Filtered Reality

Someone said something to me the other day that gave me serious pause.

“I really wish I could be you!”

I know it was meant to be a compliment of sorts – that for whatever reason this girl thinks my life is so glamorous and easy that she wants it as her own. Instead it left me with a furrowed brow and sense of uneasiness.

This comment boggled my mind because I have spent the past few months wishing I could be anyone but myself. Despite trying to put my best foot forward when in public, I often trip and fall on my face when in private. The vision of confidence and happiness that I want others to see is not always what my insides are lined with and a lot of the time my exterior is in complete contrast with my interior. We live in a world where image and competition are being forced to the forefront of our priorities. This desire to appear “picture perfect” becomes an all-consuming necessity. However, sometimes if you look more closely at this picture, you will see that the lines are blurred and that the ink is faded to the point of colorless.We can’t believe everything that we see.

“You walk around like a snob.”

My mother said this to me one day as we exited Chipotle and I stared at her wide-eyed in disbelief. I have always taken pride in my appearance (sometimes to the point of vanity) and try to walk around with a sense of confidence, but according to my mother, I was coming across like an egomaniac. I am often reserved and will usually keep to myself, but this stems from a place of uncertainty rather than one of superiority. I’ll never start a conversation but rather will wait for others to approach me, not because I think I’m above making the first move, but because I’m too afraid to do so. I’ve posted a stream of bathroom selfies showcasing crop tops and long red nails, but this is the same bathroom where I have spent countless hours scrutinizing every inch of my appearance. Guys I have dated have mentioned how much they love my confidence but they don’t know that I spent the majority of these relationships feeling like I needed to look and act perfect in order to maintain their interest. I will “#tbt” to an old modeling picture, but won’t post how little I ate that same day because I thought I was fat. The fabric of my life wouldn’t be so beautiful if it was turned inside-out.

“You get asked out more than anyone I know!”

I’ve heard this from at least half of my friends. Yes, I have the tendency to attract very forward, confident and sometimes arrogant (this is not a good thing) men, however none of this has equated to the “happily ever after” so many of us seek. I have often tried to explain to the friends who envy my dating life that I would trade all of it in to avoid some of the experiences I have had, but for the most part this falls upon deaf ears. Attention doesn’t make someone immune to heartbreak and while I’ve had my fair share of compliments I have had my fair share of hurt too. A few years ago I went to a warehouse party in Brooklyn with a guy I was dating – our relationship was on its way out but we were foolishly attempting to resuscitate it. That night, as the boy I loved became a stranger, guys lined up to try to buy me a drink to the point where another girl took notice and remarked to her friend “she thinks she’s so great, doesn’t she?” To this random girl it appeared like I was having a great time and why wouldn’t it? I spent the night forcing laughter and dancing in a pink spandex American Apparel dress, surrounded by endless company – I was a vision of happiness. However, inside I knew that my relationship was ending and so I felt more lonely and insecure than ever. While it appeared that I would be going to go to bed that night wrapped up in my own ego, the reality of it is that I cried myself to sleep.

We no longer apply filters only to our photos, but to our entire lives – painting our friendships, relationships and even our self-image as something impossibly perfect without flaws or mishaps. We highlight the positive and cast shadows on the negative so that all that is left is what we want others to see. Yet sometimes it is still difficult to sleep at night because while we have mastered the exterior, the interior is falling apart at the seams. We can’t cast the Valencia filter on our minds and hearts, on our thoughts and feelings, and at the end of the day this is really what we are left with.

I have friends get into fights with boyfriends only to post a couple selfie ten minutes later with #love and #myoneandonly in the captions. I know guys who post endless photos of themselves with their girlfriends – meeting the parents, kissing on vacation, going out to dinner on Valentine’s day – only to check my phone and see that these same guys have texted me asking if I want to meet up. The only life whose truth we know is our own, and that is the life we should be focusing on.

On the reverse side, rather than tailoring our own lives to be the envy of everyone’s conversations and social media streams, we need to focus on what we see in ourselves and how it makes us feel. Who cares if a selfie gets 100 likes if the person who took it looks in the mirror and criticizes what they see? Who cares if a relationship gets deemed #couplegoals if one half of that couple is cheating and hurting the other half? We should seek to be authentic in our feelings and experiences – to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

Black Women

Imagine an awkward silence you cannot avoid. Imagine a situation where the outcome is inevitable, where if you try to run away, you’re seen as a coward or conformist, where if you confront the issue, you’re seen as overly sensitive, malicious, and a bitch. You are imagining what it’s like to be a black woman.

