We're Back (and an Ode to Self-Care)!

Hello everyone!

I guess I dropped the ball and kind of “ghosted” my audience for a while, but I swear there’s good reason behind it!

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September is Mental Health Awareness Month and I want to take a moment to emphasize the need for self-care as it relates to mental health awareness. Sometimes we’re our own harshest, most stubborn critic and the last one to recognize when something is out of balance. It’s easy to get caught up in things and forget to check on yourself until suddenly you’ve built an unstable structure that collapses. I cannot emphasize this enough: you need to just SIT DOWN AND TAKE TIME OUT FOR YOURSELF – exercise saying “no”, listen to your gut about how you feel when certain people are around, articulate your thoughts, do something that is “selfishly” just for you and your enjoyment. Talk to someone whom you trust, go to a therapist. There is no shame in asking for help, asking for clarification, or asking that your boundaries be respected.

You are valid, you are seen, and you are loved.

Now, with that, I would like to provide some updates:

1) Relocation: Since my last episode, I moved to Durham, NC from Dayton, OH in August. I didn’t realize this, but moving is hard! So far, I’ve experienced several cultural shifts (such as locals not understanding what I’m saying - imagine that) but that’s to be expected. Regardless, the months and months of preparation in anticipation of moving while simultaneously maintaining my priorities took up a good chunk of my time.

2) Priorities: I needed to take care of my priorities, including consistently check in on myself and practicing self-care during this time of big changes.

As I just mentioned, I lived in Dayton, Ohio until very recently. If you have watched the news at all, you might have seen a few of the things that my hometown has experienced: EF-4 tornadoes, white supremacist rallies, and a devastating shooting which took the lives of 9 people. Dayton experienced a lot of trauma within a very short period (approximately 4 months) but has been remarkably, yet unsurprisingly, resilient. I forgot that survivor’s guilt can come with these sorts of events but I kept moving because I wanted to help others. However, I knew I needed to stop being such a “tough girl” and implement more self-care during this time. Survivor’s guilt is a real thing and once I started talking about it, I realized how others around me had similar feelings and also wanted to talk. Overall, I’m in great spirits and it felt great to be able to connect with my friends on such a deeper level. It’s one thing to survive, and another to thrive.

3) Inventory: I chose to save tons of photos and podcast episodes during my remaining time in the Gem City. I knew that I was going to need some things to keep my mind preoccupied while I develop a new sense of normal. So far, they (the photos and episodes) have been a great way of connecting to myself during a time of rediscovery.

4) Mawwage: I was a bridesmaid (along with my best friend) in a traditional Rwandan wedding where two of my friends chose to spend their lives together. It was such a beautiful weekend of celebration but trust me, the preparation was intense (I can’t even begin to imagine what that was like for the bride)!

All in all, the move was much needed and long overdue. It was also quite serendipitous that several of my friends were moving around the same time. Maybe we all needed to gain new insight.

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What does self-care look like to you?

I’ll be posting a list of my top 10 self-care routines in my next post. In the meantime, I’d like for you to think about 10 things you like to do as it relates to self-care. Don’t have anything? Consider things you like to do that bring you joy - is it trying out a new restaurant? Taking a bath? Buying a small, otherwise pointless trinket? Anything!

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of self-care, I think it’s important to explain what it is as well as what it isn’t. According to Raphailia Michael (2018), self-care is the deliberate act of taking care of one’s mental, emotional, and physical health which helps to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Self-care isn’t something you feel forced to do or find no enjoyment in doing. Self-care isn’t necessarily selfish when your focus is on taking care of yourself with harm to none. It is problematic (and selfish) when folx mask manipulative and destructive behaviors under the guise of self-care. From where is the need for self-care stemming? Be careful of that.

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Self-care should refuel you, not displace. You can’t really expect to be there for others or be fully present if you are not aware of your own presence (or a lack thereof) or needs.

One way that I perform self-care is through writing, something I abandoned years ago because a) fear, and b) I didn’t feel like my voice was strong enough or interesting enough. However, I found writing to be the best way to get out of my head around a year ago.

