I thought. Then I kept it moving back to where Doc was seated.

I received a text from Gina that read, “I’m probably going to be there in an hour or so.” This meant she wasn’t getting there for at least another 90 minutes, so I got comfortable.

That girl, the one with the mimosa in hand wasn’t the only attractive woman I saw. Saturdays at SOE are usually crawling with eye candy of all shades and varieties, but, for some reason, she was the one I noticed; the one I knew, if my circumstances were different, I would have approached her and introduced myself.

My behavior when I go out without my girlfriend is only slightly different now than it was when I was going out as a single man. My default setting is social. I will talk to women whether I am attracted to them or not. A large part of this has to do with my job, which as I’ve explained before, requires me to net people who might be willing to participate in my column. Seeing as I have that built in excuse to talk to women, even my girlfriend knows her boyfriend will talk to other women. She also knows she can trust me to draw the line somewhere.

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This Is How Arguments Start

May 29th, 2014 4 comments

People ask me if Gina and I have argued yet, and I’m proud to say we actually have. Thus far, they haven’t been over anything deep, but of course, they have been caused because one of us or both of us were being petty. Below is an example of what I’m talking about. This actually happened and I’ve rehashed it as accurately as I can remember.


Like most New Yorkers, Gina and I travel around the big city mostly by public transportation, but every couple of weeks, she travels out to her parents place in New Jersey to pick up her old car and use it for a week.  Save for an easier trip for a grocery store binge, going on day trips out of the city, and moving large items from one place to another, the convenience of a car is minimal. As much as I love to drive, doing so in New York City is a hassle not worth the time or the energy, which kind of doesn’t matter in this instance because I can’t drive Gina’s car anyway. She uses a stick shift and I only know how to handle an automatic.

But that is not where the inconvenience lies. The biggest frustration with driving in New York City is a bitch named parking.

In New York City, the more residential neighborhoods have alternate side street parking. On Monday and Thursday and Tuesday and Friday, you must move your car and park on the alternate side of the street generally before 8 AM until 11 AM (Wednesdays and the weekends are exempt in most areas). This means finding parking the night before or in the hours before the alternate side rule takes effect is  like trying to find a spot in a mall parking lot the day after Thanksgiving.  Imagine feeling that anxiety and frustration four days out of the week.

Now try to picture two people in this situation trying to get along.

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Overrated Argument: Phone Passwords

May 28th, 2014 1 comment

“Why the hell do you have a six-digit password?”

My boy looked at me with sheer confusion on his face when he asked me this question sometime last summer.

“I mean, aren’t you single? Who are you hiding from?”

I didn’t have an answer to his question as I was looking up directions for the next place we were going. He had a point. I had a long password to get in my phone and at that time in my life, the only one who was going through it was me. Sure, I had to account for a crazy girl or two who may be prone to want to see if I received any nudes from anyone but them, but back in those days, I considered snooping a huge no-no in my relationships with women, and the only way to teach that lesson was letting them discover things they really weren’t ready to see on their own. So if they found something, lesson learned.

Considering the strong point my boy made, I decided to take the password off my phone and I noticed the difference immediately. No longer did I have to worry about keeping it steady in my hand as I typed in my password to check it in awkward positions. Sure, it didn’t take more than a couple of seconds to get through my phone security system, but I noticed how much more efficient everything became once I shaved those seconds off by opting not to have a password.

When I got into my current relationship, I didn’t bother putting a password back on my phone. I thought about it, but only in the sense that I noticed I never felt compelled to do so, which was always the case in prior relationships. Even in the past, I can’t say I was always hiding something, but having at least something to hide became such a habit, well, I ended up having a password on things even when I didn’t need them.

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Not All Girls Will Like You and That’s Okay

May 27th, 2014 5 comments

I had my first kiss in fourth grade. That week, rumors were circulating that the girls in our class had a meeting and decided each of them would kiss a boy on the schoolyard, with no warning beforehand. The boys in the class only knew basic math, but it was all we needed to figure out that because there were more girls than boys, a couple of us were going to be left out of the attack of our dreams.

When I was 17-years-old, I lost my virginity. According to this recent study by the Center for Disease Control, that is the average age for American men and women, but you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t late to the party. Prior to when it actually happened, if a baseball teammate of mine or one of the other boys I hung out with asked me how old I was when I lost my virginity, I would lie and say 14. When I was 14, I said 13.

Both my first kiss and losing my virginity happened years apart from each other, but I distinctly remember feeling the exact same way up until the moment they occurred. That week of my fourth grade year, I remember being worried I wouldn’t be one of the lucky ones to get a kiss. Before I lost my virginity to my high school sweetheart, I remember praying to God that I wouldn’t die a virgin. Considering I had no idea what either of these experiences actually felt like, on a physical level, I never understood why I wanted them to happen to me so badly.

It would be years before I realized what I was so anxious about: I wanted girls to like me.

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