Writing about love during times of hate

December 30th, 2015 5 comments

Love is a battle.
Love is a war.

— James Baldwin


Love is a difficult thing to write about.

It doesn’t seem this way at first. We think there’s so much to say because there’s so much we feel in the moment, but then when we put fingers to keys, it just becomes incoherent mush. That is why the popular thing to do these days when it’s time to express joy is to do this a;npogifhaptgag

or this: !!!!!!!!!!!!

or this: Yaaaaaaaaasssss

or we write out a bunch of emojis. (My personal favorite is the flame emoji.)

Another reason love is probably more difficult than ever to write about is because in 2015, it seemed like we saw less of it playing out on the news and in social media. In his annual Who Won the Year bracket, Rembert Browne writing for New York Magazine crowned “Hate” as the unfortunate champion of 2015. Granted that’s only one man’s opinion, but if you read the whole article (which you should do after finishing this one) how he got there makes sense. There is not one group of people that exists today who doesn’t feel like someone is hating on them. Black people. White people. Men. Women. LGBT. Muslims. Christians. Americans. Foreigners. Democrats. Republicans. Everyone swears everyone hates them.

Some of these groups have a much stronger, more legitimate case for this feeling than others, but you get the point. This was the year everyone felt at some point like society was out to kill them or against them. This was the year when I often woke up, checked my phone, and saw a news alert that crushed me. All I could do was turn around and hold Gina, then pray for the strength to make it through the day.

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I Didn’t Fight the Guy who Disrespected me in Front of my Girlfriend, Here’s Why

August 13th, 2015 7 comments

There has never been a moment when I stepped out with my girlfriend to a party and regretted it. We have nothing but good times. But whenever we hit the town, I feel an extra amount of pressure to be aware of our surroundings at all times and keep her out of any uncomfortable situations.

This is not because of how she acts. Anyone who has been around her knows she doesn’t call attention to herself. This comes with the territory of being a man.

From the days I was a young boy with an even younger sister for whom to look out, I have understood my duty to always be on notice when with a woman. My cues came from following my mom and pop’s walk alongside each other in public spaces. Even if they had just been arguing with each other, once out in the world, around others pop’s always stayed close to my mother, allowing very little space between him and her and sending a clear message to any man who may have been staring at her from afar.

Now I’m doing the same thing with my girlfriend and with good reason.

Without fail, the minute I put some space between us at a party, there is usually some guy sizing her up and approaching her. Luckily most of the time, she and I can find a way to diffuse it without any awkwardness or problems. Our go-to move is me coming up to her and showing her some affection, nothing too brazen or imposing. Since she knows exactly what I’m doing, she’s receptive and follows along, letting the guy who’s trying to ask what her interests are know that we are together. Most guys play this off with ease. I’ve seen them introduce themselves to me then back off. Others, fully aware of what is happening, humbly back away without saying a word.

This is not what happened at a Fourth of July party we attended.

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Categories: Relationship Facts Tags:

Eleven Lessons Learned After Living In New York City For 11 Years

July 9th, 2015 2 comments

Eleven years ago today, I stepped off a plane at JFK International Airport. It wasn’t my first time visiting New York City. I had been here enough times to not be in awe of the city skyline as my plane was touching down. I even lived here once, albeit temporarily for a three-month summer residence between my junior year and senior year at Howard University. I lived with my brother in Astoria Queens and interned at Vibe magazine in Manhattan. Instead of awe and excitement, my feeling was firmly one of anxiety as I loaded up a cart with my luggage. Unlike my previous visits, this was a one-way trip. I was here to stay and I had no idea when I would leave.

All these years later, I still don’t know when I’m buying a one-way ticket out of here. These days whenever I’m asked if I see myself staying (and as long as you tell people you’re from somewhere else, they will always ask you when you’re leaving) I shrug because I don’t know if that day will ever come. I’m not a New Yorker but New York City has become home, and that is a very bittersweet thing for me to say. Outside of Seaside, California, the city where I was raised, I have spent more time living in New York than I have anywhere else. And while I always grew up with a dream of one day living in the Empire State, I don’t know if that dream ever entailed me staying this long.

But here I am with no exit strategy in mind. This puts me in the unique position of being able to help those who are either thinking about moving to the city or packing their bags to do so. As long as I have been here, I still identify more with the wide-eyed newcomers than the natives. I was once you, but didn’t have very many people who I could talk to not just about living here but trying to figure out how to call this place home. These are the lessons I’ve learned in my quest to get comfortable in New York, New York, big city of dreams.

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Categories: Life Tags:

Three Things You Need To Do Since Your Girl Is Going To See ‘Magic Mike’ And Magic Mike XXL

July 2nd, 2015 17 comments

What’s up, folks!? A quick note for those who are seeing this post for the first time. I originally wrote it back when the first “Magic Mike” hit theaters. But now, with the release of the sequel, I thought it would be a good idea to repost it. I haven’t edited anything largely because judging from the trailer, it seems to be the same movie. So fellas, read and share this with your boys because I wrote it for us, the men whose women are going to see Magic Mike XXL.

