WE ARE: 5 women navigating our twenties in search of peace, happiness and love (or not). WE WRITE: about everything and nothing. From the insane to the mundane- you will find different paths taken, lessons learned and lives lived. WE THINK: you’ll enjoy it...Warning: Consumption of these views may leave you enlightened while intoxicated.


The View From Here will conclude on Friday, October 1, our third year anniversary. We would like to spend this month thanking all of our readers, followers, haters, visitors, family, friends, and fans for your continued support, encouragement, and comments over these past few years. Thanks y'all!
-The Five Spot

Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm Not Your Superwoman

So what exactly do y’all think would happen if I gave up my Strong Black Woman card for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, shit a few years even? Would I ever get it back or would it be permanently revoked? I understand that as Black women we are supposed to be all things to everybody cause that’s how our mamas did it, our grandmamas did it, they mamas mamas did it…that’s how us Black women have survived through slavery, brutal rapes, family separation, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, segregation, discrimination, racism, strife, disease, poverty, and just regular day-to-day living. But I gotta admit something, I’m tired. I need a break. And I don’t even have kids or a husband, so I can only imagine the extra stress those things bring.

I do have what seems to be that innate gene in Black women that makes us feel that we have to carry the world on our backs, like Atlas. But what if we shrugged? What if we took time for ourselves and did what made us happy for once? Forget what our friends, our family, our church, our co-workers, our men (or the man we tryna get) say we need to do, should be doing, haven’t done, please volunteer for this, please cook something and bring it to the potluck, teach Sunday School, chair this committee, read this essay for your cousin applying to college, help mama with this, the dishes need doing, your husband or man needs loving, the kids noses need wiping…what if we just said fuck it all and lived for us?

This subject has been on my mind since I saw Keyshia Cole’s reality show The Way It Is on BET. Her sister Neffe went to a medical facility to be tested for STD’s because she found out that her last partner was a drug user. What she found out instead was that she was 6 weeks pregnant. Now this is a woman who already has 3 children, who is separated from her husband and has had a lifetime of hardships and strife. When she found out she was pregnant, her face fell, her whole body language just screamed defeated and you could tell that she was not prepared to have another baby.
Now, I could have gotten on my high horse and criticized her decision making skills, but the following scene with her riding in the car from the clinic shook me to my core. She started yelling and screaming (can’t remember about what) but it was clear that it was misplaced anger about finding out she was pregnant. And then it hit me. She is the face of depression. She is so many Black women who mask their depression by putting on that Angry Black Woman and/or Strong Black Woman fa├žade…you know the two can be interchangeable right? And sometimes they happen at the same time, when we get to sucking our teeth, rolling our necks, cussing and kicking that man out, talking bout we don’t need him, whilst making our kids a sandwich. Like so many Black women, Neffe had shoved her sadness into a deep, dark place and what we saw was merely a manifestation of that depression.

Luckily Neffe was getting therapy. But so many of us are not. We are carrying that tired, old, heavy mantra that we “can do it all by our damn selves.” Um, we can’t. We shouldn’t have to. We have to shift some of the weight (easier said than done, I know, I know). Alright then, we’ve got to drop some of the load. Admit that some things and everything just can’t get done. Admit that you need help. Cause you know what happens when you don’t. Depression reveals itself in: anger, overeating, low self esteem, substance abuse, sex, anything to numb the pain. Don’t believe me? I’ll kick it Dark & Stormy style and provide you with an article that provides some statistics. It seems true what they say, everyone but a Black woman, is entitled to a nervous breakdown.

When I look back at my childhood, one thing I admire about my mother (a mental health professional-go figure) was that she always took time out for herself. She always made time to get her nails done, her hair done, to hang out with her sisters and be away from work, husband and kids. Sometimes she would close her bedroom door and tell me and my brother that she needed to be alone and not to bother her unless we were bleeding. And we did as we were told and left her alone.

Sometimes when I tell this story, people (women in particular) can’t comprehend that my mother made time for herself. The fact that she took a few hours to herself seems so selfish. But I think that she understood the importance of being with herself, in stillness, peace and silence. I think this kept her sane, grounded and strong. Really strong. Now sometimes she took on more than she could handle, the Church Lady was more than just a nickname as she was Church School Director, Vacation Bible School Director, Board member, Girl Scout leader the list was endless. But when she became ill, she cut back. If she can’t or doesn’t want to do something, she says no. And she holds her ground.

