Tag Archives: ASK JANICE

ASK JANICE CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL: Have You Cyber-Partied With Your Girlfriends, Yet?

As we wrap up another Women’s History Month amidst a global pandemic that has us all doing some form of “social distancing”, I want to celebrate the tenacity and ingenuity of friendships between Black women. Even in the face of “shelter in place” and mandatory quarantines, sistas are gonna find a way to celebrate each other … together.

That’s because Black women have a long and storied history of “making a way out of no way”. So if we decide to co-opt various teleconferencing apps to have cocktails and dance parties with each other in the face of impending doom, then that’s what we’re gonna do!

Listen. We’re all stressed these days. This latest coronavirus, COVID-19 (or “the Rona”), has changed everything. Every single day, we’re losing our loved ones to this insidious disease. Here in the U.S., thanks to the abysmal response of the current occupant of the White House, we’re seeing our death toll rise exponentially every day. Of course it’s hitting Black communities especially hard. You know that old saying, “When America gets a cold, Black people get pneumonia?” Well, that’s never been more true than now.

At this point, I don’t even know anyone who hasn’t been personally touched by this virus. It’s bad, y’all. Really bad. And the fact that we haven’t even peaked yet is terrifying! So it’s more critical than ever that we all abide by the “shelter in place” rules so that we can stop the spread. Which means no Happy Hour meetups, no brunches, no in-person socializing with our favorite friends.

But … what that Rona NOT gone do is stop a sista from getting that all-important, rejuvenating, re-charging, gut-busting-laughter-filled time with her girlfriends! We have the technology to stay connected, even as we responsibly “social distance” ourselves from each other. And Black women everywhere are taking full advantage of it!

This past weekend, my social media was absolutely buzzing with women sharing pictures of their Zoom cocktail parties, their Skype brunches, and other online group events. Also, thanks to a few famous DJs going viral with hours-long Instagram and Facebook Live parties, folks were having full-blown dance parties with their friends, all from the safety of their own homes!

And boy, do we need some fun, right now! I mean, there’s only so much gloom and doom we can take. It’s been a relief to turn off the president’s lies and cyber-party with my girls. We’ve shared cocktails, danced, laughed, and cried together … even though we’re forced to be apart. These virtual get-togethers have given me LIFE, and I can’t imagine doing this quarantine thing without them.

So if you haven’t done so yet, check out platforms like Zoom or other web conferencing options, and gather your girls for a cyber-party! They’re easy to use and totally worth the effort. We need our girlfriends, ladies! Remember … in today’s world, sometimes “we all we got”!

Stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy!

#datrona #COVID19 #sistafriends #girlfriends #cyberparty #getyourgrooveon #blackwomen

ASK JANICE: Reflections on Black History Month 2020

It’s the last day of Black History Month 2020, and what a month it’s been! We started the month with the much debated Gayle King/Snoop Dogg kerfuffle following the untimely death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant in late January. I won’t rehash the whole thing here, but suffice it to say, “misogynoir” was in full effect, as were the ongoing debates about celebrity, legacy, and redemption.

We’re ending the month facing a global pandemic in the form of a deadly new coronavirus which, if it spreads as fast as some experts predict, may prove to be the end of us all. Countries are issuing travel bans, Japan has closed all its schools for a month, they’re talking about postponing the 2020 Olympics, and even the stock market is freaking out. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, folks!

Amidst all the drama and fear, the looming U.S. Presidential election is on everyone’s mind. Despite what the current occupant of the White House’s propagandists and minions would have us believe, the majority of African Americans fear another four years of this Administration almost as much as the coronavirus. Except for a few outliers like Diamond and Silk (or as I like to call them: Cubic Zirconia and Polyester), and the 14% of self-hating Black dudes who voted for him, most African Americans want to send that orange menace back to the swamp from whence he came.

Which brings me to the point of this Black History Month reflection: the right and responsibility to VOTE.

It’s fitting that this year’s Black History Month theme is “African Americans and the Vote”, which recognizes the struggle for voting rights among Black men and women throughout American history. I know we say this during every election cycle, but the 2020 Presidential election really is one of the most important elections in our nation’s history. Especially for Black people.

Especially for Black people.

From the time the first stolen Africans were brought to the U.S. in 1619 to now, any rights and privilege of citizenship have had to be violently wrestled from the hands of the white supremacists who’ve ruled. This is especially true when it comes to voting rights. Following the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved persons, Black men were constitutionally given the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870. The Amendment stated that “voting rights could not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Of course, we know that even though Black men could vote legally, there were violent forces in place that suppressed their votes, effectively silencing their voices.

