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Ruelon by Darrin Johnson - 1w 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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I hereby declare myself man boob free! Okay now that I have your attention, I wanted to bask in my own glory of approaching my one year anniversary of my gynecomastia surgery. I have absolutely no regrets about going through with the procedure. Every day that goes by, I can’t help but smile from ear to ear when flexing in front of the bathroom mirror. 

It’s been such a liberating experience having my chest match the spirit, and vision of the man I was on the inside. There are moments however, where I shake my head at the sight of my former chest and release a sigh of relief knowing that the limited existence I was living due to suffering with gynecomastia, and that cycle of my life, is now over!

One of the things I’m most grateful for (besides being able to feel comfortable walking around shirtless) is that I had a front row seat to my surgery. Now yes, throughout the experience at Lexington Plastic Surgeons in New York City, I was under anesthesia, but I was fortunate enough to have it all recorded to view at my leisure while I recovered at home.

The surgery which lasted a couple of hours, was broadcasted live on periscope for all the world to see. Well at least those who logged in and were curious enough to stop, look, and give the occasional WTF gasp!  I thought it might be a great idea to share with my readers exactly what one would experience if they are suffering from, and wanted to do something about the Big Gyno monster. 

So here it is, my transformation in which my surgeon, Dr. Gerald Ginsberg will take you through each step as he literally changes my life right before your eyes. You’ll be able to see what I went through and hopefully become informed enough to decide if going through with male breast reduction procedure (gynecomastia) is right for you. 

Believe it or not, my results are still taking form. It’s not uncommon for complete recovery and optimum results to not fully take effect until about six months to a year. So grab some popcorn, No wait, don’t do that. I will warn you now that the video is graphic. It is surgery after all but it’s important for interested parties to see how the procedure is supposed to be executed. Don’t be fooled by shifty surgeons only performing liposuction and not actual glandular tissue excision which is the root of your gynecomastia.

After viewing the video, you cannot say you weren’t in the know or that I didn’t steer you in the right direction. Also, be sure to refer back to my previous posts for additional helpful tips and feel free to leave your comments and questions below.  I’ll be taking a hiatus for the remainder of the year so I will see all of you in 2019. Here’s to a better year for all of us!

Click Here To View My Gynecomastia Surgery

The post Gynecomastia One Year Later: See My Live Surgical Experience appeared first on Ruelon.

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I had been stripped of everything I knew and possessed. I was cut down to the white meat as my cousin would say. It was deep and there was no bandage large enough to cover my wounds. One day when the pain of failure was just too much for me to handle, I went running. I’ve come to love being a runner and now I felt I needed to run for my life. I yearned for my privacy and immediate peace even if it were only for a couple of hours.

For weeks I ran up inclines on hills and walked on flat ground. Some days my outings were to vent. I was so angry and although I had my headphones on, the music wasn’t playing. My rants on a quiet Virginia Street was all that was feeding my angry inner dragon.  I yelled and screamed. It felt good. No one was around to hear and I let the universe, everything, and everyone who I thought screwed me over have it. The reality however, was that I only had an audience of trees that aligned the suburban street revealing cooking cutter homes. 

It wasn’t until my daily runs  began to permeate thoughts of solitude that I opened my eyes to the true magic of my surroundings. It was beautiful, it was intoxicating, it was liberating. It was simply nature’s peace and it radiated throughout my entire body causing me to feel light as a feather. I felt something shift from within.

Something amazing was happening and I was aware of it. It was obvious and certain occurrences felt as if they were appearing just for me to take notice. Butterflies, creatures I hadn’t paid much attention to before were flying all around me. One in particular was adorned with the most beautiful shade of royal blue. Dragonflies would hover over my head and when they flew closer to me, were prancing about with vibrant colors of blood orange, emerald green, and once again, royal blue. I was in awe of their beauty and how they made me feel. I remembered how I always loved the color royal blue. It stood out to me as being such a powerful color. It was also my nephew’s favorite. He was buried wearing it. I wore that very same color to his funeral.

