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Archive for the month “June, 2016”

How Howard U Helped Me Personalize Familiar Fashions From Mass Retailers

It was one of those days.

I was mentally drained as we put the finishing touches on a complicated, months-long project and I wanted a decent lunch. I wanted to take an actual full lunch hour away from my desk, where I could eat and digest my food uninterrupted, walk the streets of DC on a non-stifling hot day, and even, gasp, browse a large H&M nearby.

Well, I made the executive decision to take that hour of self-care, and managed to slide into H&M while a great sale was taking place. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to any of the other floors. (I eventually had to go back to work. Tick, tick. Sniff, sniff.)

There was plenty of wonderful merchandise that caught my eye including shorts with beautiful African-inspired prints, (I’m a sucker for that, and I’m heading to the African-American Festival in Baltimore this weekend, so I simultaneously honor the ancestors and slay.) breezy, flowy dresses, cute tops and lightweight summer jackets I rationalized that I’ll need in freezing offices and on airplanes.

Like myself, I saw other women, with a leisurely, yet purposeful stroll through the racks, eyeing and pawing at the clothing. We’d each hold up items we were interested in, giving it a quick assessment and making yes, no decisions in a matter of seconds, well, cuz, we had to go back to work. Even while making these decisions, there was a general sense of calm.

We were all in our happy place. Shopping. Surrounded by sales.

But while we were all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, etc., I noticed something while standing in the swiftly moving line (Shout out to the store at 17th and K).

We were all buying the same things.

The same, exact items.

This is the nature of shopping at fast fashion spots like H&M or Zara, or even Target (especially when they do those collaborations with major fashion designers). Someone you know, or don’t know, like the cute girl standing at the end of the train platform who seems familiar, is. Not because you may know her, or she’s a friend of a friend you met once, it’s simply because you both bought the same clothes.

As a Howard grad, I can recall this happening on a regular basis as the Howard girls flocked to all of the same stores in Georgetown and Pentagon City (my crew purposely made treks out to other shopping malls in Virginia or Maryland to avoid this problem), or even around the corner on Georgia Ave with the quick, cheap club gear at Susan Fashion. If you had a bit more disposable income, you could hit Up Against the Wall, for the hottest, more expensive brand names in early 2000s Hip-Hop fashion.

Because of this inevitability, most Howard girls didn’t sweat it. It was no secret we all liked shopping at the same places. However, rather than having a meltdown and trying to exit unnoticed, or trying to accidentally ruin someone’s outfit, we chose a more civilized and creative solution. A solution that would actually serve us well throughout life and emphasize individuality and confidence.

We tailored the outfit to our personality and developing style. We all didn’t have the money to keep buying more clothes, or more exclusive clothes, so we were forced to work with what we had and gained some insight into our own style to stand out in a sea of other beautiful women.

Thinking back, it was a who wore it best before that became an actual thing. But, to me, the wide variety of interpretations was more inspiring than competitive.

It wasn’t unusual to see a tomboy from a big city rock the same top as a southern, small-town debutante. Maybe the tomboy would cut it up a little and wear it with sports bra, sweatpants and Jordans, while the debutante rocked it with a skirt, blazer and pearls.The bohemian soul sista would rock hip-hugging jeans, and a headscarf, with beautiful wooden earrings hanging from her ears. Maybe she’d tie her shirt to show off her bellyring. SAME SHIRT THO!

So as I scanned the other fashionable DC worker bees checking out, or standing in line with some of the same items I held in my hands, I issued myself a challenge. I reminded myself of my good ol college days where it was expected that you’d spot several girls on your dorm floor, at the game, in your classes and on the yard rocking the same fits from Express, Forever 21, Gap, Aeropostale. And you simply had to do you and be confident in doing so.

I also hope that the women who bought the same items that I did today and the gazillions of other H & M stores worldwide and online, rock them with confidence and that it reflects their personal style. I know I will. I’m excited.

Instead of running for the hills, when I see another woman wearing the same outfit, if she’s within arm’s reach, I like to compliment her and admire her twist on it. Usually, it turns out well, and we compliment each other.

And in this spirit, I share with you the tricks I honed from my Howard sisters that have helped me stand out today.

