My Barber Is BAE – based on a recent conversation with an anonymous friend.

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He and I have a longstanding, Saturday morning date. I arrive fifteen minutes to eight and park my car directly behind his copper-colored, Infiniti Q70 Hybrid. He owns the popular, mid-city barbershop – Perry’s Place. The modern, two-level building sits on the corner of Sedgewood and Middleton Parkway. It’s directly across the street from Gino’s infamous, pizza & sub shop. I’m always the first customer to arrive, as to secure my spot as Perry’s first cut of the day. He unlocks the glass door as he sees me coming, flipping the white, cardboard sign from CLOSE to OPEN. I greet him with a bass filled, ‘good morning’, and he replies, ‘wassup’. Between the heavy bites he takes from his sausage, egg and cheese, sour dough biscuit, Perry sips from a sixteen ounce bottle of water. He always offers me the half of his breakfast sandwich that is still wrapped. I routinely decline. We’ve never discussed the fact that I’m a vegetarian, but then again, there are a lot of details about my life that I don’t go out of my way to share at the barbershop.

Inhaling the aroma of wintergreen skin oils blended with musk-like pomades and lemon based Lysol, I take the empty seat in front of Perry’s barber chair. A crinkled, five by seven photograph of his daughter hangs above the row of dangling, gray and black clippers. Beside a collection of white, hand mirrors, Perry has a copy of his owner’s permit and license that are framed and on display. His center booth is always the cleanest and most organized amongst the other barbers who tend to stroll in around nine o’clock or nine thirty.

There’s a reclined manliness that shapes Perry’s Place. I never feel as if I have to go out of my way to butch up before coming to get my haircut. I wear my favorite, yellow flip-flops from Abercrombie & Fitch, paired with light denim shorts that are cuffed at the knee. Though I have friends and associates who put on their baggy, high top, colorless boy-drag before they go to the barbershop on Saturday mornings, I’m comfortable wearing the same clothing I run my errands in. Sometimes, tension mounts between the neighborhood boys and myself, as they walk in with no appointments, wearing sweats and other nonnegotiable, masculine attire. I know they see me in my foofoo accouterments of style and wonder where I get the guts to ingrain my expression of manliness into their urban dwelling. Visually digging for the pink cues and soft hues that would normally color a black man queer, these locals aren’t able to make sense of the easy back and forth that flows between Perry and I. Perry is the razor sharp alpha male; father, business owner and big brother figure to many of the patrons.

He scurries around the shop in his black, Adidas flip-flops. Carrying a broom in one hand and his partially eaten sandwich in the other, I watch Perry slide between stations. The telephone has already begun to sound off. Perry dashes into the back of the shop to take the calls. He tosses me the television remote and asks if I can power on the flat screen that hangs above the wall mirror. I always turn to CNN in an effort to create a moment where Perry and I aren’t forced to negotiate conversations that either focus on my love life or his affection for sports. He is more intriguing to me when openly expressing his views about Obama’s most recent executive orders, than he is when he discusses the pre-season, football lineup.

Perry heated the white towels by the deep, basin sink. He raised his voice over the CNN correspondent to tell me how crazy he thinks people are for even talking about impeaching President Obama. I responded, telling Perry that Obama will forever be chastised for basically being a civil rights politician. At that moment, one of the young, neighborhood guys sitting two seats down from me jumped up and shoved his iphone in Perry’s face. He’s one of many who respects Perry’s hustle. “This the bitch I smashed two weeks ago…the one I was telling you about!”, the boy shouted. Perry laughed out loud, covering his mouth with a bald up fist. He then joked in response, “if she has an older sister, you need to find out and give me her name on Instagram”.

Perry is a typical guy on the surface, but then again, he isn’t. His only tattoo is of praying hands, inked onto his upper, right arm. The tiny, black diamond studs he wears in each ear compliment his basic, tee shirt and basketball shorts style. We’re just about the same height, maybe five-eleven. He’s six feet tall at the most. His face is clean-shaven and butternut smooth. Aside from the thin, dark brown hairs that coil beneath his chin and strap across his top lip, his facial hair is barely there. Perry is an attractive man, but seemingly unaware of his physical appeal.

In the eight months that he has cut my hair, I’ve seen a side of Perry’s character that makes me believe it’s possible for gay men to form healthy relationships with our straight, male allies. He and I share similar political views, and are able to discuss our thoughts and ideas every Saturday morning. Perry and I never discuss women or sex, but more so because he doesn’t bring up those topics with me. He may sense that my sexual interest in women crossed the finish line over ten years ago. I just appreciate the fact that Perry does not make me feel like I have to be silent in order to blend in with his other customers.

Despite my attractions towards Perry, when I take a seat in his chair, and he wraps his black, barber cloth around my neck, our interaction is social and professional. (B)efore (A)ll (E)lse, we are two men who have established a mutually respectful relationship. Sexuality does not hinder our ability to openly engage with one another in an environment known to strictly tolerate traditional forms of masculinity. When Perry is done cutting and lining my hair, I pay him twenty-two dollars and I tip him five. I leave his barbershop as a customer who has been provided the type of safe space service that makes me want to uphold my longstanding, Saturday morning date.

LISTEN – “MEAN BOYS: 5 To A Table & You Cant Sit With Us!”

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By now, many of you have already read the original poem I created a week or so ago, as you have been introduced to it via my latest video release HERE. MEAN BOYS: 5 To A Table & You Cant Sit With Us!” was written after my recent outing to a day party in Washington, DC. In my poem, I address issues of race, social status and a sense of bullying amongst men. You can now LISTEN to my spoken word performance of the piece below.

