Wedding Dedicated Feature Weddings

13 easy things you should do to make your dazzling wedding memories last

Your wedding day should be both exciting and nerve-wracking. With everything you have to remember, a checklist is key in making sure you have everything you want.

If you’re clueless about unique and fun activities to put on your checklist, don’t worry. There are tons of options. We’ve put together 13 activities to help you preserve your wedding memories.

1. Bridal subscription boxes

[Image description: a woman in a dress holding a pink box that says "Miss to Mrs] Via MissToMrsBrideBox
[Image description: a woman in a dress holding a pink box that says “Miss to Mrs] Via MissToMrsBrideBox
The best wedding subscription boxes combine fun and effective wedding planning. This wedding check-off list is essential because it’s basically a box full of surprises to make your day memorable. Many bridal services offer bride box subscriptions, such as the Miss to Mrs. Bridal box.

Ladies getting married get to enjoy nine themed boxes from the ‘engagement’ box to a ‘honeymoon’ one. Each box is carefully curated to cater to a specific wedding stage. These bride boxes contain beauty and spa essentials, cute bags for shopping, jewelry, decor items, planners, tips, guides, and inspiration.

This wedding subscription box can be on a monthly, extended, accelerated, or quarterly plan. Brides can get one box per month, one box in two months, two boxes per month, or a box in three months respectively. Miss to Mrs also caters to couples of all sexualities, and prioritize efficient delivery.

2. Exit on a high note

[Image description: a bride and groom surrounded by flying petals and confetti] Via Unsplash
[Image description: a bride and groom surrounded by flying petals and confetti] Via Unsplash
Wedding entrances are exciting parts of weddings. Why not make your exit even more breathtaking? Leave your venue under the loud bangs of fireworks. Other options are a serenade, petals, or confetti. You’ll never forget it.

3. Capture everything on tape

[Image description: a photographer capturing images of the bride and groom] via Wedding Forward
[Image description: a photographer capturing images of the bride and groom in a field] via Wedding Forward
Insist that your wedding coverage team doesn’t miss a thing. The secret moments, everyone’s smiles, emotional faces, people chatting, all of it. These little things can make you nostalgic in a matter of minutes.

4. Go back to where you got married

[Image description: a wedding calendar, with roses, hearts, and the rings] Via Unsplash
[Image description: a wedding photo book and calendar, with flowers, hearts, and the rings] Via Unsplash
A beautiful way to make your wedding memories last is revisiting where you took your vows, maybe. You can do this at random times of the year, we suggest doing it on your anniversary. And if you plan to have kids, always visit with them. The place has become your sacred spot. Revisiting where your journey to forever began is a great way to bond.

5. Create a memory box

[Image description: a wedding box with a pink notebook and pen, a calendar, stickers, and a reusable cup] Via Wedding Forward
[Image description: a wedding box with a pink notebook and pens, a necklace, calendar, stickers, and a reusable cup] Via Wedding Forward
Get a box and throw in bits and pieces from random souvenirs from your wedding into it. Contents of your box may include the invite, place cards, bouquet, boutonnières, napkin, program, some wedding gifts, and anything else. This is quite a sentimental box or trunk of keepsakes.

6. Choose an unconventional venue

[Image description: a bride and groom kissing on a beach] Via Unsplash
[Image description: a bride and groom kissing on a beach] Via Unsplash
For something more memorable, choose a unique venue. You can book out your favorite cinema, racecourse, or stadium for your dream wedding. Maybe the place you met, or the place you went on your first date. Even the guests won’t forget this in a hurry.

7. Plant and bond

[Image description: a couple holds a cup of tomatoes] Via Unsplash
[Image description: a couple holds a cup of tomatoes] Via Unsplash
If you and your partner love to plant or garden, groom a tree right in your home. Immediately after the wedding, plant a tree or pots of herbs together and watch them grow. It is symbolic and serves as a reminder of the depth and longevity of your love. There’s nothing as rewarding as eating the fruits and vegetables from your garden, let alone if you grew them with your spouse.

8. Set up a wedding video booth

[Image description: a make-shift photo set] Via Unsplash
[Image description: a make-shift photo set] Via Unsplash
We’ve seen quite a lot of photo booths, but hardly any video booths. Take advantage of these new trends and wow your guests with one. Leave a video booth where they can goof and narrate fun stories about you two. Edit and compile these videos into a single file. Watch them in later years and laugh your hearts out. It’ll be a wonderful way to make and revisit memories for you and all your guests.