ACCESSORIES: For me, I strategize around accessories. Accessories always elevate my outfit, and tend to earn me compliments. Simply putting on a belt to cinch that waist, will change the game. Throw on a scarf, and folks will swear you are Clair Huxtable and Kate Middleton rolled up into one. And it’s pretty easy to throw on a great necklace or a couple of bracelets, and look pulled together. From the fashionistas rocking the Chanel jewelry and the Louis Vuitton handbags, to the around the way girls who copped their accessories bargaining at a flea market, to the chicks who make their own, accessories do make an outfit sing even if they are all wearing an H&M jumpsuit.

BOLD LIP: Folks tend to notice me more when I rock a red, or a pink lip. I usually like browns, beiges and deep plum colors.

SHOE GAME PROPER: Got a great summer dress from H&M? Are you rocking cowboy boots or some old school chucks? Attention will be paid for you thinking beyond heels or sandals. Do you have shoes that have a cool print, or a bold, solid color?

MIX N’ MATCH: Michelle Obama has taught us long ago the art of mixing high-end clothing with more affordable brands to present an effortless and always-on-point ensemble. I’ve been thinking about how great my solid color tees, or bodysuits would look with my print heavy shorts, or how the lightweight African print jacket I bought would work nicely with one of my long, solid sundresses, sunglasses and a great statement necklace. The options are really endless!

Sometimes You Just Can’t Live Up to Other’s Expectations, And It’s Perfectly Fine

I was living my life and enjoying a lovely day while hanging out with a friend. This is a similar friend who I’ve blogged about where we’ve had our ups and downs, and while this person may struggle with some issues, including mild narcissism which I came to this conclusion twice in the same day, I’ve decided to just accept this person as they are and do me.

So we’re hanging out, and all of a sudden she tells me she has to get something off her chest.

I knew where this was going. After spending a lot of emotional energy trying to help her get through some tough times last winter, which included cooking for her and staying at her home, we had an argument over something small.

It’s always something small, that sets me off. So I told her she has a short memory and comes at me for stupid things, yet she has other friends who she won’t hold accountable at all and that with the exception of one or two, I think they are all fake. And her crew goes round and round just being fake to each other and I can’t subscribe to that.

Well during this latest encounter, she wants to go back to that argument to chide me about not talking shit about her friends. I fight rolling my eyes.
Basically, this wasn’t really supposed to be a two-way conversation. And as she talked about me not being there for her, I realized I was in the presence of someone who needed more help and more attention than I’m qualified for.

I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, because I knew what I could give as a friend and what I couldn’t. All I heard was I need, I need and you didn’t and you weren’t there.

As usual, this person expected me to apologize and fall all over myself. I didn’t. I simply said, you need more support than I can give. I feel that you tend to deem your problems more severe than my own and while you may have gone through some very terrible things this year, I supported you as best I could, while navigating my own challenges. I did the very best I could. Do you have a mental health plan in place, because you need other people besides me.

I realized I was in a love languages situation. This person is most certainly a quality time person and thrives on being surrounded by family and friends all the time, while for me, I like physical touch.

At this point I knew I had to be somewhat special, because I do believe I have been doing my best, even though there are times where I get tired of people. I want to spend time alone to gather my thoughts and simply rest.

I’m used to loving a lot of people from a distance because geographically they aren’t close. I’m used to the people in my life having an understanding that I love them and will do what I can for them.

Can I improve? Yes. But I think there is a line, there are some people who expect way too much and can’t see how one person can’t handle and take on all of the other person’s problems. When I asked her what she needed from me specifically, she couldn’t say. She just felt like I wasn’t there.

Sometimes I’m awful at checking up on people. I get wrapped up in the things I’m doing, or I think of people, but I’m way too tired to have a conversation where I’m truly present. That’s why when I do finally have conversations with folks on the phone, it can go to two hours easily. I want to be present. But maybe people really only need 10 or 15 minutes of me when they need me. It’s something I wrangle with.

I don’t like feeling guilty about whether or not I’m giving enough of myself to people, because I feel like it’s in direct competition with giving myself the self-care I need. I hate to see people in pain. My mind immediately goes to thinking of ways to solve a friend’s problem or figuring out the right thing to say. But it’s exhausting.

I’m not sure what the right answer is. But there are times, emotionally where I feel like I need to put my oxygen mask on first, and friends like the one I’ve mentioned seem to feel like me doing that is disrespectful or neglectful to their needs.

