An Open Letter to Usher Raymond…I am Sorry

By Rhonda E. Frost

Usher, I am sure this is likely one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to endure. Confessions must pale in comparison. The past two weeks have had to be hell for you and your family. To have a deeply personal incident with your medical privacy violated and a previously settled lawsuit plastered all over the news, on social media, blog posts and gossip outlets, is unfathomable. My heart breaks watching it unfold.

I read one of the first stories to get the gist of it and then I saw the memes that were meant to be jokes, pour in on my social media feed. I read one or two of the comments with tears in my eyes. I simply couldn’t read them anymore.

I am ashamed that people turned this life altering situation, involving real people and a real disease into something entertaining. For that, I apologize to you. I apologize for the judgement, harsh words, the jokes and insensitivity. This story hurts my soul on many levels.

On behalf of our people, I am sorry.

I am sorry that its unfolding like this. I am sorry that someone gave herpes to you. I am sorry for the woman(or alleged women) who you exposed to it (knowing or not). I am sorry you couldn’t find the courage to tell them. I am sorry that now they want your money and that you will likely pay the hefty price for that secret. And I am sorry for the millions of people who have herpes and other STD’s that they have to live with, and who fear what you are going through.

Too many black folk in particular find this situation joke worthy. I apologize that our community finds humor in disease and in stories that hurt others. I am sorry that we have become disconnected to the point where we don’t stop to think before we pass along hurtful memes, videos or news clips that expose our people suffering. I apologize that basic humanity is no longer present in this social media, disconnected world that we live in. It’s all about the “comments”, “likes” and the “check” one can potentially get from a story.

Do the sharers of this news not realize that 1 in 6 Americans have herpes and that anyone can have it and not know because they are asymptomatic? Do they not know that statistics show almost forty percent of African Americans have this disease and that almost fifty percent of black women have it? Someone else gave it to these people too. Do they not realize that if these numbers are true(and apparently they are), that when they post these articles and jokes on their page, they are shaming and making fun not just of you, but also some of their own friends and family members who are also suffering? These millions of sufferers didn’t get a million dollar check when it was given to them, they simply had to keep it moving and figure out how to live with it. The lack of connection is mind-boggling.

And although not the same circumstance, I am reminded that just a week or two ago our people did the same with the Maia Campbell situation. Some clown(for lack of a better word) made a video recording of her at a gas station here in Atlanta, exposing her in one of her low moments. In the video, she is seen talking to the man recording and she tells him she wanted some “crack”. She looked disheveled, she was missing a tooth and was in a bra and panties(shorts?) at a gas station. It was painful to watch. The “brotha”(dubbed a “male friend” in one article),  added further insult to injury and said to Maia, “pump my gas” in pimp-like fashion, disparaging her further while continuing to record and mock her broken state. This black man thought it necessary to post this event on social media, I suppose in an effort to become relevant. The video went viral. It was shared thousands of times amongst our own. People thought it funny. According to reports, she has a crack addiction and suffers from mental illness. How the f*ck is addiction and mental illness funny? Shame on us! Shame on the man who made the video.  And shame on everyone who shared it to get a “like”. But I digress…

The callousness in our people at times is baffling. Did slavery, Jim Crow, lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of nurturing and poverty make us into insensitive human beings? Can we blame those real conditions on our current spirit? As if we don’t have enough issues and obstacles to fight, we have to deal with our own village frenemies as well. These are the same people(your fans), same magazines and news papers that applaud your music and talent, that showcase your success as an artist, your love as a father and who have honored you as a member of the black community. And poof! Just like that, you are reduced to simply a story line, and your business is all in the streets. Oh, what a fickle world we live in!

Social media can be like shark infested water, all they need is a little “chum” or for someone to fall off the boat, and the mindless feeding frenzy begins. Black folks in particular feed off of this kind of thing. We always have. We are the kings and queens of tear downs, demonstratively hateful gossip, and finding ways to shame one another or point out our brothers and sisters mistakes and missteps. I believe it gives those telling someone else’s news, a moment where they don’t have to think about their own misery, ugliness, vulnerability or pain.

Confessing an incurable disease is risky for anyone, but exposing it as a celebrity has to be the scariest thing ever. It’s another level of risk. People pay money for that kind of news story, whether you’ve infected someone or not in today’s “sell a celebrity story to TMZ for a check” climate. I am not excusing failure to disclose, I am simply pointing out the obvious. All of that aside, disclosing isn’t an option.

