This Woman’s Worth

When you get yourself out of bad situations, you always come full circle just to remind you how ridiculously low you were. Sometimes you meet up with the person, or the issue, and have the same test from years ago to see if you’ve learned the lesson from the circumstance. Then you make a choice.  You’ve either  grown  or still are  ignorant about an area of your life. Full Circle.  I had one of those moments a month ago when I went to my college homecoming.

Every year  my undergrad celebrates homecoming whether I go or not. I’ve only gone twice in the last 10 years, but I always get “the” call.  HE calls once a year under the guise of seeing if I am in town. For what? You do the math.  The past three years, it always happens on a Friday night,  then I get texts throughout the weekend asking where I am  and what I’m doing. Most of the time, the first one is at a decent hour. The second….mmmm at least 11:30p but never around dinner time or daylight. It was cute when we first met  and  we hooked up. But that wore off quickly eventually when I realized I was in a jacked up lopsided empty relationship. I use the term relationship loosely because even when you aren’t committed, you are still “relating” to that person in some form or fashion. We like to kid ourselves with fake terminology but it’s real.  Like any man, he worked it so it felt like we were together all year-long. He gave tremendously when we were together, but only to keep me distracted by his lack of committment.  At the time, I couldn’t see that though because my mind was blown. And I was  dumb.   Too satisfied with his attention to realize he was just using me and it didn’t matter when he would pull his random disappearing acts. I say it didn’t matter but I didn’t care until I realized what I wanted didn’t matter to him. Ain’t that somethin? We lived in different cities so who knows who and what else he was doing in the spirit of community service. Again, I didn’t care because I didn’t care about me. You ever been there where you know the truth but you ignore it because it’s too easy to see? Because when you admit it, you can only blame yourself for allowing the bullish to continue going on? I think it was one of the lowest points for me as a woman because my attempts to force him to respect me sounded like “please do me right” weak. I could go on a religious rant right now about how your body is a temple and guard your heart, but my heart was hurting so it didn’t really matter who got a hold of it.

So like I said, this year 2012 when I got the call, I was indifferent. Because before, I’d see the number and my mind would say….”I really want to talk to you, but I can’t because you don’t want to talk to me for the right reasons I so I can’t respond to you.”  I hadn’t answered in several years, but I always remembered the feeling of being with him.  I didn’t respond to the texts, but each time he sent one I immediately remembered his scent. I asked him to not call or text anymore almost a year ago, and it worked. Until 2012. Homecoming. This time, I got angry.  Because its public knowledge he has a girlfriend. Call me proper, but I don’t mess with anyone when I know they are in a relationship. Ever. So, on top of disrespecting me as he’d become accustomed to, now he felt it was okay to boldly go into disrespecting her too? Full circle. You get to see it all and smell the scent of the ish you were knee-deep in.   So the “call” is simply now a reminder of his total and utter lack of respect for me. Because if I tell you I no longer want any contact with you, but you do it anyway, you STILL don’t respect me. You only respect what you want. Full circle. Back then, my actions weren’t lining up with my words so it didn’t matter that his didn’t either. I gave away my worth every time I entertained him. Every time I picked up the phone in response. I don’t know how I got to that point, but I do know I’m no longer there. When I got the last text at 12:30am this year, I said wow, is he for real? No longer was it entertaining. Now, it was pathetic. Full circle. My worth, not his. My response,not his. My way, or none of me at all.  Every woman learns to commands respect. Sometimes right from the start, sometimes after the lesson. I knew it before, but not well enough. I learned it again because of him.  THIS strength in knowing there is a man who will honor me. Until then, I choose to  honor myself. Full circle. THIS woman’s worth.


HIV and the Dilemma of the Black Church

Black Women. Unprotected Sex. Faithful in church. Christlike. Love the Lord.  Pure in heart. Still having Sex.

HIV is killing  the Black  community one by one as the CDC reports the highest HIV + rates exist in the Black community. Black Americans account for only 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet they account for 52 percent of all new HIV infections each year. We are at risk more than any other group.   Obviously, this is  a social issue that could easily be addressed by the cornerstone of our community, the Black Church.  Why? Because black women make up the largest populations in the predominantly black church settings. An article written by Theola Labbe’-Debose indicates that ‘black women are the most religious people in the nation.’  But with that comes the quandary of faith and sexuality.  The elephant in the room. That thing. That  belief. That church folk don’t have sex. Right?  But admitting that church going members are sexually active  is almost acknowledging that what’s taught scripturally  is not being received.  HIV is a touchy subject because initially, the assumption was it’s a gay man’s disease. With 52 percent of heterosexual women testing positive, nothing could be further from the truth.   One in five people (adolescents and adults)  in the United States are unaware that they are infected with the virus.   So, the blind folded dance continues. Many churches (in general)  are aware that many of their  members are not abstinent,  but find themselves in the precarious position of addressing safe sex or ignoring the reality of risky behaviors and praying one day their choices will change.

I’d like to challenge the notion that HIV is  a social issue worth addressing and propose that the church is the perfect place to do so. It’s clear that the majority of  Black women use  their  faith as a strength regardless of  denomination.  So, it stands that women who are carrying the HIV virus may be in your pew on Sunday morning. While we don’t expect teachings about sexuality to change, we also must acknowledge the risk  Black women  place themselves in when sleeping with men without protection, without regard for their self-esteem or physical health.

Questions to think about:

  • Would you willingly get tested in a church setting for  HIV instead of going to a clinic?
  • Would you support your church creating a ministry devoted to those who suffer with HIV but are thriving in spite of the disease?
  • Would you have compassion for someone with HIV just the same as a member with cancer?
  • While your pastor, spiritual leader  may not agree with risky sexual behaviors (as he shouldn’t),  would he consider tailoring sermons to teach the need for “knowing your status?” as a part of honoring the body God gave you?

