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Give me the good life! Sunshine, white sand, close friends, and more importantly – unlimited alcohol. For many years it’s been the adage I lived by. I’m always yearning for my next travel opportunity when I can escape to my adoptive Caribbean home – the Dominican Republic.

Sadly, something has changed. The pristine blue waters of my island fantasies are now tainted with controversy. The conversations in the United States as of late appears to be one-sided, muddying the reputation of one of the most popular, and affordable destination spots in the world. An island nation which was once described as paradise, is now wrapped in a new lexicon of fear and mystery with a series of deadly, and unfortunate events.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you cannot escape the barrage of headline news regarding the multiple deaths of American tourists at various all-inclusive resorts in DR. Probably the most mysterious of them all, occurred at the Grand Bahía Príncipe in which three Americans, two of whom were an actual couple, died when they should have been living their best lives.

American couple found dead in Dominican Republic resort hotel room - YouTube

Just when you think things could not get any weirder, Americans detailing horror stories of their time spent in DR were popping up all over the place. For the lurid accounts that ended in tragedy, it’s now reported to be in the double digits over the course of a year.

I too had a brush with illness after staying at the Grand Bahía Príncipe Esmeralda resort in 2014. What was supposed to be 5 days of Dominican bliss, turned into a gastrointestinal nightmare on my return home to New Jersey. At that time, I had traveled to DR several times prior without issue of safety, or health. This time I wasn’t so lucky.

Almost immediately after turning the key to my apartment, I had a ferocious case of diarrhea and stomach cramps. Just take some Imodium AD and the good ol’ black folks cure-all tonic of Ginger Ale I thought. That was day one. By day nine, I was physically weak, lost my appetite, and fear began to set in. This was not normal and I checked in with my friends who accompanied me on the trip. Some of them experienced the same effects but it only lasted a day or so. Of course I had to be that guy to top them all with a trip to the emergency room. Since this episode occurred during another media hyped scare tactic – the Ebola era, the receptionist at the hospital put on a mask and gloves after I explained my symptoms, and mentioned where I just returned from. It was a bit overkill but hey, she was not taking any chances and to be completely honest, who could blame her?

3 Americans die at resort within days of each other - YouTube

My hospital stay lasted four days in quarantine. You read that right! I spent most of that time re-tracing my steps. Did I mistakenly drink the water? That tuna didn’t look too appetizing but I was drunk on free liquor so my judgement at the time, like myself, was a tad impaired. There was a mini-bar in my hotel room but it included Coca Cola with real sugar and Dominican Republic’s own, Presidente beer. I was safe, careful, and this couldn’t have been my fault (or maybe it could) but there I was, solo in a room overlooking the Hudson River watching doctors put on protective gear before entering.

After a slew of intravenous fluids and antibiotics, I met with a doctor (not mine) who was brought in because he actually worked at the resort where I stayed. Talk about a small world. He explained that he witnessed other accounts of people becoming severely ill during, and after their stay at this particular resort. It was all sort of unusual that he was there and had so much insight. I couldn’t help but wonder however, if his knowledge could have better been served by making some noise loud enough to bring attention to the matter at the resort sooner.

After being declared Ebola and Chikungunya free, I was discharged and ultimately diagnosed with a bad case of food poisoning. I returned home to resume my life and to the important task of posting my vacation photos to Instagram. With all that I had been through, the sickness, the fear, and quarantine, at no time did I ever think about not returning to the Dominican Republic. I certainly didn’t feel that the country which has welcomed me for years, needed to be cancelled because of one incident that quite frankly, I often prepared for.

That’s right, I always take precaution while on vacation, particularly in DR to alleviate symptoms of discomfort.  I’m never not aware of my surroundings nor what I’m consuming. You become that person when you’re allergic to shellfish, nuts, and call the New York City area home. I question everything to anyone in order to protect myself. So maybe I had a slip up, but by no means does it relinquish accountability off of myself, to place it on an entire country that receives a good portion of its revenue from tourism-particularly American tourism.