Living with disease, navigating dating and relationships with a diagnosis and trusting someone with that information has to be the highest level of risk out there. But to be clear, numbers don’t lie. Others are also keeping the secret for whatever reason and by doing so, are infecting other people in our community at an extremely high rate. We cannot continue like this! We have to find the courage to share the news. We have to talk about it openly and do forums that help ease the stigma and that provide a way to share the news safely. Millions of people carry this STI. You, Usher, have an opportunity, like Magic Johnson did back in the day with his HIV diagnosis, to make people aware of the disease and impact lives. The conversation has already started. It’s a wide open opportunity. You have this difficult moment to reflect and teach. Use it to be brave, to stand up and to create something meaningful. I will be happy to help you.

The good news is, herpes is not life threatening. All involved will find a way to keep going forward. You and all involved will bounce back and keep living. You must. Life surely goes on. The victims in your case will be a little more financially secure at your expense and though that doesn’t fix the life long condition, it certainly makes life a little easier for them. Again, millions upon millions of people have it, who never were given money to ease the pain or shame or give them the means to buy medications, pay bills or take a vacation to clear their head.

The statistics with STD’s and it’s impact on our community are real. We have to care enough about each other to have the honest discussion. We have to get tested. We have to set aside our own discomfort to protect others. And we have to hold those discussions in confidence on both sides. We have to care enough about our bodies to use protection especially, if we aren’t brave enough to talk about the elephant in the living room or ask for test results. We also have to do better at becoming caring human beings and not using these stories to bolster our own numbers(“likes”, “friends”), or to gain notoriety by furthering the pain.

The moral to the story is: if you have a disease and you don’t tell someone, you put them at risk, and they don’t get to decide on the act or relationship with all the facts. That is a costly decision. And this applies to every aspect of our dating lives, not just STD’s. We have to have the conversation(s) about things that aren’t pleasant as well. It’s the only way to know if what you share is real. It’s what grown people who care, do.

At the end of the day, this story will give way to the next big news story. Soon and very soon, it will become just another blurb in the social media news spectrum and the sting of the jokes and the headlines for this will fade. Let this be a wake up call about dating, relationships and our sex lives. This isn’t so much about you as a celebrity, as it is the cost of not speaking up and the reality of how hard it is for us to talk about issues to our own people.

And for the people with all the comments and jokes, let this be a reminder to return to compassion and to remember that just because something hasn’t affected us yet, doesn’t make us exempt and that we need to be mindful that even though we may not be impacted, we might have a friend, or family member who is(go back and look at the statistics then look at how many “followers” you have, it’s a given that some of them have it). Words are powerful. Use them to uplift, to improve your people, to offer guidance and advice, to make positive change, not to be the antithesis to that. We have enough mess in our community to overcome, let’s not add to it by jumping on the popular mean-spirited bandwagon.

Usher, my sincere hope is that you will rise from this moment better than you were before, to care more about the people in your life, to protect women and to be open and honest. My hope is that you and the women involved in this unfolding story will all be able to live happy and full lives and that when it’s all said and done, our people will do better.

Let this be our Magic Johnson moment of truth on this topic. Let us be brave enough to keep the conversation at the forefront in an enlightening and honest way and let us be better for it.

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An Open Letter to the Man Who Asked “Why We Women Celebrate Being Single, Knowing We Want a Relationship”

I read a post the other day from one of my male Facebook friends who asked “Why do you single women celebrate being single, knowing you want to be in a relationship?” Then he mentioned Beyoncé songs having us “messed up”.

Well the long and short answer is: Even though we women are plenty powerful, we can’t make someone be in a committed relationship with us, last time I checked, it takes two. Regarding “celebrating being single” well yes, of course. If I wake up and I’m single, I celebrate my life as it is. I enjoy my moments, hours, days and years as they are, not as I wish they were. To that point, I want 10 million in my bank account, but since it’s not there (yet), I celebrate the $100(give or take a few dollars) that’s left over after my bills are paid. And I want a baby blue Continental GT V8 convertible Bentley, but since I don’t have it, am I not to celebrate the great car I have? How should we live our lives when we don’t have exactly what we want? Should we be unhappy, angry, sad, miserable and bitter?

To your point, yes, of course many of us want to be in committed, loving, supportive relationships or even married, but it’s not about us and what we want. We can only manifest so much on our own.

Shall we talk?

Let’s keep it 100. There are so many men playing games and playing house, that it will make your head spin. Some men are maximizing their social media outlets, dating apps, work relationships and social outings using them as springboards into new vaginas. They go from one woman to the next, like a honey bee pollinating flowers. It’s not an easy task to have a man see the value in loyalty, love and commitment with one amazing woman, when his options are wide open and each day adds new forums that allow him to dabble in something new.

Today even men in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are still “sewing their wild oats” like a boy in high school. No, not all. There are some men who are seeking marriage and commitment. There are faithful, committed and happily involved men who lead their households and take care of their women and children, men who show love and appreciation for the women in their lives. I personally know a few. But this isn’t about those men. This is about the “others”.