It would be another 50 years before women were allowed to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. However that Amendment did not initially include any women of color, and most certainly not Black women. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was passed 45 years later in 1965 that Black women were officially allowed to vote in the U.S., a full 95 years after Black men got the vote. NINETY-FIVE YEARS!

1965 wasn’t that long ago, y’all.

Anyway, that brings me back to this very important 2020 Presidential election, and how it’s more critical than ever for Black people to exercise their hard-won right to vote. I know Black women will turn out in droves to vote, because we always do. And when we do vote, we tend to vote in our best interests (96% of us voted for 45’s opponent in 2016 – a statistic that is forever burned into my brain).

What I’m worried about is voter suppression. Several states have been purging their rolls of legitimate, eligible voters in record numbers. Deliberate misinformation and propaganda from everyone from Russian bots to Republican operatives are being fed to Black and brown communities via social media, television, and radio. And I fear we’ll see the same slippery and violent tactics used during Reconstruction come election day.

So we must remain vigilant, watchful, and deliberate in making our voices heard. We need to double and triple check our voter registration status, and encourage our friends and families to do the same. We need to keep up our voter registration efforts and educate as many young people as we can, so that they will become engaged and participate.

And most importantly, we cannot forget our history when it comes to having the legal right to vote. Black women were only officially allowed to vote in 1965. Think about how hard our foremothers had to fight so that you and I could have a say in how we’re governed. Think about the voter intimidation, literacy tests, and other obstacles our foremothers faced even after the the Voting Rights Act was passed. And think about how even in the 21st century, there are strong forces out there seeking to take this fundamental right away from us.

Think about it and VOTE.

And wash your hands.

 

 

ASK JANICE: Have You Fully Embraced the New Year or Decade, Yet?

So, we’re about a month into the new year and the new decade … how are y’all doing? If you’re anything like me, you were really looking forward to making BIG changes in this new decade: better health, greater wealth, and a whole lot of happiness. After all, it’s the 20s again, the second decade of the 21st century! Anything’s possible, right?

Meh.

I’ll be honest. I’ve gotten off to a pretty slow start when it comes to making those BIG changes.  For me, this brand new decade feels eerily like the last one, and that’s a bit of a letdown.

I can only blame myself, though. I just haven’t fully embraced this new year or this new decade. I’ve been stuck in a twenty-tens mentality, looking at things through 2019 lenses.  All that’s about to change, though. I’m ready to start looking at the world with 2020 vision! (See what I did there?)

Making BIG changes in your life always starts with perspective and attitude, and adjusting those are up to you (or me, in my case). It all starts with being open to change and being ready to try new things. Then you set your goals, make concrete plans to achieve those goals, and off you go to a newer and better version of YOU!

Being open to change is important because a new attitude and new ideas can help you heal from past hurts. And it’s usually our past that keeps us from embracing our future. We get so mired in our same old ways of seeing and doing things, we get stuck. And being stuck ain’t no place to be when you’re looking to change. Opening yourself up to new possibilities and embracing a new attitude will start you on your new journey. And your new journey will get you past that old pain and lead you to the BIG changes you seek.

A new journey doesn’t have to be something radical like a new career or relocating to a new state. It can be as simple as discovering a new park near your home, so that you get out and walk more. This can help you achieve your goal of getting healthier.

Or you can set out to find 5 Black businesses to support and promote, which will help you reach your goal of keeping more Black dollars circulating within the Black community. Speaking of dollars, if your goal is greater wealth, you can start researching investment opportunities, open a new savings account, or look for a part-time job.

Maybe your goal is to give back, so you start volunteering a couple days a month at a local shelter or soup kitchen. Or you can join the one of the dozens of other organizations doing good work in the community, and lend them your time and talents. The possibilities are endless!

The point is to open your mind, set some goals, and start planning. We can do this, y’all! We may have gotten off to a slow start, but with renewed energy and open minds, it’s not too late to take this new decade by storm. Here’s to living better and happier going forward.

Here’s to a great decade!

#newdecadewhodis #2020vision #2020 #newyearnewyou #ASKJanice #SuzyNew

Photo Source: Pixabay

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: It’s World AIDS Day 2019 – Do You Know Your Status?

December 1st is World AIDS Day – do you know your status? If you don’t, you really should get tested, especially if you’re a Black woman. No, really. You should!

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community”. This couldn’t be a more fitting theme, because as a community of Black women, we still have much work to do.

The good news is, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), between 2010 and 2016, new HIV diagnoses have declined by 25% for African American women. This is a better decline than seen globally, where new HIV diagnoses overall have declined by 16% since 2010.