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Be open to the magic…

A post shared by Ruelon OutFront (@ruelonoutfront) on Feb 25, 2018 at 10:11pm PST

Of course I’m biased regarding the Dominican Republic as exhibited by some of my previous posts, but I’m also an intelligent and compassionate human being that will acknowledge when things just aren’t adding up. Some of the explanations coming from the powers that be within the country are questionable to say the least. My gut tells me that something is amiss, particularly with the couple who met their demise while on vacation. That simply isn’t sitting well with me and has my Spidey sense going into overdrive. There were also other lives lost after individuals mysteriously became sick although nothing in comparison with other parts of the world (especially the US), but the details are way too similar for my comfort.

Welcome To Dominican Republic [DR TAKEOVER 2014] Deluxe - YouTube

I know what it’s like to have relatives leave home and not come back. It’s devastating and every part of my being aches for the loved ones left behind who are dealing with unexpected loss with little, to no acceptable explanation as to why. I would be remiss however, if I didn’t express a bit of skepticism regarding how much attention is being brought on by the recent deaths when statistically speaking, it happens more frequently regardless of what country you choose to visit.

July has traditionally been an exciting time for me. It’s my final prep month for the annual celebration of DRtakeover in Punta Cana Labor Day weekend.  An amazing getaway for the same gender loving community of color whose management team recently updated their loyal patrons with new safety precautions while working in conjunction with the Melía Caríbe resort. Everything from confirming top notch security, to food and beverage safety measures put into place to ensure guest comfort throughout the duration of their stay.

The Melía like other Dominican resorts including the Hardrock Hotel, have heard the cries and have stepped up to the plate to reclaim the trust of returning visitors in addition to newcomers. Regardless of what may have attributed to these recent tragedies, it’s not indicative of who Dominicans are, what we’ve come to love about them, and the paradise in which they call home.

I for one, cannot participate in the demonization of a country that inhabits beautiful, friendly, black and brown people based on a series of deaths that even by the reports of American officials, are not connected. There are however, questions that many of us passport Kings and Queens have that must be addressed. I have a feeling they will and hopefully, it can be an opportunity to educate, not deter future international travelers from experiencing the wonders of DR. 

Zona Colonial Santo Domingo | Things To Do In Dominican Republic - YouTube

As we await the facts of ongoing investigations, let’s do our due diligence in researching our destinations of choice, it’s people, and respect the culture and practices that may differ from our own. Safety is paramount and should be anyone’s focus while traveling abroad. With the campaign of cancel culture continuing to unleash its wrath upon the DR, let’s not forget one thing. We’ve got bigger fish to fry in our own back yard and this man in particular, prefers his fish like his cocktails – unlimited, fried, and with a side of plantains by a Dominican beach.

The post Sorry Cancel Culture – You Cannot Have The Dominican Republic appeared first on Ruelon.

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The most memorable experiences I’ve had are a result of being of a man of a certain age. My twenties were typical. Throwing a myriad of life choices at the wall just to see what would stick. Unfortunately, I’ve also spent a good amount of that time waiting, as my then mindset would dictate – for life to begin. When I think of all the men I’ve admired in my life, their accomplishments, status, and personality, not one of them were in their twenties.

We fellas are looking better than ever these days and it’s more than just something in the water, or that good black don’t crack. We are growing older with fitness being at the forefront of our lives. We are redefining what is our prime, and dashing into maturity with style, swagger, and wisdom. All the things grown men are made of.

Chris Brown - Forever (Official Music Video) - YouTube

We do not have to look to celebrities as an example of how to age powerfully with grace. My own group of friends are doing just that. Some are rocking full beards dusted with thin to wide brush strokes of silver. They are opting to embrace the changes of time rather than succumb to the dutiful efforts of Bigen or other hair dye products.

We are the first generation to witness hip-hop go mainstream, and are just as comfortable rocking a fitted as we are donning a flamekeeper hat club fedora. Our closets have diversified, and our wardrobe is more a reflection of whom we become, with an added touch of nostalgia. Our tailored suits share space with our Jordans, and they do not out rank each other, but rather each take precedence depending on the occasion.

Sweet Life - YouTube

The stories we’ve heard from our parents who grew up in rural areas eating real food changed what we now seek out and consume. Feeling good and maintaining active lives became paramount. We’ve implemented plant based diets, cleaner options, and ensured our workouts are as organic to our daily routines as brushing our teeth.