9. Learn a new skill

[Image description: a woman spinning a vase of pottery] Via Unsplash
[Image description: a woman spinning a vase of pottery] Via Unsplash
Giving the guests a memorable experience can change the face of your wedding. Go beyond sweet music and cake cutting to learn something new. Broaden your horizons! Options include a cooking class, pottery or sculpting, creating custom cocktails, and more.

10. Create art from your wedding pictures

[Image description: various phones take pictures of the bride and groom kissing] Via Unsplash
[Image description: various phones take pictures of the bride and groom kissing] Via Unsplash
Once your wedding pictures are delivered, fix them onto card stock or board canvass and hang them in your home. Another option is to carefully create an electronic scrapbook with the pictures. They will serve as keepsakes of beautiful memories for years to come.

11. Create a custom playlist

[Image description: wedding guests dancing] Via Unsplash
[Image description: wedding guests dancing] Via Unsplash
Creating a custom playlist ensures that you have all your special songs ready for the big day. Build a playlist full of songs that mean everything to the both of you. It should include you and your spouse’s favorite songs, your love song to each other, engagement song, etc. Play it on your wedding day and every year after as a reminder of your love.

12. Wear a new scent

[Image description: the bride and groom sitting together in the car, smiling] Via Unsplash
[Image description: the bride and groom sitting together in the car, smiling] Via Unsplash
For your big day, wear a new scent. Scents are hypnotic and unforgettable. Your spouse will always remember how you knocked their socks off with your smell. And, you can always keep the bottle as a souvenir.

13. Opt for a guest book

[Image description: a wedding guestbook] Via Unsplash
[Image description: a wedding guestbook] Via Unsplash
Choose a modern guest book with spaces for guest names, best wishes, and advice. Have the guests fill the book with their well-wishes. This book will serve as a reminder of your loved ones who helped make your day. Imagine, twenty years from now, sending your best friend a photo of what she wrote in your guest book the day of your wedding.

All these activities are fun, unique, and help preserve your wedding memories. Do you have any other ideas?

Editor's Picks Self-Care Style Dedicated Feature Fashion Lookbook

I didn’t know what a parasol was until the pandemic happened. Now I’m obsessed.

Not too long ago, I decided to make like Marie Kondo and spend on the things that bring me joy.

Let me back up.

Most of my days are carefully planned, scheduled down to almost the minute.

When I’m not working at The Tempest, I’m managing my freelance writing, and perpetually side-hustling. Then, there are the demands of my personal life: helping family, attempting to be a responsible adult who pays bills on time, eating vegetables, and getting regular oil changes.

All while trying to cling to whatever kind of social life 2020 will allow.

While I like many of the things that I do, it means that I frequently overschedule myself. I bog down my days with things I “should” do and spend most of my free time thinking about everything I “could” be doing instead.

I bog down my days with things I “should” do. 

I was denying myself every small thing that brought me joy, and it was taking a toll on my mental health. Even when I should have been able to relax, my mind was still whirring.

Enter the pandemic and the general chaos that is 2020.

And the need to wear masks.

Mask(ing) On

At first, masks just seemed like functional necessities. Everyone acted like the pandemic was only going to last a few weeks, so why bother looking cute?

I bought a couple, cycling them out so I could wash them, but they weren’t much to write home about: it only took a few minutes for the soon-familiar feeling of soreness around my ears. Looking cute was just a fever dream, and any mask I put to use quickly began losing the elasticity that kept me perfectly distanced from the virus.

But then, I realized, if I have to wear a mask to prevent myself from potentially spreading or contracting a life-threatening virus, why not try to find something both functional and cute?

Easier said than done. I spent hours scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, trying to keep my hopes up in finding the perfect mask that would save my life – literally and socially.

And then I found her.

That is, I stumbled on my friend’s Instagram post (who I then messaged ruthlessly until she spilled the beans about where she bought her mask).

Sleek, beautifully cut, patterns selected as though the company saw into my multi-hued soul. It was hard finding the perfect set because there were so damn many to choose from. Each one was created using African-inspired textiles, but I finally found her: defiantly patterned in turquoise and cream shades, made for a queen.

The brand, Crown Inspired, promised that the masks would keep pressure off one’s ears, never come loose, be dual-layered – and for those that want it – sport a pocket filter for that extra set of protection.

Of course, all of that could only be proven by wearing my new mask, so I put in the order and waited.

The Verdict

[Image Description: Lauren wearing a Crown Inspired face mask with a beautiful blue design and pattern] Credit: Rita Harper
I own several and this one is my favorite, by far.