But, like I said, we still have work to do. Consider that while HIV diagnoses have declined, in 2017 (the most recent year statistics are available), women in the U.S. made up 19% of the new HIV diagnoses. Of that number, 86% were infected by heterosexual contact, compared to only 14% infected by injection drug use. Half of the women infected that year were 25-44 years of age. What’s especially troubling for our community is that 59% of the newly infected women were African American. That’s more than half!

Even scarier, the CDC says that 1 in 9 women with HIV don’t even know they have it. That’s not surprising, considering HIV testing rates among women are alarmingly low. With 86% of new infections coming from heterosexual contact, that means that nearly 4 decades after HIV/AIDS was first discovered, there are still far too many Black women out here having unprotected sex with men!

The CDC says that in general, receptive sex is riskier than insertive sex. That means that women have a higher risk of getting HIV through vaginal and anal sex than their male partners. And, while we may not want to admit it, too many of us don’t know the risk factors of our male sex partners. When you then add the fact that women are less likely to get tested, it’s no wonder we’re still seeing so many new HIV diagnoses among Black women.

Here’s what I need you to do: GET TESTED AND LEARN YOUR STATUS! 1 in 9 of y’all are walking around out here infected and missing out on life-saving medications and treatments! If you’re 25-44 years of age and engage in heterosexual sex, then you’re at an even higher risk.

First thing tomorrow morning, make an appointment with your doctor or plan to visit a clinic. Consider it a form of self-care, if you will. And remember, an HIV diagnosis isn’t the death sentence it used to be. But you MUST get tested to get the treatment you need to prolong your life.

So get tested and know your status. Let’s end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our community now!

HAPPY WORLD AIDS DAY 2019!

#WorldAIDSDay #GetTestedKnowYourStatus #GetTested #KnowYourStatus #WorldAIDSDay2019 #EndTheEpidemicNow

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Wanna Know Why I Never Told You He Was Beating Me?

When I fled my abusive relationship for the last time (yes, I left and went back), one of the first things my well-meaning friends and family asked was why I never told them what was happening to me.

“Why didn’t you say something,” they’d ask, looking concerned and confused.  “I could have helped you. I could have done something!”

And I believe them. Had they known how horrible my life had become, I have no doubt that they would have done their best to help me. But all this happened more than twenty-five years ago. Today, I’m healed, emotionally healthy, and over it—and have the clarity of hindsight to see that my friends and family would have helped me.

But back then, not so much. Because when you’re in the thick of things, in the middle of a Hell that you’re convinced is of your own making, you can’t see anything clearly. Fear and shame consume you—they’re your constant companions. And when you look at your family and friends, you often can only see judgment and derision. You know their opinions about women who stay in abusive relationships.

Here’s the thing, though: 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. 1 in 4! And Black women experience domestic/intimate partner violence at rates 35% higher than white women. In other words, it’s is happening more often that you realize because we don’t talk about it enough!

Consider this scenario: You have a childhood friend with whom you’ve always been close. Lately, she’s not around as much as she used to be. You assume it’s because she’s all wrapped up in her new relationship. And at first she was. When things were new, she couldn’t get enough of him. They spent nearly every waking moment together.

But back then, you still heard from her—she called you. And even though she mostly just bragged about her new love, it didn’t matter. She was happy.

Then the calls became less frequent. And when you called her, she’d rush off the phone, sounding hurried and distracted. Mutual friends casually mentioned that they hadn’t seen her in a while. “It’s her new guy,” you’d tell each other. “They’re never apart these days.”

Soon you get used to her absence, to not talking to her as often. You miss her, but you don’t want to be that friend who seems like she’s trying to sabotage her new love.

One day you bump into her at the grocery store, and you’re shocked by her appearance. She’d always been so meticulous about how she dressed, especially in public. And now she’s wearing sweat pants—she’d never be caught dead wearing those outside of the house or gym! Yet here she is, not only in sweats, but they’re stained, and she’s wearing a baggy T-shirt, her hair, usually perfectly coiffed, now pulled into a sloppy ponytail. Her fingernails are ragged and unpolished.

She looks tired.

But you’re so happy to see her you pull her into a tight hug. She stiffens in your arms, as though she’s in pain. You let go—surprised. And then you take a really good look at her face.

She won’t meet your eyes.  Her mouth trembles a little, and her lips are chapped. Is that a fading bruise on her cheek? You’re thinking. No, it must be the lighting.

You exchange pleasantries, but you can tell she’s not really engaged in the conversation. You get the feeling that she wants to leave … that she’s not really happy to see you.  You feel uncomfortable, but you can’t exactly put your finger on why.

“How are you?” You ask again, only this time you mean it.

