Dear Level

You may not be on board with every makeover. Here’s how to be supportive anyway.

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

In 1993, I decided I wanted to stop chemically treating my hair and just let my natural curls do their own thing. It wasn’t a popular concept at the time; a woman’s beauty and femininity were still tightly connected to how she styled her hair. But for countless reasons, both political and professional, I wanted no parts of artificially straightened hair anymore.

My boyfriend, a college senior, was not supportive. His idea of glamorous was Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Toni Braxton. And my plan — a half-inch Afro — was not what they were rocking.

I told him why the cut was important to me, but he didn’t budge. My shoulder-length straightened hair was all he’d ever known, and what I was considering was far too drastic for him to accept. …


Dear Level

Ways to cope when your romance starts to feel like a rivalry

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

So, I’m on a date with this guy. We’re walking to the train. I notice that it looks like it’s going to rain, but I tell him we should have plenty of time before it starts.

“It’s about to rain now,” he insists.

“How do you know?” I ask.

“I can just tell. I come from a long line of diviners.”

“A long line of what?”

This guy looks at me as if he’s puzzled. “You don’t know the word diviner?” he asks. “It means someone who can feel when something is coming.”

And then it started raining.

Within a few weeks, this guy was throwing out words I’d either never heard a day in my life (mulligan!), knew but had just never used (magnanimous), or were so old that they don’t even appear in modern dictionaries (diswont). …


Dear Level

We’ll walk you through this one, champ

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

Do you know what a Stroopwafel is? It’s a pastry, from the Dutch city of Gouda. (Yeah, the same place the cheese comes from.)

The official definition of a Stroopwafel is two thin layers of soft-baked dough pressed together around a caramel filling.

My definition of a Stroopwafel, though, is yumdroolomgsoftwarmsweetyum.

Up until last week, my temptations were the normal things: Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked, Doritos, soda — like any kind of soda ever — and homemade sugar cookies. But now I’m ruined.

How did I discover this amazing Dutch treat? My soon to be husband, Shane, brought some home. (I’ve been talking about him long enough, it’s about time you knew his name too.) He came in, wandered over to where I was working on the couch, and plopped a box of the treats nearby. …


Dear Level

Dating someone with kids is not for the faint of heart

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

The trope has been around since forever: A feisty kid, fed up with life, gets into it with a parental figure. Once the kid has had enough, he goes nuclear. “You’re not my real dad!”

You’ve seen it in Bebe’s Kids. And between Will and Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It’s even the premise of that one Hitman Sammy Sam song. But it’s definitely a real-life scenario.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who has children, you just might face the same predicament. Wondering how to navigate? I’ve got a few words of advice. …


Zoomers’ childhoods were first defined by the Obama administration — now they look back on how a Trump term has changed them

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Photo: Newsday LLC/Getty Images

When Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump on November 8, 2016, a generation of children of color lost their innocence. For anyone born in 2005 or later, the first and only president they had known was Black and beloved. Not only did their new president ascend to the White House after a campaign that made a joke of the political process, but many young people also saw their parents crumble that night, in a way they’d never seen before.

Four years later, those kids are teens — and they’re more politically astute than their ’80s and ’90s counterparts could have dreamed of. Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra Affair were barely homework assignments for us; Gen Z teens might not even be old enough to vote, but they know who they’d vote for all the way down their local ballot, what it means to flip the Senate, and why RBG’s legacy is also problematic. …


Dear Level

It’s all fun and games until somebody catches feelings

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, I worked at a music magazine. I was in my twenties and having a blast. I tagged along while Redman and Method Man filmed How High. I watched Common work on Like Water for Chocolate at the legendary Electric Lady Studios in NYC. I interviewed every member of Wu-Tang Clan at a photoshoot. It was the good ol’ days.

But being a staff writer had its challenges. It was competitive and everything moved at breakneck speed. …


Dear Level

No one wants to date a fuckboy. This you?

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

The term “fuckboy” (or “fuccboi,” depending on how Very Online you are) has a multitude of meanings — none of which have a positive connotation. It’s an equal-opportunity insult. A condemnation. If a romantic partner has ever referred to you as such, it’s time to do some reflecting, get your affairs in order, and make the appropriate changes. And like the word “hipster,” if you swear you’re not a fuckboy when someone calls you out, you probably are one. Don’t fight it; just do better.

So, what is a fuckboy? For the purposes of this article, it’s a person who doesn’t have enough respect for women to earn their time, attention, or energy. But he never stops trying. And he never stops making excuses for his ineptitude. He’s got no self-awareness or accountability, so he sees zero need for even the slightest bit of growth. And as such, his relationships tend to either fizzle out or crash and burn. …


Dear Level

For many men, this results in shame. It shouldn’t.

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

There’s a case to be made for Friday as the best day of the week. For 9-to-5 workers, it marks the end of a workweek, with all the fun, freedom, and limitless possibility of the weekend shining their way. There’s even a classic film franchise named in its honor. And for those of us on a biweekly payment schedule, Friday is the day when direct deposit hits your account — along with the bonus dopamine hit to your system.

But how would you feel knowing that every time you get paid, your partner is raking in three times as much? Would your ego be able to take it? …


So Fresh Prince, Puff Daddy, and BBD walk onto the National Mall…

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L-R: Alfonso Ribeiro, Ricky Bell, Jeff Dyson, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Will Smith, Mike Bivins, Jamie Foster Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, “Jazzy” Jeff Townes

There was never a clear consensus on how many men arrived in Washington, D.C. on the morning of October 16, 1995. Was it a million? Twenty-five years later, it doesn’t matter. What history has preserved about the Million Man March is the sheer force of the event — its energy and mission. Black men from all over the country were called to action by a religious leader most didn’t follow. It was bigger than numbers and ideology.

When Nation of Islam firebrand Louis Farrakhan put out the call for Black men to atone and heal their communities, he was such a divisive figure that simply appearing on The Arsenio Hall Show helped bring the highly-rated series to an abrupt end. (Whether the show’s demise was officially tied to Farrakhan’s appearance is unclear. There were definitely other issues. …


Dear Level

Are you looking to lock someone down if we go through another lockdown?

Illustration of a couple leaning their heads each other.
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Illustration: Olivia Fields

October has arrived. Know what that means? Yes, it’s fall. Know what else? Sure, election season — get on that. But there’s another phenomenon folks seem to get all antsy about around this time of year. That’s right. It’s cuffing season!

For the uninitiated, cuffing season is that ever-thirsty time of year in which happily single folks start looking ahead to cooler temperatures, holiday dinners, and, depending on where you live, snowstorm snuggling. …

About

Aliya S. King

Aliya S. King is an author, freelance writer and editor.

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