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it is also one of the most well-designed masks I’ve tried. It’s dual-layered with a large pocket filter (I was able to get two coffee filters inside with ease), but what I really love about it is the way the strings are designed.

They are crafted so that they do not place any pressure on the ears, but what’s more,  they are easily adjustable and the mask feels very secure.

I don’t find myself fidgeting with it as I do with my other ones, and the strings are long enough that I’m even able to tie a loose safety knot around the back so that I know it won’t budge.

Oh, and there’s something else.

I added something else to my shopping cart right before I hit checkout.

A parasol.

It’s gorgeous, but it also helps to protect me from UV rays while I stretch my legs by taking walks around the neighborhood, or go on my weekly trip to the grocery store.

(In case you’ve never heard of them, parasols are all about shielding our beautiful skin from the sun, not the rain. Reverse umbrellas for the win!)

But I like the parasol for reasons that go beyond skincare. The thing is that living through this year has taught me a lot about the way I move around the world.

Yes, I mean this in a practical sense, because I have to spend extra time assessing which stores feel safe to visit, what time I should go in order to avoid potential crowds, or if I can just order online and pick up in-store to avoid having to actually shop the sales floor, altogether.

But, I’ve also been thinking about the way I move through life emotionally.

How I Lost Myself

A long time ago, I made a commitment to take up more space. I made a conscious effort, and frankly, up until a few months ago, I thought I’d succeeded.

I didn’t realize how self-conscious I still was, or how much I shrunk myself in order to avoid the judgment of others…

…until I watched half of my country act a complete fool over being asked to simply attempt to stop the spread of a horrifyingly contagious virus by wearing face coverings.

If there were grown-ass adult women willing to turn a superstore upside-down because an employee asked them to don a mask in compliance with store policy, statewide mandates, or anything else, then why was I scurrying about, trying my best not to inconvenience anyone else or draw too much attention to myself?

A long time ago, I made a commitment to take up more space – but I failed. 

How many colorful jumpsuits or unnatural hair dyes have I passed up because I still cared about flying under the radar?

How many years did I go wearing stud earrings that I did not like because I was worried that hoops elevated my look a little too much?

What was the point of any of that?

Taking Up My Space

This? The parasol? Hell, this is a game-changer. When I whip it out, people immediately take notice, and I haven’t felt “extra” or “over-the-top.” I’m doing what I want to do and not worrying about what random people on the street think of my appearance.

Because when I whip it out, I’m going on a journey.

A journey to a place where I am drinking a perfectly chilled beverage, in a pretty glass, while strolling through wildflowers with my honey.

Spending my days reading, outside at the park, free of cat-calling and joy-killing mosquitoes. And should I decide to venture to the shops, every item of clothing I fancy will not only fit me just the way I like but will be well within my price range.

It’s a fantasy world that I’m living in, and I love it.

Oh, did I mention that the parasol matches the mask?!!?!

collage of a Crown Inspired parasol with a blue print, closed. and the same parasol open
[Image description: Crown Inspired parasol with a blue-print, closed // The same parasol, open.] Credit: Rita Harper
I couldn’t ask for a more perfect combo. I mean, how show-stopping is that?

You see a person walking down the street twirling a parasol, you instantly look over and wonder, “What is their deal? What do they know that I do not know?”

I am making it a point to get as much mileage out of this parasol as I can.

Then, imagine catching a glimpse of that person’s face and realizing that their mask is perfectly coordinated with their parasol?

A look. A moment.

A statement. 

But honestly? Most people are into it.

I’ve already gotten tons of questions about both the mask and the parasol, and I’ve loved those interactions, too. I will not be the least surprised if I spot more Crown Inspired parasols around my neighborhood in the near future.

The autumn rains have already begun here and just this afternoon, there was a slight chill in the air, so I am making it a point to get as much mileage out of this parasol before I have to break out the scarves. For my next outing, I shall grab an iced cold brew coffee and stroll about the area without a care in the world.

lauren is sitting in front of a fountain on a ledge wearing a Crown Inspired face mask and holding a matching parasol to go with it
[Image description: Lauren is sitting in front of a fountain on a ledge wearing a Crown Inspired face mask and holding a matching parasol.] Credit: Rita Harper
Because, when it comes to parasols? They’re absolutely perfect for that.

Especially during a global pandemic.

P.S. I figured you’d want to rock your own beautiful tee, too, so here’s an amazing 15% discount that Crown Inspired gifted you: just enter TEMPEST15 at checkout. Get your own now!