A few years ago I developed a fascination with birds. Particularly hawks and eagles. I’ve always found them to be so breathtakingly beautiful and majestic. I would see hawks almost every day on my runs. Sometimes off in the distance and often one, two, or three at a time. It seemed as if with each day that I ran, they flew closer to me and then on one beautiful summer day, one landed on the median on the street across from me. It sat there for a moment as if it were contemplating its thoughts. I stopped and waited to see what it would do next. In some way, I was hoping it was a sign that things were changing for the better. I waited for it to see me and to provide  answers to the many questions in my head. It did nothing but it was something so peaceful about being that close to such a divine like creature and feeling protected. In that moment, I felt apart of something greater. I felt hope. This hope began to build with each day and was heightened when I would see the hawk, the butterflies, and the dragonflies all at once.

As I became completely engrossed in my daily bouts with nature, I began to play my music again and I started to feel. I missed emotions that gave me a sense that I was alive. Memories of places I had been, and people I have met began to flood my mind in complete overload. It was overwhelming and I felt like I was meeting myself for the very first time.  I had good music and a good feeling and in that moment, it was enough. I went with that!

As the weeks passed, I thought it would be a great idea to begin writing myself notes as a reminder to do something good for myself each day and to love myself. I know that sounds like it should be an obvious thing to do, but when life was beating me up,  I too got a few licks in. I had to change that mentality ASAP!

I fell in love with being out in nature immersing myself with physical activity. I was building someone new and my body was beginning to morph into a much healthier version of itself. I embraced this experience of awakening but I wished it would translate to physical manifestations of income and financial freedom. It was fun however, finding value in myself without the need for validation from a job or a vibrant social circle.

I wanted my happy back. The kind of happiness I saw in commercials. I know that sounds silly but it’s what I wanted to believe. There was no doubt in my mind that with all that I had been through, suicide and the fuck you it would have been to the mean cruel world wasn’t enough! I wanted more than the finality of my existence. I wanted to win, I wanted to fight back, I wanted the universe to right the wrong. I now believed that it would, but not without my cooperation.

There could no longer be any part of me that felt sorry for myself. I had to snap out of it and lick my wounds when things were better. Until then, I would keep persisting until something happened. I wanted new experiences and despite coming out and discovering a new path for myself previously, I knew once again with all I had been through, I really liked me. It didn’t matter if no one else did. They weren’t on this journey with me and they damn sure couldn’t save me. 

I decided it was a good time to create my own personal code. It all came about while running in the rain and I began with making commitments to myself. I was committed to my overall physical well being. Not necessarily for the aesthetics, but for the release it provided in addition to the mobility it allowed me when life itself was stagnant. I made a promise to myself to work on my dreams until I was getting paid for them.

The High - YouTube

I was committed to family and to their success  along with my own. I would walk my own path even when the decision to do so wouldn’t be popular or the norm. I would continue to have new experiences that challenged me. Lastly and the most important code of all, was to love me first, and not join the world when it used me as a punching bag. How could I have ever joined in the battle that would be my demise? I knew better. I always have to have my back when others don’t see my worth. I will never let myself down again. This was my promise.

The post Why Suicide Wasn’t Good Enough: Part Three appeared first on Ruelon.

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Famed fashion designer Kate Spade and I share the same birthday. I was obsessed with the Travel channel’s No Reservations and CNN’s Parts Unknown, both hosted by the popular, and semi-nomadic chef Anthony Bourdain. He combined two of my favorite pastimes in the world, good food and travel. I was inspired by his out of the box way of thinking which sparked my curiosity to explore life’s unbeaten path. Both Anthony and Kate were two celebrities who on the surface, appeared to have it all. 