I Feel Like The Ugly One Amongst The Group That Nobody Ever Tries To Talk To When My Friends & I Go Out

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Most people will say they get dressed up to simply go out, dance, drink and have a good time. It’s no secret, however, that many single individuals are hoping to wrap their Friday or Saturday nights by exchanging numbers with someone they find physically attractive or otherwise, appealing. While the intent may be to party alongside close friends, it certainly makes one feel good when total strangers offer to buy us a drink. There’s nothing more exciting than igniting a weekend by meeting a potential date. Even when we’re not looking for love or in search of a sexual rendezvous, the flirtatious attention we receive from one or two men amongst the crowd can easily become the highlight of our evening. It then makes sense why people sometimes feel that their night out was a waste of time when they don’t meet someone new.

It is important to remember that it takes a lot of guts for a guy to walk up to someone he doesn’t know in an effort to express romantic interest. It becomes even more challenging when that someone is surrounded by their circle of friends. We often assume that men aren’t approaching us because he noticed that our skin is starting to breakout or maybe the top we chose to wear isn’t too flattering as it folds over our less than flat tummy. Whenever we do catch one of the guys looking in our direction, we naively convince ourselves that he’s staring at our ‘obviously attractive’ friend; the Kim Kardashian amongst the group. Meanwhile, most guys who are out in search of a new date or love interest are surveying the crowd for a little more than the sexiest person on the dance floor. It’s very rare that men will even approach the conventionally cute ones. A man is not only waiting for the perfect moment to say something to you, but he is also hoping that you will ease the awkwardness by sending a signal of mutual interest.

If you feel ‘ugly’ when you enter a social setting, that particular attitude is going to exude through your mood and your ‘I don’t belong here’ demeanor – It is very easy for men to determine that someone suffers from a low self esteem. It becomes even more apparent to onlookers that you lack confidence if you are out with a circle of friends who are rather outgoing and fun. While some guys will prey on your insecurities, others will simply stand clear of you. No one really wants to invest time into convincing someone that they do, ‘belong in the room’. Sell yourself a little bit. You shouldn’t be pulling out your phone every seven seconds, pretending to reply to text messages. Stand upright, look forward, sway to the music that’s playing and smile. Confidence is a very attractive trait, one that tends to impress and draw attention from men.

However, though guys can be lured by confidence, many of them don’t want the ‘one’ who is dancing on the stage or the bar all night – It’s usually the friend who doesn’t draw added attention that gets approached most often. If you ever notice, most face-to-face exchanges take place in the darker, discreet areas of the club. Guys tend to feel more comfortable talking to the individuals who appear to be rather reserved, but still able to have a good time. Dating is already a difficult task for a lot of people. It can be intimidating for some men to even consider grabbing the attention of someone who everyone else is obviously staring at. Being the loudest or wildest one in the group isn’t going to make you the most appealing to others.

While tipsy flirting is a turn on, drunken thottiness certainly is not – People drink socially to sometimes ease the tension of being in a crowded room and having to directly or indirectly engage with strangers. Sometimes, folks don’t realize that they’ve had too much to drink until their three shots of tequila catch up to their second glass of wine. Nothing screams (((TURN OFF))) louder than the friend who can’t maintain their balance on the dance floor. Guys simply aren’t going to try and talk to the one amongst the group who wobbles up to every other man, feeling on them, slurring their words or being overtly sexual. This individual is looked upon as the LIABILTY amongst the group. Men don’t want to add that level of drama to their personal lives.

If you so happen to become the object of someone’s gaze or constant stare, don’t be quick to look away – Often times, men will interpret you looking away from them as an expression of disinterest. As a result, they will automatically count you out as an end-of-night prospect. Even if you are shy and immediately become nervous as he continues to peek over, lock eye contact for at least three seconds. This will possibly give him the nerve to approach you.

If a guy does approach you, let him lead the conversation, but don’t leave him hanging – Some dudes are going to immediately get close to your ear, and ask for the phone number. Most, however, are going to lead in with a series of simple questions and compliments; i.e. what’s your name? or I think you’re really attractive. Try your best to not simply give him one-word answers. After telling him your name, continue your response by asking him his. If you’re thanking him for a compliment, be sure to say something nice about his top or the way he smells. It seems odd to people when guys initiate the public interaction, but then walk away before trying to exchange contact information. Usually, they’re uncomfortable with the flow of the conversation and sense a possible rejection. Feed off of his energy by giving him as much attention as he is offering to you in those few moments. This is when having a charismatic personality sets some of us apart from the others.

When a guy asks for your number or tries somehow to ‘talk to you’, it’s because he finds you attractive and feels comfortable doing so. Whether you realize it or not, how you look physically isn’t always the factor that determines why men aren’t approaching you. Your mannerisms and other behaviors can invite men into that space of wanting to know you beyond the club, or your actions can make them feel completely uncomfortable. Go out into social settings with the intent to truly enjoy the music, food and quality time spent alongside your friends. When you are truly comfortable within yourself, that level of positive energy will always attract the types of men that you’ll actually WANT to meet. 

You Will Not Add My Light Skin To Your Collection Of Pink Faces

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Over the past thirteen years, I have witnessed some of my associates and other contemporaries wear their light skin as a public badge of honor. I’ve known guys to hand select their friends and associates solely based upon complexion, and other surface qualities as well. Each of us has also engaged with men who strictly date and involve themselves intimately with other black dudes who look to be biracial or ‘mixed with something’. Despite the fact that darker skinned men have become the premiere sex symbols of our generation, there still exists this preference for light-brights amongst the minority, LGBT community.