I’ve decided in terms of that friendship, I have to be ok with where I am with certain friendships. I already decided a long time ago, that I accept this person and I can’t imagine them not in my life, but sometimes keeping a distance works best for me, but it doesn’t work so well for her. I told that person, that by now they should know me and that my intentions are always good, and I am always concerned, and always want the best for her, but I cannot keep vigil over them 24 hours a day and I can’t be expected to drop everything in my life, for every crisis this person may have everyday. It’s unfair to have that expectation. And this is where other support has to come in, and professional support.

I worry about the boundary lines of where her responsibility lies within herself, and where I’m supposed to come in with support. I feel no person should feel like they are alone, but there are times we all feel that way. We have to spread the responsibility of support around to those who love us. We cannot offload the lion’s share of our worries, pain and neuroses on just one person. But we do have to think of constructive ways to tackle our internal issues and do the work. We won’t grow if we get our fix of having someone just be there to distract us from what’s really eating us. And I think primarily, she likes the distraction and to feel like someone will drop everything for her to feel valued. And that’s a false sense of security, which leads her right back to where she started as soon as someone can’t keep that up. And I think that’s even true of romantic relationships. You can’t drain your human resources just as you would any other resource.

We have to figure out ways to improve our self-care techniques with outside support as a companion to a multi-pronged approach to our emotional well-being. And that may be really challenging, but I think it has to be done.

I love my friends, but I should be allowed to have the space to speak up and say I have limitations. I may disappoint you sometimes, as you may disappoint me. May we not have short memories for the times we offered our support in just the right way, may we have the strength to offer the best support possible when our friends need us most.

10 Ways to Meet Your Mate More Socially Acceptable than Online

I became privy to an interesting conversation recently.
Guy and girl meet online. They chat, the chatting upgrades to phone calls, the phone calls upgrade to meeting in person, several dates and a few months later, these two are an item.
They are getting along famously. Guy asks girl to meet his folks, and girl says yes.
She meets the folks, it all goes great and they discuss the verdict coming in from guy’s family.
She passes with flying colors. Even with Guy’s mom.
But there’s a catch. The Aunties have given their blessing, and in the excitement of it all asked guy where he met girl. He casually responds online, and the aunties’ faces fall. They begin to worry, and exchange tales of woe, failed marriages and stolen organs sold on the black market.
And hence the online meeting versus meeting someone in person age-old debate began. Which led to the even deeper question of regardless of how you met, how well do you really know the people you choose to date, or anyone for that matter?
So, in honor of the aunties who let misconceptions about online dating (some of it rightfully deserved, but still) taint the evidence that was before them and made them question the natural vibe they saw, felt and liked, I would like to introduce to you all, 10 Ways to Meet Your Mate, More Socially Acceptable than Online. Now, some of these are old favorites, and others I’ve thrown in to be a complete smart ass.

1. If your parents hooked you up. It’s really a parent’s dream to actually vet and choose the right person for their child because they want their kids to be happy and not make mistakes. It goes back to you being a baby and them baby proofing your house and making sure you don’t hurt yourself. It still applies in your 30s. While some parents may have a more laid back or hands off approach, there are some parents who are actively involved in the process whether they culturally subscribe to arranged marriages for real, for real, or not. FYI, this would probably be the number one answer for parents, and not really anyone else. But they size up your partner with the most scrutiny.

1A. Your family or friends hooked you up. Now, this could be a blind date situation, this could be a set up via a backyard barbecue, wedding, baby christening, Nay Nay’s graduation party, but there’s nothing like actually clicking with who were co-signed by your loved ones. They’ll never let you live it down, they’ll take all the credit if it’s successful and they’ll fade into the bushes like the Homer Simpson meme, if yall crash and burn. It’s a super-socially acceptable way to meet people that is probably the REAL number one. But, parents, tho…

2. Your place of worship. If you are the religious type, this highly socially acceptable meeting place will resonate with you. It will reinforce that God totally brought you two together, and that you likely share the same values that will help you navigate life and a future family together. It’s a good deal if that’s your lifestyle.

3. The Gym. For some people, this is number 1. If you met the love of your life while working out, it means once again you share an appreciation for fitness, health, breathable clothing and meal prepping. It’s one of the more sexy places to meet people, because folks who may not even have a genuine love for working out will go there to meet someone they find attractive. Actually, it may be a bad place to start something real if everyone’s intentions aren’t honest. Nevertheless, people love those #couplegoals #fitness photos and hashtags with fit people doing impossible stuff that less fit people would just look silly doing, but God bless them for trying.