Dedicated Feature Music Pop Culture

Happy Bisexual+ Awareness Week, here are 17 songs to celebrate bi-visibility

Bi-visibility is an important aspect of the queer community that is often overlooked.

There is often the misconception that, because bisexual individuals can hide behind others’ heteronormative assumptions, they aren’t really a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is wrong.

Let’s celebrate bisexual visibility and awareness with these amazing songs to raise your bi-flag high!

1. “Strangers” by Halsey

Notable Lyrics: “She doesn’t kiss me on the mouth anymore / ‘Cause it’s more intimate, than she thinks we should get”

This song is about a fading relationship between two girls, while one of them is still in love. Halsey and Lauren Jauregui have both come out as bisexual in recent years.

2. “Girls/Girls/Boys” by Panic! at the Disco

Notable Lyrics: “But girls love girls and boys / And love is not a choice”

Brendon Urie’s vocals on a song about a love triangle with the complications of bisexuality? Sign me up. This song also delves into Urie’s own threesome experience.

3. “Curious” by Hayley Kiyoko

Notable Lyrics: “You say you wanted me, but your sleeping with him”

Hayley Kiyoko is an out and proud lesbian, but in Curious she sings to a a bisexual girl who doesn’t know what she wants. The girl in question seems to enjoy the attention she gets from Kiyoko but isn’t ready to embrace her sexuality and ends up going back to her boyfriend. This song highlights issues of not being able to come out as bisexual or queer because your scared of what society will think of you.

4. “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monae

Notable Lyrics: “It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender / An emotional, sexual bender”

This video is a visual representation of bisexuality. Monae highlights her sexual fluidity in this creative video as she shows interest in both men and women.

5. “Boyfriend” by Tegan and Sara

Notable Lyrics: “You call me up like you want your best friend / You turn me on like you want your boyfriend / But I don’t want to be your secret anymore”

The duo Sara and Tegan hardly ever miss the mark and this is no exception. The half of the duo Sara Quinn said in an interview with Beats1 that she was seeing a woman who had never been with another woman before and was also seeing a guy from time to time. The song talks about wanting someone who isn’t quite ready, something we can all relate to.

6. “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town

Notable Lyrics: “Lord knows I’ve tried / I can’t get her off my mind”

Okay, so this song is about a woman jealous of another woman who is with the man she loves. In my own interpretation however, I think the woman starts off jealous but ends up falling in love with the other woman. This song has all the makings of a sad country song along with undertones of a sexual awakening that I absolutely love!

7. “Take Me On the Floor” by The Veronicas

Notable Lyrics: “I wanna kiss a girl / I wanna kiss a boy”

The Veronicas take on the pastime of going to the club and having fun, meeting anyone and potentially hooking up. This song doesn’t discriminate as the singer talks about being interested in both genders.

8. “She’s Not Him” by Miley Cyrus

Notable Lyrics: “No matter what you do / I just can’t fall in love with you / ‘Cause you’re not him / Yeah, she’s not him”

In this song Miley Cyrus sings about being in love with an ex-boyfriend while she’s with her current girlfriend. She goes through the motions of saying it’s not you it’s me but ultimately it would be a blow to anyone’s ego. This song highlights the struggle of the bi community such as feeling the need to pick a side. This song shows that heartache knows no gender boundaries.

9. “John I’m Only Dancing” by David Bowie

Notable Lyrics: “John, I’m only dancing / She turns me on, but I’m only dancing”

David Bowie’s song sings about being faithful to his partner who is a man and assures him that he’s only dancing with the girl but won’t do anything. There’s often a conception amongst people that bisexual people like everyone but this is far from the case.

10. “Te Amo” by Rihanna

Notable Lyrics: “I feel the love but I don’t feel that way”

Te Amo is one of Rihanna’s sultry song which touches on being in love with your friend and your feelings not being reciprocated.

11. “Chanel” by Frank Ocean

Notable Lyrics: “I see both sides like Chanel”

Frank Ocean is an amazing singer and anything he sings is gold, in this song he talks about being in love with both genders. He basically says he loves both just like the Chanel logo. If that’s not lyrical I don’t know what is.

12. “The Sweet” – AC/DC

Notable Lyrics: “She got girls, girls all over the world, She got men every now and then.”

The lyrics of this song are pretty self-explanatory. Love who you want to love, do what makes you feel, good whether it’s a guy today or a girl tomorrow.