I was raised in a pan African household. This means that from a very early age, the values, principles and teachings of Marcus Garvey and Patrice Lumumba framed my upbringings. I was taught everyday of my young life that black people needed to unite socially, politically and economically in order to remain strong and reach our ultimate destiny. It was made very clear to me that my presence in this world did not begin with the slave trade, but instead as a descendent of royalty. I was made aware of Queen Hatshepsut and King Thutmose long before my preschool teacher would hail Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta as the mother and father of our Civil Rights movement. Having pride in my blackness and understanding the struggles I would face living in America framed the lessons I learned outside of the conventional classroom setting. I was never aware of the fact that my complexion, eye color or other physical attributes would cripple my credibility amongst the black community or somehow allow me to coast along within mainstream, American society. As a result, I didn’t grow up with a superiority complex pertaining to my physical attributes. All I knew was that I was one of only four other black boys in my class, and it was imperative that I master the principles of math and science. I did, however, come of age feeling as if I was better equipped to face the world when compared to my classmates and other peers. I was introduced to the dynamics of race, class, gender and sexuality long before I would sit in college level courses that were focused around such concepts.

When guys meet me, especially the ones who are unfamiliar with ‘Xem VanAdams’, they are often taken aback by my organic nature. Within our same gender loving community, light skin men are assumed to be arrogant, standoffish, consumed by their physical appearance and lacking any real, intellectual or cultural depth. Lighter skinned men are seen in our community as being soft, sexually submissive, and surface minded as it pertains to character and integrity. Until a lot of men listen to me speak or express myself otherwise, I am already tapped as another card-carrying member of the ‘PINK CREW’.

While I certainly don’t judge or chastise other individuals for their preferences, I refuse to allow myself to be added to a collection of types. If I can look through photos of every dude that a man has dated, and most of them could pass for my twin brother, I often lose interest in pursuing romantic possibilities. A lot of people say that they don’t want to be chosen for their physical appearance, but I am one of the few who genuinely means it.

When guys tell you that you are beautiful, I believe they are making reference to the framework of your mind, spirit, energy and overall aura. When dudes say that you’re sexy or hot, they are solely focused on the flesh; your face, body and dominate, physical appeal. Sure, as it pertains to too many light skin men in our community, the surface attractions that stem from others are enough to validate their position in the world. For me, contrary to the beliefs of some, I don’t seek that level of acceptance. There’s nothing cute or admirable about being added to a long line of others, simply based upon the fact that your look matches their prototype. In life, when you allow your physical characteristics to define your worth to another man, or a specific social group, you are devaluing your purpose and presence in the world at large.

 I may ‘look the part’, but you will never catch me playing it.

5 Reasons Why Gay Men Love To ‘Do’ Sunday Brunch

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Brunch has easily become the most important meal of the gay. Once the gym bunnies have completed their Sunday morning workouts, the church kweens have sung their final, sunrise service hymns, and the house husbands are finished folding clothes, groups of same gender loving men convene for delicately prepared orders of blueberry waffles, cheese omelet’s and bottomless Mimosas. It’s a weekly ritual of sorts; one that gives gay guys everywhere a reasonable excuse to get tipsy and cheat on their tank top diets. Adorned in everything from oxford shirts and blazers, to simple cardigans and snapbacks, Sunday brunch provides guys who like guys with a comfortable setting to detail and discuss everything they didn’t have time to text during their iPhone group chats. It’s the one time each week where gay men can eat carbs without feeling guilty and drink before noon with no apologies.

Easter Sunday, I received three separate invitations to join male friends and associates for brunch at different restaurants. I turned down the requests, as I decided to spend the entire day with my family. However, it dawned on me during the early afternoon that the guys in my life really do enjoy ‘doing’ brunch. I thought about the more recent occasions where I’ve actually seen my buddies face to face. It seems we are always sitting around a circular table, early on a Sunday afternoon. We’re each eating pancakes, while running our mouths about the possibilities of falling in love again and desperately needing a vacation. I also then realized that it isn’t simply my circle of male friends and associates who get together each week to sit down and partake in this signature, midday meal.

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Gay men specifically have become the most popular patrons at any restaurant or café that hosts a good Sunday brunch.

Here are 5 simple reasons why

 

5. IT’S SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: “I’m doing brunch with such and such” is something pseudo ‘FAB’ to say when casually asked about your day plans. Gay men love to feel that they are somehow a part of the crème-de la-crème. It’s very Nikki Newman & Katherine Chancellor-like to respond to a Sunday morning inquiry by saying, “Oh, nothing really. Ken, David, Jason and I are just about to DO brunch at the Marriott Waterfront”.

Of course, the gays aren’t sitting on sticky, wooden chairs at The Waffle House, or standing in a self-serve line at Old Country Buffet for brunch. When we get together for our weekly face to face, we’re dining on the rooftop terrace of the W Hotel’s, POV Lounge or sitting outside of some well-known, downtown café’. Some groups of friends keep it very cheap and casual. However, location has become as essential to our brunch dates as the items listed on the menu.

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4. THE PICTURES: Groups of gay men tend to be a very ‘show and tell’ type of crowd. We love nothing more than being able to capture photos of ourselves out and about. A Sunday brunch session isn’t adjourned until our entire circle of successful, attractive, charismatic friends, otherwise known as the ‘bros’, are posed for the classic ‘GROUP SHOT’.

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Aside from the signature, #MyCrewIsBetterThanYourCrew candid, taking pics of the food, perfectly positioned on fancy, white plates has become a BRUNCH MUST DO as well. Regardless of how dry the blueberry pancakes may look, how hard the eggs feel, or burnt the bacon may taste, for as long as the food photographs well, gay men will pull out their phones to snap a pic and upload the food display to all of their social media timelines.

3. BRUNCH GIVES SUNDAY A PURPOSE: Sundays tend to be filled with tedious tasks that we’ve put off during the entire week. The day is rather slow in pace. Fridays after work or class, many of us do happy hour with co-workers or random associates. Saturdays are designated for running errands, shopping at the mall and if we’re lucky, going on a hot, late night date. Then, we wake up Sunday morning to hit the gym, go to church or clean. Before facing the bustle of a new week, brunch becomes that special ‘something’ we have to look forward to.