4. Club or Bar. Once again, you’d think with the loud music and the drinking and lewd dancing, how can you really tell a person’s true character upon first meeting? But, clubs and bars are totally socially acceptable places to meet a future mate, says society and movies and clubs and bars that want your money.

5. Volunteer event. Actually, in my opinion, this should be number one, if you were asking ME. But we’re not. We’re talking about the general public and the stereotypical places, society thinks we should be finding our true loves. But, I think a volunteer event is an awesome place to not only meet your mate, but find your tribe in a new city. When you find out what people are passionate about and willing to give up their personal time for, you can get a good insight into what they are about and their core values. You get to see it in action and you see how they balance those things with their lives.

6. Grocery Stores. Now, I’ve seen sexy guys at the grocery store, I have but I really haven’t ever had one approach me nor have I approached them. Maybe this is because I hate the grocery store, I hate how they are set up and I know despite having only a few items I’m still going to spend no less than 20-30 minutes there. I don’t think many people like grocery shopping either, but it’s a necessary evil. So, I’m really confused as to how people keep saying you’ll meet someone fabulous in the produce aisle. And it’s ALWAYS the produce aisle. Most of the time, after you’ve checked someone out, you’ve checked their cart to judge them or realize compared to them, you eat a lot of crap and you eliminate yourself and grab Talenti 2-for-1.

7. Bookstore or Library. I really don’t know how often this happens anymore because, Kindles. However, I love books and I love bookstores. So, if there is a fine man wandering the aisles and we exchange glances, there’s something romantic about bibliophiles finding love in this digital world. So go head, get you some. But, on the flip side, as a student, I think it is feasible for folks to find love in study groups hammering out projects in a library, so I won’t count it all the way out. The intensity of debate and striving for an A, can get folks all hot and bothered.

8. Work. I kind of put this low on the list, but PLENTY of people have met their significant others at work, or on their way to and from work. I have a strong belief in the don’t crap where you eat, but once again, there are a lot of successful relationships that brewed hotter than the kitchen keurig and they managed to keep folks out of their business. Gold star for them. I’m not a hater.

9. Dog Parks. This is probably an ideal place to meet for dog lovers. I know quite a few people who said if their dog don’t like you, you’re basically dunzo. So, I’m sure society will agree a match made in the dog park will probably bode well especially if the pooches get along.

10. Alumni Mixers. Ok, so this one kind of goes hand-in-hand with volunteering, but if you’re like me and you LOOOOOVE your alma mater, meeting your boo-to-be at one of these events can be pretty dope. Have you attended a sporting event against a rival school? Most schools put the playful drama to the side at a tailgate or after party, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself starring in a West Side Story…

Hmmm, I actually named 10 really legitimate places to meet people other than the internet. I was supposed to add in a few funny ones just to illustrate how ridiculous it is to judge people who meet on the internet, so let me pull a few out that are insane.

1. Competitive Hot Dog eating contest. This just seems gross. But these folks are committed. And men may be turned on by female competitors’ gag reflex…
2. Nudist beach. I’m just going to leave that right there. But at least you know what you’re getting. Rock on.
3. Lamaze class. If you know anyone who met and fell in love at a Lamaze class, please send me a message. That’s just amazing.
4. Prison. It totally happens.
5. Jury Duty. That would actually be a bomb ass story.
6. Target. Actually, meeting the love of your life at Target sounds pretty dope. They DO have everything!
7. Divorce Court. I recently heard about a person posting on facebook that her ex-husband got engaged to her divorce lawyer. Another person jumped on the post to correct her, and that it wasn’t her divorce lawyer, just the paralegal. LOL Burn.
8. Dentist office. That’s right up there with Jury Duty. If you can find love there, I salute you.
9. Department of Motor Vehicles. Since we’re going down the list of places we hate, wouldn’t it be great to at least find the love of your life, even if your Driver’s license photo looks awful?
10. Ikea. If you are a single person in Ikea and you aren’t shopping with your parents for a new bunkbed or dorm furniture, seeing all of the couples miserable or not, kind of reminds you of how alone your ass really is, and that you will be assembling that difficult ass furniture alone. But God is a good God, and would have truly shown up and shown out if he sends you a love to call your own, on your way to get that cheap soft serve ice cream. You won’t just get help putting together that complicated ass bed, you’ll get help breaking it in…

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