“Fine,” she answers briskly. “Really, I’m fine. Just in a hurry. I need to get home.”

“I won’t keep you, then.”

Something tells you she isn’t fine at all. You have an inexplicable urge to pull her into your arms again, but you don’t. Against your better judgment, you ignore your instincts and send her on her way. And in your gut you know that something is terribly wrong with your once outgoing, vivacious, beautiful friend.

Here’s what you don’t know: Your friend would love nothing more than to fall into your arms and ask for help. But she won’t. She can’t. She’s too ashamed. As awful as you think she looks, she believes she looks even worse. In a relatively short period of time, her boyfriend has gotten into her head and convinced her that she’s ugly, stupid, and worthless.

Your friend no longer puts any effort into her looks because he’ll either accuse her of dressing up for some “other man,” or he’ll just tell her she looks like crap anyway—so there’s no point in trying anymore.

Sweatpants are her new best friend.

She doesn’t call anymore because she’s embarrassed by her life. That wonderful guy she bragged about in the beginning has turned into a monster. And she knows that if her friends knew how bad things were, they’d think she was just as stupid as he says she is—and maybe she is. After all, she still loves him. So maybe she’s getting exactly what she deserves. At least that’s what she thinks.

You don’t see her as much because that’s what abusers do: They isolate their victims from friends and family. They do it subtly, though. He’d never go so far as to say that she isn’t allowed to see you—that’s too direct and he’s much smarter than that. Instead he manipulates her into staying away by doing things like picking a fight with her when she comes home.  That way, the next time you invite her out, she’ll decline in order to avoid another fight. Or he’ll accuse her of loving her friends more than him. So that she’ll stay home instead of upsetting him. He uses her love for him like a weapon.

And those fights she’s so eager to avoid? “Fight” isn’t exactly the right word, not when she always ends up sprawled on the floor. At first, it was more yelling than anything. She could hold her own back then. She always did have an acid tongue. But then he became cruel, saying things that cut her to her core. And he twisted her words and used them against her.  And all the while, he was playing the wounded one who couldn’t understand how she could treat him so badly when he loved her so much. There were the accusations and recriminations, wild scenarios forged in the deep valleys of his twisted mind. Her smart mouth never stood a chance against his emotional brutality.

By the time the first punch landed on her jaw, her psyche had been beaten to a pulp. And don’t be fooled by the shell of a woman you just saw at the grocery store. She used to fight back. She even got a few good punches in, especially that first time. But he’s stronger than her. Bigger than her. He’s been throwing punches all his life and she never even got a spanking as a child, so she never stood a chance against him physically, either.

You ask yourself, If it’s so bad for her, why didn’t she say something to me? I was right there! We’ve been friends since childhood. Surely she knows that I would help her!

Does she know that, though? Does she really? Or does she look at you, her childhood friend, and remember the time you said, “I don’t understand why women stay with men who hit them”?

Remember when the Ray Rice abuse story first broke a few years ago, and you all were having drinks? Remember what you said? You said, “If a man beats me once, shame on him; if he beats me twice, shame on me. That woman was an idiot for marrying him after what he did to her in that elevator!”

Your friend remembers those words. And even though she knows you love and support her, she can’t help but wonder how she’d change in your eyes if you knew what was really happening. Understand that she wants desperately to leave her current situation, but doesn’t know how. She may also be convinced her abuser will hurt whoever does try to help her. Remember, he’s in her head, even when he’s not beating her.

Trust your instincts, though. You know your friend. And from that encounter in the store, you know that something is definitely wrong. So please, don’t be afraid to follow up with her.

Start with a phone call. But ease into it: Don’t immediately launch into how you think she’s being abused, or anything like that. If her abuser’s at home when you call, she won’t say anything of substance, anyway. You simply want to convey the message that you’re concerned and want to help. Keep your words loving and gentle—and pressure-free.

Say something like, “I know you’re busy now. But when you have a few minutes to yourself, give me a call. I’m worried about you and want to help. I love you.”  Keep the call brief, but be clear: You’re worried, you want to help, and you love her.

If she doesn’t call back right away, call her again. Keep reaching out to her, but try to reach her when you know she’s away from him. Remember, your goal is to help, not endanger her any further.

Be prepared for her denials. Shame, guilt, fear, and even worry for your safety will keep her from opening up to you. Just gently remind her that if she’s in the kind of trouble you suspect, she has no reason to be ashamed. You love and respect her, and just want to help.

The reality is that professional intervention, possibly involving law enforcement will likely be required. If that’s the case, don’t attempt to handle this on your own. The deadliest time for a woman trying to leave an abusive relationship is from the moment she thinks about leaving, up to a year after she leaves. So you must seek professional guidance from the experts. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-779-7233. Let the experts help you help her.