Fellas, today your girl is not thinking about you. She isn’t worried about you and unless your real name is Mike, she doesn’t know your name. Why? “Magic Mike” comes out today, and if you haven’t heard about it, go to Google and get ready to shut your laptop within the first 30 seconds of that trailer.

Yep. That was Channing Tatum dancing half naked on your screen. I’m sorry, man but I had to put you onto game, because the fact is, women are out here buying two tickets for this movie. They’re buying one for themselves to see at lunch and the other to see after work.

Women are excited for this movie about male strippers, which is not to say they like male strippers. Most women I know say they actually loathe male strippers in real life, which I totally get because like, I’ve lusted for p0rn stars on my screen, but in real life? I don’t know if I’m going to date one, except for Michelle Tucker. Michelle Tucker gets all my forgiveness for her past, but that’s neither here nor there, moving on…

Very rarely does a movie come out with the sole intent of getting every woman in the audience to cross their legs multiple times throughout the film. Women never get treated to SCENES that appeal to their carnal side, let alone whole movies, so when something like “Magic Mike” comes out, they’re all in.

Meanwhile, because you might not have heard about this movie, you’ve just been chilling when you should’ve been in the gym or on the floor of your residence, knocking out pushups. If this is or was you, bravo sir. You knew better than to let yourself go as the promotional blitz for “Magic Mike” was heating up to today’s release. You can live comfortably knowing your woman will go see a movie with half naked men but come hot for YOU because you look like those dudes on the screen.

As for the rest of you guys, there’s still some things you can do to ensure your woman will not carry over some residual heat from the theater, because if she is hot, it’s certainly not for you. Here are my tips for the men who must endure their women going to see “Magic Mike” once or twice.

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Categories: guys Tags:

Warning To A Young Man: You’re About To Go Through It

June 10th, 2015 4 comments

It’s been far too long since I wrote my last post. Usually I wouldn’t kick off a new post by acknowledging this. I’d just blog like I never left. But this latest hiatus has been eating at me to the point where I’ve lost sleep over it.

I don’t know when or why it became difficult for me to write a post. Long time readers remember the days when I was on here publishing posts five days a week. Now it’s a good month if I do five posts in 30 or 31 days. I could blame life or a career that already requires me to write. It could be both of those things, one of those things, or none of the things. In other words, the reasons I haven’t been writing on this blog as frequently as I once did are far too complicated for me to understand. I just know things aren’t what they used to be.

Luckily the anecdote for this is a simple one: Just write.

So I’m going to make an honest attempt to do more work here on this blog. I don’t know if ti will be all about relationships anymore. Honestly, that’s one of the things that held me back. But it doesn’t matter what I write about nearly as much as it matters that I write period.

Now that we got all that out of the way, I return with my response to a question a young man recently sent me. Here is his question in full, and my response is below.

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Categories: Break ups Tags:

How To Pour A Woman A Drink In 2015

April 9th, 2015 1 comment

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but after a recent visit there, I learned a valuable lesson that I took back home with me: We have to improve the way we get women drinks at parties.

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Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Can a Man Worry and Will it Ever Stop?

March 9th, 2015 3 comments

Earlier this year, I decided to reactive my Ask.FM account, thus allowing people to send me questions about whatever they feel like. As one would expect, most of these questions have been about relationships and dating, some of them are about life itself. Even the simple dating questions, like whether or not a person should text someone they haven’t heard from in a couple of days, comes with some sort of story before they ask me what they should do. I rarely ever get the kind of questions that are simple to answer such as asking me to list my top five jazz musicians alive, or where is the best place to go for a cup of coffee in Harlem.

But I’m not complaining. The dirty little secret about these questions is they help me too. I answer each question as thoughtfully as I can because on some level, I can relate to most of them. I know what it’s like to stress over an unreturned text. For most of my years dating, there was more confusion than clarity about the women I liked and the women who liked me, or why they didn’t anymore. Hell, I even had to go to therapy because at some point, the questions got too big for me to handle, and too deep for me to confide in my friends about. This means when I tell someone they should seek professional help, I am harnessing my own experience to provide that perspective.

I don’t know if I am giving people the right answers, but I’m confident I know what I’m talking about. (Also, to be real, I ain’t got the time nor the energy to look shit up for other people, so if I get an question that stumps me, I would tell them to look it up and keep it moving.) But no matter how well-versed I come off to others, I don’t think anyone is reaching out to me because, unlike Sway, I have the answers. If I had to guess why people open up to me, I would say it’s because I make people feel comfortable doing so. I’m vulnerable with my readers, so people are vulnerable with me. It’s a fair exchange, and to honor it, I would like to ask all of you a two-part question in hopes of getting some insight at the very least.

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Categories: Gina Tags:

Meeting My Family and Why It Matters Now

February 5th, 2015 2 comments

On Saturday, I am introducing my mother, sister, and niece to the other most important woman of my life.

