Tips in Choosing the Best Helmet for Motorcycle

Tips in Choosing the Best Helmet for Motorcycle

Wearing a helmet when you are riding on a motorcycle is a must. A two-wheel drive exposes your body to the many dangers while on the road, as well as to the natural elements. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost half of all deaths on the world’s roads are among those with the least protection – motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians. What is noteworthy about these incidents, is that, if all motorcyclists in these fatal crashes had worn helmets, an estimated 802 lives could have been saved, as expressed in a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.

Tips in Choosing the Best Helmet for Motorcycle

As you can see, we cannot overemphasize the importance of wearing a helmet when driving on the road. This single piece of equipment is so designed to provide an extra layer of protection for the head so that a possible impact during a crash will be dissipated and help prevent possible traumatic injuries.

There are different designs and makes of motorcycle helmets. Some are made to be more expensive than others as  they provide additional features. All of the helmets manufactured in the USA need to pass certain motorcycle-safety standards (the DOT, ECE 22.05 and Snell). Some are certified to multiple standards, hence are made available at higher costs. But as mentioned earlier, buying a helmet is an investment in itself, so you really have to take some time to find the best helmet that will give the best value for the price you will pay. It is important to find one that will not only be the right for your budget, but also for your head, style, as well as your convenience.

One of the factors that will help you determine which helmet to pick is the purpose for which you intend to use it. Note that there are are different types of helmets for motorcycle: full face, open face, half helmet, motocross and modular or flip-up. If you will be frequenting the road or will be riding your motorcycle for regular commutes and for touring, you will need a helmet that will provide you the most comfortable riding experience without sacrificing your speed.

For maximum safety, you may want to consider a full-face helmet. Statistical studies indicate that the chin bar of full-face helmets is the portion with the highest number of impacts. As such many recommend avoiding half helmets.

As for which will work best for you is still a matter of personal preference, however. It is still best to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of all the available options before finally deciding which helmet to consider.

It is noteworthy to mention that of these helmet types, the modular helmets are typically not rated as high in safety standards, however. They also weigh more than full-face helmets and tend to wear out quicker mainly because of the complex hinge device in it.

Another factor that you may need to consider is how the helmet fits on your head. Note that a pricey helmet does not necessarily mean the most convenient nor the best-fitting for your head. It may provide additional features, but you will have to compare among designs and brands offered at the same price range.

Before you look for the best helmet to buy, you will need to know your head measurement. Run a Tape measure around your head just an inch or so above your eyebrows and at the pointy part at the back of your head. This will serve as your reference for the helmet size that will fit your head.

Don’t just assume that the helmet will fit comfortably on your head, though. You will need to fit try it on your head to get the right fit. Make sure to consider one that is tight all over and won’t budge or wiggle with the slightest movement that you make. Try it on for some time to see how comfortable it will rest on your head. It will take some time before pressure points will become evident, so don’t be in a rush. If it hurts or makes you feel uncomfortable after an hour or so wearing the helmet, then it is not the perfect fit that you are looking for.

Most high-end helmets offer extra features such as a cooling system, rear-view, LED lights, communication provision, as well as heads-up displays.

The HJC CL-17 Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet, for instance, comes with a super cool moisture-wicking interior, fully removable cheek pads and liner, as well as an anti-bacterial fabric.

As cleaning and maintenance will also be a regular concern, you may need to consider looking for helmets with removable and washable internal padding and lining as this will prolong the life of your helmet. These features will also make it easier to clean the helmet and keep it smelling fresh.

If you are considering an open-face helmet,  you may want to look for one that comes with three push-on buttons on the front that will allow you to attach a visor or a peak. This can help prevent lift at speed.

If you are riding with a group, you may want to consider a helmet that provides the option to communicate seamlessly while on the go. There are helmets that are designed with powerful communication capabilities like the helmets designed by FreedConn.  It comes with a simple ‘one-button control’ that can complete all operations such as receiving calls/making an intercom/FM even while you are riding.

Whichever helmet you prefer, you need to make sure that you are provided with the most benefits throughout your use of the helmet. Take note, however, that you can only use a helmet for five years. After five years, you will need to replace your helmet. Also, a helmet that has been subjected to a crash or an impact should be replaced even if it may still look good.

The Proper Way to Use a Pregnancy Pillow

The Proper Way to Use a Pregnancy Pillow

A pregnancy pillow is something that you would rather have even early in your pregnancy. You can even keep it long after you have given birth as it can provide great comfort and protection even for your new baby. You can find one that will best serve your purpose as these super cushy pillows are available in different sizes and forms. If you have found the best pillow for pregnancy, how will you use it to maximize its benefit? Read on to find out.

Before you look for the right pillow that you will use for pregnancy, you need to have a full understanding of the specific body pains that you are experiencing. This will help you find the right fit, shape, and length for your maternity pillow.

Choosing a Shape

  1. Wedge-shaped maternity pillows. You can prop your head or back while sitting or reclining on a wedge-shaped maternity pillow. You can also use the wedge-shaped pillow to support your back or belly if you need to lie on your side. It’s a portable pillow that you can bring with you wherever you may need one. Though this is smaller than a regular pillow, it can still serve the same purpose. If you prefer a bigger pillow, you will just have to settle for a bigger one instead.
  2. U-shaped pillow. This maternity pillow can provide support to the whole body. It can be a good sleeping buddy, especially if you prefer sleeping on your back. With this pillow supporting your head and your neck, you won’t have to move the pillow if you feel like turning or tossing to the other side of the bed. In the end, you’ll sleep better and longer.

This is the biggest maternity pillow, so if you have a small bed, you may need to look for a smaller alternative.

  1. C-shaped pillow. This maternity pillow is best for a mid-size bed as it is smaller than the U-shaped pillow. Use this pillow when you need support for your head, neck, back, and your pelvic area. Having it around your pelvic area can help reduce the tension there as well as lessen the water retention in your legs and ankles. This type of pillow will suit a plus-size woman best.
  2. J-shaped pillow. Like the U-shaped pillow, the J-shaped pillow will be best suited for those who will need support for the head, neck, and back. Pillows like this will fit well in a mid-sized bed.
  3. Full-length pillow. This is also known as the I-shaped pillow. As it is longer, you can wrap your arms and legs around this maternity pillow. This will not provide much back support, though. There is a flexible version of the full-length pillow which can bend and conform to your body. If you have a better budget for a pillow, it’s best that you get the flexible type instead.