Shop, earn and get rewarded! Get $10 sign on bonus when you spend $20+

13. “Be Yourself” by Taylor Bennett

Notable Lyrics: “I’m an outstanding Afro-American bisexual “

In Be Yourself, Taylor sings about being out, proud, black and bisexual! He is plainly saying be yourself because you have no one else to be.

14. “Pretty Boys and Pretty Girl” by Book of Love

Notable Lyrics: “(When I’m without) / Pretty boys / (I dream about) / Pretty girls”

This song is simply about enjoying both genders. The song still discusses the dangers of sex as this song was released in 1988 during the AIDs epidemic.

15. “He’ll Never Love You Like Me” by Hayley Kiyoko

Notable Lyrics: “You wish you could but you just can’t so / How many days, how many nights / ‘Til you realize, he’ll never love you like me?”

Hayley Kiyoko comes through again with another song, possibly about the same girl from Curious. Here she croons about being in love with a girl who has a boyfriend who will never love her as she can.

16. “Bad at Love” by Halsey

Notable Lyrics: “I know that you’re afraid / I’m gonna walk away”

In this song Halsey discusses her many relationships ranging from high school to adulthood, as well as dating different genders. This song highlights how love can be fluid and bisexuality isn’t a phase or a fluke. In the first verse she sings about the men she’s dated, then in the second verse the women she’s dated. This song is a statement that presents bisexuality in a honest way. She’s a mess regardless of the gender she’s with. In my opinion bi-visibility at it’s best.

17. “Bisexual Anthem” by Domo Wilson

Notable Lyrics: “Better not forget the B in LGBT”

Finally, Domo Wilson closes this list off with Bisexual Anthem. It completely shuts down any naysayers when it comes to bisexuality. This song is not only perfect for throwing it back to, but also for loudly and proclaiming your bisexuality! In a Genius interview (July 2019) Domo Wilson said, ” I cook for the culture, and I felt like bisexuals, we need an empowering song.”


Seeing all these songs in mainstream pop is imperative for bi-visibility. This has to be seen as a proper part of the LGBTQIA+ and not a ‘phase’. I love to see the B being more widely accepted and sang about in music and can’t wait for more.

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College 101 Dedicated Feature Life

This is why you should study abroad – I went to Madrid

I’ve always been a little hesitant and unsure of myself. When I started telling people that I planned on studying abroad for the Fall 2019 semester in Madrid, I could tell that they were worried. I mean, how was I going to survive alone? I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, I didn’t know anyone else that was in my program, and I don’t exactly have a plethora of common sense – I’m more book-smart. I think that part of it was that they didn’t want me to get my hopes up. Studying abroad could be a really great experience or a really terrible one, and there wasn’t room for anything in between. 

But, I was determined to prove them wrong. I always have been. Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that people saw my capabilities as one-sided. I could do this but never that. To me, it seemed like an expectation thing. No one expected me to be so independent and sturdy, especially when I appeared in front of them as fragile or sensitive.

The truth is that I had never been given the chance to prove myself in this capacity. The second that I took too long or wasn’t doing something precisely the way that someone else would, they took over. And, as a result, I became apprehensive, kind of shy, and extremely nervous. 

However, it turns out that I was right. I had been largely independent all along, and studying abroad was a great idea. I slowly realized that I could do anything I set my mind to, even this, all the while holding on tightly to my emotional tendencies. I learned a lot about myself while basking in the Mediterranean sun. 

During my time in Madrid, I met people and made connections in ways that are indescribable. I don’t know if it is because I finally found myself in a situation in which I was free from implicit restraints and boundaries or if I became a product of my surroundings. But, I am sure of at least one thing, that being that I was entering a moment in which I was young enough to still have the ignorant belief that nothing mattered, but also wise enough to know that everything mattered much more than it had ever before. There were so many things, and so many people, clawing at me and insisting for my attention, and I finally let go.

For the first time I acknowledged the positivism of this sweet, even blissful, point in my life—one that I may never get again. So, I gave in to the extremities. In doing so, the whole world opened up. I found security in empathy, I learned about ambition, self-awareness, and I felt genuine longing for the first time. I spent days dancing in streets that were once touched by Goya, Ernest Hemingway, and Velasquez. I read poems by Pablo Neruda on the metro and I ate TONS of churros con chocolate.

What I found to be the most pivotal about my experience in Madrid, though, would be living in a home-stay. This is where I spent the most time, had the most laughs, and learned the most about myself. The day after landing in Madrid I met my host family and moved into their home. While they didn’t speak any English at all, and whatever Spanish I did know I forgot the second I opened my mouth, we managed to work through it. 