I’ve read somewhere that confidence and ego are entirely two different things. Ego can produce a false sense of security dependent upon everything being just right to mandate how we look, feel, and move. Swagger, as I often love claiming, is about having gone through challenges in which we’ve learned the valuable lessons, and integrated them into our lives rather than hiding its truth. It’s rooted in the pain that we reclaimed as power. It hits you differently, allowing you to move with a sway that is not rehearsed, but a natural strut of courage and strength.  It’s sexy, it’s intentional, and indicative of not just what you’ve been through, but what you’ve overcome.

Mariah Carey - #Beautiful ft. Miguel (Official Video) - YouTube

Our wisdom  is that whisper in your ear which  says, “we’ve been here before and you’ve got this.” It’s is a gift, a skill-set, a tool of self-mastery that cannot be born of youth, but through experience. It keeps you out of the drama that’s not serving you, and equally releases you from the fear of taking risks. It’s comfortable to be stuck in your ways, but it’s a wise man that knows his best days are ongoing, beyond comfort zones, and that he’s responsible for manifesting his what’s next.

The post Growing Older With Style, Fitness, Swagger, And Wisdom appeared first on Ruelon.

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Social gatherings often gave me stomach pains. Avoiding eye contact with people, and trying to remain in the background were my defense techniques to evade the “who are you dating” questions. My responses of course were often rehearsed.

Although I was the quintessential awkward teenager, I took pride in gaining a level of confidence throughout adulthood via many life altering experiences both good, and bad. It created my own swagger, a way of being, and the ability to walk into a room with the intention of being noticed. It was not however, without reservation and shrinking myself in order to conform to the social norms of any given environment.

Estelle - Do My Thing feat. Janelle Monáe [Audio] - YouTube

I always knew that I was different. My mother introduced me to Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” as a young teen and it was life changing. She taught me the importance of sophistication and how it needn’t be self serving, but rather a welcoming trait to leave a positive and memorable imprint on those I came in contact with. These attributes often came in conflict with the boys don’t cry conditioning and an exactitude of masculinity programming from my father. These manly lessons were ingrained in my head since my early days of playing with GI Joe in the imaginative and encapsulating world of my family’s basement.

I’m in no way blaming my dad for how he brought me up. He was only teaching what was taught to him by his father. Fortunately, he added a few tweaks in order to become open minded enough to embrace his same gender loving son. A stance not taken my many fathers I knew within the African American community. I’m fortunate – I know that. I’m also aware that sharing my truth with my father, the manly mantras, and my own personal journey gave birth to a more confident man. In a nutshell, coming out gave me confidence that I rarely see in men choosing to remain closeted.

'Revelations' by Alvin Ailey - YouTube

It’s not to say these men are insecure,miserable, and living a life of void of self-awareness, but there is something to be said about literally walking the proverbial walk and talking the talk of one’s truth. Especially when it’s not the popular thing to do. You can be confident living a lie, but you can never tap into all of what’s possible if the very thing you are, is the one thing you’re ashamed of, keep hidden, and feel you wouldn’t be the man you are if everyone knew how, and whom you loved.

As I’ve expressed numerous times across this platform, my journey is my own. I’ll never pass judgement on anyone else choosing to live their lives as they see fit. I do however, know without a doubt that I wouldn’t want to be anyone other than who I am. Although it would be easier to willingly choose to live a limited existence based what society, religion, and culture deem appropriate, harboring a secret that would destroy my life was a stressor I could do without.

Rihanna - Nobody's Business feat Chris Brown - YouTube

I grew into a man that was liberated. The fears that once trapped me in a world to only exist for someone else’s comfort and expectation was gone. That release gave me the feeling of being unbreakable because I lived long enough to learn that being myself,despite what anyone thinks, is the ultimate confidence builder.