Those of us who were fans of the two influential personalities were stunned to find out that on June 5, 2018, Kate took her own life with Anthony following three days later. Their untimely passing ignited conversations with those closest to me as we all asked the question why? Celebrity aside, I immediately saw the humanity in two people with whom I did not know personally. It didn’t matter to me the how or the why, but I felt a commonality between the two and myself. I will never know what brought Kate and Anthony to the fateful decision to part ways with this world but I, deep down inside, understood it!

 

 

I’ve been kicking and screaming through a life altering journey much of which brought on levels of hopelessness. How did I get here? I certainly didn’t plan it. I’m one of the most optimistic people I know. I’ve created a platform based on self-love, the joy of travel, and a little spiritual enlightenment void of the ridiculousness of religion. I, of all people do not live in darkness but there I was squatting in it full time.

It was  2013 when I was at a point in my life when I believed I claimed my power and chose to be happy. I was employed and traveling extensively. I was doing the very things I dreamt about and thought were impossible as a struggling twenty-something. It was now all erased with company downsizing and mourning a nephew gunned down and left to die along with his childhood best friend. I was left in complete darkness and not equipped with coping skills to make sense of it all.

 I welcomed the lack of hope, denounced affirmations and forgot what it felt like to truly laugh until the tears fell. My material possessions that I thought at one point defined who I was, vanished just as quickly as they came. I was below rock bottom and for the first time in my life, entertained the thought of not being here any longer. In my mind, if I were being punished and damned by the universe for all eternity, I was going to exercise the only remaining power I had. The power to choose not to exist. It was my last tool in the tool box and it would be the ultimate clap back and FUCK YOU to the world.

I felt dead inside. I couldn’t hear the music anymore.  I’ve heard it all of my life and it guided me, comforted me when I needed it most. That was terrifying. I couldn’t find myself so I gave up looking. Nothing felt familiar and I didn’t know who I was. I was the real Walking Dead except I wasn’t dead….yet.

I wasn’t prepared to rebuild at this stage in my life. At least not from ground zero. The truth is that before things went south, I was creating a new life. It was going to be amazing as I was happy to be a spectator of my own leveling up. Then life happened. It’s very good at getting in the way of your dreams.

I had gone through trials and tribulations before but I always had the security of my job, the peace of my apartment, and people who I thought were my friends to rely upon. I was heartbroken when I realized everyone can’t possibly be your friend in the true sense of the word. It was also a reality check to find out that what you think will sustain you, will have an expiration date and you won’t be ready for the absence of comfort, routine, and the illusion of security.

The thing about loss, regardless of whether it’s a loved one or your income, is that you don’t know who is truly in your corner until the shit hits the fan. I thought I had a diverse network of friends and acquaintances. Some of whom boasted on social media about being “bosses” in their chosen fields.  A few of them also benefited from my generosity when I saved  them from eviction, put food in their refrigerator, gas in their car, and picked up the tab at restaurants and bars when I knew they were struggling or were fired from their jobs. It’s what friends do I thought. I don’t regret those memories because they were some of the good ones and even now, remind me of who I once was.

When it was my turn at the wheel of misfortune, the very same people I thought were my support system either vanished, or sent me a multitude of useless thoughts and prayers. So much so that at one point, I was convinced they thought I could pay a bill with them. I was still able to apply compassion to them while I heard my Aunt’s voice in my head echoing “Bless their heart”. They meant well and I knew it but that amnesia some of them were suffering from was beyond convenient.

Janet Jackson - Black Eagle - LIVE @Honda Center, Anaheim, Ca. 09.23.2017 - YouTube

It was a tough life lesson but they, despite the disappointment of dealing with their broken promises of reaching out to people they know for possible employment opportunities, and good intentions, weren’t responsible for putting food in my mouth, even if I had done the same for them. They didn’t owe me anything and above all, I knew that! I also knew that I was in no way obligated to share the details of my struggle with them. I was done with my own sob story and no longer needed to frantically get back to the version of myself they all knew and loved. That man was figuratively dead and after witnessing their failure to grasp that concept, was happy that he was.