I knew I wanted to build a relationship with them, but before I could do that, I had to conquer my own confidence battle. I had to remind myself that yes, they were strangers with whom I would be living with for months, but I was also a stranger to them. Frankly, we were all in the same boat. Eventually, I got used to their habits, learned their family traditions, and studied their culture until I felt like I belonged there. They made me feel like I was as much a Madrileño as they are.

At dinner, my host parents would always ask about my day, my classes, and if I was up to anything fun. On the weekends, they would recommend countless restaurants or art museums to my friends and I, and then ask me if I liked it the next day. They even comforted me when I felt overwhelmed or insecure. What I appreciated the most, however, is that they actually listened to my stories, which I am sure that I told in broken Spanish, and always seemed interested.

We really grew to love and care for one another. In those four short months I am sure that they watched me grow exponentially. I truly became myself and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. Plus, I came out being able to speak and communicate in Spanish light-years beyond my ability from when I first arrived in Madrid. 

My memories from this time in my life are whole, and they always will be whole. I’m finally able to show off my independence and I’m never turning back. This just goes to show that a little bit of introspection and determination could go a long way. Of course, I was scared to be alone and so far away but I knew that it was what I needed.  Once I convinced myself to just rip off the band-aid my possibilities for personal growth became endless.

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Sexuality Dedicated Feature Love + Sex Love

Even experimenting with my sexuality seems like a step too far

My whole life, not being straight wasn’t an option I allowed for myself. I knew it was just so much easier to what was expected by my family, friends, and society. A remnant of my upbringing, sexuality in general carried a lot of stigma and pressure. But now that I am on the cusp of adulthood, I wonder how different everything could have played out if I allowed myself to explore. 

I can’t even recall the first time a girl had caught my attention, that’s how far back it was. I must have immediately justified it as liking her hair, or the way that she dressed. Perhaps, I reasoned that I just wanted to look like her, and maybe I did. But then, as I went through my teenage phase, I would often fantasize about girls. I didn’t develop any crushes on anyone I knew, but I wondered what it would be like. 

Scrolling through Tumblr, a haven for young people questioning their sexuality, I found myself wandering over to those pages with the artsy nudes. Appreciating them just for their artistic merit, of course, I would say to myself. But afterward, I would feel such shame that my chest grew tight. What was I doing? Who was I? I never brought it up to anyone else, but I remember being on the verge of tears as I reasoned to myself that all girls were like this. I was just young and curious. From then on, my sexuality became a tough cycle of self-denial and censorship. 

But it didn’t always feel that way to me. Even after I started questioning my sexuality, I was still okay with moving on as I always had, being straight. I normalized it to such an extent that for a while, I stopped questioning it. I pursued relationships with guys and it felt normal, if still controversial to the conservative community around me. When I got older and went on an exchange program for a year, I did the same. On the dating apps, I didn’t hesitate to click ‘men’ as my preference. During my last week there, I swapped phones with a friend to swipe through a dating app for fun. On her screen, a woman’s profile popped up. I knew that she was bisexual, but for a second, it felt like the world was playing tricks on me personally. “She’s cute,” my friend said, peering over. She was.

I felt regret. It was my last few days away from home, so I felt that I had missed my chance to try going on a date with a girl. Although even the thought made me feel nervous, I still regretted never trying and now the door to experimenting with any of that seemed firmly shut. I already planned in my mind how I wasn’t going to tell any of my friends, how I could downplay it if they found out. It was crazy, that I was already prepared to keep it a secret. It struck me that day that I was afraid of experimenting because what if I really was bisexual? Just placing that term anywhere next to me felt earth-shattering.

Perhaps it was fear, or just a desire to avoid conflict. I had always been a non-confrontational person and would rather choose to avoid tension even if I have to give some of myself up. Already in a precarious relationship with my cultural identity and family because of my so-called liberal ideas and forward-thinking when it came to feminism and gender, I didn’t want to seem even ‘stranger’ in their eyes. I didn’t want to be rejected. Every move I made caused ripples, even that year away from home was a scandal. If I dared to experiment, who knew what would happen? It seemed like whether or not I was bisexual, just experimenting had the potential to complicate my life. 

I was afraid of that uncertainty. So I never put myself out there. The fact is that I might have tried it out and found that I actually wasn’t romantically or sexually attracted to women. I could find out that I was. If I had known then that sexuality could be fluid, that it could change over time even without the pressure of labels, would experimenting have been any easier of a choice to make? 