I was so used to academic writing (nearly an exclusively committed decade) that it felt somewhat uncomfortable to get back into creative writing without trying to incorporate APA formatting, eliminating contractions, citations, etc. I think I’ve found some pleasant middle-ground as of late. As a result, I have been working on my own book of sorts and providing perspective to a few projects, including Tinder’s SwipeLife and a queer-owned small printing company, Purpled Palm Press. In the latter publication, I wrote an essay about my experiences with breakups and where it has led me to this point in time. It was quite cathartic to write it all down as I was experiencing an explosive breakup, but I think the essay is what finally allowed me to move on.

I need to make sure to point out that no exes or specific situations were mentioned because this story is exclusively mine.

I am considering a live reading of my essay on Instagram Live on or around September 19th, so keep a lookout for announcements @GuessWhosComingPodcast. And if you’re interested in ordering a copy of the book, please go to Purpled Palm Press’ shop.

ONE LAST NOTE: EPISODE 6 WILL BE UP SOON!

XO,
Hunter




Relationship Attachment Styles

On Episode 5 of Guess Who’s Coming, I sat down with the brilliant and humble Dr. Ashley Townes for a one-on-one conversation about relationship attachment styles and how our interactions change throughout our lifetime. Dr. Townes and I met a few weeks prior to the National Sex Educators Conference in Newark, NJ, a conference where Dr. Townes provided an incredibly insightful workshop on sexuality and African American women (complete with data!). I reached out to Dr. Townes via Instagram to arrange an interview and we found out that we live around an hour from each other, so as our worlds collided, it was kismet for us to “break bread”.

Episode 5 is now available on Spotify!


Let me start with this: I sucked at relationships for most of my life; I just suck considerably less now (actually, I’m pretty alright) since I came to that understanding and started to dig into WHY. Our first experiences with attachment come in the form of our caregivers, and we learn to model our interactions with others based on those impressionable and formative years. The hope is that we will all develop into confident, mature, secure folx who will treat our partners, friends, and associates with utmost respect, kindness, and love. The reality is that at any time, around half of us has these types of relationship skills, but we are not damned to dysfunction! Relationship attachment styles change throughout our lives, based on experiences which continue to shape and mold us, whether positively or negatively.

How Your Childhood Affects Your Love Styles (Courtesy of Psych2Go).

I want to make sure to mention that as persons of color, specifically Black, we may find ourselves at a disadvantage regarding relationship styles because of how we are culturally raised to perceive “normalcy”. It is hard to admit (personal or cultural) weakness, sensitivity, or insecurity when you are expected to be strong and resilient, just like it is difficult to introduce concepts such as boundaries and consent (which may be inherently seen as “white people” things). Cultural collectivism is a strength, and even admitting our individual downfalls should be seen as strengths because it deepens the relationship with the collective.

Without diving into too much personal detail, I had to observe the shortcomings of my parents’ relationship attachment styles and see how I was mirroring those in my own relationships. From there, I reevaluated the last seven years of my romantic relationships to see how those shortcomings affected said relationships, and how those dysfunctional romantic relationships affected following relationships. Needless to say, it was a tangled web speckled with fuckbois with mommy issues, guys with a “fetish” for Black women, hyper-alphas/power bottoms, men with an Amazonian fixation, and what I have come to believe was a closeted nationalist.

… but I digress…

The Four Attachment Styles of Love (Courtesy of Psych2Go).

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The Four Attachment Styles of Love

There are four main attachment styles of love: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. Other attachment styles sometimes include dependent and codependent.

The Four Attachment Styles of Love (Ni, 2015).
Infographics created by Hunter for Guess Who’s Coming.

Dr. Firestone (2013) explains that our attachment style affects who we choose to date, the pace of the relationship, and even how our relationships end. My attachment style at the beginning of the seven-year trek, dismissive-avoidant, impacted how I interacted with that partner but also how they perceived my value (or lack thereof). A lot of things changed for me around three years ago, and again a year ago, and it really made me view myself in a new, less rose-tinted light. With a lot of time, self-care, love, and even intentional celibacy, I managed to climb my way up to fearful-avoidant and secure (because yes, you can have more than one relationship style at any time).