The post Why Suicide Wasn’t Good Enough: Part One appeared first on Ruelon.

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Take me to where the real people are! I say this once I arrive at any new international destination. I don’t however, always accomplish my personal goal of seeing how the every day locals of any given country actually live outside the illusion of luxurious , Americanized resorts. That’s usually because I’m gallivanting around the world with a group of friends, some of which appear quite content spending their hard earned away time being willfully captive to the grounds of their paradise away from home.

That comfort is based on familiarity rooted in a belief that any foreign experience has to be made to feel as American as possible in order for one to truly enjoy themselves. That can mean a variety of different things. One being if you prefer people to only speak English without attempting to learn the basics of the country’s native tongue. If that’s the case you might be the inspiration for writing this piece.

So let’s be clear here. I do not speak any language fluently other than English. I do enjoy a nice resort with killer views, a butler, and 24 hour room service. Who doesn’t want to be pampered? I get it, but are you missing out on the hidden treasures of an entire culture due to your inability to venture outside of your comfort zone? You’ve already left your geographic location, why not expand your perception to go further outside what is familiar?

If you’re like most people traveling, it can be a bit nerve wracking to venture outside of your hotel but I promise with the right guidance and connections, you can get a feel of the true magic a country has to offer. I would suggest making friends with the staff. Who better to ask for recommendations than the people who are taking care of you, and hopefully you of them.

The locals will always know the best spots for food, hidden beaches away from the annoying tourist masses, and all the great local bars that are welcoming to having something or someone new show up.  They would be delighted to show you how fun is really done without restrictions. 

I always think it’s a great idea to know the history of where you are. Be curious as to how things came to be, and the hopes and dreams of people who lived and are still living in the place you’re calling home for just a few days. It helps add to the overall experience and the beautiful people you meet will appreciate it.

Now back to feeling pampered. We all want it and deserve it. You’ve earned lazy days of waking up late only to have no plans other than to eat, drink, and take a dip in the infinity pool. I’m not here to change your mind about any of that. Just be open to an experience that can generate awesome stories about living that you would have missed by simply sticking to your room service order of a burger and fries.  Be safe and have a colorful experience outside of the red, white and blue. 

The post Is Your International Vacation Too American? appeared first on Ruelon.

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Hiding is easy. Subscribing to the Matrix and all its programmed bells and whistles is comforting. Pleasing family, churches, and our social media followers at the expense of our well being is celebrated, and encouraged. It’s what you do! We are creatures of habit that are taught from an early age to fit in, get in line, and stay within our lanes and designated boxes.

I’ve been existing in my bubble of being an openly gay black man to my family for five years now. Wow, even I can’t believe how long I’ve been living in authentic and problem free bliss. Well the truth is I have not. There are moments when I miss the days of being covered in a security blanket of anonymity when it comes to my sexuality and love life.  In the past, it was dangerous yet safe. That feeling of being protected, prevented the whispers, judgement, and loneliness that can accompany same gender loving men who don’t yet have the courage to live authentically.

I stand now in a truth that is liberating that even in my roller coaster like ambivalence of being myself, still has its challenges. As I struggle to be open in all environments, I observe the countless men with whom I know that as a reader of my blog stated, don’t allow themselves the agency to truly live their lives. As I gaze at heir perfectly crafted and failed attempts at exhibiting heterosexuality online and in real life, I often ask myself, what if I, like them , had never came out of the closet?

I would still be a man of a certain age, forging my way through a journey of self improvement, creativity, and eliminating comfort zones, but life would be drastically different. Another tough question would be, what if I wasn’t accepted and embraced by the very people who meant the most to me?