But I still wonder, what if? I think I’ll always wonder about that. I also think about other things I am afraid of exploring because of culture, family, friends, and other external factors. Hopefully, as more awareness is brought to experimenting and sexuality, things will change for the better, and more people will feel comfortable exploring important parts of themselves. As for me, I’m not sure where my life will take me. I wouldn’t rule out anything in my future. This is only the first step, confronting my internal ideas of ‘normalcy’, and I suppose it’s okay to not know if and what comes next.

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Health Dedicated Feature

I didn’t know about PMDD until it almost destroyed my life

For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived with chronic depression and anxiety. Because my baseline for mental health has always been feeling bad with positive spells, rather than the other way around, it was harder for me to notice when I was sliding from bad to worse.

It’s hard to identify, “Hey, I think I’m actually struggling more than usual,” when life feels like pretty much just a haze of constant unhappiness. But in my junior year of college, that changed when I was diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

That year, I was hurting and angry all the time, but I was also getting into a lot of fights with my friends, which wasn’t normal for me. I was stuck in an especially toxic cycle with a close friend. We would fight, make up, and immediately hate each other again every 3 weeks like clockwork. It was exhausting, but I clung on, attributing it to general college stress and our progressively more messy history just making us both incapable of being good to each other.

It wasn’t until he finally got sick of me and dropped me, telling me that I wasn’t me and that he couldn’t handle my mood swings and predictably unpredictable reactions anymore, that it occurred to me that something wasn’t right, that it might be something more.

At first I was sure he was just gaslighting me again, as he had in the past. But the more I thought about it, the more his words cut into my brain. There were times where I really wasn’t me, and there was a definite strange pattern to it all.

I vividly remember lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, running through all my different known mental health conditions and their symptoms, as well as the antidepressants I took and their associated side effects, trying to figure out why my brain was cycling like a self-destructive machine. I didn’t understand how I was switching back and forth between being on a rampage and begging people for forgiveness overnight. All I could think was, I am going insane.

Then I spotted my birth control pack on my desk.

I did some quick mental math – it lined up frighteningly well. Every fight I had with any of my friends over the past 7 months since I’d started birth control somehow fell in the two weeks right before I got my period. I would be the angriest, most vulnerable person for 2 weeks straight, then try and apologize for a brief truce as soon as the feeling passed – maybe not just coincidentally with the arrival of my period. The only month that hadn’t been as bad was the one month that I’d forgotten to refill my prescription. I knew PMS was a thing, but this was something else.

My journey to mental stability ultimately hinged on a chance Google search.

I googled “birth control making PMS worse,” and there it was: an article about how the birth control pill could potentially worsen “premenstrual dysphoric disorder,” or PMDD. After internet rabbit-holing for a while, I made an appointment with the health clinic for the next day. As my doctor and I talked, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry: I had 10 of the 11 symptoms associated with PMDD, and she agreed that birth control could definitely be negatively impacting it to boot.

Getting diagnosed with PMDD of course didn’t cure me overnight – it took two more years and hitting rock bottom a few more times to find both a treatment plan that actually worked, and the discipline to stick with it. Not being on the birth control pill isn’t really an option for me because it helps manage other aspects of my period, but with the help of my doctor, I now know to increase my antidepressants for the two weeks before I get my period, and alert my loved ones that I might need a little extra emotional support and patience during that time.

I’m also not saying that I’m a perfect person without my PMDD – unlearning toxic behaviors is necessary, ongoing work for me. But not knowing PMDD was a thing didn’t make doing that necessary work any easier. I still get angry, nearly 4 years later, that PMDD and the potential side mental health side effects of the birth control pill weren’t topics we talked about openly in my communities, and that my journey to mental stability and relief ultimately hinged on a chance Google search.

Talking about PMDD specifically can be a difficult line to walk, because women are constantly gaslit and demeaned about “outbursts” or sneeringly asked if we might be on our periods when we do have valid concerns – sexism that weaponizes our periods is indeed alive and well. But denying that our periods can actually contribute to the deterioration of our mental health is also harmful, as it erases very real conditions that can significantly impact our decisions and our quality of life.

We need to openly talk about reproductive health, and do so universally. Health conditions do not discriminate by race or religion – so neither can our education about them. I am not ashamed of my PMDD; I’m ashamed of how not being able to treat myself for it affected how I behaved. It might be deeply frowned upon to go into so much detail about two “taboo” topics – periods and mental health – but I am not going to stop talking about it, because I never want another person to feel that way.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re mentally cycling, take a few deep breaths. Try and keep a mood diary in conjunction with your menstrual cycle to see if there’s a correlation, and have it ready to talk about with your doctor. PMDD doesn’t have to destroy your life – it does, indeed, get better.