My continuing quest of self-love and personal discovery is not without its challenges. I still find myself is situations where it’s just easier, or safe to be what is expected. I am of course, more than just sexuality and in the rare moments where inquiring minds want to know personal details of my love life, I’m not always in the mood to educate or regulate depending on my audience. I’m just as confident in guarding my peace as I am with sharing my story when genuinely asked. Either way, I no longer get aches in my stomach when I’m out and about mingling with folks. I’m too busy being what I expect of myself, and shrinking any part of me to please others becomes unacceptable.

The post Sharing My Truth: The Ultimate Confidence Builder appeared first on Ruelon.

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Ruelon by Darrin Johnson - 4M ago

It’s rough out here in these social media streets. The world domination of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have evolved to the point of allowing our obsession with being connected, to become part of our daily routine. Move over coffee and bagels, mornings just aren’t mornings without a check-in with the gram. In our attempt to showcase the highlight reels of our existence, the rules of engagement have been stripped (literally), and indelibly changed. 

When I first joined Facebook, it was exciting. An opportunity to reconnect with high school classmates, out of state family members, and acquaintances I’ve grown fond of during my travels abroad. Instagram and Twitter then became tools I would utilize to further express my quirky personality, or at best trash talk on Football Sunday (currently boycotting). That was enough to keep my current followers content I thought – until it wasn’t. 

Something changed. It wasn’t so much that I followed new people who were influencing the way I interacted across social media platforms, but rather the people I already knew who were now taking a more provocative approach in becoming double tap worthy or dare I say it, relevant. To avoid beating around the bush any further, they’re naked! Everybody is naked and I, the furthest thing from being a prude, was not ready.

Chris Brown - Strip (Official Music Video) ft. Kevin McCall - YouTube

I want to make myself clear, I too follow the “fitness” model pages, and the beautiful Instagram underwear models like the rest of us. It’s fun, a great stress reliever and lets be honest, a little eye candy while strolling through timelines in between tv commercials. It’s completely harmless. My issue which has me perplexed beyond belief, are the regular folks that I’ve come to know and love, that have revamped their social media profiles to be void of any actual clothing, or wearing very little of it.  A complete contradiction as to how they’ve previously represented themselves so much that I’ve now dubbed Instagram, Sextagram.

I do pride myself on creating a non-judge mental space here. I could care less what adults do on their own individual platforms. Sex sells, and I’m not mad at that. My question is, what was the tipping point that made being in your underwear if you’re not selling a product, now the golden ticket to Insta-fame?

We are witnessing men of all ages and various backgrounds, ditching the beloved (or annoying) food pics, and gratuitous gym routine videos, in lieu of jock straps boudoir-esque photos to steam up our timelines. Is this what we’re doing now? Do I need to adopt an “if you can’t beat’em join’em mentality?”

Everyone wants to be seen whether they’re willing to admit it or not. Who doesn’t love it when the amount of likes steadily increase after your latest fresh cut barbershop selfie? There is no shame in wanting a sizable following whether it’s to connect with your tribe, or to grow your business or online presence. Is it necessary however, that we resort to pseudo-adult entertainment tropes in order to be considered desirable? Is this the new way to get dates or potential sex partners? 

Some may argue that Instagram is the new Grindr giving the popular dating (hook up) app a run for its money. It could also very well be that a sexier approach to one’s influence is just another phase in the evolutionary tract of digital connection that like the constant changes to social media platforms and how we share, is unavoidable.

There are a plethora of tasteful and artistic photographs online that are sexy in nature and even if not intentional, fall prey to an observer’s perception of arousal. At any given moment, someone is posting their gym progress complete with shirtless selfies and flexed muscles. There are however, elements of our community that are predicated upon appearance and the need to always be perfect and enticing. It’s not indicative of everyone, but it’s always been a part of the fabric of who we are.

Ciara- Click Flash (FULL HQ) - YouTube

It might be easier just to go with the flow and rather than question someone’s motive for pulling a Toni Braxton Grammy dress circa 2001 glow-up, throw my own work out pics into the mix of my Dallas Cowboys suck memes and get with the program. I’ve never asked the men I knew why the switch up on their profiles, but often assumed some were getting naked to reach the highly coveted 10K followers. Who am I to judge when it clearly worked?