As for me, when I think about spending the “rest of my life” with someone, I don’t want to settle for just OK. I want it to feel right, not just in the bed, but after the “nut” too (yeah I said it!). The next morning and throughout each day, I want my spirit to feel good about my life with him. I need him to be my friend, the keeper of my secrets, the one I trust with my heart and time. The one I can watch Steeler football with and share laughs.  A partner who will love me, care about my family and perhaps teach me something. And to be clear, yes, I’ve had people want to commit to me and I’ve had a person or two since my divorce, that I cared enough to commit to, but the Universe, timing and fate had other plans. So “single” it is for now.

And finally, can we go there? Can we talk about the millions of married people and people in “relationships” who are miserable and barely holding on? Can we talk about the men and women who cheat to augment their unhappy “couple” lives? The ones who tell their friends and loved ones how miserable they are? The ones who hate to go home after work because they aren’t in love or they argue all the time? The ones who are in relationships but bored to death and lonelier than many single folks. Can we talk about that? Dare I say, they (you) should probably celebrate in our joy, peace and freedom.  Note: All single people aren’t unhappy and all coupled people aren’t happy and in love.

Regarding music and it’s impact…though I am not a Beyoncé record buyer per se, I do love some of her music. And a few of them do resonate. One of them is called Best Thing I Never Had“, when I hear  this song, it makes me feel grateful for the ones that got away. And then there’s Irreplaceable that song that too many of us can relate to and there’s If I Were a Boy that reminds us of all the things you do that we put up with. I could go on but you get the point. Settling is not an option, not anymore. Don’t hate on Beyoncé. Trust that when we have a good man, we will take care of him and we will ensure he knows we have his back and his front. We got this! In the spirit of songs, what we need from you is to say Never Felt This Way and Spend my Life With You and then we will be able to say I Know.

So do us a favor, don’t ask us “why we celebrate being single”. We celebrate life with or without a man because that’s exactly what we are supposed to do until we find the one person who is ready, willing and able to add value, stability, peace and joy to our lives.

Now back to my life. As you were.

Rhonda E. Frost

 

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Dear Future Husband: A Grown Woman’s Thoughts on Dating

I don’t necessarily want to know what college you went to and what degree you obtained, I need to know if you can communicate in good and bad times in the wee hours of the morning and late at night, about things that matter.

I don’t care how many S550s, Bugatti’s, BMW M6 special edition cars you have, what your 401K balance is or where you go for vacation; I need to know if you will be there when I call, to make sure I’m OK. I need to know if your word is “bond”, if I can trust you to protect my heart and if you care enough to be fully present when we spend time.

I’m no longer impressed by titles and the extras after your name, (Dr. MA, Ph.d, VP, or President of so and so- I’ve dated them). I need to know if you are kind and affectionate, if you will care for me if I become sick and pray for me when I can’t pray for myself.

I need to know what makes you feel alive, your fears and your back story. I want to know the parts of you, you’ve never told anyone. I need to know how you treat your Mama, your kids, and those you say you love.

I don’t need to hear another promise, or necessarily be told how beautiful I am (though that is always nice ), I need to know that you see my inner being, my scars and stretch-marks and the beauty and grace of my soul and in my story.

I don’t need to spend weekend after weekend on another pointless date hanging out with you at the “spot” or making love without purpose or meaning (that’s something I don’t need to practice, I’m good at that); I need to know what you want to do and where you want to go…with us.

I don’t really care how much “swag” you have, how many Purple Label fine suits you can pull out of the closet, or how many Gucci driving loafers and silk ties you can rock on any given day. I need to know who you are when I am not looking and who you are when I am.

Your fine-ness, collegiate accomplishments, snazzy cars, credit score and dollars in your bank are icing on the cake-of-you. If the rest of the above is missing, we won’t make it.

Let me love you, laugh with you, be with you and move towards eternity with you. That’s where this grown woman is today.

 

by Rhonda E. Frost

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Dear Future Husband: We Almost Had Forever

by Rhonda E. Frost-12/15/16

You are this enigma. This amazing man who pours on the appeal and feeds a woman everything she needs to hear and feel, and then you disappear for inexplicable periods of time, leaving her “fiend-ing” for more, craving a hit, like a washed up heroin addict.

You communicate with precision, grace and fluidity when you feel like it and then you shut down on a whim, like a level IV prison after someone’s been stabbed. It’s the most complex thing I’ve seen.

I wish I understood this. I wish I understood why the Universe felt like I needed you to enter my life? What was the lesson or purpose? And why didn’t it let us get to the promised land?  Yeah that’s what I want to know.

I wanted to know you. What you felt about love, trust and relationships. I wanted to go to a park and run or walk with you, go to concerts and plays. Have get-together’s with friends and play dominoes and spades, while Kem, Tamia, J.Cole and Ne-Yo entertain us from the playlist.