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2. THE TIPSY TALK WITH TRUE FRIENDS: There’s nothing more comfortable or fun than being able to say anything out of your mouth and knowing that your honesty won’t spill from the table. With our busy work and school schedules, there simply isn’t enough time to detail our daily life happenings online or during the iPhone group chats we engage in between meetings. When all of our buddies are buzzed and full of good food, everyone in the group has their guards down. We take advantage of brunch by using the occasion to tell-all.

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1. THE BOTTOMLESS DRINKS: Gay men may spill tea, but they will never waste a good, alcoholic drink. Regardless of age, race or social standing, gay men everywhere generally love their cocktails. An event doesn’t officially begin until the alcohol is served, right? When we pay $30 – $50 per person for an upscale or down home, all-you-can-eat brunch special, it is expected that pitchers upon pitchers of Sangria and Bloody Mary’s will flow throughout the afternoon. And if the Mimosas are watered down with more orange juice than champagne, we will keep requesting glasses until a strong buzzzzz sets in.

Brunch is the most important meal of the gay for every reason aside from the actual food that is served. It’s the one time of the week where men who love other men can sit amongst friends, capture new memories on camera and bask in an end of week moment where diets and horrible, Saturday night dates temporarily don’t matter.

DISCLAIMER: the men who appear in the various above posted photos aren’t to be assumed as members of the LGBT community.

 

I Want To Workout BUT Im Too Embarrassed To Go To The Gym & I Don’t Know How To Get Started

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Many of you at this very moment are having $29.99 drafted from your checking account on a monthly basis for a gym membership you never use. You may have signed up at the beginning of last summer or even at the dawn of this new year. The intent was either to lose weight, tone your stomach, build muscle or simply bulk up as to look great in a fitted, tank top. However, the first day you entered the facility, you became intimidated looking around at all of the equipment and all of the ‘fit’ individuals exercising on the weight room floor. As a newbie, you felt slightly embarrassed to be standing inside of the gym. Your mind began to filter thoughts that you were ‘too out-of-shape’ to even be standing inside of an athletic club. Your confidence was shot by your first gym experience, and therefore, you no longer attend.

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It was October 2012 when I signed up for my first, adult, gym membership. Prior to that, I would accompany my father to Baltimore’s downtown YMCA facility to occasionally lift weights during my summers in college. Unlike a lot of guys in their twenties, building muscle and maintaining bulk weight was never a priority for me during those years. As a result, I worked out when I wanted to and cared less about my body frame. However, two years ago, I reached a point in my life where I did not like how my body looked in pictures or standing naked in my full length mirror. I was bombarded on a daily basis with photos of half dressed guys on Tumblr and Instagram who were obviously in great, physical shape. My metabolism had begun to slow down, and I was experiencing that ‘skinny-fat’ phase. My chest, arms and legs were still small, but didn’t have any tone. My stomach wasn’t hanging over my belt, but that entire midsection was flabby and thicker than the other areas on my body. Doing a series of sit ups and push ups twice each week was no longer combatting my poor eating habits or lazy lifestyle choices. Knowing that my metabolism would continue to decrease, I decided to take control of the way my body would develop.

When I first signed up for my gym membership with Merritt Athletic Club, the timing was perfect. I was mentally and emotionally drained by what I considered to be a lack of progress in my ‘online career’. Extremely frustrated by my inability to control my life circumstances, I knew that if I started working out consistently, I could control my physical build. Though I publicly announced that I was going to begin lifting weights and working out regularly in the fall of 2012, it was seven months later that I even began sharing my progress photos. Not only was I using this time away from my online platform to develop my body, but exercising regularly also helped me release a lot of the stress I felt regarding my lack of career success. The fact that I was now placing myself in a new environment on a regular basis, truly helped me ignore my feelings of sadness and frustration. I had developed a new focus that had absolutely nothing to do with my professional goals or romantic interests. This is how working out began to easily filter into my lifestyle. Going to the gym became a normal part of my daily routine.

THE SAME CAN HAPPEN FOR YOU…

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When I started my journey to gain weight, build muscle and lose my stomach fat, I decided to also surrender my fears of judgment. I knew going into the gym for the first time in 8 years, I was going to have to start from the beginning. I did not have a lot of upper body strength at the time and I accepted that fact. I could only bench press 45 pounds. I curled maybe 50 pounds. I could only push 95 pounds on the leg press and it was almost impossible for me to successfully complete 4 sets of 10 reps for each of the exercises. While all of the black guys and white, fraternity-like boys were piled in the free weight section of the gym, I was working out on the same machines that the old men and housewives were using. I spent the first 6-7 months in the gym simply building my strength, getting comfortable with the gym equipment and becoming use to the routine of working out on a daily basis. I wasn’t embarrassed at all, as I realized that MOST of the guys who were on the heavy duty equipment had started out the same way when they were in high school and college. I simply put on my iPod and spent 60-90 minutes each day following my ‘workout schedule’.

YOU SHOULD NOT JOIN A GYM SIMPLY TO POST PICS ON INSTAGRAM CAPTIONED #GymFlow – You absolutely have to want to see real results…

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1. Your first day at the gym should either be a Friday evening, Saturday night or a Sunday morning. Most gym facilities are extremely empty during these hours. You will have plenty of space and time to become comfortable using the different pieces of equipment, and trying out exercises that best fit your physical goals. I advise that you take an experienced individual with you for this first session. I brought my father along with me for my first, Sunday workout. Together, we created what would become my gym routine for the first 3 months of lifting weights regularly. We chose two pieces of equipment for each body part that I wanted to build; 2 chest exercises, 2 bicep exercises, 2 tricep exercises, 2 shoulder exercises, 2 back exercises, 2 ab exercises, 2 glute exercises, 2 quad exercises and 2 calf exercises.

