The Best Reality TV Shows to Binge Right Now, According to a Reality-TV Lover

Reality TV has been a love of mine since birth (yes, seriously, “Big Brother” started the year I was born… thanks, mom). So let’s dive into the best reality TV shows to start out with!

Love Is Blind

An image of the datings pods from a birdseye view. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/love-sex/relationships/a30961663/love-is-blind-netflix/

This one is fun and actually very different in the reality TV world. The concept follows a group of men and women who both move into a house to find love but cannot see each other. They go on dates and converse with each other in dating “pods.” The way out of the house is to get engaged. The show asks the ultimate question: “Can love truly be blind?” Watching this is truly a whirlwind. Being an audience member, it is quite difficult to put yourself in their place and understand how one falls in love in three days without ever seeing the person they are so infatuated by. It is certainly an interesting watch, and you can find it on Netflix!

Love Island (U.K.)

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2019-07-24/how-to-apply-for-love-island-2020/

Keeping up with our love theme, “Love Island” has become a huge pop culture phenomenon not just in the U.K., but here in the U.S. as well. “Love Island’s” premise is basically a bunch of beautiful men and women stuck in a house together, forced to sleep in bed with someone else, and urged to “couple up” with another member of the house. Sure sounds like a recipe for love to me. On a real note, this show is highly entertaining if you love drama and “shipping” relationships. However, there are a TON of episodes in each season, so it’s not one you’ll finish very quickly. Watch it on Hulu!

Cheer

https://www.tmz.com/2020/01/22/cheer-netflix-producers-offered-daytona-event-footage-varsity-spirit/

Though “Cheer” is by far the best of it’s kind, I am no stranger to a cheerleading docuseries. This one is great in its storytelling and insight into the cheerleaders’ lives. If you want to laugh, cry, and break your hand trying to prove to yourself you can try out for Navarro’s team next year, this is the reality show you need in your life. Watch it on Netflix!

Encore

https://disneyplusoriginals.disney.com/show/encore

This show is another really unique reality TV show concept. In “Encore” we see groups of people who did different musicals in high school come back together as adults to do an encore performance with the help of professionals in the musical world. This show is especially fun if you were in theater at some point in your life. Watch it on Disney+!

The Real Housewives of Orange County

https://www.bravotv.com/the-daily-dish/why-is-tamra-judge-leaving-the-real-housewives-of-orange-county

This is the true OG option for all your reality TV cravings. Though most of the “Real Housewives” shows are good, “Orange County” is the first and the best, in my opinion. The drama is never-ending, and it is also interesting to see the “problems” these women face… or don’t face. Watch all seasons on Hulu!

Where Are All of the African American Women Magazines?

Recently, I had an assignment for a class where I had to find a magazine for, by, or about black women and bring it into class for discussion. Immediately, Essence came to mind. I had studied Essence a bit in a previous class and knew that it was very popular among African American women. I also knew that it had some rather problematic tendencies as well. For example, the advertisements in Essence often feature light-skinned or white women, rather than women with darker complexions. For a magazine aimed toward black women, this is very problematic. The ads also tend to be about hair and beauty products which ultimately add to the crippling fear of every woman that we will never be beautiful enough to deserve respect and acceptance in society. 

As we live in an online shopping era, I hadn’t physically purchased a magazine in so long that I actually asked my mom where you can even buy them anymore. Quickly, I learned that this was not so simple. Firstly, most stores have a rather narrow selection of magazines, to begin with. However, the magazines that they do have are very white and pretty cookie-cutter. Each magazine was either a celebrity magazine like Us or People or they were very mainstream and well known, such as Time. Each one whitewashed and was pretty much exactly the same. I had done some research and looked up some of the most popular magazines for, by, or about black women. The most popular by far seemed to be O, The Oprah Magazine and Essence. Naturally, I thought these had to be as popular and abundant as Us. I was so wrong. 

January 2020 Issue of ESSENCE
Photo Credit: https://fashionsizzle.com/2020/01/09/halima-aden-covers-essence-magazine-january-february-2020/

I went to every store in Athens. The only store that had anything even remotely related to what I was searching for was one of the bookstores here. However, they did not have Essence. I had already completed my assignment on Essence because I was so sure I’d be able to find it. Fast forward to now, and long story short, I drove a total of two hours (round trip) to the nearest Barnes & Noble to purchase the SINGLE copy of Essence that they had.