As a black woman, I need to justify my emotions when speaking out against the inequalities that come with my gender and the color of my skin. But even when expressing raw emotions, I still have to take precautions. Don’t be too angry unless you want to get the “angry black woman” stigma placed on you, don’t be too sad or else you’ll be seen as weak, don’t be too confrontational because… and so on. Society has ingrained in me all of the things that I should and shouldn’t do, but has yet to do the same to others. Many times, I have been caught in different predicaments that were as painless as someone touching my hair without permission, as annoying as being told by a tanned white girl that they are “blacker” than me, and as hurtful as being told that my darker skin complexion was the reason why I wasn’t pretty enough for the guy I liked. When an inconvenient situation happens, everyone is there, but no one is there to help me, a black woman. Some may say that this has nothing to do with the fact that I am a black woman, but in all actuality, it has everything to do with being a black woman. We are taught from a young age that we have to “hold our own” and that we should strive to be a “strong independent black woman”. But despite this, people of different backgrounds learn those stereotypes and roles that are placed on us and assume that all black women are also like that. Although most of us are “strong” and tolerant, some of us can be just as sensitive and vulnerable as anyone else and other people need to learn that we are not our “strong black woman” stereotype, but we are emotionally diverse people too.

Given that we have the double barrier of being black and women, we have to consistently take on the injustices of sexism and racism.  This could mislead people (particularly those who do not fit the black woman description), to view us as fiercely strong creatures because of what we have to deal with on a daily basis. But they also need to understand that we have feelings, goals, pasts and futures.When it comes to different social situations, we do feel alone, isolated, and hopeless. Yes, we are strong, but we are also compassionate and vulnerable. When no one else realizes this, we are dehumanized and left to fend for ourselves emotionally and socially – and you know how that goes.

STD Testing

There comes a time in every person’s life when they must get tested. In fact, it is recommended that each sexually active person get tested at least once a year or every few months if you are having sex with new partners. In the United States, there are approximately 19 million new cases of STIs each year. And young persons ages 15-24 constitute for nearly half of all new diagnoses. Most STIs don’t show symptoms so you may have one and not even be aware of it. The safest way to continue your sex life is to routinely check for STIs and prevent yourself from contracting them in the first place. You can do this through always using barrier protection.

STD tests are easy to get. While some states have a specific age of consent (usually between 12 and 14 years old), minors are allowed to test for STDs in all 50 states in the U.S. Furthermore, although 18 states give physicians the right to report that a minor is attempting to take an STD test, no state requires that parents be notified (except Iowa, in the event of a positive HIV result). If you think you may have contracted something or have had unprotected sex, it is recommended to get tested to safeguard your sexual health as well as any future partners.

How do you get tested?

The easiest way to get tested is to make an appointment with your healthcare provider. You can also go into any Planned Parenthood, clinic, or gynecologist office.

You must ask to get tested. Don’t assume if you’re doing a urine test or pap smear that they are testing you for STIs.

Why Planned Parenthood is a good option to get tested at?

Although the wait time for an appointment can be long, going to a Planned Parenthood is a good way to ensure your privacy is protected.  If you pay out of pocket, no information will go on your permanent health record.  You can use insurance at most Planned Parenthood centers as well. Teens, under age 18, get a 25% discount in many Planned Parenthood centers—check to confirm for your state. They also offer some free treatment options if positive.

What is an STD test?

STDs are usually tested in a few ways. It is important to ask for a full panel when you go in to have one done. For certain infections can only be tested with blood samples.

Your test may include a:

  • physical exam — Your health care provider may look at your genitals and/or your anus for any signs of an infection, such as a rash, discharge, sores, or warts. For women, this exam can be similar to a pelvic exam.
  • blood sample — Your provider may take a blood sample, either with a needle or by pricking the skin to draw drops of blood.
  • urine sample — You may be asked to urinate into a special cup.
  • discharge, tissue, cell, or saliva sample — Your provider will use a swab to collect samples that will be looked at under a microscope.

The results may not be available for several days or weeks depending on what lab they send to.

How much do they cost?

  • For patients covered by health insurance, tests can be free. If not, typical out-of-pocket expenses consist of a laboratory copay of $10 to $30 per test.
  • For patients not covered by health insurance, STD tests done at a doctor’s office usually cost $50 to $200 each, depending on the test. For patients who do not want to visit a doctor for testing, perhaps because they do not want the testing and results to become part of their permanent medical record, private STD testing companies that do not accept health insurance offer testing for about $50 to $150 per test, depending on the disease, or a package of seven to 10 STD tests, including HIV, for about $400.

How to protect your privacy?

In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed into law the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA. One of the primary functions of HIPAA is to protect a patient’s right to privacy with respect to their medical records and medical history. Many STD testing facilities are not confidential so make sure to check that the one you are going to is. If you are on your parent’s insurance plan, ask the testing facility if your results will be made available to the policy owner. If so, you may opt to pay out of pocket if you do not feel you can have an open conversation with your parents. Make sure to do a check on the clinic you are going to. If the clinic is conservative and anti-abortion they may try to contact and notify your parents of your test. If you have ruled this out and the clinic is confidential, be honest with them. Ask as many questions as you can, this will insure your results go to you and only you.

What to expect?

Getting an STD test is pretty simple. You go into the clinic and whether or not you are using insurance, you will either pay the fee or a co-pay. They will take you into a back room and ask for a urine sample. And then they will draw your blood. If you are having symptoms for an STI, they may ask to do a physical exam and look at your genitals. An STI test is quick and you are out of there. The results can take a few days to a few weeks depending where you go.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

Planned Parenthood



Referring back to our post on HPV, HPV stands for the human papilloma virus. It is the most common sexual infection and infects 6 million people in the US every year. HPV is a viral infection, meaning that it’s caused by a virus instead of bacteria. These tend to be more worrisome because unlike bacteria, we cannot cure a viral STI. HPV is spread through sexual activity and skin to skin contact.