You need to know that an abuse victim leaves her abuser on average seven times before she leaves for good. So, even if your friend leaves this time, she may go back. This is where your friendship will really be tested. You’ll be disappointed and even angry that, after all the work you did to help her escape, she willingly goes back. And your anger is understandable.

But an abuser’s most lethal weapon is his ability to manipulate his victim’s mind. Breaking his hold on your friend will take time, patience, professional help, and a whole lot of hard work on her part. You just have to keep loving and supporting her, even when she disappoints you. 
Try to resist judging her: It will only make things worse.

It’s painful to watch someone you love suffer domestic abuse. It’s also hard to understand why women stay with or return to the men that hurt them. But leaving is far more difficult than people think. Fear, lack of financial resources, and shame are just a few of the reasons women stay (or return). If children are involved, it’s even more complicated. Many women truly have nowhere to go. Shelters fill up fast and are few and far between. And sadly, as far as we’ve come in this country with regards to strengthening laws to protect women, it’s still way too easy for abusers to track down their victims and murder them. So some women just stay, hoping to survive another day.

As friends and supporters of abuse victims, we need to be more educated about the dynamics and mechanics of domestic violence. And most of all, we need to shed our own preconceived notions about the victims. They need our support and empathy. I learned that the hard way. I used to sit in judgment of women who stayed with their abusers, too. And I stayed on that high horse until the man I loved knocked me off with a punch.

Photo Credits: Black Doctor dot com, Elixher dot com, Jet Mag dot com.

(Janice first published this article in Dame Magazine on October 29, 2014. She updated it for this publication.)

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Will You Celebrate World Mental Health Day?

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day for all of us to raise awareness of mental health issues and advocate against social stigma. The primary focus for this year’s World Mental Health Day is suicide prevention. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families and entire communities, and profoundly impacts those left behind.

Worldwide, every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide. That adds up to close to 800,000 people per year, and doesn’t even include all the people who unsuccessfully attempt to end their lives. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for today to be about “40 seconds of action” devoted to suicide prevention. Experts believe that, with the right intervention and help, many suicides can be stopped before they happen.

You can do your part by using your social media platforms to raise awareness of mental health issues and the importance of suicide prevention. You can also encourage your churches, mosques, clubs and organizations to include mental health awareness programming throughout the year. And most importantly, you can lead by example, and make your own mental wellness as big a priority as you make your physical fitness.

For far too long, mental health issues have been ignored, swept under the rug, and deliberately misinterpreted as weakness of character. This needs to stop. Seeking and accepting professional help for your mental well-being takes real strength. So if you need help, please talk to someone.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, and you live in the United States, the suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Help is available 24/7/365.

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Can We PLEASE Redefine the Strong Black Woman?

Sisters, we really need to redefine what it means to be a Strong Black Woman.

Listen.

I long for the day when a Black woman’s strength isn’t only measured by how much mistreatment she can endure. When you’re strong because you have to be, people tend to forget that you’re only human: fallible, vulnerable, and capable of feeling pain.

I’d love for people to recognize the strength it takes to be vulnerable and ask for help. It isn’t easy to let your guard down and bare your soul. It’s hard to be open and raw and deeply honest about who you are or how you feel. To do so takes real guts.

I want to redefine the Strong Black Woman image to include not just our resiliency in the face of oppression, but also our beauty when we’re broken and our joy when we’re ecstatic. I want it to include the full range of what it means to be human. We’re as complex and confusing and confounding as anyone else, and should be allowed to be our full selves without being considered “weak”.

The image of the Strong Black Woman as society’s “mule” persists, most certainly because it serves both white supremacy and the patriarchy to do so. But it persists also because we, as Black women, allow it to.

Consider the way we praise the long-suffering Black girlfriend who puts up with her man’s cheating, beating, or whatever, only to finally “get the ring” years later when the guy finally settles down and proposes.  This sister is celebrated, by men and women alike, as “strong” and “loyal” and “deserving”.

I call bullshit.

She was “deserving” before she spent the best years of her life waiting for that man-child to grow up. She would have still been “strong” had she kicked him to the curb, even if it meant being alone. “Loyalty” in the face of mistreatment isn’t commendable, it’s just sad. And we need to recognize that a woman’s strength has nothing to do with her ability to endure heartache from her romantic relationships.