Attachment styles can even change during the course of a relationship and it is my understanding that communication will make or break things. One way of creating a healthy, safer space for communication with any partner is to start with the real questions from early on! I treat my first dates like an interview, and sometimes I will ask questions about boundaries and their understanding of consent. Based on their answers, you can start to decide whether or not you actually want a second date (or if you may be better off as friends, acquaintances, etc.). Don’t worry, I’ll be creating a script of questions you can ask just in case you don’t know exactly how to ask.

Something fun that I like to do with a partner is take time out for “communication activities”, or little projects where you and a partner can sit down (or lie down, or walk, whatever) and talk about your needs, wants, boundaries, curiosities, etc. I’ll be working through a boundaries list on an upcoming date, so I will share a template for others to use soon, too. I’d like to also mention that it’s a great sign if your partner is receptive to participating in these types of activities… just a little FYI.

Have you ever thought about what your love style(s) may be? Take the test!

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Dr. Helen Fisher’s Four Love Types

Dr. Helen Fisher created a list of four different love types, which she bases on hormonal dominance: dopamine (explorer), serotonin (builder), testosterone (director), and estrogen (negotiator). I would not personally divide folx love types based on hormones, but I do like how this personality dichotomy has laid it out. Here’s a video presented by Psych2Go for further entertainment!

Dr. Helen Fisher’s Four Love Types (Huang, 2017).
Infographics created by Hunter for Guess Who’s Coming.

I think I have been able to succeed and mature within the context of my more recent relationships (both internal and interpersonal) because I recognize the importance of self-reflection and transparency. I wrote an article for Purpled Palm Press about the lessons I’ve learned from the last seven years of dating (aka, breakups) and it was actually quite cathartic for me. I was at the end of a long roller coaster of uncertainty and manipulation brought on by an ex, and I was struggling to figure out what the fuck to write about. As it usually happens for me, my writer’s block was blasted through with the last bomb of truth delivered by my ex and I used that experience as the frame to tell my story.

I will be releasing a recorded reading and script of my article, titled “Beach Boys, Sage Bundles, and an Absence of Genitalia”, on my blog after the article has been published, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, happy fucking!

If you want to learn about your own relationship styles, here are a few links:

Psychology Today’s Relationship Attachment Style Test

Dr. R. Chris Fraley’s Attachment Style Test

ReLuv’s Relationship Attachment Style Test

Dr. Helen Fisher’s Four Love Types Personality Test

References:

Firestone, L. (2013). How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship.

Huang, C. (2018a). Dr. Milan and Kay Yerkovich’s 5 Love Styles.

Huang, C. (2018b). The 4 Attachment Styles in Love.

Huang, C. (2017). Dr. Helen Fisher’s 4 Love Types.

Ni, P. (2015). What is Your Relationship Attachment Style?

Lancer, D. (2014). How to Change Your Attachment Style.

Myers-Briggs, Condoms & Lube

For Episode 4 of Guess Who’s Coming, I co-hosted with Jessica from Radical Eros (@radicalerodspodcast) and Ben over a lovely Sunday morning breakfast. The conversation first starts with explaining our personality types (intermingled with recapping on our dates from the night before) based on results from the Myers-Briggs personality types. After several (read: 20 minutes) of this, our conversation redirects towards the headlining subject: condoms and lubrication. Before I talk about condoms and lubrication, I want to make sure that I briefly cover what this personality test is about…

Episode 4 is now available on Spotify.

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Personality tests have taken an ever-popular turn in the modern dating world, with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in the forefront among millennials. As a psychology geek, the MBTI was brought up (frequently) during introductory courses but I did not pay much attention to it until several years later when I had to take the test during a graduate-level public health course. Let’s dig into the basics…

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory utilizes the theory of personality types, developed by Carl Jung, to understand how people perceive themselves and interact with their environment (internal and external) (The Myers & Briggs Foundation, 2019a). The creators, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, developed the inventory to develop insights about people and groups. Those variables developed by Carl Jung assisted in the creation of 16 distinctive personality types, expressed in 4-letter codes:

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

From these variables, folks can determine their preferred environment (E or I), how they prefer to focus on basic information (S or N), if their decisions are more based on logic or instinct (T or F), and if there is a preference for structure or fluidity (J or P) (The Myers & Briggs Foundation, 2019a). Below, you will find the “type table” as demonstrated on The Myers & Briggs Foundation (2019a) website:

The Myers & Briggs Foundation (2019a) “type table”, as retrieved from www.myersbriggs.org ( click image to be redirected ).