Together, we also decided that I would perform the 2 chest, shoulder and back exercises on Mondays & Wednesdays. On Tuesdays & Thursdays I would complete my glute, quad and calf exercises. Fridays were dedicated to biceps and triceps, as Saturdays would be focused on abs and other cardio. On Sundays, I would stay home and rest. KEEP IN MIND that your biceps and triceps are automatically being worked when you’re lifting to build your chest, back and shoulders.

YOUR FIRST DAY AT THE GYM SHOULD NEVER BE A WEEKDAY BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 6am-10am OR 4pm-9pm. This is when the facilities are crowded with the regular, more experienced patrons. YOUR FIRST DAY AT THE GYM SHOULD ALSO NEVER BE A SATURDAY. Everyone who has skipped or missed their weekday hours will be piled on the weight room floor.

2. Keep in mind that even though it may feel as if ‘everyone is staring at you’, most people are too focused on getting in and getting out of the gym to be focused on how your body looks. Most people in the gym are just as insecure with their bodies as you are. Even individuals who look to be in great, physical shape are desperately trying to fix what they consider to be a problem area. NO ONE is looking and laughing at you. Believe me, most individuals inside of the gym are silently supportive of seeing someone else begin their exercise journey.

When I first started working out, I always kept my body covered in sweatshirts, compression pants underneath my hooping shorts, and anything else that would hide my skinny-fat frame. It made me feel comfortable. I knew the day would come when I too would simply wear a tank top or a sleeveless shirt the ways in which the more muscular guys were wearing on the gym floor.

3. DO NOT SKIP YOUR SCHEDULED WORKOUT DAYS. Consistency is the ONLY secret to seeing results. It does not matter how much weight you lift or how many miles you run on the treadmill if you aren’t repeating the routine on the same days each week. For me, it has always been easiest to hit the gym as soon as I wake up in the morning; especially during the weekends. You want to get into the gym before the weight of the world hits you each day. It can be extremely tough to find the energy to workout after sitting in a classroom or behind a cubicle for eight hours. If you absolutely CAN NOT fit an early morning workout into your schedule, I certainly do advise that you purchase a pre-workout drink or pre-workout pills. These supplements often send a surge of energy through your system. Use the supplement two hours prior to leaving work or school. By the time you get in your car, your body honestly does feel rejuvenated. For guys especially, the pre-workout supplements will make you feel slightly horny, a bit stronger and excited about releasing the tension on the weight floor.

4. While a lot of older guys will deter you from using protein shakes, creatine and other supplements to help build muscles and put on mass weight, I certainly encourage it. The faster you begin seeing results, the more encouraged you become to continue working out on a regular basis. To be honest, I hate the way protein shakes taste, and I hate the nauseating feeling I get 20-30 minutes after drinking them. However, most others that I have spoken to do not experience the nausea. I began using flavorless Creatine powder in July 2013. I would add 5g-10g each day in my water or cranberry juice each morning. It helped me appear thicker, and also aided in my muscles not feeling incredibly sore the morning after an intense workout.

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I drink the GNC ‘BEYOND RAW’ RE-BUILT MASS SUPER ANABOLIC MASS GAINER protein shake. For those of us who simply want to gain weight, have a little chest, nice arms, round thighs and an overall ‘thick but not too muscular’ look, this product has certainly aided my journey. I also drink Vanilla-Creme MUSCLE MILK from GNC or regular Vanilla ENSURE from the grocery store during periods when my system simply can’t stomach and tolerate the protein shake.

5. USE THE SAUNA or STEAM ROOM. While some people are extremely uncomfortable sitting in their towel or compression shorts amongst strangers, the sauna and steam room truly do relax the muscles. A 10-15 minute session following heavy weight lifting exercises can make a lot of difference in how your body feels the next morning. Many individuals stop working out after the first few days because they can’t endure the soreness that affects their joints. The only way to avoid the pain is to either drink protein shakes of some sort, or to spend 10-15 minutes in a steam room following the workout. Even for me, when I increase my weight on the bench press, curl or any other exercise every 3 months, my body gets sore from the change. The pain is a signal to let you know that you have properly worked the muscle. If you aren’t experiencing initial pain after working out a new muscle or attempting a new exercise, you aren’t properly exercising.

6. YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST CHANGE YOUR DIET! Developing the ‘summer body’ you desire is 80% NUTRITION and only 20% EXERCISE. There is no point or purpose in you hitting the gym three or four times each week if you’re still going to eat anything your heart desires. Thankfully, in my case, fish has always been a huge part of my diet. I eat salmon, tilapia or whiting almost daily. Since fish and chicken are already HIGH in protein, it was very complimentary to my muscle building diet. I began eating oatmeal or boiled eggs for breakfast each morning. Oatmeal burns stomach fat and eggs are also HIGH in protein. As I would get extremely hungry before lunch, I snacked on greek yogurt of assorted flavors, unsalted almonds, apple slices or raisins. I stopped eating Doritos, chips, soft batch cookies and donuts altogether. My lunch consisted of grilled fish or chicken, steamed broccoli or asparagus, maybe some brown rice and an apple or grapes. Since I am most hungry after working out, I would have my protein shake after eating a full dinner, as to fill me up completely.

TO BUILD MUSCLE, THE GOAL IS TO TAKE IN THE SAME AMOUNT OF PROTEIN EACH DAY AS YOUR WEIGHT. Protein is ingested in GRAMS. I weighed 153 pounds when I started working out in October 2012. My shake already contained 60 grams of protein. This meant that I had to supplement the other 93 grams in the foods I ate; i.e. fish, chicken, eggs, greek yogurt and almonds. Some guys drink two protein shakes each day; therefore securing that they will exceed their protein gram intake.