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World News Latin America Dedicated Feature The World

Protests erupt in Colombia against police brutality and violence

TW: Descriptions and mentions of police brutality.

Protests broke out in Colombia on Wednesday September 9, after a video emerged of the arrest of Javier Ordóñez in Engativ, the west side of the country capital of Bogota.

Javier’s long time friend Juan David Uribe was with Javier when they both got stopped by police officers. Juan was able to record a video that went viral on twitter and Facebook. The video depicts Javier pinned to the ground by two police officers in a residential street.  One of the officers repeatedly uses his taser on Javier. Javier can be heard saying “Please no more”. However the officers continue to keep him pinned down.

After his arrest, Javier was taken to a nearby police station. According to his family Javier was then beaten inside custody.  Juan says when he arrived at the station, his friend was practically unconscious. In an interview with Semana, Juan describes how he carried his friend to the nearby hospital, where he died .

Javier’s autospy revealed that the official cause of his death  was multiple blows with a blunt weapon, at the height of the head and shoulders.

Javier, 43, father of two, and soon to be attorney, was socializing with friends the night he was arrested. His friends describe how they ran out of alcohol when they went outside to buy more. According to Juan, when they were going back to Javier’s apartment, they were stopped by the police, and were arrested. Witnesses said they were detained because they were violating quarantine restrictions.  Juan stated that while they were being detained one of the police officers said, “From this one he is not safe,” referring to Javier.

According to several reports, Javier has had an old quarrel with these exact police officers, which would explain why he was targeted by them.

Following his death, Colombia has erupted in protests. The protest initiated in Bogota, and other cities like Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena joined the manifestation. At least eleven people have died in the protests, mostly young people who were shot, and hundreds more injured by city police, who are also known as Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad (ESMAD). The Collective of José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers related in a document – “The Colombian Police over the past few days, have committed serious acts of excessive use of force, and abuse of power, towards the rights to life, and personal integrity of Colombian citizens.”

On Thursday September 10, the Colombian Police reported to the public that the two agents who killed Javier Ordóñez were removed from the police force. In addition, this opened a formal investigation which would result in a hearing. The following day The Colombian Defense Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, apologized for the acts against the law committed by the police. In Colombia, an apology from a Defense Minister regarding police violence is not common. However, this apology did not end the high police mobility within the capital.  The President of Colombia also gave his words regarding the protest, however it did not sit well for Colombians.

President Ivan Duque represents the Central Democratic Party, one of Colombia’s conservative political parties. According to New York Times, Duque condemned the killings, but defended the police in a speech, calling the country’s security forces generally “heroic” and “hard-working.”

However Claudia López Hernández, the mayor of Bogota, called for immediate attention and action. In a video addressing the public, she burst into tears as she paid respect to the fallen victims of police violence. In the same video, López Hernández condemned the excessive use of force and power, and called for a reform in the institution. According to her, the country needs justice, action, and reform now.

Since the Duque presidency, there have been so many unsolved issues in Colombia. The government has neglected to implement the peace agreement with Revolutionary armed forces of Colombia (FARC) – this peace agreement was originally signed in 2016 under former President Juan Manuel Santos, to end a 50 year armed conflict in Colombia. The Peace accords allowed for the state to fulfill promises such as addressing rural poverty, justice to the conflict’s main actors, the disarming of insurgents, and reforming the war on drugs. Duque pledged to implement parts of the peace deal, but his administration has failed to make any substantial changes. Duque’s handling of the peace accords, and the corruption in his government have only sparked discontent.

Prior the to the murder of Javier, Colombians took to the streets in 2019 to protest against police brutality, corruption, and inequality.

Over the course of two years, about 595 social leaders have been murdered, and in 2020 alone, there have been more than 200 deaths, according to the finding of the Institute of Studies of Development and Peace (INDEPAZ). However the government has not taken a direct approach in addressing the violence. This has allowed for criminal groups to consolidate their power, and has repressed the local populations, especially in the rural areas of the country. The government has promised a national conversation to address the on-going issues, however Colombians are still waiting.

Last year it was 17 year old Dilan Cruz. This year it is Javier. The list keeps growing. Many international observers have deemed the civil unrest a “George Floyd moment.” For Colombians, this is about the government’s failure to understand the frustration of both the urban, and rural citizens, and the violent nature of their police force.

While the government struggles to correct its mistakes, we are going to see more waves of social unrest.