I think my problem is not that I’m a prude, jealous, or judgmental, but overly analytical. In my brain, anything, including the workings of Instagram, has to make sense. Maybe that’s just the point. It doesn’t have to. I can just relax, throw in the towel and view the cheeky (pun intended) surprises on my timeline as entertainment. I’ll still have my suspicions, but will continue to watch and double tap when warranted. As you were fellas, as you were.

The post Is Instagram The New Grindr? appeared first on Ruelon.

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Ruelon by Darrin Johnson - 4M ago

Your plane has landed. After going through baggage and customs, your exhaustion sets in due to several days of leisure. You are now beginning your second descent back to your reality. Brick by brick, your mind begins to put up a wall of protection. An impenetrable fort of strength and solitude that will ward off incoming attacks from forces within the Matrix. The enemy threatening your overall peace is persistent, and hell bent on deconstructing your soul of you let them.  Your vacation is overnow what?

Khalid - Location (Official Music Video) - YouTube

If you’ve traveled as much as I have, you’re familiar with the inevitable case of the blues that creeps up on you after a well earned getaway. It’s what happens when you create a narrative that you’re returning to a life of punishment disguised as a 9 to 5 gig, family obligations, and full on adulting.

I know that feeling all too well. I have however, developed 5 ways to fight the post vacation blues that will have you thinking differently about how you perceive your life before, during, and after your time in the sun.

5 Ways To Fight The Post Vacation Blues

  1. Create A Vacation Playlist – Music heals the soul. When you’re stressed out about that presentation at work, or your finances as you plan for the future, a playlist created by you that sparks memories of good times at the beach, or sleeping in on plush sheets at the resort will be just the happy pill you need. You’ll be surprised how your energy shifts and you’ll feel the gentle pull of your cheeks as a smile appears effortlessly. Let the memories of specific moments of your vacay remind you why you’re hustle and grind is worth it.
  1. Create The Life You Desire Now – let’s face it. Many of us do not have our dream jobs.  That’s ok. Bills are due every month and you have to do what you gotta do. That doesn’t mean you’re required to wait until conditions in your life are ideal before you start that business, network with people who are where you’d like to be, or take small steps towards a new venture and leap into something new.  All you have is this moment so why not start being the person NOW who you’d like to be tomorrow.  In the words of Jennifer Lewis in the 90’s cult classic film Poetic Justice, “Time ain’t for eva.”
  1. Capture The Moment – I don’t have anything to deep to convey here. Just take lots of photos of your vacation. Now if you’ve read some of my other posts, you know how much I’ve stressed about being present while you’re away. That doesn’t mean you can’t slice out a small part of your time to capture crystal blue waters, that strong cup of Dominican coffee, or that fried red snapper from the small mom and pop restaurant on the beach. Just as music allows you to be transported back to a place and time, a photograph of days spent in paradise can accompany that foot tapping jam. All photos do not need to be posted on Instagram. Save some for yourself to be your own piece of joy when you feel it’s hard to come by in your every day world.
  1. Gratitude– it’s never a bad time to express gratitude for where you are. Good, bad, or indifferent, it’s serving you in some capacity. The job you’re complaining about every Monday morning is allowing you to have great memories on vacation with friends and loved ones. Always respect what gives you the freedom to take a break from the rat race. If there are changes you need to make in order to be happy, do that – NOW!
  1. Plan Your Next Vacation – No need to read that twice. You’ve read it correctly. Planning your next time away from the grind can be therapeutic. It can create bonding moments with those you’re traveling with as you hash out the details of a new adventure. Even if your financial situation doesn’t warrant you to take time off in the near future, there is no rule that says you can’t put something on the calendar and work hard to make it happen. Time flies by quickly so while you’re off working your daily gig, it will eventually be time for you to take off once again to create new memories. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can take your time working towards new goals that include organizing exciting destinations to discover.

 That’s all I have for now. I hope these 5 suggestions can provide you with something impactful as you diligently work towards creating the life you want. Most of us who don’t have the last name Kardashian have to work unfortunately. Our time away enjoying what the great big world has to offer can sometimes provide an illusion that dissolves the moment your plane touches down in your city. The vacation blues don’t have to plague you without your permission. You can utilize my 5 ways to fight it, or discover your own tricks that can spark joy in your life. You don’t have to allow that wall of yours to be so high that you can’t see over it to brighter possibilities. 