Further proof of how this unhealthy notion of the Strong Black Woman is so deeply entrenched in our culture is how medical professionals treat us compared to how they treat white women. For example, studies have shown that in the U.S., Black women are prescribed opioid painkillers far less often than our white counterparts. On the one hand, this has resulted in fewer opioid overdoses among Black women than have occurred among white women. On the other hand, this also proves that Black women are expected to be able to endure more pain.

And it goes beyond pain management, too. I mean, don’t even get me started on the ridiculously high Black maternal mortality rate in the United States. But that’s a topic for another day. The bottom line is that this outdated, misogynistic notion of the Strong Black Woman is literally killing us!

When you’re seen as impervious to pain and abuse, you’re easy to hurt and abuse. When you’re strong because you have to be, people tend to forget you’re still human. And it’s easy to ignore your humanity because they think you can take it.

Sure, we can take it. Black women can take whatever life dishes out, and look damned good doing it, too. After all, we embody Black Girl Magic in spite of our oppression. We continue to show up and show out for the people we love; we run successful businesses and build empires; we’re the backbone of our places of worship; we enrich our culture with our art and talent; we dominate sports that a few decades ago were completely closed off to us; we serve our communities from the grassroots to the military to elected office; and we change the world with our scientific and technological genius.

In spite of everything thrown at us, we rise, we conquer, and we flourish! So yeah, Black women can take it.

But we shouldn’t always have to.

#NotYourMuleAnymore #StrongButHuman #BelieveBlackWomen #RespectBlackWomen#ListenToBlackWomen

Photo: Pixabay

Girlfriends: The Power of Friendships Between Black Women: ASK JANICE

 

Given the pervasiveness of rape culture, misogyny, and especially misogynoir, I’ve come to believe that we women need more safe spaces that are just for us. Let’s face it, sometimes, regardless of our relationship or marital status (or even because of it), “we’re all we got”!

So we need each other to keep us sane, keep us grounded and more often than not, keep us from catching a case! The powerful energy that a good group of women friends produces can be transformative. I know this firsthand because I’m blessed with the most amazing and supportive girlfriend village, ever!

That’s why I decided to celebrate the power of close friendships between Black women. Socially and culturally, our society seems to be at a crossroads between progress and regression. On the one hand, the rise of the #metoo movement has caused a dramatic shift in how we view the treatment of women, especially in the workplace. On the other hand, the fact that R. Kelly is still a free man with a musical career is just one example of how entrenched rape culture is in our society. It also illustrates a general lack of regard for Black girls and women.

There is still so much to do for women, especially Black women, to attain equal status. Being at the intersection of racism and sexism leaves us especially vulnerable in a world where the powers-that-be (namely white men) have dug in their heels to maintain their power. And the reality is, we don’t have a lot of support out there.

Sure, there are some allies in our fight, but non-Black women tend to focus on issues that center them rather than us; and Black men tend to center their activism around racial issues alone, without any regard for the Black women in their ranks. This has been true since the 19th century, in both the early feminist movement and the early Civil Rights movement. And not much has changed, despite the Black woman’s tireless efforts on behalf of both gender and racial equality.

So today, I celebrate the power of friendships between Black women. I do so for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because there’s no way I could have made it this far without my girlfriends.

Full disclosure: I adore men, and my village is filled with them.  I’ve never bought into the notion that men and women can’t be friends. I have several close male friends who mean the world to me. Most of them are married with families, now. So of course the dynamics of those relationships have changed. But the friendships are still true and strong. And I wouldn’t trade any of them for all the riches in the world.

But I can’t imagine my life without my girls. I have friends I’ve known since before we lost our baby teeth, wore bras, had our first periods or experienced our first kisses. Girls I went to grade school, high school and college with are still my closest “homies”. And I’ve even made some very dear friends as an adult.

These women are my rocks, my beacons of light during my life’s storms. They’re my comfort when I’m down and the first ones I call when I’m happy. They’ve seen me through every failed relationship and heartbreak. They’ve been by my side for every victory and triumph.

My close friends propped me up when I’ve faltered and lifted me when I’ve fallen. They prayed for me when I lacked the faith to pray for myself. My girlfriends have celebrated my greatest moments with me, like the birth of my son. And when I lost most of my immediate family in the span of just a few years, my girls were the ones who literally held me up when I couldn’t stand on my own.

When I’m in a hole of despair, I have friends who will climb right in there with me, wrap their arms around me and hold me. Then, when they know I’m ready, they’ll gently help me find my way home.

My girls don’t judge me for my quirks and oddness. They get that I’m more than a little nuts. My many mistakes haven’t driven them away yet, and they continue to put up with my insane misadventures. For some reason that I just can’t fathom, they love me despite all my faults.