As I get older, I find myself taking on a lot of responsibilities. And sometimes it becomes overwhelming: working, side hustling, volunteering, trying to fulfill my personal dreams and have a social life. And I wonder, who can I turn to if I’m always the one who is called on? When do I get to crack? Sometimes I fear that maybe I say “yes” to too many things, so that I don’t have to time to be sad. And that’s not the way to go either. Balance is necessary. Listening to my body and accepting my emotions are necessary. I am reminded of lyrics from Jill Scott’s song, I Keep : I keep smiling when I come through, and I cry when I need to…So, I am learning to find joy in all aspects of my life. I am learning to stop worrying about what I don’t have yet and just keep moving towards my goals. I’m learning to take care of myself first because it’s the most that I can do. I am beginning to accept that I can’t do it all. And I’m not even going to try. So let me get that Strong Black Woman guest pass.

That’s my time y’all! Happy Rum Punch Friday! Author’s Note: Tomorrow is World Aids Day. Please check Dark & Stormy’s post from Monday. The statistics are real. If you haven’t been tested, please do so. Know your status and be safe out there!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

lies my ________ told me

I’ve been trying to figure out for a while now why the mid twenties suck so bad. You know that time after you graduate and you begin making your way in the world. You no longer have the warmth and security of your high school days or the wild and fun times of college life,or even the getting-your-professional-on of graduate school. It’s just life. straight. no chaser.

and it burns like hell going down.

Note: not all of it sucks, like the Friday afternoon cocktail parties in that random conference room (or is that just my job?) and the after work happy hours that go until midnight. those are pretty nice. Oh and the weekend trips to New Orleans and the A-T-L and the All-Star Game are fantastic, made possible by that sucky 9 to 5.

but let’s stay focused. From about 24 years old to like 30ish life sucks. And I think I've figured out why…

It’s the lies…oh the lies we were told about the world of work. Went something like this:

“Son, daughter, sister, brother, homielover friend…anything is possible, whatever you want you can have.”

Boooooo double booooo! No it’s not. Everything is not possible, you can’t have it all, certainly not RIGHT NOW, and maybe not ever. you have to work hard, harder than you ever thought you would or ever wanted to work for anything in your whole life and you still may not get it.

Remember when your mama used to sit you down after she got your cute little report card in the mail and say baby, I’m so proud of you. You so smart, you can be anything you want to be.

Again I scream nooooo! I can’t! Cause I want to make six figures but I don’t want to have to work more than 80 hours per week at a big law firm where smug white boys (and girls) commonly called partners control my life, decide what work assignments I do and don’t get, and generally relegate me to a holding pattern for the first 3-5 years of my career where I get little to no substantive work but all the document review I can stomach. Now that’s real specific to my situation but ya’ll feel me right? In my mind, “you can be anything you want” meant literally just that with an “at any time” clause added on to the end.

Remember those stories of the 20 year old millionaires, the whiz kids who could catapult themselves straight to the top of the charts, even 'yonce is my age (allegedly) and she's doing all kinds of fantastical things, pushing directv and shit. Meaning I could be one of Ebony's top 30 under 30, fashioning a fabulous career for myself without toiling in the trenches.

Like those weird AT&T commercials where my phone can work in Tuscanewaustinland, I want to be a travelawyriterboutiqueowner person. But alas, if I also want to pay my student loans and save some money to buy a house I can’t be that, at least not right now.

And this is the cold hard truth I have to face on a daily basis. Swallowing that bitter pill that maybe just maybe it will take time (like more than 1 year) and even then maybe I can’t be every thing I always wanted to be. But where do I (we) go from here?

We can’t become our parents, working for the same employer at that thankless job for 20 to 30 years, collecting that fat pension check at the end of it all and riding off into retirement. Partly because we want to be fulfilled by our professions and overwhelmingly because those jobs don’t exist anymore. When’s the last time you started a new job and they told you, “oh yes, new employee, part of your benefits include a pension, fully funded by us.” Naw shorty! what you will get is the option of setting up a 401(k) where you make all your own investing decisions whether you are competent to do so or not and you will be lucky if you get a company match on that beesch.

As for solutions, I’m still trying to work through my own. I’ve made my 5 year plan of the skills I want to acquire, rather than what job I want to hold down, worrying less about the number of positions I’ll have during my twenties and more about branding mint julep as the ultimate legalwriternetworkerwoman and adding valuable names and faces to my rolodex.