The post 5 Ways To Fight The Post Vacation Blues appeared first on Ruelon.

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Life is hard. There is no getting around that fact. There are however, insurmountable pockets of joy that I’ve been told, should even the scale. What if doesn’t though? What if there are just extreme circumstances that occur in your life that are beyond comprehension and rationale? What if youve experienced far too many heartbreaks and misfortune that in your mind, convince you to give up the fight.

Our personal journey can sometimes feel like war. An unapologetic punch in the gut attack that comes at the most inconvenient of times. It is a constant battle to make sense of what has happened to you, or adapting to the catastrophic mess you may have created yourself. Then there is the realization you come to regarding the choices you’ve made that led up to it. 

Taboo - The Fight (Official Video) - YouTube

We can encounter moments that give credence to the saying shit happens. A series of unfortunate events that are beyond our control. They create the inescapable “loud thoughts” in our minds. The kind of thoughts that keep us up at night recreating what happened, and what you could have done differently to not be where you are. Whether you are a good person whose had the unspeakable happen to them, or you’re a product of choosing a path not in alignment with your who you are, it all comes down to choice.

When you feel as if you’re living in the bowels of impossibility, it will be the choices you make, or don’t make that will determine whether you will move on, or live in your misery permanently. At the height of sadness and despair, the pain which crippled you can morph into a security blanket providing you comfort. If you’re not careful, it can become your identity and ultimately your world. A sunken place that you will muster every ounce of your dwindling strength to defend it’s existence and to maintain your current status quo.

Within all of us, there lies a piece of ourselves who we’ve always been during the good times that gave us joy, and the tough times that made us stronger. It is our soul that despite it all, never gives up! The problem is, that soul, that core essence that makes you the best version of yourself, cannot lead you from an place of hopelessness.   

It will simply sit inside of you dormant, patiently waiting for you to decide to be you – to step up. It is a part of you that is arrogant, and taunts you with whispers saying, but you already know what to do to overcome your pain don’t you?

Eminem - Lose Yourself (Official Music Video) - YouTube

It is in that moment of the whisper that you’ll have to decide who you’re going to have to be in order to move forward. You’ll have to embrace relying on nothing but a feeling, a courageous memory of you at your finest moments of badassery, and the soulful desire to be free of your pain and current circumstances. 

Your comeback, the triumph that you’ll need to tap into your soul for, will not come from physical manifestation of events that immediately shift your reality for the better. It will be the choice to want something more than the comfort of your pain. Pain is not your friend and it will provide all the evidence in the world to convince you that it is. It will be your choice to combat life’s losses while being uncomfortable every step of the way. The peace we seek does not live in the easy, but at the end of the messiness of the fight.

The post The Fight: Choosing To Leave The Comfort Of Pain appeared first on Ruelon.

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Yeah, it was the latter that summed up my 2018 but I’m a hopeless optimist at the end of the day. Whether the year has made you, or broke you, we as same gender loving men can all agree that there are some things we would be willing to not pack in our travel bags as we venture into the new year.

The following are a few of my own observations but I could honestly go on and on but hey, why should I have all the fun? Add your two cents in the comments but these are my top ten things I think gay men need to leave in 2018. 