YOU SHOULD ALSO NOT HAVE CHEAT DAYS MORE THAN ONCE PER WEEK. I only stray from my diet on Friday nights or Saturdays. I won’t treat myself to an entire pizza or a value meal from McDonalds, but I will do a quart of shrimp fried rice and two egg rolls from China Wok. I will also only drink a cocktail if Im attending a party or event. Alcohol is filled with sugar. Sugar creates tummy fat. I most recently started eating chicken cheesesteak subs again on my designated cheat day.

SNEAKING COOKIES, CUPCAKES, FRUIT JUICE, CHICKEN NUGGETS, A BAG OF CHIPS or SKITTLES in the middle of a busy day certainly does COUNT as cheating. If you become extremely hungry even after snacking on the almonds, greek yogurt, fruit or raisins, try drinking cups of green tea. I do it all of the time. Green tea also burns stomach fat quickly and will certainly curb your appetite.

7. REST YOUR BODY FOR 8 HOURS EACH NIGHT. Muscles do not grow while you are in the gym working out. Muscles only grow when they are resting. If you aren’t getting proper rest each day, your body isn’t going to recover from the heavy lifting or intense exercising that you’re doing on a regular basis. You will not receive your greatest gain potential until you are laying down and resting your body for the average 8 hours.

Overall, working out is a challenge. I don’t think I would have been consistent had I joined a gym in 2008 or 2010 when I was absolutely focused on blogging and creating youtube videos on a very regular basis. I began this journey during a period when I chose to isolate myself from the world. For seven months, I became so focused on building my body that I was able to ignore some of the other aspects of life that were not in my control. Going to the gym became as normal for me as waking up and brushing my teeth because I didn’t have other people or objectives acting as distractions. We all want to be in shape, but doing the work and making the sacrifice is extremely tough. If you simply have to start by consistently performing cardio exercises inside of your home, then do so. Only sign up for a gym membership once you know for a fact that you have the time, energy, focus and drive to remain consistent in exercising according to the initial schedule that you create.

YOU CAN DO IT. I DID.

 

Seeing Ourselves Behind The Selfie

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During the first week in March, 2014, I was approached by Khary Steph to contribute an original written piece to the first volume of his team’s new publication, ‘The Tenth’. This particular magazine has been created by industry art directors, Khary Steph, Kyle Banks and Andre Verdun Jones to express queer, black identity through various forms of artistry. The project was released publicly on April 10, 2014 in New York City. Since many of you will not have direct access to the catalogue of work, Ive elected to share my written piece with you. 

As I have previously shared via my Twitter HERE and both Facebook pages, HERE and HERE, ‘The Tenth’ has been reviewed by several top tier press platforms; including The Huffington Post, HERE, as well as BlackBook, HERE.

It was requested that the piece be a short, but analytical article that tackled the issue of gay black men and the contemporary role we play in media. Since I have spoken in great detail regarding that particular issue, I asked Khary if I could approach the piece from a ‘social media’ point of view. I wanted to dissect some of the reasons WHY this generation is so obsessed with their social media timelines. Specifically, I needed to focus on gay men of color and how the types of photos we post online are subconsciously used to give ourselves identity in a world that seems to ignore our presence. I was very surprised by my own interpretations as I began to analyze the tumblr photos & instagram pics; somehow having to create a parallel between similar visuals and the social atmosphere of present day.

 

The Tenth Promo Video (ABOVE)

THIS IS WHAT I CAME UP WITH…

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A Brief Look At The Contemporary Gay Man Of Color In Social Media

The sun peers through the muddy frame of another mid-week morning. A 21 year old, gay black man is positioning himself between where he needs to be at 9 o’clock am and the place in the world he hopes to reach before his 30th birthday. Standing shirtless in front of his bathroom mirror, wearing bright colored boxer-briefs and holding an iphone to match, he snaps a series of photos of himself. Each shot is captured at the same side view angle. However, he distorts his facial expressions to exude a combination of silly, sad, and sensual emotions. He shifts through his photo library and selects the pic that best highlights his latest efforts in the gym. Now cropping out the background mess that is piled on the floor, the young man adds a filter and simultaneously uploads the shot to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It’s his first selfie of the day; punctuated by a subconscious desire for social validation.

The selfie is a clear representation of the present generation that is forced into heavy-duty moments of solitude. Rejected for being outspoken, abandoned for being attracted to the same sex, distrusted for unwrapping oneself from the fibers that categorize human nature, the selfie is taken to declare a sense of dominance. We all want to feel in control of how we are seen and judged by the outside world. As a result, selfie’s and other social media posts exist to dictate our positions in the world.

Every ‘like’ that the selfie receives over the next few hours somehow contributes to this young man’s mental journey towards achieving fame, fortune and inclusion into the American establishment of success.

We live in a culture that promotes division between people. Specifically, gay men of color are forced into a social dynamic where their images, ideas, and experiences are disconnected from others and everyday surroundings as well. As a result, the gay man of color tends to overcompensate for this mainstream divide by utilizing social media as his stage to say, ‘LOOK AT ME’. The ‘LOOK AT ME’, male performance is often labeled as being extra, over-the-top, flamboyant, conceited or even narcissistic. However, it’s important to realize that some of these verbal and visual routines aren’t as much self-obsessive, as they are self-empowering.

This generation has been taught to make things happen for themselves. Modern-day dreams no longer have to be postponed until after a casting agent falls in love with an audition or a network executive decides to green light a new pilot. Since gay men of color are seemingly absent from mainstream television, film, radio and other media outlets, this same gender-loving community has begun to create their own, online platforms. From the various scripted and non-scripted series that are distributed on youtube, to the weekly showcases that are broadcast via Blog Talk Radio, gay men of color are utilizing all available resources to publicly feature and market themselves. The tweets, blog stories, status messages and selfies that are posted between each media release, serve to promote a sense of identity in a world that doesn’t seem to celebrate the individual or collective gay, black experience.