Or you could try what this guy did. he’s trying out one job a week for a year. after graduating from college he became one of the "new workers wavering on the threshold of real life, determined to get it right, they say, and fearful that they might get it wrong." All the details are over here.

damn I wish I had thought of that first.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

can a brotha just be

For all my people out there that are not politically astute, have no fear -- be'cuz Bellini is your certified political junkie willing to help you out (fact #2 -- my bread 'n' butter degree is political science) . . .

So apparently, Obama has closed in on Hillary's lead in the Iowa polls (pay attention to questions 5-8). All the pundits are curiously watching the developments be'cuz Iowa is considered a watershed moment in presidential elections. For Obama its considered his make it or break it state and this is why : Hillary has been built up by the media as the inevitable candidate to beat for the Democratic and presidential nomination -- quite interesting considering half of Americans that would normally vote haven't made their mind up.

The Iowa Caucus is the first state to have their primary and its outcome will wield much influence over voters in New Hampshire (the 2nd state to have their primary following Iowa). He needs the wave of viability -- where wining Iowa will encourage New Hampshire to follow trend and recognize his electability so he can make it through South Carolina. But before we get to that point there are still 4 democratic debates that must take place. Any child of politics knows one gaffe (or whatever irrelevant, minor event the media chooses to zero in on) and a candidate can be screwed (do you remeber Howard Dean and screamfest, i don't even know what all the bruhaha was all about but the media had a field day and that was the beginning of the end of Dean's presidential campaign).

So, Obama I need you to be on your A+++ game, don't give any of your opponents or the media a wedge of opportunity at your expense. Buckle down!!! Now in the midst of all of this is Obama's secret weapon (besides his wife Michelle Obama) . . . Oprah.

What no political pundit or junkie is certain of is the Oprah effect. I mean Oprah can resurrect a novel from the dead and it goes #1 -- unbelievable. Now some people assume its easier selling books than a politician. nope not Bellini -- I think the latter. . . I think it should be easier selling a politician versus a book. I hope I'm right too, cuz I don't like how folks are just dismissing him from the history books it ain't cool. So, here's how Oprah is supposed to benefit Obama:
1. she is supposed to pull some of the women from under Hillary's hat,
2. she should pull some of the sistas back to Obama. . . and that my folks will give Obama the edge he needs to win!

There are too many hypotheticals that can happen in 2008 -- no one is guaranteed to win their party's candidacy nor the presidential election. So, let a brotha just be. . . don't rule him out before the last count. (fyi -- I am a registered independent , I don't have a peculiar inclination for any candidate)

For all my junkies out there, the fun is about to begin . . . I can't wait. Bellini will provide more political analysis in 2008. . . stay tuned . . .



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wading in Water

In a recent conversation with Rum Punch I revealed that I did not feel like dating anymore. I don’t know how she was able to suppress her laughter knowing that I haven’t exactly been on 100 dates like a friend of ours has claimed. But she went on to name the specific opportunities she suggested that I could meet new people and where I repeatedly and vehemently declined to go. With this I realized that I haven’t earned the right to lament about the dating climate for the black woman. Oh how easy it has been for me to sneak on the Strong Black Woman, and sometimes even the Angry Black Woman bandwagons where they welcomed, assumed and encouraged me to shout! I’ve carried the torches that incited many a conversation about how there ain’t no decent, educated, working, childless, single-like really, honestly and truly single-Black men out here. But really what do I know? I’ve only stepped into the dating waters a few times and ran ashore before I could feel how warm the water eventually becomes when you stay in it.

But you know what part of my problem is ya’ll?

Well maybe I should pluralize problem because it’s an extensive report complete with indexes, addendums and yellow sticky notes attached. But, aside from my reoccurring daydream that Mr. Right will fall from the sky and instantly be smitten and ready to wed…I dread those first conversations. Some people want to get money quick and I want to hurry up and get to the comfortable silences, the assumed weekend plans and the pet names. I know that period of caring and sharing until the wee hours of the morning is necessary before the relationship commences-and with the right person it makes missed sleep totally worth it. But with the boring, weird, wanna be playa, mentally slow, thugged-out and possibly gay (but he doesn’t know it yet) person it’s hard for a girl not to sigh over missed sleep and start dreading the getting-to-know-you process.

In the years since my Best Relationship Ever ended (please note years) I’ve had the chance to glorify that time in my mind. Another one of my problems, clearly it wasn’t that great since it’s ova right? This relationship was the first time that I let myself go. Just tossed caution to the wind. Turned a blind eye to the obvious signs of impending drowning. I lived and loved in the moment. I got real deep in ya’ll. But when it was over I was beyond heartbroken… And maybe that’s why I’ve been holding back, avoiding the dating waters for any reason, no matter how stupid. Just afraid of feeling that hurt and that cold again.