Jussie Smollett Performs “Ha Ha (I Love You)” - YouTube

  1. Instagram personal trainers clearly getting a little “help” achieving their physiques trying to convince you that you too can look like them after following their workout routines, and purchasing their meal plans.
  1. Over Promotion of Pop divas on social media. Jussie Smollett put out an amazing album that received little to no support from same gender loving men online.
  1. Thirst Trapping when you’re regular job is being an accountant but you’re putting adult entertainers to shame on Instagram. I’m watching though but…Why?
  1. The need to be perfect. You, your life, and your body are ENOUGH!
  1. Supporting organizations, churches, artists, and businesses that do not support you, and who you love.
  1. Voting against your interests just for a paycheck and attention. Believe me on this. It’s a thing.
  1. Obsession with the lives of celebrities you’ll never meet. Support your friends and family’s entrepreneurial efforts using your actual social media accounts. Beyoncé already has a paid staff.
  1. That annoying  Instagram selfie pose with one foot lifted while the other is firmly planted on the ground to give the illusion that you were caught off guard with a candid photo. The jig has been up. Take a selfie if you want and own it without it having to be anything but.
  1. Being offended by Kevin Hart while giving reality show divas a pass on past homophobic comments. Most of us were already in the know of the comedian’s comments and acted accordingly years ago. #TeamDerayDavis
  1. Not loving every part of ourselves. Society beats us up enough. We don’t have to join in the beat down giving the hardest blows we can muster. It’s possible to be proud of who we love without taking away from the countless other parts of our humanity.

Did I leave anything out? Don’t forget to comment below. Here’s to an abundant and prosperous new year!

The post The Top 10 Things Gay Men Need To Leave In 2018 appeared first on Ruelon.

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Ruelon by Darrin Johnson - 8M ago

There was a time when folks across social media platforms were claiming beards are the new six-pack. I for one did not, but I did start growing one in early 2015.  One of the reasons I decided to pledge my allegiance to the illustrious beard gang was that it provided a visible and unique accessory to compliment my bald head. A fate I inherited from my family genetics that was hopelessly inescapable. I wanted something that could I change up and allow myself to stand out from my brothers in the hair struggle who like myself, adapted the smooth and shiny crown with confidence and sex appeal.

Before I give my thoughts on one of the fastest growing trends in men’s grooming, Let me first preface my opinion by stating that had the existence of man weaves or male units as it’s called in some circles, existed back in my mid-twenties or early thirties, I probably would have lept at the chance to relive the joys of a full head of hair or at lest the illusion of one. 

TYSON BECKFORD | Videofashion's 100 Top Models - YouTube

As luck would have it, my early days of adulthood were inundated with now iconic pop male references of style. When my hair began thinning, Michael Jordan had already accomplished his second three-peat, Tyson Beckford was deemed a supermodel and working for Ralph Lauren, and the hyper-masculine bravado of hip hop legends Onyx had dominated the airwaves. All of these notable men sported baldies and influenced a generation of men, particularly of color, to opt for the shaved head look not just out of necessity, but as a fashionable hair (less) style of choice.

Onyx - Slam - YouTube

 Today, men now have the option to look a myriad of ways and join their female counterparts in drastically changing their look with ease. If you can part with a few hundred dollars, you too can experience unbelievable magic at the hands of a talented stylist within a few spins of a salon chair.

Michael Jordan's 1st 3Peat 91-93 Championships - YouTube

I first saw amazing transformations of men while viewing the Instagram account of celebrity stylist John Cotton of New York City. Cotton, has groomed the domes of such personalities (none of them wear male units) as SNL’s Jay Pharaoh, Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh, and Empire’s Jussie Smollett. When he isn’t styling Hollywood’s elite, he’s changing the lives of every day men (and even some women), one male unit at a time.

Now let me be clear here, I’m always an advocate for the entrepreneurial warriors of the world so I’m elated that not only is John solidifying a reputation for his masterful work, so are many others in this small but growing talent pool of barbers / stylists. Personally, I’m very happy and content with my bald head. It’s served me well and I now can’t imagine looking any other way. That’s just me though. I applaud however, the men who may be in their early twenties who like I was at that time, not ready to deal with the realities of maturing, or heredity. I get it!

Any man deciding to inject a little variety and spice into their lives with a new do, should! As I’ve stated earlier, this is now available and the process is executed so brilliantly that it is virtually impossible to detect when someone is wearing a man weave. I’m not kidding! Some of the work I’ve seen is not only mind blowing, but life altering.

Whether you’re looking to reclaim your hair or you’re content with rocking a baldie with a sick hat collection, the beauty of it all is that you have options. The reasons to opt for a male unit can range from suffering from hair loss due to genetics or illness, to just trying something different. The choice is yours and you can feel confident that you’ll look convincingly natural.