Sure, we’ve had our fights. We’ve fought over stupid stuff like lipstick and who’s going to bring the ice to the next party. We’ve bickered. We’ve bitched. And we’ve gone months and even years without speaking. But the reunions were always joyous and somehow, despite the time and/or distance between us, we managed to pick up right where we left off.

None of this comes easy, though. Like any relationship, friendships between women take work. We have to be willing to deal with each other’s crap. If one friend is always late, you have to swallow those snarky remarks when she finally gets there, because you know you love her anyway. And if you know your other friend is going to spend over an hour complaining about a guy she should’ve dumped three years ago, you listen anyway. After all, she’s done the same for you.

It’s also important that we accept each other where we are, which isn’t always easy. As our lives change, so do our relationships with each other. We’re always growing and changing, and our friendships have to follow suit.

We have to be understanding when one of us needs space, and present when one of us needs comfort. We have to listen when we really want to talk, and hold our tongues when we want to say “I told you so”. And at the core of these and any successful relationships, is mutual respect.

Not every friendship is the same. You know what I mean. You have those friends to whom you can turn for career or financial advice and they’ll never steer you wrong. Then there are the “good time” girls who turn every outing into an adventure. You never know where you’ll end up by the end of the night, but you know you’ll have fun getting there.

Of course there are the friends with whom you can talk for hours about anything, happily picking apart any manner of subjects, no matter how trivial. And there are the sounding boards, the ones you bounce ideas off or just generally bitch to. They’re always willing to listen, to let you spill your guts.

And there are the girlfriends who will always tell you the truth, even when it hurts. They’re the “straight shooter” friends and everyone needs at least one. Who else will stop you from leaving the house looking a hot mess? She’ll take one look at you, and lovingly but firmly tell you that you need to completely re-think your outfit or hairstyle or shoes.

I don’t know where I’d be without my spiritual guides, always ready with the perfect Bible verse for any situation. They remind you to keep God first, which is probably why you’ve made it as far as you have. And they will pray for you even when you don’t think you deserve it.

Oh, and we can’t forget the friend with whom you can share every dirty little secret. You already have a pact with her that if you die first, she must immediately empty your “secret” drawer and erase your browser history before telling anyone the bad news. Phew! I’m so glad I have me one of these! And she knows I’d do the same for her!

And of course, no group of friends is complete without that ride-or-die friend. She’s the one who’s got your back no matter what. If you call her upset and ready to crack some heads, her only question is “Your car or mine?” She’s always on your side, even when you’re dead wrong. She’s the A.C. to your O.J., willing to drive the white Bronco as you run from the police.

I know girlfriends can never replace a spouse or a life partner. They’re not supposed to.  But they can enhance your life is so many beautiful ways.

Yes, I love my family deeply. But God chose my family for me. I chose my friends, and they chose me. That makes our bond truly remarkable. It’s a bond of choice. We’re here for each other because we want to be. And I wouldn’t be anywhere else!

Pictures from Pixabay, onyxtruth.com, and financialjuneteenth.com

 

How Do You Beat The Holiday Blues? ASK JANICE

Woman not happy about her laptop against snow falling

Do the holidays have you stressed and pressed? Are you buckling under the yuletide pressure to buy the perfect gifts for your loved ones? Is it hard for you to remember the “reason for the season”?

Listen. The holidays can be fraught with angst and stress, despite the happy faces we put on for the public. There’s the obligatory work parties to contend with, along with various family functions and family drama, financial pressures, year-end job stresses, etc. It’s enough to make even the jolliest of souls a little crazy.

If you’re feeling “Bah Humbug” and have lost your holiday spirit, here are 5 simple ways to lift your mood and end 2018 on a positive note:

1. VOLUNTEER: You know that non-profit or charity that you’ve always admired from afar, but never really got to see how they do what they do? Well, here’s your chance to get up close and personal with them! Volunteering your precious time helping others is a wonderful way to give back to your community and improve your mood. I know you’re busy, but even 2-3 hours will do the trick. Giving your time and talents to those less fortunate than you is great way to change your perspective about your own life, reminding you of your many blessings. So, go ahead and call that charity or non-profit and ask how you can help for a few hours this holiday season.

2. DONATE: If you don’t have a lot of spare time to volunteer with your favorite charity or non-profit, writing a generous check may be just what you need to lift your spirits. Every organization that’s working hard to make the world better could certainly use an infusion of cash, and you’ll be able to take another tax write off for 2018. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. You can even go a step further and ask your friends and family to donate, as well; or, make the donation in their names. This will get everyone in your circle in the giving mood and do some real good for others, too. After all, it is better to give than to receive.