Other stores that I had called in the area couldn’t pronounce Essence much less find it on a shelf; that is how little knowledge there is of this magazine. Though I was frustrated about my assignment, I grew increasingly frustrated with the society that we live in. Black women are still clearly overlooked, and it is heartbreaking. The difficulty to find this magazine made me step back and look at why this is. It is easy to say that people simply don’t buy physical magazines and prefer to have them on a tablet, kindle, etc., but I do not feel that this is the case. We, as a society, are still neglecting to see black women. Their visibility is limited and many times their portrayal is negative when it does exist. We must challenge ourselves to ask these questions, to be observant, and to find a way to help remedy this issue.  

Thoughtful Ideas for Your Valentine This Year

Whether we accept Valentine’s Day as a valued holiday or a scam that obligates us to show our love in material form, it exists, and it’s almost here. Personally, I think Valentine’s Day can still be celebrated in a cheap, thoughtful, and memorable way that shows our loved ones that we appreciate them.

Make Them a Playlist

Most people in this world relate to and appreciate music on some level. Make a playlist of songs you know they love, songs that make you think of them, or songs that the two of you share an appreciation for. Whoever you make this for will love to see how much effort you put in, and they’ll definitely be satisfied with the gesture. Bonus: Make this a tradition!

You can name the playlist something special to the two of you (e.g. an inside joke, etc.) or even something cheesy and sweet (which can honestly be a joke in itself).

Play Tourist in Your Own Town

Look at the town you live in with fresh eyes. A town like Athens may become seemingly dull after some time, but an easy way to revamp your view is to pretend that you’re a tourist. Where would you want to go if you were only in Athens, Ohio, for one day? Take your loved one along with you, and plan a day of fun, cultural, tourist adventures. If you’re not sure what to do, ask around or even Google tourist ideas for your town. Sometimes this can be even more fun than going somewhere extravagant.

Visit local shops, eat at local restaurants, live the full tourist life, and bond over your new discoveries.

Wine and Chocolate Tasting

Wine and chocolate (a fantastic and classy combo, may I add) are a tasty treat and a romantic way to get wine drunk and giggly with your loved one. Many forums and websites online give great information about which chocolates and wines taste best together. Find out what kind of wine and chocolate are your loved one’s favorite and make your choices based on that! It may also be beneficial to look up snacks that pair well with the wine that you choose.

Photo: https://www.kj.com/blog/wine-chocolate-pairing-tasting-party

Homemade Snacks and Themed Night

What’s their favorite movie, game, show, etc.? Make a little night themed around that! Make (or buy, if that’s more your style) food that is special to that show or movie, or find out their favorite part or episode and recreate it. The key here isn’t perfection, but it is to show that you put thought into it and that you clearly recognize and care about what they enjoy.

A popular example of this may be a Harry Potter-themed movie night with themed snacks!
Picture: https://spoonuniversity.com/recipe/the-perfect-harry-potter-themed-snacks-for-movie-night

Valentine’s Day isn’t so much about gifts and extravagant gestures as it is showing the people you love that you are mindful of your love for them and genuinely value who they are and what they enjoy. Happy Valentine’s Day!

My Journey Toward Health

*WARNING* Pictures below may be considered graphic to some readers!

A tonsillectomy being the destination…

Okay, I know it doesn’t sound too serious. Who hasn’t had some kind of issue with their tonsils, right? We’ve all had strep throat at one point in our lives. Trust me, I am fighting my dramatic tendencies in what I say next… it really was that serious for me. My tonsil issues go way way back to the ancient times of the early 2000s. I remember opening my mouth as my father looked inside my tiny throat and said, “Yep, you got your daddy’s tonsils.” Of course, at the time I wasn’t quite sure what that implied, but I would later discover this meant my tonsils were, on a good day, absolutely freaking ginormous — like touching my uvula 24/7 ginormous. Don’t worry, I won’t burden you with a picture… yet. I’ll save that for the good part. 