That leaves men like myself who are going to carry on the legacy and be like Mike and accept what is, and use what momma gave us with as much style and swagger as possible. Let’s all tip our hats to burgeoning careers in the male grooming industry and the lives they’re impacting. If man weaves aren’t for you, then rock your flyest fitted, fedora, or painter’s cap and don’t forget your sunscreen for your head while at the beach. There is enough shine for us all despite what’s on top of our heads and we now get to co-exist in a culture where that’s possible.

The post Are Man Weaves For You? appeared first on Ruelon.

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The weather has dipped to a chilling thirty-three degrees. What was once beautiful autumn leaves vibrantly and boldly displaying their colors to those fortunate enough to be paying attention, are now beginning to turn a shade of brown aimlessly floating on to the ground. This of course is evidence that winter is coming, but more importantly my favorite time of year – the holiday season!

It’s pretty safe to assume that a good portion of the world, regardless of religious affiliation or lack there of, recognize this as a time when people tend to slow the pace of life down. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, it’s the perfect time to bring the madness of the Matrix to a halt, and reflect what’s truly important. It’s amzing to witness a festive atmosphere when human beings are attempting to be at their best.

In the earlier part of my career, I had to work during some of the busiest days of the season. Whether it was before or after the holidays, I was spending all of my time in the office. I hated it but I was also very much used to it. Unfortunately however, it also meant that time spent with family and socializing with friends had to be scaled down, or eliminated altogether.

It was during these solo moments that my own personal traditions were born. I became a decent cook while making my own holidays meals (after several frantic calls to my dad during the process) I also decorated my Christmas tree and apartment all by myself. It became “my thing” and I grew to love the quietness of it all. Of course I would have preferred to be with loved ones and my crew  but I learned to appreciate the me time, something I needed daily to remain sane in a chaotic world. I also began to view this opportunity for myself as a meditative like retreat, and focus on bettering myself and my thoughts.

There were also years that I spent celebrating with likeminded people who became family out of necessity. The lifelong bonds that were created due to all of us being in the same boat of either having to work, lived too far from family or sadly, couldn’t go home because of how we loved was desperately needed. There was always a few buddies of mine who were not welcomed by the very people who were supposed to love them unconditionally. To be honest, I wasn’t always happy to be around family when I was closeted. The strength to keep up the facade became unbearable and I had no desire to dodge the nosey and sure to be asked question of “do you have a girlfriend?” No sir, I would much rather be playing spades, and sipping on drinks with the family I chose who knew me better than anyone else in the world. That was my meaning of the perfect holiday season.

As we close out the year, I find myself in a caterpillar like state of existence. I’m wading knee deep in transformation of a very different kind, anxiously awaiting and preparing for a new beginning and ready to spread my butterfly wings. This year in particular was basically a bust, but when I think back on how the past solo holiday experiences taught me to go within to find strength, a sense of family, and resilience, I was grateful that what was now occurring, complete with challenges, was completely figureoutable based on my journey thus far.

Boyz II Men - Let it snow LIVE - YouTube

The magical moments of possibility reared it’s head recently and could potentially be the game changer I desperately needed and deserved. I was conscious of my own gratitude for still having my actual family to lean on, and two friends who selflessly forced me to continue to pursue my dreams and remember who I was.

I could always depend on myself to feel empowered during the year’s end because it brought about so much joy, not just in the lives of others celebrating the season of giving and receiving, but for myself and my overall well-being. It was a time to disconnect and reflect on where I am, what is ending, and look forward to the birth of a new reality. It took being alone and those safe and comfortable times with my same gender loving brothers, that allowed me to cherish the experiences that had me falling in love with myself, and the man I was becoming.

Nat King Cole - "The Christmas Song" (1961) - YouTube

If you’re finding that your holidays will be a one man show, it can be tough, I’m not going to lie about it. There are however, ways to create what you need out of necessity and to feel a sense of security and be unapologetic about your own self-preservation. Take the time to treat yourself right. Buy yourself something special, have a cheat day in lieu of a cheat meal, and laugh with people who’ve become your go to tribe. This could be your chance to end the year powerfully with intention, purpose, and apply your own meaning to the spirit of the season.

The post How Spending The Holidays Alone Shaped My life For The Better appeared first on Ruelon.

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