There are over 100 types of HPV, however a dozen types of HPV can cause cancer or genital warts. This brings me to the HPV vaccine. Also known as Gardasil,  it helps protect you against the types of HPV I that cause cancer or genital warts.

The vaccine may not protect everyone and it doesn’t protect against all types of HPV, but it has been shown to be very effective in protecting against the high-risk types of HPV. It is administered over the course of six months with three different injections.

How does the Vaccine work? 
There are three HPV vaccines, Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix. They all protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause the majority of cervical cancer cases. Gardasil and Gardasil 9 also protect against types 6 and 11, which cause majority of genital warts cases. Gardasil 9 protects against an additional 5 strains of HPV which can cause cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancer.The vaccines make your body’s immune system produce antibodies to these HPV types. The antibodies protect you from getting infected with HPV.
Why should I get the Vaccine?All girls and women ages 9 to 26 should get an HPV vaccine. Boys and men ages 9 to 26 can get the vaccine to prevent genital warts, some cancers of the anus and mouth/throat, and to prevent the spread of HPV to women.

Can I get HPV from the HPV Vaccine?

No. There is no live virus in either HPV vaccine, so they can’t give you an infection.

If I already have HPV, can I still get the Vaccine? 

Yes! And it is recommended because it will protect you from other strains of HPV.

Does the Vaccine treat HPV?

No, the vaccine is not a treatment for HPV. It can only prevent a new HPV infection. There are treatments available for genital warts and ways to cure the cancer caused by HPV though.

Where can I get the Vaccine?

You can get it at most Planned Parenthoods or gynecology offices. Speak with your health professional to see if they can administer the Vaccine.

How much does it cost?

Each dose can cost up to about $170, so all three shots may cost about $500. Many health insurance companies may pay for  HPV vaccines. There are also programs that allow some people without insurance to get a vaccine for low or no cost.

– See more at:

If You Can Say It, Why Can’t I?

It could be because of the recent election of a president who references minority or marginalized groups as “the blacks” or “the gays”. It could be because of the recent societal rejection of ‘political correctness’.  Regardless of the reasoning, I find myself constantly in conversations about race. One that keeps coming up is the years long debate over the use of the N-word. Specifically, why it’s socially acceptable for the N-word to be used by African American people and why it is off limits to others—specifically Caucasian people. People ask me how I feel about white people specifically using the word, when it’s okay to use it, whether or not I use it, and the classic question “If you can say it, why can’t I?”.

Let’s get one thing straight: The word ‘Nigger’ is a derogatory term that emerged in the 19th century to refer to slaves, and continued even after the 13th Amendment to refer to all black Americans. Prior to it’s derogatory usage, in the 16th century, the French ‘negre’, and Spanish ‘negro’ were words used to reference people who were dark-skinned. The history of it’s usage in the United States should be reason enough not to use it, though it has proved insufficient. Within the last couple of decades, the reclamation of the word by the Black community inspired debate over who is and isn’t allowed to say it. The enunciation is modified by dropping the “-er” and adding an “a” and most importantly, it’s a term of brotherhood and sisterhood endearment – a racial connectedness that reflects the same sentiment as saying “I see you, I am you”.  Generationally, whether or not it is a good flip of the meaning, or a self-fulfilled prophecy is another article altogether – my grandparents have more violent memories associated with the word and do not deem it as acceptable to use.

Which brings me to my answer. I believe there should be a place of reflection prior to using the word. What connects you to it? I’m a black woman, and with this I’ve been able to experience the word in a positive and negative light. The derogatory historical significance of the word deters me from using it entirely. Though, right or wrong, accepted or rejected, it’s a part of my sub-cultural vernacular. Imagine being in a jam-packed frat party at 1 in the morning, at a primarily white university, and hearing your white peers shout it to “N***as in Paris”.  You can imagine the surprise I felt. It is a word that comes with racial ‘hate’ baggage, although pop-culture treats it as a new taboo. My point, it isn’t new. It’s personal to the people who were negatively labeled by it. I would dare to ask, if you could think of the most deplorable word that is racially motivated, would you want to be reminded of it by the race of people who created the stigma? People who probably shouldn’t be using the word, often will defend their use of it by describing it as an entirely different word due to its positive connotation. They’ll tell me that I’m wrong because it’s the equivalent of saying “my friend”. The word “friend” was not derived from a slanderous word used to label a community of people taken from their home-continent and enslaved for hundreds of years. The N-word was originally touted to inflict black inferiority to black people who were stripped of their identity due to slavery.  And while I don’t think it’s any more acceptable for those of other minority backgrounds to use the word, the historical significance of the word must be kept in mind. Who was calling who what, and when?

In this day, time and age of political and racial unrest, it is not a word to be taken lightly. Much thought should be taken, starting with your personal ancestral relationship to it.