So I’m doing what a lot of women do and filling the relationship void with something else. Some of us use children, religion, knitting, promiscuity…and for me it’s my
Movie Guy. Another problem. Anyone else keeping count? My good ole reliable, just drop by on a Sunday night to watch Brother & Sisters with me Movie Guy. Someone who I can share my closeted love of the Red Hot Chili Peppers-which he gets because he’s letting me borrow his cd. We’ve been friends since high school so there are plenty of comfortable silences, heated arguments and weekend plans…but there is no future here. Knowing he’s no threat to my heart, Movie Guy has been a life preserver that's kept me safe during my time of healing… and still now. And that’s a not good thing anymore.

And there are more problems that I could list…but the ones I’ve mentioned have helped create and nurture fear. My big ole paralyzing fear that I try to brush off and ignore. But really, I don’t want to end up a spinster feeding a legion of cats…reminiscing about a love from decades past... becoming the neighborhood old crazy lady. So I’m choosing to walk toward, go in and stay in that water. Singing…

Wade in the Water. Wade In the Water Children. Wade in the Water.
God’s gonna trouble the water.
I stepped in the water and the water was cold.
God’s gonna trouble the water.
It chilled my body but not my soul!
…While I swim

See You in Seven

Monday, November 26, 2007

Public Enemy Number One

"The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.
The world won’t get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me."

- Wake Up Everybody, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

It’s all over the local news today. Front page of the Washington Post, DC Examiner, local radio news tidbits…. They’re all saying the same thing: DC's HIV/AIDS infection rate is 10 times the national average. Recent studies show the District's AIDS rate is the worst of any city in the countyr, nearly twice the rate in New York, and more than four times the incidence in Detroit. The Chocolate of the city, what’s left of it, is quickly crumbling away.

Warning: The Chocolate is tainted. Consumption of this substance can lead to death!

Why us? Why D.C.? What is it specifically about our residents and our city that has created this dynamic breeding ground for one of the top deadly diseases of the world? Our Nation’s Capital. Home of the U.S. Senate & House of Representatives, the Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institution and the Rock House (© dead prez). BET, Radio One, and NPR are based in the D.C. area. A gazillion federal government agencies are headquartered here. All this power floating around the city and none of it is being used to protect the home front. All this $$$ floating around and can't nobody stop, or at least slow down, the spread of HIV & AIDS with the city limits?
Now you know this PSA wouldn’t be dark & stormy certified without me breaking it down into numbers. Let’s take a closer look at the picture. The D.C. HIV/AIDS administration says that 80% of the cases involved in this study are black. And 9 out of 10 women who tested positive [within the study] were black women. Hmmm… Black. Woman. In D.C.
That’s me.

I don’t think you heard me. That's me. Me and your mama and your sister and your wife and your daughter. Grandmas too. We are the face of HIV/AIDS.

It gets deeper. While black folks make up a mere 12% of nation’s population (circa year 2000) , we are 60% in the nation's capital. In other words 343,000+ of Chocolate at risk. INCREDIBLE. How in the hell is possible? Shit don't add up to me. But I shall save the discussion of the origins of said epidemic for another day.
I do wish to point out that we cannot blame vanillafication for all of our problems. We must take responsibility for allowing our communities to deteriorate. It's easy to say "I didn't do it." Or "it's not my problem." I am bothered by our communal complacency and lack of urgency. Black women, the source of human life, are dying. Dying from a preventable illness. And I feel helpless in the struggle. To hell with the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, and the rest of these dumb ass “wars” waged on words. We must fight the war on genocide. This is some real ish. I am asking you what can we do? What can I do? I’ve done the workshops with teenagers. I’ve done the condom distribution at nightclubs with the National Urban League. I’ve donated money (and still do) to organizations such as the Whitman-Walker Clinic. It’s not enough.

So here is my challenge to you:

1- Spread the message, wherever you are. You may not be in D.C. but as long as you live on Earth, this message is relevant. Stop being scared to speak up and start saving your people.

2- Get involved. Period. Can't be preachin to the choir using binoculars from your second story bay window.
3- Get tested. Yes it's scary. Even when you know you get saran wrapped from head to toe at just the thought of sumthin freaky. It's still scary. What's scarier is your willingness to pass it on to a spouse or child in the name of ignorance-by-choice.

The Revolution Starts With You.

Tumultuously Yours,

Dark & Stormy