I can’t even fathom what my life would be if I were disowned, cursed out, disrespected, and deemed as being more despicable of a human being than a murderer, rapist, or child molester simply for being gay. How would I cope with losing the very foundation in my life that albeit wasn’t perfect, was mine, full of love and my saving grace. I do know definitively that had I came out when I was much younger, and it went badly, I don’t think I would have made it. I might have fell victim to the very thing that took the lives of so many souls who lost the love of the people who should have been their primary source of joy and support.

In my twenties, I was preoccupied with trying to be as responsible as my parents. I failed often and miserably while learning to take care of myself. I wanted to mimic my parent’s adulting habits, and stay focused on paying my bills and being completely independent of them. It would have been devastating to have gone through all that messiness in addition to being a societal pariah to my family. I did however, had a backup plan if the unconditional love I received by coming out, didn’t occur.

My plan which was very well thought out, was built on the fact that I was financially independent and doing quite well. I knew that had I experienced a coming out story from hell, I wouldn’t have needed my family to take care of me. That’s important because I’ve known quite a few men who were still living under their parent’s roof when they dropped the bomb of all bombs. One that obliterated the dreams of what appeared to be conditional loving, church going, hypocritical parents. They were cast not only out of their childhood homes, but the churches they sang and praised in. Their entire existence as they knew it was gone like the cruel ending of summer on the first chilly day of October.

I also knew that I had a solid network of a family that I wasn’t born into, but chose. These Motley Crew of saviors, were everything my loving family could not be, even under my fairy tale like experience of their embracement. They are the men who asked my about my dreams, pushed me to start my business, and know better to dig deeper when questioning why I’m not authentically being myself. I would have missed the love of my family if they didn’t want me in their lives, but I would have been ok and eventually, learned to survive. My friends, during the early days of my personal discovery right up until now, are my go to source to lick my emotional wounds.

There is not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for being able to be myself around my loved ones, but if they weren’t there for support, I was already on a path to a new beginning . One that I was drawn to before I ended up in an abandoned phone booth in New York City telling my father I was gay. I simply chose Me regardless of what the outcome of that terrifying moment would have rendered. I was prepared to go it alone. Thankfully, I did not have to.

I would have still evolved spiritually, freeing myself from religion, while becoming a self aware man fighting for the life I wanted and knew deep down in my gut, deserved. There is no doubt in my mind that the trajectory of my life was put in overdrive once I knew I could pursue it while being unapologetically same gender loving. 

In a nutshell, my life would have simply gone on without the love and acceptance of my family. It would however, been extremely difficult. I lived a sheltered childhood. Although I knew I was loved, I shutter to think of all that could have been lost if my coming out story was devastating enough to convince me to consider my own demise.  

I know me. I’ve known the hollow feelings of darkness I felt by not accepting myself and at many times, flat out hating who I was and what I was doing with men sexually.  I was part of another undesirable portion of some people’s version of a perfect society. I made it through the storm, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand why others did not.

As I write the what if’s of what a world of still hiding or not being accepted might entail, my stomach is full with anxiety desperately looking for an escape route. There is a tenseness stacked like bricks upon my shoulders until remember, I’m ok! I now live with a peace that can be disturbed depending on the people I’m around, or environments not so welcoming to men like myself. It is still a peace that I fought for, longed for, and feared would never be mine, but is! I’m glad I’m still here in all my insecurities, fear, and sometimes wanting to revert back to old patterns of forced heteronormative ideals. 

I did make the right choice by living my life on my own terms and I’m still moving forward. I bask in a light of my own creation that was born out of yearning to be free.  I needed to feel the flow of lightness as I did during the of moments when I’m all alone without the world watching with judgement. I wish the twenty something version of myself would have known that feeling but I’m grateful to have made it my foundation that I stand boldly upon today. I’m comfortable in all my messiness because it’s what kept me alive and able to find the love for myself, even if I didn’t always receive it where I thought I would.

The post What If I Hadn’t Come Out Of The Closet? appeared first on Ruelon.

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