As the sun sets and the dawn of a new day is on the horizon, an entire generation will capture new images of themselves to share throughout the night. Standing in front of their mirrors with an iphone in one hand and hopes of stardom clasped in the other, another series of selfies will make way onto various, social media timelines. For gay men of color who are often marginalized and disenfranchised from the mainstream ‘American Dream’, the silent pictures intentionally scream, LOOK AT ME! It’s a visual declaration of individuality where each person creates, contours and controls their spotlight.

I Cant Deal With Us ‘Just Being Friends’ On YOUR Terms

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Many of us have existed in ‘complicated situations’ where a romantic relationship has ended, but an ex or former lover is still trying to maintain ties to our everyday lives. Often times, this individual views themselves as the victim in the demise of our romantic liaison. In every conversation the two of you have with one another, he or she is constantly talking about how they cannot forget what was done to them. They go on and on about not being able to forgive you and fearing the risk of being hurt if the romantic relationship was given a second chance. This ex claims that they have moved on to someone new, and constantly talks about how happy they are to ‘finally’ to be with an individual who loves, respects and honors their commitment.

You have tried your best over the past few months to apologize for your wrongdoings. You’ve also verbally acknowledged the mistakes you made during the romantic phase of your relationship. However, your ex will not own any of their faults or character flaws that also contributed to the demise of what you two were building together. Instead, he or she focuses on their broken heart and all of the things you may have said or done to violate their trust. As a result, you have begun to accept the fact that the two of you will not reunite. Though you are dealing with a great deal of suffering yourself, your heart is processing all of your disjointed feelings. Mentally, you are preparing yourself to move on to either another relationship or spending time alone, with friends or surrounded by family.

Since you haven’t changed your number and have not blocked your ex from being able to contact you, they are still texting and calling your phone. The communication isn’t occurring on a daily basis, but enough to interrupt your ability to let go completely of the thoughts that surround this individual. Even though the ex is now romantically involved with someone new, he or she still makes tiny references to the possibility of a future between the two of you. There’s often mention of, ‘remember when we use to…?’ OR, ‘wouldn’t it be so cool if we…?’

Each time you receive an early morning text or midday Instagram ‘like’ from your ex, there’s a rush of feelings that filter through your heart. In that moment, you feel a sense of happiness; memories of what was and excitement of what could be. It also strikes you as being odd that your ex still reaches out to you to request the password to their online banking, or even to ask for the number to that really great mechanic you once used to have your car fixed.

You finally ask the ex why they still randomly reach out to you. It’s not that you mind, but the inconsistency sort of sends mixed signals regarding their intentions. After all, they’ve opened their wounds in numerous face-to-face conversations and have seemingly moved on. Basically, you want to know what’s going on; are the two of you working towards reconciliation or is this just supposed to be a friendship? Your ex tells you that they still care about you and definitely want to solidify a friendship. Though you were hoping for a second chance, you find comfort in the idea of the two of you remaining friends.

Then, the day comes when you finally initiate contact with your ex through a simple text that says, ‘hey’. Hours go by and your ex fails to respond. You don’t receive a reply until the next day, as your ex is in the car alone and driving to work. It’s at this moment that you realize your newfound ‘friendship’ has been a secret. Your ex has only been contacting you during moments when their current ‘boo’ isn’t around. Their new love interest has no idea that the two of you have been keeping in touch; even more so because the ex has been initiating communication for months. Not only are you bothered by the fact that you’ve been kept a secret, but you’re also upset with yourself for allowing this person to prevent you from securing a peace of mind.

It isn’t fair that your ex has only been contacting you during moments in their day when the new lover is working or out of the house. If the two of you are supposed to be establishing a true friendship, the moments you associate should not intentionally be hidden from the person they are currently involved with.

To cope with their turbulent, uncontrollable emotions, your ex has been using you to fill the void of their present instability. The breakup of the relationship has left your ex feeling sad, scared and unable to make sense of living their life without seeing or hearing from you daily. In comparison, they are using the new ‘boo’ to fill the void of past hurt and disappointment. In their warped, little mind, jumping into a new relationship will somehow cushion the pain of losing you so abruptly.

Your ex wont consider giving a second chance to the romantic relationship you two were building, but refuses to fully let go of the strings that tie you both together.

It is now time for you to stop worrying about what that other person thinks, does, wishes, plans or feels. You can no longer carry the guilt of what you may have done to contribute to the demise of the relationship. The fact remains that the two of you are no longer together, and the ex is now romantically involved with someone else. The two of you have not been broken up long enough to truly establish a healthy, beneficial friendship.

Stop torturing yourself by accepting their every-so-often advances. Since your ex can’t seem to forgive your faults and acknowledge their own, you have no reason to maintain any form of communication. Only time is going to provide the space for the two of you to grow separately and examine the things that went wrong from an honest point of view.

You should also already know that their new relationship isn’t going to last. Already, your ex is keeping secrets from someone who they supposedly, ‘love so much’. You certainly can’t control his or her decision to lie by omission, but you can control the role you play in their game of deception. Remove yourself from the situation by simply telling your ex to STOP contacting you…altogether.

 Letting go of that person we love so much is tough, but losing our own ability to live each day without emotionally suffering is a lot worse.

I’m Dating You NOT Your Friends!

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In life, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where the person we’re dating, is severely attached to their friends. Most of us appreciate meeting the individual who enjoys occasionally going out with their homeboys or girlfriends, as opposed to sitting in our faces every day. However, it’s the guy who feels the need to always have his ‘lonely friend’ or ‘troubled boy’ around often, that seems to ruin the peace in our relationships.