Selecting a High-quality Pillow

  1. Consider the pillow filling. There are several fillings that are used as padding for maternity pillows. Each will require different handling and care procedure. It could be any of these: polyester fiber, Styrofoam ball, microbeads, buckwheat, and other organic materials. Choose one that can be washer-friendly and can keep its form longer. One of the best options will be the pillow with a hollow fiber filling or polystyrene foam. It’s also best that you pick one that can support your weight.
  2. Try a lightweight pregnancy pillow. One that is filled with Styrofoam balls will pass this requirement easily. The balls inside the pillow will also allow the pillow to conform to your body. However, this is a type of pregnancy pillow that is not washable, so if you would opt for this type of maternity pillow, pick one with a removable cover. Note also that a pillow such as this one can be a bit noisy as you move around. If you are not really a deep sleeper, perhaps look for another pillow instead.
  3. Go for a pillow that offers maximum support. Those pillows that are filled with microbeads offer a better support than those with Styrofoam ball filling. These pillows are also lightweight and make very little noise even if you move around. They may or may not be machine washable, however. If you choose one with microbead fillings, pick one with a washable removable cover.
  4. Try a body conforming pregnancy pillow. Pillows for pregnancy that are filled with memory foam conform to your body. They can hold their shape quite well. A big inconvenience with a memory foam is that it is not quite breathable. It can also become very hot while you sleep throughout the night. To make the pillow more breathable, some manufacturers fill other pregnancy pillows with shredded memory foam. So, if you prefer to have one of these, memory foams, this will be a better option.

A pillow for pregnancy can help make your nine months of expecting for your new baby a lot more easier to bear. Make sure that you take time to consider all those mentioned above. There are a number of brands that offer high-quality pillow for pregnancy. Also, take note of the size of the pillow that you intend to buy. A bigger-sized pregnancy pillow is the best in providing the optimum support for your whole body. However, if you do not have a big bed to fit this pillow, you’ll end up getting the pillow dirty easily and won’t be able to use it as it should be used.

You can also check out here for the best pillow for pregnancy as there are thousands of sellers that provide every possible type of pregnancy pillow that you can choose from. You also get to check what others say about a specific brand or item. It is also one of the best places to see how responsive the seller is.

Are you ready to find your next best pillow for pregnancy?

Get Properly Hydrated While Working Out

Get Properly Hydrated While Working Out

You need more water when you are in the gym or doing exercises.

It is crucial to stay hydrated when you are working out. However, there are times when it’s just difficult to sense when your tank is already low. The session might just be too intense that the urge to do spend more time to do another couple more rounds is stronger than that of the urge to rehydrate. But if you have the best water bottles for gym, it might just be a different story.

H.H. Mitchell, one of the authors of the Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, indicated that the brain and heart are composed of 73% water; the lungs about 83% water. The skin, on the other hand, contains 64% water, the muscles and kidneys have about 79% water, and the bones made up of 31% water. When you workout, you lose much so you need to rehydrate frequently.

Drinking enough water is needed for your joints and body tissues to function properly. It also helps in the regulation of the body temperature, transportation of nutrients, in transporting oxygen to your brain, and in a whole other bodily function.

However, many just don’t know that they are not drinking enough. When we talk about hydration, it’s not just water that matters.

For an average person doing regular less intensive exercise routines, drinking water after a workout is just enough. But if  you’re doing intensive workout routines for more than three hours, you may need more than just water. You need something that has sodium and calcium which you lose when you sweat. Look for a drink that has a lot of cabs as well as it will help re-energize your body. It will be best if it contains protein that can help repair any damage that your workout might have caused to your body.

Your options for this varies: chocolate drinks, coconut water, sports drinks, or any other beverage that you think will provide those essential nutrients mentioned. It is recommended that you find the best water bottles for gym to allow you to store your favorite drink whenever you need to take a sip. Find one that will keep your beverage hot or cold (however you prefer it) longer. One with a double insulated stainless body can keep the cold or hot liquid from messing or staining your stuff if you need to put your water holder where you can comfortably reach for it any time.

When is the best time to drink?

There’s no specific time that you should be rehydrating. The 8 by 8 rule that we have been accustomed to does not really have any scientific basis. You cannot drink more than your body actually needs, though. Overdrinking may cause a condition called hyponatremia. When this happens, the blood sodium levels become abnormally low and can cause rapid brain swelling, coma, and death. Symptoms of this condition include bloating, nausea, confusion, disorientation, and seizures.

The best indicator for you to rehydrate then would be when your body signals that it is thirsty.  There’s no better measure for thirst than our body itself.

There are more sophisticated means to know if  you are thirsty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifies a formula to do that as follows:

 

(sweating rate = pre-exercise body weight – post-exercise body weight +

fluid intake –  urine volume/exercise time in hours)

This basically involves your pre-exercise weight as well as your post-exercise weights. You don’t normally want to do that, though. Just by observing how you sweat, you can determine how much water or liquid you need to take. If you sweat a lot, about 4 to 6 ounces of liquid every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout is just about the right amount you can take to replenish what you have lost when you sweat.

Risks of dehydration

Risks of dehydration

There are so many indicators that your body is already lacking water. One of the most common is of these is fatigue. If you don’t drink sufficient water, your blood gets thicker  because there is not enough water in it. As a result, your heart has to work harder. That means you get exhausted fairly easily.

Other symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, headache, as well as difficulty breathing. If you will try to push yourself even after experiencing these symptoms, you may just faint any time.

It’s not all about water

It is a common occurrence that you may damage some minor cell or tissue during or after a workout. Drinking a protein-rich beverage after an especially intense workout will not only help replenish loss fluid but will also help repair the damaged cells or tissues.

You may need more than just protein, though. Remember that you used up a great amount of energy while you are doing your  workout. You may also more carbohydrates after your workout. A flavored milk is a good option for fluid replacement.

So if you are scheduled to head over the gym, make sure that you drink enough water at least an hour and a half or two hours before you start your workout. You also need to make sure that you drink enough while working out and after you work out. You may find it troublesome to bring a water bottle with you, but you’ll soon see that it’s definitely worth doing.

Maternity Belly Band: A Must-Wear During Pregnancy

Maternity Belly Band: A Must-Wear During Pregnancy

Let’s face it. Pregnancy may be something that you are looking forward to, but not everything about it can be totally exciting. Not only does it let you experience all sorts of unexplainable health issues, but it can also be costly. Part of being costly is the fact that you will need to have maternity clothes and baby’s clothes soon enough. Though you have nine more months to prepare for your baby’s birth, your body can’t wait that long. You will need to do some adjustments with your wardrobe or if you can splurge, buy some maternity clothes that will allow you to work comfortably even with a bulging tummy.

Your belly will start to bulge and may not fit in your garment after a couple of months. That means, if you buy new pants to use for the next few months while you are pregnant, you may not be able to use those pieces of clothing once you have given birth. It will practically be a waste of money, effort, and time. Fortunately, there is another option that will allow you to enjoy wearing pants and other garments without ever having to worry about your tummy. Thanks to the belly band for pregnancy, you can now worry less and enjoy your pregnancy more.

What is a pregnancy belly band?

What is a pregnancy belly band

A belly band is an item of clothing that pregnant women can wear over their baby belly. It looks like a tube top or boob tube. It is cut to look like a wide circular strip of fabric. It is also made to be seamless and knitted to be comfortable when worn. It is designed to fit an expectant mom’s midsection. This practical pregnancy wear is usually made from a combination of materials like cotton, Elastane/Spandex, or Lycra. It is made to be elastic so it can expand with the expectant mom’s growing belly.

There are belly bands that are made with a Velcro band which can be adjusted to securely hold a pregnant mother’s shape and size. Some are knitted or designed to be a continuous band of elasticized fabric. A belly band with wider hems on the top and the bottom will be much comfortable to wear since it will fit more securely on the belly. It will also lessen the probability of the band getting out of place. For a more comfortable fit, opt for one made with Lycra material.

Like any other garments, belly bands come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. The quality of the material normally affects the feel of the band when worn. More expensive belly bands tend to be more elastic and lasts longer without sagging.

Why should you wear a belly band?

Why should you wear a belly band

The belly band does not only serve aesthetic purposes, however. It is designed to provide support to the belly as well as the lower back during pregnancy. While wearing one, an expectant mom will find that any pain that she may be experiencing as a result of her pregnancy will noticeably diminish. As the band supports the belly and the growing baby inside your belly while you are doing your daily routines, any pain that you may be experiencing will be drastically lessened.

Some women report less SI joint pain and round ligament pain when wearing belly bands.

Wearing a belly band also makes moving about less taxing for pregnant mothers. You can go about your daily activity with less restriction if you have your belly (and your garment) secured by a belly band. It also supports proper posture.

What are the differences between a belly band and a maternity belt?

Belly bands and belly belts may seem to be similar as they are both used to support the belly and the back. However, a belly belt is designed to be narrower than the band. They are also made of different materials. The belt is usually thicker. The fabric of a belly band is usually more elastic in the belly portion than in any other part of the fabric. Finally, the belly belt may be good in providing support for your belly but not for your pants. You can hold them up better with a belly band.

How do you wear a belly band?

How do you wear a belly band

Whenever you feel or noticed that your pants (or anything that you are wearing down your waist) are too tight, unzip it. Slide the belly band over your head or from your feet up to your belly. You can either fold the belly band in half or just enough to cover the unzipped portion of your pants. Or, you can pull it up to cover your entire belly. With the belly band covering your unzipped pants, you can walk normally without ever having to look for better fitting pants.

No one will notice it, especially if you are wearing a long and wide upper garment. You can feel at ease and still feel good about yourself without ever having to worry that your pants may slip down. The belly band will the work of holding your pants, or whatever you are wearing from your waist down, so you can go back to whatever you are doing.

You can unfold the belly band to cover your entire belly as your baby grows inside your tummy. This will make you feel even more comfortable in your jeans as your belly grows.

If you feel and see that your normal garments are starting to be less comfortable to be worn as your tummy grows, you can opt to wear a belly band instead. This could perhaps be the most practical thing that you can do to worry less about your pregnancy. Take time to choose the best maternity belly band that can help you face the day with a smile rather than a frown. This will also help you enjoy your pregnancy better and ensure that you and your baby will enjoy a healthy pregnancy.

Safe Makeup For Pregnancy

Safe Makeup For Pregnancy

By the time you learned that you are pregnant, you may have already prepared a list of the things that you need to do. You might have already added a few items in your wardrobe, to include a few maternity outfits. You even went ahead to read a few materials about pregnancy that you found online and at the local library. And after the first visit to your ob-gyn, you have already made a list of the things that you need add to your daily menu. Even those that you have to avoid are already outlined in your journal.

You also started to become obsessed with clean living. In a couple of weeks time, the fetus inside your womb will be depending on you for nourishment. You also are constantly reminded that as about 60% of what you put on it is absorbed by your skin, they may also be passed to your baby. So, you also have to make sure you have not forgotten to check your beauty kit. You know you still have to be certain that all you have in it includes everything for a safe makeup for pregnancy.

Makeup: Your Perfect Camouflage During Pregnancy

Makeup is one of the survival tools that will most naturally be inside every pregnant mom. As you may have already observed or, perhaps, been told that pregnancy brings with it some unexpected changes. Many of these changes will be visible on your skin. The last thing you would like is for those unsightly pregnancy marks to ruin your day. That’s the reason that you will not want to go out  without it as it can conceal any skin imperfection. However, there may be toxic chemicals hiding in your makeup that you need to get rid of. To give you a better insight on all things related to safe makeup for pregnancy, read on.

Changes During Pregnancy

Hormonal imbalance is mostly to blame for the changes that come with your pregnancy. During this period, your androgen will be on hyper mode. This will drive more than the usual volume of hormones needed to maintain the proper functioning of your body system. This may cause blisters, acne, rashes, dark pigments, and other skin imperfections visible on your skin.

As your baby grows inside your body, it will take much of the nourishment that you consume. You may see your skin becoming drier. For other pregnant women, they may see otherwise. Pregnancy glow may be visible in them, which will make their hair, skin, and nails to look better. Some may also see stretch marks forming on the abdomen. These pregnancy marks may also be visible on the breasts, thighs, hips, lower back, and buttocks.

Is Your Makeup Safe For Pregnancy?

The easiest way to hide these pregnancy marks is to wear makeup. However, some would rather not put on any makeup at all fearing that doing so may affect their child’s development. Whether you like to modify the makeup products that you use or not, it is vital that you know which will not be safe during pregnancy.

  • Phthalates
  • Parabens
  • Retinoids (a synthetic form of vitamin A)
  • Fragrances
  • Toluene
  • Formaldehyde
  • P-phenylenediamine
  • Phenylmercuric salts, acetate, nitrate
  • Oxybenzone

Reading the product label to ensure safe makeup for pregnancy

One of the most vital thing that you need to do when looking for the best product to use when pregnant is to look at the product label. Doing so will not only what the product is, for what specific the product is formulated, how it was formulated, and, most importantly, what ingredients are used in the formulation of the product.

Here are some reminders that you need to look for when checking any product label for cues on the ingredients in the formulation.

  1. Natural. Not all ingredients in a product have to be “natural” for it to be labeled “Natural.” So if you are looking for a beauty product derived from completely natural ingredients, you have to look for an indication in the product label that says “100 % natural.” Most the time a logo of the certifying agency is also included in the product label.
  2. Hypoallergenic. Even if the product is “hypoallergenic”, you still need to do a skin test to ensure that your skin will not react negatively to any of the substance in the formula. Note that this label term is not included in the list of terms regulated by the FDA. Thus, a product labeled as such may still trigger an adverse reaction.
  3. Non-Comedogenic. These products are less likely to clog the pores of the skin, thus, decreasing the possibility of having acne.
  4. Fragrance-Free. If the product indicates “fragrance,” as one of the ingredients included in the product formulation, you may not be certain whether it’s synthetic or natural. These fragrances may cause an allergic reaction when applied on the skin. It is best that you opt for fragrance-free products instead.
  5. Phthalate-free. Phthalates are basically used as plasticizers. They are added to personal care products to moisturize and soften skin. There are several types of phthalates, including DEP (Diethyl phthalate). These compounds are known to damage the liver, kidneys, as well as reproductive system.
  6. Paraben-free. Parabens used as preservatives in cosmetics. However, they are known to be estrogen disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems.
  7. Full-spectrum. You will notice some cosmetics having an SPF (Sun Protection Factor). Without thinking twice, you will pick one with the higher SPF. Well, the SPF does not actually provide a clear value on the type of coverage that the product provides. SPF actually only refers to the length of time needed for your skin to get burned had you not put on sunscreen or any product with SPF. That means it only considers the protection against UVB rays and not the UVA rays. Protection for both could either be broad-spectrum or full-spectrum. The difference is that the latter provides for protection for both (UVB and UVA I and UVA II). With products indicating that they provide broad-spectrum coverage, may only mean that they may not provide protection for UVA II wave range as well.
  8. Vegan. This means that the product is formulated with vegan ingredients. This should carry an appropriate certification, however.
  9. Certified Organic/USDA Organic. Like vegan products, organic products carry appropriate certifications. It also needs to be 95% and above free of synthetic additives (pesticides, chemical fertilizer, and dyes).
  10. Cruelty-free. For a product to be legitimate cruelty-free it has to carry the leaping bunny logo that has been issued by Cruelty-Free International. This means that the product has been legally certified for not having been tested on animals.

It takes a few minutes to know if your makeup is safe for pregnancy. If taken considerably, this single effort may provide a lifetime of health for your baby.

The Criminal

The Criminal

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The grass was wet from the early morning dew when she stepped out on her perfect manicured lawn.  With a glass of bourbon in one hand and one of his cigarettes in the other, she figured she would watch possibly the last sunrise she would see again as a free woman. Claudia snapped one of the pockets closed on her leather jacket and made an effort to smooth out her previously coiffed hair. Her wild tendrils were a reflection of the seconds of chaos that would make all the difference.  She noticed one lock of hair that had a little dried blood at the tip, so she wet her fingers and rubbed the remnants of the dead husband out. She wanted to look at least half way decent for her mug shot that would be the talk of Highland Park society for weeks, maybe even months to come.

Claudia knew it was going to be a bad night when her husband, Michael, didn’t even take his jacket off before asking for three fingers of blue label. Her stepson was at his mother’s house. This removed the flimsy barrier between her husband being a regular drunk asshole and the stuff that the Lifetime Network wishes they could dream up. In an empty attempt to ease the impact of her husband’s rage, she hired his favorite chef to come and prepare his favorite dinner and conveniently hung around in the kitchen for most of the night.  This was her life now. Buying minutes here and an hour or two there. Always trying to minimize the bruises and mask the pain with Hermes scarves, Louis Vuitton sunglasses and private chefs that stay until her husband passes out.
Michael threw his jacket on the couch and his belt on the floor.  She waited in the study until he was safely out of sight, and then scurried into the living room to pick up his sheddings and put them where they belong.  It was only after the first six months of marriage that she learned not to ever let him see his surroundings out of place, even if it was from his doing.  He nearly dislocated her jaw over a necktie and her stepson’s baseball bag.
As he sucked down his first drink, they played their nightly dance of avoiding each other.  He remained in their bedroom wing where he would get sufficiently lubricated enough to face his mistake of a wife.  Five years ago, like in all of his business transactions, he had acquired her because she resembled a good investment.  She was 25 then, a recent MBA graduate and a pedigree suitable for his future societal ambitions. He wanted her to get pregnant immediately, and she was just young and in love enough to forego her dreams for his picture of happiness.
But after six months of trying and a reluctant fertility test, Claudia found out that she would never have her own children.  Just like that, Michael changed.  She was devastated and turned to the one man that she had thought held her heart. He looked at her with resentment and disgust; like she suckered him into giving up his coveted secondary spot to a woman who must have secretly known that she could never fulfill the role.  She went from his love of loves to a gold digger, an opportunist and a whore. Of course, he wouldn’t just give her a divorce.  His varnish in society as a gentleman and a good Christian would get scuffed, and he couldn’t allow that to happen.
So he turned his anger inward. Claudia bared the brunt.
She was idling in the kitchen, fidgeting with the fine china and faking small talk with the chef.  It was only a matter of time before Michael would emerge from his posh lair of booze and cigarettes.  No one knew he smoked outside of Claudia; one of many secrets that she kept to uphold their glossy image. The second he got home, Michael began to smoke cigarette after cigarette until he felt caught up for the day. It was then that the chef said something that made Claudia almost drop an heirloom china teacup that Michael surely would have made her pay for.
“Ok, Mrs. Dunbriar, everything is ready to be served,” the chef said. “Please call or text me if you need anything.”
“What do you mean?” She said. “I thought you were going to be preparing several courses throughout the night?”
“I thought I explained over the phone.  I have a cocktail party that I am catering at the Tremill’s residence this evening. The salmon has just finished and the risotto is in the heated serving dish. Everything else is room temperature.  I’m sorry, I thought you understood.”
She remembered the conversation.
“Fuck.”
Excuse me?” The chef said.
“Shit. I mean… I’m sorry, Paul. I remember.  I will call you next week for the Thanksgiving arrangements.”
The chef looked confused. He could sense the thinly veiled panic that registered across her face.  Normally she was rather vacant, but no more vacant than the other Highland Park wives he normally did business with.  He paused, but then continued to move towards the foyer.
“Have a good night, Mrs. Dunbriar.”
After throwing back a glass of Belvedere, she assessed the near perfect spread that was simmering in the kitchen she never used. Another failure, she always assumed.  But it was easier to hire a chef and withstand the snide remarks of her shortcomings than listen to just how bad her cooking was night in and night out.  She heard him walk in.  Her neck stiffened and she hoped for just violent sex instead of actual violence tonight.
“Wow. You hired Paul… again. You’ve outdone yourself, Claud,” Michael said.
Without looking at her, he took his seat at the table.  She could smell the whiskey even though he was in the dining room and she was in the room adjacent.
“I’ll bring your plate to you in a minute,” she said.
And she braced herself for another casual night of torture.
The first two courses passed with mostly silence.  Michael mentioned how they would be attending the country club’s annual Halloween party and how she needed to decide what they would be wearing.  In the house, they were enemies at war. At social functions, they played their roles as two perfect people with the perfect love for all it was worth.
“Just don’t dress like too much of a slut,” Michael said. “You embarrassed the hell out of me with that ridiculous Bonnie and Clyde get-up last year.”
“I was thinking about us going as Lucille Ball and you could be Ricky.  But maybe we should switch roles so my breasts are covered to your liking,” Claudia said. “I’m sure you would make a cute red head.”
That was her problem, she thought. She could be a shadow most of the time.  Tip toeing around her own house, avoiding Michael and placing as many buffers as she could between the two of them.  But she could never refrain from biting back when bitten.  She had given up all of herself.  But she was still Claudia. The headstrong girl from Dallas with as much backbone as any man in business and the one least likely to take abuse of any kind.
“But isn’t that the sweet irony of it all?” She would whisper when powdering her black eyes.
She knew her comment registered by the way he was slicing his steak in a slow, precise motion.  His movements reflected his thoughts.  He was almost smiling, savoring just how he was going to make her pay for that one.
She rose to take her plate into the kitchen.
“Aren’t you going to take mine, too? … I’m finished, Claud.”
With her back turned to him, she froze. It was only for a second, but he noticed. And he enjoyed it.
She turned and walked over to collect his plate. As she went to gather his silverware, he grabbed her wrist and twisted it until she was at her knees.  She uttered only a small scream of anguish, knowing that he relished in the louder she cried out.
“Nobody thinks you’re funny, bitch.” Michael said.
“I know, I’m…”
SMACK
He clocked her across the jaw – open palmed but with closed fingers.  She fell to the ground, sprawled out next to the feet of his chair. After slipping her high heel back around her foot, she rose, grabbed his plate and went into the kitchen.
“And don’t go cry while you’re in there,” Michael said.  “I don’t want the soundtrack to how fucking pathetic you are. Just bring me another whiskey.”
As she rounded the corner into the kitchen, she murmured, “Like I even feel it anymore.”
Michael heard it, and he accepted the challenge. He threw back the last of his drink and crunched on the ice as he followed her.
“I’m sorry. What did you say, dear?”
Panicked, she hastily fumbled for the right words to minimize the fall out. She set down their plates and turned to find him merely five feet behind her. He was excited about tonight, she thought.
It had been five years of marriage, three trips to the hospital and countless excuses behind the bruises and scratches that marked her body.  When she met him, her life seemed limitless.  Now, she was a walking punching bag dressed in this season’s couture. Some girls can only take so much.
“I said, like I even feel it anymore, dear.”
For a moment, he stood, stunned by the air of defiance that dripped from her words. Then, he lunged at Claudia and took her by the front of her neck.  Michael threw her to the ground without loosening his grip. The fall broke the strand of diamonds she was wearing and scattering them beside her head that was now pounding from the crack against the kitchen tile.
“I guess I will have to give it to you a little harder, then,” he said.  “I should have known that bitches like you liked it rough.”
She just tried to breathe and refocus her eyesight.  She was seeing stars after Michael slammed her head on the floor.  Her Ralph Lauren pencil skirt was ripped from Michael taking her into the missionary position.  She had no response.
“I guess it runs in the family,” he said. “Your sister liked it rough, too. At least she was better at taking it than you are.”
Then, just before releasing her, Michael spit in her face.  He stumbled to his feet and went back into the dining room.
“I’m still waiting on that whiskey.”
She stayed where she was for a moment. As the whiskey tinged mucus ran down her face into her hair, a wave of calm came over her. She knew about the affair with her sister.  Quite frankly, she was relieved that it wasn’t her who had to sleep with him for a night or two. But the spit… The spit was like a dunk into cold water after a night of drinking.  Suddenly her life was a little clearer.  Not only was she stuck in an abusive relationship, but she had also accepted it. She knew she only had a moment of clarity before the smoke set in again and she went on with her Xanax-dependent existence.
She slowly brought herself to her feet, brushed off her skirt and blouse and walked into the entry hall.  Her high heels echoed throughout the empty house as she found her way to the utility closet and opened her stepson’s baseball bag.  She crouched down and found a wooden and a metal bat alongside his glove.  She gripped the wooden bat and began to rise to her feet before pausing and exchanging it for the metal one.
She walked through the house into the opposite entrance of the dining room.  His back was facing towards her.
“I had to get another bottle from the cellar,” she said.
He just laughed.
“It’s ok, Claud. I expected you to cry after that one.”
Her pain was a joke to him.
“I’m not crying, motherfucker.”
As he turned to face her she swung the bat so hard that the blood splattered across the ceiling in an aerial formation. He dropped lifelessly to the floor, taking his empty glass with him. He didn’t even let out a sound. She was then sure that the metal bat was the right choice.  As she stood over his limp body and his now dented, bloody face, she felt nothing. Logic and pain was the only thing coursing through her veins. So she raised the bat above her head and took to more violent whacks to his head.  Claudia never had a problem finishing what she started.
Two hours passed and she had yet two move from her seat at the dinner table.  She just stared out of her dining room window at the perfect upper class neighborhood that she was about to say goodbye to.  Claudia wasn’t sure if she was even going to miss it. She couldn’t help but think that she would have never ended up in such a stuffy and Republican bubble if she had pursued her career instead of Michael.  Now, both paths were one’s she would never walk again.
Four hours later, she was drinking Michael’s whiskey, listening to Stevie Nicks and looking through her wardrobe for the right mug shot outfit.  This is what happens to a woman who cracks.  She was letting herself settle into her new role.  In 10 seconds, she went from being Mrs. Dunbriar, wife of Michael Dunbriar, philanthropist, a society darling and battered cliché to Claudia, murderess housewife and criminal.  She threw on her old leather jacket over a camisole and picked up the phone.  She could almost hear her neighbors gasping over just how gruesome the scene was. The refined residents of Highland Park would be astonished and ashamed of her pedestrian weapon of choice for such a white-collar pedigree.  She dialed 911 and smiled.
“Yeah, a fucking bat,” she whispered before the operator picked up.
She was never going to be a lot of things after that night.  But at least she was no longer a victim.
The ‘Undetectable’ Paradox in Discussing HIV

The ‘Undetectable’ Paradox in Discussing HIV

It is impossible to have a modern conversation about HIV and HIV stigma without having the term “undetectable” used, misused, and abused. Those involved in HIV activism certainly have strong opinions on how the term that refers to an HIV-positive person’s undetectable viral load should be used (and who is using it incorrectly). Some herald the term as a badge of honor worn by those who are compliant in treatment and open with their HIV status, while others would scold the same group of people for using the term as an excuse to engage in unsafe sexual behavior.

Either way, oversimplified accolades and mudslinging moral judgments have no place in a conversation about HIV stigma, prevention, and the term that is a result of compliance with medication. With many gay men still unclear about what being “undetectable” truly constitutes, how do we get to a place where we can discuss what it does and doesn’t mean without all of us looking dirty in the end?

For those who are still unsure: An HIV-positive person can achieve undetectable viral levels after undergoing antiretroviral therapy. The viral load affects the chance that they will transmit HIV. According to an article in Journal Watch HIV/AIDS Clinical Care, one study indicated that early antiretroviral therapy reduced the likelihood of transmission by 96%. Once antiretroviral meds help a person achieve an undetectable viral load, it is possible to remain at this level provided the person continues to take the medication as directed.

An education on the specifics of HIV as it is today, including the meaning of being undetectable, should be mandatory reading for gay men, regardless of status. It is critical to the entire community to understand where we are in terms of HIV research. No matter how far removed you are from the HIV pandemic, you are still susceptible to the virus (especially if you think you aren’t).

Now, unless we find a way to infuse subliminal HIV messaging into the speakers of every H&M in the country, casual conversation among our peers is the most effective method of education. But, as with many discussions concerning HIV, the discussion quickly turns into the blame game. So who loses? Everyone.

For the sake of conversation, let’s liken a person with an undetectable viral load to a person who is HIV-negative. With both classifications, you get tested regularly to make sure that you are still safely in your category. But unlike being HIV-negative, discussing the meaning of an undetectable status almost immediately gets bogged down by shame-mongering and moral accusations. Use of the term is often ridiculed, immediately placing judgment on the HIV-positive person who speaks about his undetectable status.

The following quote was taken from a post that asked people how they think we can make progress in eliminating HIV stigma:

“I’d like to hear more responsible discussion in our community about how dangerous and reckless it is to use the term ‘undetectable‘ given the implications of treating ’undetectable‘ status as if it were really something different from being positive.”

This claim wasn’t made with malicious intent, but does give a lucid demonstration of the difficulty of discussing HIV-related topics without subconsciously casting judgment.

In fact, people who are undetectable should never stop talking about their status. At the gym, on the subway, and even at Sunday services (if that’s your sort of thing).

“Did you catch the last inning of the Rangers game last night?”

“Hell no, I don’t watch sports. But my viral load is 57!”

A person discussing their undetectable status is a beautiful thing because it means they have been tested, are on treatment, and are open and honest about their HIV status. The idea that the term “undetectable” is used only to lure unsuspecting prey into performing high-risk sexual acts with someone who is positive is both stigmatizing and criminalizing. This notion removes all responsibility from the other party when they have just been given the information they need to protect their own health. And it is, in fact, their responsibility to protect their own health (and no one else’s).

Far too often, our community mistakes silence as an admission of innocence. If no one asks a person’s HIV status, no one tells. Worse, some will assert their HIV-negative status even if it’s been months or even years since their last test.

Yet these proverbial question marks walk around every day, unscathed by denunciations associated with their bedtime behavior. They aren’t reduced to sweeping stereotypes of being sexual pariahs even though their pseudo-negative HIV status could possibly place a person at much greater risk than that of someone who is undetectable.

In the realm of sex and dating, the responsibility lies with you to make the appropriate choices to protect your health. Unfortunately, people are slutty, nobody likes using condoms, and everybody is a liar. But that doesn’t mean we have to muddle the value of an undetectable viral load and debase a group of people who are at least willing to be up front with their status.

The sexual acts of gay men do not exist in two separate vacuums. If they did, it would certainly be much easier to end the transmission of the virus. Therefore the conversation about what it will take to decrease stigma and increase testing must also exist without uninformed generalizations that could silence many before they even speak.

In order for a conversation about HIV and HIV stigma to have substantive meaning, assumptions, accusations, and generalizations need to become “undetectable.”

HIV Victims and Villains: Who is Really at Fault?

HIV Victims and Villains: Who is Really at Fault?

There is a common assumption among the sexually active homo population that it is the responsibility of HIV-positive men to disclose their status before engaging in bedroom gymnastics. Based on this assumption, a person who doesn’t mention his status before he tries and fails to make a baby with another man silently asserts that he is HIV-negative by default. Even if a person living with HIV is undetectable and protection was used, he would be considered reprehensible, immoral and altogether villainous character if he failed to disclose his scarlet plus sign to his unknowing HIV-negative partner. But when it comes to the laws of responsibility in HIV disclosure, sometimes there is more than one suspect in a crime.

The Scene of the Crime

The following scenario is based on a true story

Parker is a young, successful and single gay man living with HIV. Nathan is of the same homo vein, but he is HIV-negative. The two met while Parker was at a business conference and Nathan was on vacation with several of his friends. A mojito at the hotel pool quickly led to martinis at the closest gay bar. Dinner was served, flirtation escalated and Nathan ended up back in Parker’s room for a little more than dessert. The fast and frenzied pace of this out-of-town romance caught Parker by surprise and he failed to find the right moment to disclose his HIV status (and Nathan never asked). His viral load was at an undetectable level and they used protection, but his conscience wasn’t satisfied with this threshold of safety.

The Confession

Parker and Nathan parted ways the next morning with plans to meet up for a drink later in the day.  By six o’clock, the weight of the guilt over not disclosing had Parker in need of more than just a strong pour on his vodka gimlet. He needed to clear the air.

Parker told Nathan that he was HIV positive. He explained that he was on medication and had an undetectable viral load. He said that since they used a condom, his health was not at risk, but that it was important for Parker to be honest about his status.

Nathan was visibly shaken and admitted that Parker should have disclosed his status before they had sex. He was concerned because there was a lot of kissing and oral play that took place.  Parker explained the reality of transmission and that Nathan had nothing to worry about, but the damage was done. Nathan felt victimized and he was sitting across from the smoking gun.  Needless to say, the two men didn’t order a second round.

For the jury of public opinion, the judgment of who committed the crime and who was the victim receives a unanimous vote. But before the sentence of shame is handed down to Parker for not disclosing his status, let’s look at who had the motive to commit the crime.

Parker did want to tell Nathan about his HIV status. As a man who was actively managing his disease with treatment, it was important for him to be up front about being positive, even if there was no health risk involved. However, many people fail to understand that when you become positive, you aren’t handed an operator’s guide on how to handle your new status. The variables of sexual psychology are limitless when concerning dating and HIV. Although he failed to disclose that he was a positive man, he had taken the steps to protect Nathan and himself—both by using a condom and being steadfast in his treatment regime.

Nathan is a sexually active gay man who, by default, is part of the HIV community. With one out of every five gay males being HIV positive, it is his responsibility to protect his own sexual health.  It’s true—Parker did not disclose that he is HIV positive. But Nathan didn’t disclose that he was HIV negative, nor did he ask to know Parker’s status before the clothes started to come off. In this scenario, Nathan has a motive to stay negative. Therefore, he is also guilty of committing a crime of not disclosing his status and not inquiring about the status of his sexual partner.

This is only one out of many criminal scenarios that many of us find ourselves in when it comes to dating, dirty talk and disclosure. When it comes to sex, there are always two (or more) suspects whose motives should be investigated. And when it comes to protecting each other’s health, the burden is mutually shared and the responsibility is equally divisible, regardless of status.

I always disclose my HIV-positive status because it is in the best interests of my health, not yours.

HIV Positive, Unapologetic and Fabulous

HIV Positive, Unapologetic and Fabulous

The decision to come out of the closet as HIV-positive was one that required many long and somewhat uncomfortable conversations with my bathroom mirror. I would study my reflection, trying to see if I could tell the difference between the person staring back and the guy who now only exists in pictures. I still wore his face, his clothes still fit me and I could still manage to emulate his same outward demeanor, but it was a farce. Something felt different. For the first time since coming out as a gay man, I felt like I was hiding.

Still, I managed to escape the reflection and lose myself in the comforts of old habits. I spent time with my friends laughing, dancing, drinking too much vodka and sneaking cigarettes when no one was looking. We talked about sex and dating, and I managed a good front for a couple of months.

Although my secret identity was acceptable, and maybe even preferable to some, I had never been very good at keeping up a poker face. While eating lunch with my sister or sipping wine with my friends, my truth was beginning to thrash about like a pissed-off fish out of water, getting more and more desperate to breathe. I realized that the longer I kept my mask on, the deeper it cut into my skin. So I dug in my heels, fixed my hair, threw on a smile and braced myself for the turbulence.

I came out of the closet as HIV-positive. Not only did I come out but I used enough explosives to blow up my little door so that only a few ashes remained.

Telling my story gave me freedom. I had dithered on whether to publish my status right up until the moment it went viral, but the doubts I was wrestling with were eviscerated within mere seconds. Almost instantaneously, I was inundated with people who only had empathy and a willingness to begin a new conversation. The judgment of strangers that I had fretted over before seemed stale.

Furthermore, I received messages from men across the country who were going through experiences similar to my own. They told me about their fears, the dread that lived in the pit of their hearts and their battles with depression. Weaved within these messages, however, was a sense of hope that maybe they, too, would begin to open up about their HIV-positive status.

I also received a fair share of criticism. Some thought I was flippant, maybe even cavalier in my approach to HIV awareness. Nevertheless, it seemed that these responses stemmed from a similar vein of fear — fear of forgetting the past. I do not want to forget, by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, I want to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by embracing the fact that HIV is not something to hide from under the covers anymore, and that we should modernize our approach to prevention.

The truth is that I am just not that scared of HIV (but saying that can really piss off some of the old-guard activists). My doctor said I might lose, at most, two years off my life because I am now HIV-positive. Honestly, I don’t even accept that answer. At 29, I think I’ll have quite a few years to wait around for a better one.

I was told by a friend to not read the feedback to the piece, but I couldn’t resist. Although there were some pretty scathing remarks, I was able to remain fairly unshaken. Sure, the baseless health threats and character digs stung a little, but it only took a minute to snap out of it. However, it was a comment meant to defend my story against the negative remarks that eventually sent me reeling. A reader had made a comment in response to several remarks that suggested I was negligent and moronic with my approach to the topic of HIV: “Don’t worry… those people are just jealous of your former fabulous life…” Former?! I guess I didn’t realize I was supposed to bow my head and slowly abscond to the local HIV support group in silence while the violins played.

No, absolutely not. I had found a way back to myself. I could, again, claim the face in the mirror as my own. The bratty nuances and cocky tendencies that I had admittedly occupied became authentic again. Quite simply, I found a way to like myself once more. If, indeed, my life was “fabulous” before (and I am not quite sure if it was), I stand firm in the assertion that it is just as “fabulous” now. So if you found my first account to be rife with gay stereotypes of stylish nods and trendy clichés, I plead guilty. It was an honest glimpse into my world as I see it.

Being diagnosed as HIV-positive and deciding to publicly own my status has given me lucidity, understanding and drive. I embrace the lot I have been given and plan on capitalizing on this platform for all my fellow homos out there. But don’t get me wrong: As I begin to drag this conversation out of the closet and take it with me to hang out with the boys, I plan on doing so with a healthy amount of self-tanner, copious doses of sarcasm and a shot of tequila every now and then (but, for the sake of growth, maybe I would let go of the secret cigs, because there is nothing fabulous about that).

We can all recognize that at one point or another, we all could have made the one mistake that might have made all the difference. I fervently hope that you never do, but if just maybe you did, you should not be afraid to get tested. If you take care of yourself, you no longer have to lose the parts of you that you love. Who knows? Maybe you can even shed some of the parts that you don’t.

And yes, you can still be “fabulous.”

Tight Buns, Wrinkle Creams and the Pressure to be Perfect

Tight Buns, Wrinkle Creams and the Pressure to be Perfect

Women have long been subjected to a wildly unrealistic expectation of beauty. The advertising and marketing industry has capitalized on the obsessions and insecurities of women for decades. Multi-million dollar campaigns pushing the newest age-defying moisturizer or flaunting the latest breakthrough in weight loss have flooded the pages of magazines and our TV screens.

Even mainstream marketing towards heterosexual men most often uses the insatiable sex appeal of perfect women that can act like an indirect reminder to the mother at home that her wrinkles are showing and her thighs shouldn’t touch. But now, as the almighty gay dollar is becoming more and more recognized, the unrealistic idea of male beauty has emerged. You might want to hold on to your wallets, boys, because it is your finances that are now in the crosshairs.

It isn’t breaking news that a healthy portion of the Dallas gay male population has always strived to look more like a comic book character and less like a real man. Most gay men at least have a gym membership card attached to their key ring as a reminder that they aren’t there and can name at least three luxury skin care brands. Although we may not be cornering the cosmetic market anytime soon, the advertising practices of numerous products and services have increasingly taken on a homo-slant. Why? Because the advertising industry has discovered that gay men are just as susceptible to the youth delusion as women.

So what does the perfectly impossibly A-list gay man resemble? Well, it’s a sort of amalgamation of Anderson Cooper’s face with the body of someone from Magic Mike. We are supposed to be impossibly wealthy and ripped to pieces yet somehow frozen at the age of 25. The money can be a little more than difficult to come by. But the appearance of having it all — let’s just say some Dallas boys have mastered the art of illusion.

But now, mainstream marketing has smelled our desire to look like an action star and it has taken note. Just across the street from Equinox, a new business has opened up that is geared toward the male client and promises that you will look better, feel better and, indeed, live better. I walked into this new business, with the cleverly ambiguous name of Thrive, thinking that it would be just another “wellness” center offering Botox, Restylane and the like. Although it is injections that they are touting, they are not the kind that you put in your face.

Thrive brings to Dallas the latest trend in youth preservation with an emphasis on the male client. Their product is simple — custom tailored hormone injections that will make you feel stronger, increase your sexual appetite and be the trick up your sleeve come pool season. Once I realized that this place was the injection fountain of youth, I figured I was probably not the ideal client. But was I ever wrong! Even at the age of 30, I was a prime candidate for a host of treatments that they would be happy to stick me with. As tempting as a boost to my muscles and manhood sounded, it was just one step too far.

Although I escaped the allure of designer hormones (at least for the day), the pressure to appear perfect never felt so tangible. The experience forced me to step back and assess the behaviors of my peers and myself and wonder how well we balance quality of life, the content of our character and the quest for perfect abs.

Of course, there are many homosexuals that do not subscribe to the Men’s Fitness version of what a man should look like. Even those who could very well be on the cover of the next issue may often demonstrate some of the richest character of all. But I challenge anyone to deny the pressure that the Dallas Gay Culture places on its subjects. I will be the first to admit, I contribute to the problem.

I constantly worry about my diet and beat myself up every time I accidentally inhale a batch of brownies.

The value of my fancy gym membership takes way too much precedence when considering my not so fancy budget. I maintain a four-season bronzed glow (thank you, Tom Ford). And even though fashion has never been much of a priority, I catch myself coveting the labels that so many of my friends adore. As Dallas is one of the premiere markets for fashion, fitness, plastic surgery and cosmetics, it appears I am in good company.

Of course, none of these traits do a monster make. But the failure to recognize that these vain indulgences are just that, vain, can lead to some pretty gruesome characters. The boy who won’t eat a single carb and looks at you with disgust when you do, even at his own birthday. The guy you dated that could never meet you for dinner during the week because it interrupted his two-hour gym session. The group of friends that only will hang out with people who look and act like them. These people are real, and whether you like it or not, they have the ability to impact your life.

So how do you protect yourself from your inner narcissist? The answer is easy. Learn to recognize when you feed into your vanity and focus instead on what makes your presence beautiful to be around — not just something pretty to look at. We all strive to be the best versions of ourselves, but the impact you have on the lives around you will linger much longer than how great you looked at last weekend’s pool party. No matter how perfect you mold your image to be, someone will always look better, dress better and appear more “perfect” than you. So take time to enjoy the things that matter and, for heaven’s sake, eat a piece of cake on your birthday.

After all, designer hormones may be able to stimulate muscle growth and boost your libido, but there is no injection for a bad sense of humor.