Bravo to the  churches who are getting involved and tackling the heavy topic of HIV and not shrinking from the stigma that sex shouldn’t be discussed in church. If you’re a woman of faith, you may sit next to a  member who is HIV positive. They may have even contracted it from another member sitting in another pew. Married couples are at risk if there is an issue of  monogamy. It’s risky to connect the two topics of sexuality with spirituality but I’d rather have folk uncomfortable for an hour or so than living with a disease that will change the course of their lives. And if risky sexual behaviors is a constant for Black women, perhaps there needs to be more  talk why the  faith we cling so heavily too for our hopes and dreams, fades away when sex comes into the picture.  

Your thoughts?

Another Reason to Know Your Status #30in30

Whew, the first time I got tested for STDs. Almost 20 yrs ago and I was crazy  embarrassed as I  parked my car at the clinic.  I took a deep breath, shut the door, and walked in. I didn’t think I was at risk for anything, but I’d never been tested before so didn’t know what to expect.  I  made my appointment 45 minutes away from home so I could avoid running  into someone I knew.  The nurse walked in the room wearing a pale, yellow jacket, and her attitude was  straight nasty. Great. Safe to say Nurse Ratchet missed class when they taught good bedside manner. Once I got past her foolishness, I reminded myself  I was in a monogamous relationship (or so I thought), and that we always used protection-MY doing not his.  Still, I needed that proof I was clean. Nurse Ratchet looked over my chart and  glared at me like I was a heathen. I dropped my eyes away from her, embarrassed and wondering what she was thinking. I expected questions about my sex life but she jumped straight to the point. “Are you using protection?” Smiling, I said “yes”, proud that I was being responsible and making sure I avoided having babies without a man to take care of them. I wasn’t on birth control because my boyfriend thought it would be “bad for my body.” Anyway, Nurse  R. saw my response, rolled her buck eyes and frowned her nasty face up. Next thing I know, she spats,  “Well, make sure he’s not poking a hole in the bottom of the condom because these fools out here are trying to get girls pregnant. I’ve already had two women in here find out they’re pregnant who swear by using condoms!!!” I was horrified and held my fear until I got in the car.  On the way home, I  reminded myself I had a good man.  I also secretly wondered had he too been to this place for his test?What if he’s one of the fools she’s talking about? I got the results a week later, and was negative for everything. What a relief, right? My boyfriend and I were faithful and responsible.  Fast forward to us  falling out, taking a “break”, and getting back together months later to get a phone call from his “girlfriend”.  Wait, what?  I was his girlfriend, so what was this chick talking about? I was dizzy and  pissed because this was not to be my life. Okay? This was my introduction to the real reason people need to get tested for STD’s.  I had to wait six months before another set of tests (this was the 90’s) so imagine my anxiety this time. Turns out it was negative and how glad was I that I didn’t give into his BS about no condoms.

It’s nerve-wracking enough to get tested for STDs when it’s you and one man involved. But can we talk about the hook ups where protection isn’t even mentioned? I’ve watched Love and Hip Hop Atlanta this season (I admit it) and imagined enough swapping of body fluids to make my make my private parts itch. Joseline is bisexual, sleeping with Stevie J- a married man, who also sleeps with other women in addition to Joseline his jump-off and his wife. Did you get all that?  How many people have been exposed  in this situation? And while the distinguished psychologist  graced us with his presence to counsel  the three-way train wreck, I wonder why he never brought up that they are nasty (my words) for sharing a man who seems like he doesn’t care who he’s sexin’ as long as it’s some BODY?

The African-American community has the highest rates of HIV in the United States. Men and Women. For women it’s even worse. And if LAHHA is any indicator, clearly we know why. Nobody on the show talks about safe sex. Only that I’m getting cheated on.  In fact, I believe Josephine had a “slip up” thinking she was pregnant. I mean, even on ABC’s Afterschool Specials they talked about protection.  I don’t agree with sleeping with someone’s man. So I figure if you get down like that, your sexual health  probably isn’t the first priority on your list.

Unfortunately,  people still believe HIV is a “down-low disease”, but it’s really  “I don’t care about condoms and birth control right now because I like the feeling without it.” Wait until you can’t pee without screaming (said in my Nurse Ratchet voice).   The absence of addressing safe sex on reality shows is probably a case of art imitating life. We usually don’t take threats seriously until  we ar forced to. But why? Do we as women not value ourselves enough to demand that the men we sleep with protect our bodies? Or are we so desperate for the feeling of love that we don’t realize it’s only a temporary fix? Look at me, I mean, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t in a faithful relationship. That’s what I believed right up until the extra woman burst my bubble. By the way, he said it all happened while we were on a break. Yea, mmm “girlfriends” don’t happen on a break. Hook-ups? yes, but official titles and  rankings too? Chile Bye.

We have to do better. I don’t care if it’s the current preference or the thought we gotta take what we can get.   We line up for Jordan shoes like Jesus is giving discounts to Heaven and load up on Popeye’s on Tuesdays for the weekly specials.  So, please don’t tell me we don’t show up when things are  important to us. Part of it is, we don’t like to be told what to do. But I guess I’d deal with Nurse Ratchet’s face than have to look at my doctor while he tells me I’m going to have to take 9 pills a day for the rest of my life. Yes, medicine can cure some things, but if we set a new standard to stop the cycle of unnecessary high rates of STDs in our community, we won’t have to worry about that aspect of sex.  Consider this my PSA for safer sex and making sure you are his ONLY gal around town.