The Myers & Briggs Foundation (2019a) “type table”, as retrieved from www.myersbriggs.org (click image to be redirected).

You can learn more about each personality type here and take a free test here.


NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF…

I did not learn about different types of condoms and lubricants until I was in my mid-20s, and consequently, I dealt with several complications since I was using things that did not work for my body. If you listen to this podcast episode, you will hear about how I found out I am allergic to latex condoms. After figuring this out (and buying latex-free condoms), it helped to improve my sexual experiences because a) I was not stuck in my head instead of enjoying the moment, and b) I learned how to connect with my body in a more intimate way (i.e., I listened!). The most commonly reported symptom related to an allergic reaction to latex condoms is yeast infections. However, you can experience other localized (itching, redness, hives, etc.) or systemic (watery eyes, flushing of the face, runny nose or congestion, etc.) symptoms, or suffer from anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, swallowing, or swelling of the throat, mouth, or face) (O’Keefe Osborn, 2018).

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It is worth mentioning that you can use polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lambskin condoms as an alternative to latex. I would only recommend lambskin if you and your partner have tested negative for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since lambskin should only be used to prevent unwanted pregnancies (O’Keefe Osborn, 2018).

There is also the possibility of an allergy to lubricants (or spermicide, which actually may not prevent pregnancy at any higher likelihood when compared to a condom without spermicide), so it is worth learning about the different types: water-based, silicone-based, oil-based, and hybrid (or “natural”).  

I tend to recommend water-based lube as a starter for folks, typically Sliquid H2O. The benefits of water-based lube are that they are safe to use with latex and non-latex condom options. According to Adcox (2017), “This type of lube is most popular for three reasons: it won’t stain your sheets, it’s easy on the skin, and it washes off easily in water.” Unfortunately, water-based lubes tend to dry rather quickly and will require reapplication, but you can use this lube with your toys. An additional note, provided by @featsofeducation (on Instagram): water-based lube is not hypoallergenic, and it is much more likely to contain potentially irritating ingredients because it generally has more ingredients than others.

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Silicone-based lubes are also recommended for super sensitive skin since silicone is hypoallergenic. It is also long-lasting and tends to feel like silk on your skin. As I mentioned on the podcast episode, Uberlube is a wonderful option to test out. Not only does it come in a beautiful, sleek glass bottle, but a small amount will go a very, very long way (I would strongly recommend slip guards in your tub for this one!). The downside is that silicone-based lubes can degrade your toys but are typically safe for use with condoms (Adcox, 2017).

Oil-based lubes are ideal if you do not want to apply more than once, but they should not be used with latex condoms since they increase the likelihood of a condom rip or tear (Adcox, 2017). Furthermore, oil-based lubes are associated with higher rates of infections (such as bacterial vaginosis), they can stain sheets and clothing, and is difficult to clean up.

Hybrid, or “natural”, lubes are newer to the game, and typically include natural-based products (coconut oil, aloe, etc.) and very few ingredients. Like other oil-based lubes, coconut oil can cause the condom to break or tear (Adcox, 2017). Aloe-based lubes can also have a drying effect on the vagina’s natural lubrication, so it is important to not stack a bunch of new products when you are engaging in sex so you can decipher which product(s) are working well (or not so well) with your body.

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Adcox (2017) shares that you should always pay attention to ingredients listed, avoiding certain ones which may cause irritation or inflammation, including: glycerin, nonoxynol-9, petroleum, propylene glycol, and chlorhexidine gluconate. Also make sure that whatever lube you use is latex, rubber, and plastic-friendly. Other ingredients which may cause genital irritation or discomfort include l-arginine, parabens, and flavoring agents.

Lastly, for the love of all things wonderful, avoid lubes and condoms that are flavored and scented. These items are typically intended for oral play, and they can have a very negative effect on vaginal pH (potential for Hydrogen).

Happy fucking!

 Use the code “RADICAL” at checkout when shopping at Lube Life!