Anyway, fast forward about 20 years and there I was, in college, absolutely not thriving, because my tonsils were swelling up like nasty little balloons every other week. Of course, every doctor refused to take them out until I was hospitalized with a case of tonsillitis so extreme that my throat would have completely closed and suffocated me had I not been immediately put in a hospital bed to be pumped with steroids and antibiotics all night long. I even missed an exam (insert dramatic gasp here), so you really know I must’ve almost died. 

Fast forward another year and so many tonsillitis and strep incidents later, and there I was, lying in a hospital bed once again, but this time with a true purpose and solution! I have never in my life felt more joy knowing that a part of my body was about to be brutally ripped from me. So, let me set the scene for you: I go to sleep happy thinking about a dream vacation spot as directed by a nurse, and I wake up to this:

Brutal, I know.

Oh and this…

Ever heard of an IV coming out mid-surgery? Me either.

I wish I could describe the pain, but I genuinely have never felt anything like it. They immediately started giving me morphine once I regained consciousness, but it genuinely did not feel any different. I had been dehydrated, so the nurses truly struggled to get an IV in me prior to surgery. And, of course, my IV came out during the procedure, hence the nasty little arm moment shown in the picture above and the (not pictured) IV sticking out of my foot (thank god I wasn’t awake for that). Little did I know this was the least of my problems. 

After a lot more morphine and some liquid Vicodin, I was feeling OK enough to finally go home. Though I couldn’t stop sobbing, I was feeling all right. I was very confused and very tired, but OK. The days to come were my own special version of tonsillectomy hell. Once the scabs formed in my throat, which happened almost immediately, it was game over. I’d love to show you a disgusting picture of this but in all honesty, I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to even get one.

Instead, here is my throat a few days before surgery for reference.

I didn’t eat for eight days and lost around 15 to 20 pounds. On the eighth day, my doctor prescribed some steroids and I was finally able to eat something. What was the magic food I was able to finally eat, you ask? Spaghetti-O’s. Yep, I ate them in all of their weird, non-spaghetti glory. 

So, my advice to anyone with “tonsil issues” thinking they may want to get the horrible things removed is this: you will know if you truly need them out and when you are at this point the horrific experience of getting them out will genuinely be a massive relief. Mine made me sick 24/7. I was constantly on steroids and antibiotics just to function. I would gladly take on the horrific month of recovery again for the relief I now feel. I had both my adenoids (which according to my doctor were some of the biggest she’d ever seen) as well as my tonsils removed. I feel so much less pressure in my head, I can breathe with no struggle both out of my nose and mouth, I no longer snore, and even if my throat hurts, it feels nothing like it ever did with my tonsils still there. The surgery is completely worth it for those in need. However, you must prepare yourself for an intense pain that only gets better with time and nourishment (which can feel impossible). All in all, I can’t say I miss my tonsils one bit.

Note: Tonsillectomies in adults are vastly different from tonsillectomies in children. No, you are not on an “ice cream” diet. You are on an opioid and water diet. 

Chasing Peace

Me, in my happy place (Seville, Spain)

We are always so concerned with finding our peace and being someone else’s peace that we become so unconcerned with how this is obtained.

I am the first to admit that I have chased this peace, not for myself, but to please others throughout much of my life. So, I ask myself, what if some of us aren’t meant to be peaceful? How do we decide who deserves peace and who is meant to be another’s peace?

This is faulty logic because we all absolutely deserve peace. No one person can single-handedly provide us with this. That is a burden too great for us to bear; it can and will destroy us if we allow it.

I could never be someone else’s peace. I am full of chaos, and I am still unsure of how to contain it all. And honestly, I shouldn’t have to if it’s only for someone else’s well-being. I truly believe if I can find peace within myself that it will reflect outward onto others.

A year ago, I was so caught up trying to be this so-called peace for someone I desperately wanted to keep in my life. I was willing to change who I was just to be whatever it was that this person claimed that they needed. Water yourself down, be quieter, love yourself less; this was their unspoken request for me. I simply could not do or be this. Pushing yourself down will not calm your chaos, but it will only turn it into the coldest and darkest place you have ever traveled to.

In 2020, I have a goal to be consciously more at peace with myself. With the toxicity removed from my life and a brand-new year ahead of me, I think maybe this peace isn’t so far off.