The significance of this introduction has very little to do with the traditional meaning we attach to meeting family. I am not seeking approval of Gina from my mom. Gina is a grown woman and my mother is fully aware of who she is and how much she means to me. As a matter of fact, none of this is about either of them. It’s about me.

In October, 2013, my mother, sister, and niece came to New York City to visit. This was the first time since I moved here that they would be making the trek “back East” as my mom would say. When my mother surprised me with the news, that they would be coming, I sprung into action to make arrangements for a large gathering of my closest friends and the three most important people in my life. The two parties — friends and family — represented me in important ways. My friends were a reflection of the man I had become in New York City, a network of people who supported me in various ways. I wanted my mother, sister, and niece to meet the people who were there for me in the darkest days and happiest moments of my time in the big city. My family represented who I am as a son, a brother, and an uncle, the man from Seaside, California. I wanted my friends to meet the woman who brought me into this world, my sister who not only I protected but protected me as well growing up, and my niece, the little girl I live for.

Gina and I still had yet to meet.

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Categories: Family, Gina Tags:

What’s Good, Jozen? Dating Single Mothers and Critiquing Your Woman’s Style

January 19th, 2015 No comments

After my last post, I realized there would be no way for me to republish every single Ask.FM question I get. The volume is just too much, and frankly, I don’t think every question is worth rehashing on here.

What I have decided to do is select a few questions, something around 10, and put them in each batch. These are questions that I feel were the best one for no specific reason. Maybe I liked the question, maybe I liked my answer. Whatever it was, I realized after the last post that I might want to be discerning in my approach to sharing all the questions and answers I get. Here’s hoping you all like this batch of questions as much as you like the last one.

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Categories: What's Good Tags:

What’s Good, Jozen? Batch One/Vol. 1

January 14th, 2015 2 comments

On January 2, I decided to re-open my Ask.fm account after letting it sit idle for over two years. I can’t say this was entirely my idea. It was more like easily influenced. My friend Jamilah Lemieux started it and looked like she was having fun with it, so I thought, what the hell? Let me open mine back up and see what comes out of it.

What has transpired since is more than I ever expected. For long time readers of this site, you will recall I had a Formspring (the original Ask.FM), in which I took questions from readers who wanted some dating advice. My approach this time was just to have some fun, but what’s that thing Jay-Z once said about “you was who you was before you got here”? As it turns out, a lot of people still want my advice when it comes to dating and relationships, so I’ve been spending every single day, answering all these questions.

In addition to people wanting my insight on their personal situations and issues, I’ve also received a fair amount of questions about my relationship and other lighthearted topics, such as my favorite TV shows or what my last meal would be. I’ve loved every minute of it.

I never expected for these questions to come as frequently as they do, nor did I expect them to have the effect that they have on my writing. Since opening up my Ask.FM, I’ve been more inspired than I can remember. As my friend Maya tweeted to me yesterday, “A good question can be a great writing prompt.”

That’s exactly what these questions have become, which is why I’m sharing them on this site. I can’t just be giving all my good stuff away to Ask.FM. I realized very quickly, if I wanted to keep this going, I would have to find a way to make it work for me, so here is my first in what might be many Ask.FM related posts. Before we get into them, let me break it down.

Every day, I am going to answer the questions I receive on Ask.FM. Each batch is basically all the questions I received within that day. So for all these questions I have below, they all came to me from sometime before 12:00 AM today. Tomorrow, I will post all the questions that came to me before 12:00 AM on Thursday. After I’m done answering them, I will cut and paste the questions (all of which are anonymous) and my answers here on the blog. This allows for some readers who may not want to visit my Ask.FM page or sift through them all, to read the questions and answers in one specific place.

As some of you may have noticed, content has not been what it was when I first started blogging. What can I say? Life happens. Posting five times a week got tiring. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to that pace, but I know that doing things this way allows me to give this site some much-needed fresh content. But don’t worry, this blog isn’t just going to be post after post of people’s questions and my answers. You should also know that each of my answers, even the shortest ones, have been answered with genuine care for the person asking. I appreciate all of the questions and I don’t want to make anyone feel foolish for asking me anything. But as serious as I take the questions, I don’t necessarily take myself that seriously.

I am not a therapist; I am not a life coach. I am a writer, and as much as I care about helping every one of you, I also am using these questions as an exercise in developing my voice. Some of you may need real professional help and my words just won’t be enough. My number one goal in answering any question concerning somebody’s personal life or dilemma is to give you a framework for thinking things through. I don’t claim to have all the answers or the solutions. What I have is an idea and a take on how you might want to approach a situation. Ultimately, you should always do your thing over whatever thing I told you to do.

Full disclosure: Questions are left unedited and can be found written exactly the way they came to me via Ask.FM mostly because I can’t edit them on the platform. To be fair, I too have maintained the same standard on my answers. They are as I wrote them on Ask.FM. Exceptions will be rare, an asterisks next to my answer indicates I added that portion when transferring it over to the blog.

I’m listening and I’m answering your questions, even when they’re offensive. So, in the words of DMX, hit me with the question and the answer gonna be there.

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Categories: Jozen? Tags: