Several Things My DNA Results Revealed Besides My Ethnic Background

When approaching the observance of Black History Month in recent years, I’ve opted to focus more on the obscure and the provocative. Most people who attended public school in the United States at one point in their lives or another knows that Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape to New England and Canada, but I highly doubt that many know that she is also an honored (though questionably compensated) war hero.

Another way that I’ve been celebrating the quieter moments in black history is by looking into my only family history. I may not be the great-grandniece of an NAACP founder or kin to NBA royalty, but every bloodline is unique as the next and it makes us all who we are. Stories like that of Henrietta Lacks are the truest testament to this. Embracing and cherishing your eccentricity and singularity is truly an act of self-love.

And what better way to embrace your own uniqueness than to mail your spit off to a DNA testing company? It should be no secret now that with the help of modern science and technology, anyone can learn about where they come from. T’Challa has the right idea.

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I opted for a DNA test that looked at everything from ethnicity to disease variants. I had always been interested in learning more about my ethnic background, particularly my African and Native American ancestry, and medical history. My results were very surprising and I ended up learning more about myself than I expected.

Music is in my blood

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According to my DNA results, I have a 50/50 chance of being able to “match musical pitch”. 50/50 might seem like too neutral of a stat, but lucky for me, I’ve got historical proof to back it up. 

Guess whose maternal grandfather is the lead singer.

My family is no more Motown royalty than they are NBA royalty, but I still, he’s my grandpa, not yours.

“Big-boned” and sickle cell free

The good news is, based on my genetics, I’m not at risk of having it. The bad news is that people of African descent are most likely to suffer from the disease.

“Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder characterized by anemia, episodes of pain, and frequent infections. A person must have two HbS variants in the HBB gene in order to have this condition.” – 23andme

Although I’m not at risk of sickle cell, I am prone to naturally weigh nearly 10% more than clinically suggested for someone my height.

Shocking.

This undoubtedly means that I have to work harder than the “average” (whatever that means) person to stay in shape. But, it also means that “in shape” might look different for me than what it looks like for you. And that is ok because science says so. I am okay because I am me.

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And furthermore, the way I see it, women who look like me had to look good, women my grands and great-grands didn’t have trouble finding husbands.

The brilliant moral of this story is that I’m attractive, I’m black, I’m not tone deaf and there is absolutely no one else quite like me.

Happy Black History Month.

 

 *Featured image of Henrietta Lacks is from Medical Daily via Wikimedia.


 

downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

I Don’t Want to FaceTime My Gynecologist on My Lunch Break

According to the Associated Press, Walmart is now offering its employees coverage for telemedicine, a cheaper and seemingly more convenient form of urgent care. In short, telemedicine is basically a Skype call with your doctor. I personally had never heard of telemedicine prior to reading about Walmart’s recent initiative, and I believe that, even in the digital age, the idea of a virtual doctor’s visit is a bit questionable.

Imagine if your doctor told you that they attended medical school 100% online. Now ask yourself, how seriously would you be able to take a diagnosis given over online video chat. Although the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has been around since 1993 and they provide its members and the public with safety and best practice guidelines, you can still consider telemedicine something I’ll need a little bit more convincing on.

I was curious to hear what others thought about telemedicine and Walmart and other companies’ push for insured employees to embrace it, so I reached out to two colleagues who work in the field of public health to get a more sophisticated opinion on the matter.

Stephanie Green, a project coordinator for the National Partnership for Women and Families, says she is okay with virtual medicine visits in combination with an initial in-person visit. “You can go to your actual appointment and then do virtual follow up,” she said. Stephanie also offered that she feels that virtual visits may also cut down on workers calling out, which creates a favorable situation more for the employer, or more for the hourly employee or both.

And that is when I pictured myself in the ladies room at my job on FaceTime with my gyno, posing like a gargoyle in a stall so that they can get a good angle for my tele-pap smear.

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via Tenor

That simply is no life that I desire for myself.

New York-based HIV prevention specialist, and dear friend, Yaw Amonfoh, brought up a few more points that I hadn’t considered.

“What if you have to have conversations in places you can’t be that vulnerable in?” Yaw asked. Yaw was was curious as to what Walmart planned to do with all the money they were looking to save by paying for more telemedicine and less traditional doctors’ visits.

“Not everyone has Internet, a phone, or a consistent phone line. Even if they have a job,” my friend went on to say. “And it’s not like [Walmart] pays their employees well.”

I took a brief, sacred moment to indulge in my freshly brewed Earl Grey.

After these conversations, my main concern now is whether or not a time will arise when people are forced or coaxed into embracing a form of care that they may not be familiar or comfortable with.

Luckily, telemedicine is still just optional for insured employees and doesn’t appear to something employers are forcing or manipulating employees into part take in. It should also be noted there are telehealth services covered by Medicaid.

The ATA’s mission and the thought process behind telemedicine are rooted in the desire for affordable and accessible care for everyone. After hearing different perspectives and doing a little more research, I’m more willing to spread to the word to folks about this alternative.

With all of that said, I must know, are gynecologists participating in this growing phenomenon?

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Office Bullying Made Me The Best Employee You’ll Ever Hire

~by Jiell Richardson, originally published at Fempotential~

If you’re a woman struggling with negative body image or weight issues, there’s a chance you have one or two stories about a mean clique of girls in middle school gym class or a stepmom who fed you asparagus and rice cakes for an entire summer. Maybe? Well, in my case, my first personal fat shaming was served like a cherry atop a nice, tall manila file sundae.

Whenever my lovely work superior, “Tammy”*, gave me a project, she made it a point to call me to her office, close the door, order me to sit, and spend a half hour explaining to me that she only calls me to assist her because she wants to teach me how to be competent, all before I was secretly given contradicting instructions from everyone else on the team. One day, ten minutes before COB, I was called to her office to receive congratulations for “actually doing something correctly”. She went on a tangent about her new diet and her weight loss, ending her ramblings by slowly looking me up and down and said with a smile, “Ugh, I could never just…be fat again. ”

I wasn’t bothered that I was being indirectly teased about my weight. I just found it highly disturbing that a grown woman would put so much energy into bringing another grown woman down and at work of all places. Throwing hints at the supervisor only made matters worse, since all she would do is bring my complaints back to Tammy. Work, something that I spent most of my time doing, made me feel like a hopeless joke. What I was I to do when I had so little control over my situation?

After taking a few mental health days, I came back with a fairly simple game plan. Firstly I vowed to always slay with kindness. I made sure I was kind to everyone in the office, especially my bully. She raised her voice at me and threw documents at me and created seemingly demeaning tasks for me. And I responded with a genuine smile and a promise to work expeditiously.

I graciously rolled with her punches even when I was being told I screwed something up. She was desperate for some sort of emotional reaction from me. During one of her daily half-hour spirit-breaking ceremonies– I mean “meetings”, she said to me, “I know this probably isn’t what you want to be doing with your life. What was your college major?” Tammy was visually disappointed to learn that I was satisfied with my job and did not feel like the failure she wanted me to be.

In addition to my attitude adjustment, I mastered the art of hyper-preparedness and letting my work speak for itself. I made a point to be kind, but I was not a kiss up. If Tammy was going to criticize my work, it was going to have to take an hour and some elbow grease to come up with an issue with any validity. I can recall a silly lecture she gave on a color-coded spreadsheet I created (that most people understood except her). That legitimately amused me.

I became an excellent note taker. Upon receiving a new project, I annoyed her with questions about specifics (that she may or may not have purposely left out) so that when I presented my finished product, there was zero room for knit-picking. Double-sided copies? Hole-punched? Can you tell me what time you plan to return from lunch so I can make sure I’ve emailed you a draft by then? Would you like this set done first or the other?

Other work superiors loved my commitment. I was being entrusted to work on projects with other senior employees and even folks above the supervisor’s pay grade.  I would have taken time to relish in my personal defeat, but my experience as a victim of workplace bullying had finally become less than insignificant in my life.

Some people are just natural achievers and hard workers (with the two not necessarily being related). Others, like myself, must learn from personal mistakes and challenges. I am fortunate enough to no longer work with Tammy anymore, but my poise, my zeal and my mother-like attention to detail will continue to make future clients and colleagues very happy.

*Names have been changed because at FEMpotential, we are professional, not petty.

 
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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

5 Signs Your Job is Good for Your Mental Health

The pay is good, your title is fancy, you will actually be using your college degree, and there are endless free lattes and bean bag chairs on every floor. Kudos to you for landing your dream job! Hopefully, when you received your offer, you took a little bit of time to consider whether or not your job is actually good for your health.

Here are five (5) ways you can tell if your job is a good fit for your health and well-being.

1) The office actually has a mother’s room or sick. Sincerest apologies to anyone who is currently nursing. But I am a strong advocate for multi-purpose “mother’s rooms” and sick rooms in the office. Sometimes, you have to remove the computer screen completely from your sight. With some disinfectant wipes and good timing (sick and/or nursing folks take priority of course), you’ve got yourself the perfect private spot for a your afternoon 5-minute meditation.

2) Healthy food options are within walking distance. Unlimited access to fresh drinking water is important to have in any work setting, and so is, to some extent, having convenient access to healthy food options while at work. Most responsible adults will pack a lunch from home on a regular day, but wouldn’t it be a nice thing on a rough or busy day (or even a really good day) to treat yourself to a fruit smoothie or a big fancy Instagram salad? Invigorating.

3) You learn something new every once in a while. Even the most glamorous of jobs start to feel as you’re working on an assembly line at times. A career in hair and makeup styling is highly coveted and is likely a lot of fun. But can you imagine re-creating the same trendy hairstyle all day, every day? One thing that helps stylists and barbers get through their day is having genuine conversations with clients as they work. A barber can give 10 identical caesar fades but has the potential to learn about 10 new Netflix documentaries to watch just from striking up a conversation. That would certainly give me a little more incentive to come into work on a Monday. I call that turning lemons into naturally flavored Italian ice.

4) Your supervisor is aware of the challenges of your job and makes it known. There is nothing quite like working under a manager who “gets it”. There may not be a lot that you can do to make the nature of your job less high stress, but knowing that your boss sees you and sees how what you endure on a daily basis can make you feel a little less unhinged.

5) At least one of your personal strengths is able to shine through at work. According to the World Health Organization, having something productive to get up and do on a regular basis is good for one’s mental health and well-being. WHO also states that a healthy work environment includes career development opportunities as well as giving employees a sense “control and participation”. One way in which a worker can feel in control and like they are making a contribution is by having their strengths identified, utilized, and for the contribution to be recognized.

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

“Good Hair” Is A Myth

The release of Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary film introduced many non-black people to the mysterious world of black hair. As articulated in Rock’s film, “good hair” is essentially any natural-grown hair texture of hair that is not an afro or in the 4 category. Like most black people, the concept of “good hair” and “bad” or “nappy” hair was instilled in me well before 2009.

These days, you’ll find me hitting up my beloved barber the minute my hair gets long enough to require a comb. In college, I rocked my then trademark ‘fro and on my predominantly white campus, I was like a local celebrity. But I would be lying if I claimed that those were not a challenge at times.

Straightened or natural, black hair care takes time, money, and discipline. Many say that black hair takes patience. I believe that it takes discipline. The unintentional “messy bun” was always intentional, that is, if it could even be even be achieved. Natural black hair is certainly more accepted in pop culture than it was 15 years ago, however, it hasn’t gotten any easier to manage.

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I don’t take a lot of pictures.

I came across a very interesting video which featured a black woman and a white woman swapping hair regimens. After my first time watching the video, I felt embarrassed for the black woman as the white woman complained about all of the heavy products and tedious steps she had to follow to execute the black woman’s regimen. To make matters worse, when the black woman finished completing the steps to the white woman’s regimen, which appeared effortless in my eyes, her hair looked dry and deprived.

 

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photo by Tyler Nix

Watching the video the first time all the way through made me feel as if black beauty had been revealed to be fraudulent. Beauty should be effortless, yes? Real beauty is messy buns! All hail the messy bun!

For whatever reason, I watched the video once more. After the second viewing, something that the black woman said stuck with me. While reading aloud the products needed for the white woman’s hair routine, she jokingly referred to the products as different forms of “air”.

As cool as it would be to be able to run my fingers through my hair on command, I’m not quite sure how I could handle paying for “air”. Also, be reminded that people with oily and/or 1 and 2 type hair have to wash and style their hair more often than someone with hair like mine; this means they would have to replace products more often. My college roommates were potentially spending $40 a month on “air” and colorful advertising!

Box braids are a popular style worn by many black women with an afro and curly hair. In addition to their versatility, when taken care of, they can last anywhere from 1 to 3 months (and, yes, our hair can be cleaned in that time). If you’re unable to install the braids yourself, stylists charge at least $120 or more for box braids depending on clients’ desired length and/or braid thickness. Black women from penthouses to the projects are willing to pay for this expensive style, and I believe its worth it.

 

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photo by Ato Aikins

At first glance, one would wholeheartedly disagree. And that would be understandable. But let us dabble in a little something I like to call perspective.

Another style gaining popularity is the messy bob. I absolutely adore this style and its another style, like box braids for black women, that is versatile and looks good on pretty much anyone. I wish that my hair was naturally straight so that I could achieve this effortless look. Based on pricing at Hair Cuttery in downtown DC, it would cost the average client a minimum of $40 for a hairstyle like this. But is that $40 dollars really worth it for someone with 1 and 2 type hair if a) the curls will likely fall within 24 hours and b) you are going to need to wash your hair in 48 hours?

 

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photo by Allef Vinicius

And just what about 3 types? Isn’t that life a coveted happy medium? 8 words: heat damage, frizz, crunch, no perfect products. Not to mention, getting too over-zealous with a comb could very much end in you being a 4 type for a day anyway.

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photo by Philipe Cavalcante

Pretty will inevitably hurt your wallet or your scalp, or both. I should have known better than to doubt Beyoncé. We will continue to buy into because, well, pretty is pretty darn pretty. 

But who is really winning?*

More importantly, why, in the 21st century are we still competing?

Regardless of race or texture, even in a society still desperately clinging to eurocentric standards of aesthetic, it’s hard to say that there’s really any group of women or metrosexual who is having a smoother time in the hair department.

*I am electively bald, and therefore the winner forever. 👴🏽

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Not Having Kids? Not Buying a Car?: My side of the Story

I recently learned that I might very well be contributing to the decline of the natural born U.S. citizens. As a college-educated urban millennial woman, I find myself on the edge of my seat these days, itching to learn what new institutional-crushing superpower market researchers and journalists have uncovered about me.

I’m 26 years old and, in addition to not having or planning on having kids, I don’t own a house or even a car. I use to feel ashamed of my lack of control over my life and how I was potentially letting down my family by not actually manufacturing a life for myself to mirror that of my mother and grandmother (women who firmly believe that children are what make life complete).

I  have no idea what my life will look like in 3 years, let alone 6 months, and I’ve recently accepted that I really don’t have time right now to think about it. Long story short, here are 5 reasons why I’m told need to have kids and why I absolutely will not.

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You need to pass on your legacy.

Seeing as you likely skipped the intro, I’ll reiterate the fact that I don’t own any property of value such as a house or vehicle and have no desire to. So, if I died today, what exactly would I be leaving to pass down? My refurbished laptop? An Instagram account of barely 50 followers?

You would make such cute babies. 

My S.O. (significant other) is cute and she thinks I’m cute. But I am literally a meat sack of recessive genes and, well the logistics of us reproducing aren’t readily plausible logistically.

You will have more people to share the fruit of your success with.

My over-21 friends have loads of fun attending brunch and paying for alcoholic beverages with our hard-earned money.

Babies smell good.

That is a very very strong argument. Babies do in fact smell heavenly. Sometimes, when I’m feeling down, I will randomly request to hold a baby. Babies are wonderful. They love you unconditionally and they can’t walk into the kitchen steal your leftover Thai food when you’re not looking. However, a 6-year-old can, a 15-year-old can, and so can the 23-year-old college grad who will inevitably be living in your basement rent-free for another 5 years. I’m good.  

Children are a reflection of the love you and your spouse share.

Please see #3. The love of my life, too, enjoys the brunch. We drink mimosas and talk about our feelings.