3. VISIT A CHURCH (or other place of worship) DIFFERENT FROM YOUR OWN: Even if you already have a church home (or if you don’t), visiting a different place of worship during the holidays can be a beautiful, uplifting experience. There’s something about strangers coming together for praise and worship that reminds us of our common humanity. Hearing different testimonies, sermons, and even hymns can offer you a fresh perspective on your own faith, and strengthen the bonds you already have with the Almighty. Besides, being welcomed into a new or different place of worship can tap into a level of love you’ve never before experienced, and you just may get some new friends out of it.

4. ADOPT A CHILD OR FAMILY FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Check with your pastor or others who are “in the know”, and select a child or family in need to “adopt” for the holidays. You could buy toys or presents for the child(ren), or provide a delicious holiday meal with all the trimmings. Maybe they need coats, boots, or other winter-wear. Or maybe they need a utility bill paid. Whatever they need, your generosity will go directly to someone who could use it. Again, giving to someone less fortunate than you not only helps others, but will surely put you in the holiday spirit.

5. UNPLUG, DISENGAGE, AND JUST RELAX: Maybe what you really need is to simply re-charge. You’ve been running all year, working hard, and probably putting others’ needs before your own. In fact, you’ve probably worn yourself out taking care of everyone else. If this is the case, then you need to take some time to unwind, relax, and allow yourself the time and space to reflect and re-charge. Logoff your social media accounts for a few days and disengage from all the noise and madness. Treat yourself to long baths and afternoon naps. Have a spa day. Catch up on some reading. Spend a day or two in bed watching sappy, Hallmark movies; or binge watch that show everyone’s been talking about, but you haven’t had a chance to see. Take some time for renewal and refreshment before you tackle a new year.

The holidays can be hard to get through, and many people really struggle with sadness, depression, and/or grief. These tips are merely quick fixes and won’t help someone who’s really suffering. If you’re having a harder time than usual this year, please reach out to your loved ones or seek professional help. The suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Is A Threesome For Me? ASK JANICE

Dear Janice: I really hope you can help me with my problem. My boyfriend of 2 years wants me to have a threesome with a mutual female friend of ours. She’s game, he’s game, but I’m not. At all.

I’m not a prude by any means. I personally don’t have a problem with people having threesomes if that’s what they want to do. In fact, under different circumstances, I might even be down for a threesome. But I don’t want to do this.

My boyfriend keeps bringing it up, trying to change my mind. Even the mutual friend has brought it up to me. I feel like they’re putting all this pressure on me to do something I don’t want to do.

I love my boyfriend and don’t want to lose him over this. Should I just go ahead and participate in a threesome to keep my man happy? What should I do?

Please help.
Sincerely,
Happy with Just the Two of Us

Three friends relaxing at the beach.

Dear Happy,

First of all, you should NEVER do anything sexually that you don’t want to do. Period. Full stop.

That said, I understand your quandary. On the one hand, you want to keep your man and make him happy. On the other hand, you’re not feeling a threesome. So, what should you do?

You did say that under different circumstances, you might be down for a threesome, but you didn’t elaborate. So my questions to you are:
1. Under what circumstances would you be down? Maybe you could counter-offer with a scenario you would like. That way, your boyfriend gets his threesome, but it’s in a way that you like, too.
2. Would you be down with a different woman? Maybe it would be easier for you if the third person was a stranger? The partner he suggests is a mutual friend. I could see how that might be a little awkward, especially if you all run in the same circles. A stranger or at least someone not as well-known to you both might be easier to handle in the long run.
3. Would it be better for you if the third person were a man? I know a lot of straight men aren’t cool with the idea of sharing their woman with another man right in front of them. And a lot of straight men also worry about “crossing swords” with each other. But if this scenario is more appealing to you, maybe your guy would be cool with it.
4. Would you be more into it if you and your boyfriend weren’t so serious? You did say that you’ve been with him for 2 years, implying a certain level of commitment. Maybe if you two weren’t as serious, you might be more inclined to share him with another woman. If this is the case, you need to express that to your guy.

Since you said you’re not opposed to threesomes in general, there must be a reason why you don’t want to do it with these two people. It could be for the reasons I listed above, or it could be something else.

Whatever the reason for your not wanting to engage in a ménage-a-trois with your boyfriend and this mutual friend, I stand by my original statement: you should NEVER do anything sexually that you don’t want to do.

Also, you might want to ask a few questions, yourself. Like, why is he so insistent on having a threesome with this particular woman? And why is she so insistent? Is there some reason they’re both pressuring you?

I think you need to dig a little deeper, Sister. I see red flags all over this one. But still, you should stand your ground. If you lose your guy over this, then he wasn’t the one for you.
Good luck.