Most longterm friendships exist in such a way where one individual is always the strength or ‘hero’ for the other. It then becomes ‘just our luck’ that we meet and begin catching feelings for that hero type. He wants to save everyone around him by nurturing their hearts and protecting their feelings. These qualities initially draw us towards this man, romantically. Then, it becomes increasingly difficult to deal with the fact that this man is so nurturing and guarding of others feelings. The problem is that he won’t say NO to his friends. He allows his homeboys to come over to his place on Sunday afternoons when the two of you were supposed to chill quietly and fix lunch together. This man agrees to let his friend tag along on outings after the two of you have planned a special date night together. He feels obligated to be present for his friends around the clock, and its really taking a toll on your comfort level within the relationship.

SAY SOMETHING TO HIM THE SECOND TIME. Its perfectly okay in initially agreeing to have the broken hearted friend come over to watch a movie with you and your boo. Especially if you’ve already met and bonded with the homeboy, never be insensitive to his troubled times by initially saying that you don’t want him around. However, be sure to encourage your date the NEXT TIME to set boundaries between his friendships and the relationship that the two of you are trying to develop. It is very difficult getting to know someone intimately when other individuals are constantly present. Your date has to be man enough to let his friends know that the time he is spending with you is private and separate from the time he dedicates to them. Otherwise, these individuals who are so use to your date being single and all of the time available, aren’t going to respect your presence. It’s often not malicious or intentional behavior on their part. Friends simply become comfortable with how things were BEFORE you entered the picture.

Before your attitude, mood and demeanor rubs the friends negatively, tell your date that his friends do not need to engage in all of your coupled activities. Be sure that you’re nice and considerate of his feelings when you express yourself. After all, he considers his friends to be a part of an extended family unit. The friends were present before you met the date and will more than likely be in his life should the two of you decide to part ways.

Please WATCH the below posted video. It’s HILARIOUS! I’ve posted it via my Twitter and Facebook pages, previously. The short clip stars my friend, Nikiva Dionne @NikivaDionne. She’s an actress who lives and performs in Los Angeles, California. This video sums up the root of this post.

Dateless & Alone On Valentine’s Day: Another Year. Same Story.

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In my lifetime, I have been single and alone on Valentine’s Day more often than I’ve had someone to celebrate the commercial holiday with. If Im being honest, I have never been a hopeless romantic, and therefore never got caught up in the hoopla surrounding Valentine’s Day. I was always the one in my relationships and ‘situations’ who waited until the last minute to plan a date or purchase a conventional gift. Valentine’s Day simply hasn’t been a big deal in my life, until recently.  Even though Im still not phased by the hearts, balloons, flowers and dinner dates that define the holiday of love, Im now a lot more conscious of February the fourteenth.

Living in this age of social media, it’s sometimes very difficult to ignore the fact that it seems everyone in the world is coupled up and surrounding us. People feature their romantic relationships up and down our timelines as often as we see hashtags and celebrity memes. Every other commercial, print ad and billboard is designed to sell Valentine’s Day as the one time of year to celebrate your romantic love alongside the man or woman of your dreams. Then, for those of us who don’t exist in relationships, we subconsciously begin to feel ‘left out’ of the special moment. Even though Im use to spending Valentine’s Day by myself, it’s the social design of the holiday that creates these conscious feelings of ‘being alone’.

Most people don’t feel bad on Valentine’s day because they are without a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s that worthless feeling of being unimportant and undesired that creeps up inside of people around this time of year.

FOR EXAMPLE: It’s not the fact that you really wanted to go to the bowling alley on a Thursday night with your best friend and her annoying co-workers. It’s the fact that she didn’t bother to invite you that’s making you ‘feel some type of way’.

DO YOU GET IT?…

 

Because you now understand that it is the social dynamic of exclusion that attacks single people on Valentine’s Day, we have to make the conscious choice to numb ourselves to that external force.

EVERYONE IS NOT CELEBRATING VALENTINE’S DAY WITH SOMEONE THEY LOVE. Commercials, magazines, print ads, billboards and social media posts make us feel that way by saturating the airwaves with the idea that, ‘YOU ARE DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS IN A NEGATIVE MANNER IF YOU ARENT CELEBRATING VALENTINES DAY WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE.’ That is the external force that then attacks your internal conditions. Feelings of loneliness begin to build inside of you and attacks your self confidence. Realistically, MOST PEOPLE ARE HOME ON VALENTINE’S DAY OR SPENDING THAT TIME WITH THEIR OTHER SINGLE FRIENDS. These individuals have chosen to fight against the external forces by refusing to allow those worthless thoughts to filtrate through their minds.

This year, instead of moping around the house and feeling sad for yourself, treat Friday, February 14, 2014, the same ways in which you would treat the start of any other weekend. AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA for the entire day, if possible. Tell your friends to communicate with you through GChat, as your phone will be powered off while your sitting idle at work. Don’t post or comment on Facebook status messages, tweets or Instagram pics. Fall into your own space for those 24 hours. Buy yourself something new to wear early in the day; whether it be a sweater, a pair of boots you’ve been eyeing since the new year, or an expensive pair of underwear you’d normally never splurge on. Go home and sit in the tub for an hour or two after work, instead of taking a quick, 15 minute shower. Relax your body. Then, put on your new item, paired with a few of your other, favorite pieces. Spray on your sexiest perfume or cologne. Head out to have drinks with your unattached friends, and bask in the love that exists between each of you. LIFE truly is about making the moment yours, INSTEAD of allowing society to dictate how the moment should exist.

If you are feeling bad in these next few weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, its because you are giving in to the external forces that say you are worthless for being single and unimportant for not having a lover ‘like everyone else’.

While typing this post, I just realized why Valentine’s Day never truly mattered to me. My birthday is on February 17th, and Ive probably always been focused on that date.