I envisioned making love in the morning and then making you breakfast before you left for work.

I wanted us to cook dinner together and try new recipes, while sipping on Patron margaritas (with salt on the rim) and that tasty splash of Grand Marnier.

I wanted to work with you and learn from you. And build an empire.

I wanted to trust us.

I wish I had gotten past the surface to know your secrets, to learn your hustle, and see your real feelings.

Mostly I wanted us to fall in love and stay there. I guess the Universe had other plans.

Perhaps you were saved from me and I was saved from you. And perhaps instead of mourning the loss of us, I should stand in gratitude for having shared those beautiful, temporary moments in the first place.

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Don’t Awaken Her Love…if You Have No Intentions of Loving Her

Bob Marley has this quote that says, “The biggest coward is a man who awakens a woman’s love with no intention of loving her.”

And to that I say this: for any man entering (or trying to re-enter) any woman’s life…if your intentions are dishonorable, if you want only to take and not give, if you aren’t clear about what you want and need, if you aren’t emotionally (or otherwise) ready, and if you cannot add value: emotional, joy, love and financial value and commit to the process and the relationship, then do yourself and us a favor and keep it moving.

Don’t open a woman’s heart if you have no intention of doing right, being right and loving her. And if you aren’t capable of loving and staying-then stop before you start. To be in it, you have to be “ready, willing and able…”(in my Jaheim voice). If you play games, or dabble in it…if you toy with her emotions and heart, be ready to manage whatever the outcome of that looks like. Don’t play victim when it gets real. At this point in life, none of us have time for anything less than ALL IN LOVE. Most women have had enough of the nonsense, I know I have. I won’t do it anymore. Come correct or don’t come. Either way, we will be fine. Love us or let us be!

Now that you know…let’s proceed~

~by Rhonda E. Frost

 

 

An Open Letter to Exes

If you break up with someone or get a divorce there’s usually a reason that occurred. There was something that wasn’t working to the point where it made sense to let that person go. That being said, it’s natural to miss the one you loved or still love for that matter. Let’s face it, breaking up is hard and we all reminisce and sort through memories of times you shared with that someone who was special at one time or another and we all imagine what it could have been like had they worked for us. We all do that.

But here’s the deal, if you broke up with someone and you go back to someone else or you move on quickly to the next person before your heart is healed or before your mind is clear on what you want and need, it creates a messy situation and potentially a hurtful situation because what you will find after the salve of him or her over your wounded needy heart has dissipated and the excitement of someone else filling that empty space has worn off, you wake up and realize one of these things: 1)they are not what you really want or need, or 2) the relationship isn’t going to work for a myriad of reasons, 3) you realize you just aren’t ready for another relationship or 4 ) you miss the person you had-and then you have to back out of the new situation and risk hurting someone. Sometimes you can back out peacefully and amicably, sometimes not, because emotions are a tricky thing.

Now the other piece to this very important message today is this-if you move on to the next thing and you find you aren’t as happy as you might have envisioned…don’t, and I repeat DON’T pull the one you left back into the fray. Don’t text them, don’t send subliminal messages, don’t send sweet songs for them to listen to, don’t send flowers, don’t tell them you miss them and by all means, don’t tell them about your current or failed new relationship! All that does is: 1) it keeps them connected to you and keeps their hopes up of rekindling(which is what you hope it does) and 2) it creates a volatile situation for all parties. And above all of that, it’s selfish.

So if you have moved on, know that the other person is also trying to move on. And you calling, texting and sending mixed messages doesn’t serve the healing process. You trying to keep them in the relationship matrix because the new thing isn’t as good as what you had, isn’t fair or right. This is how people get hurt, physically and otherwise. The only time you should reach back to rekindle love with your Ex is if: 1) you plan to do right, 2) you have cleared the mess you created, 3) you’ve apologized for the wrong you’ve done and 4) both people want the same thing at the same time.

This is about feelings and raw emotions and selfishness. Be careful with folks hearts. It’s not a game. Playing with fire will often times get you burned or in street terms get you f*cked up!

In closing, the next time you decide to move forward with someone else, take a good hard look at what you have and examine the value and what they give to you and do for you and if you decide after that evaluation to go on, then do that and never look back but don’t do that and keep pulling others back in for your selfish needs. And if you disregard this PSA and do it anyway, well don’t act like a victim when the sh*t goes bad. You get what you get.

~Rhonda E. FrostMe June 2016

No Time for Half-Way Love

the hourglass of time

I humbly admit, at this time in my life, I don’t know how to love someone “half-in” or “half-way”. I’m fifty-two years old. I’ve done it before and I just don’t want to anymore. I don’t have time for “almost in” love relationships.

I don’t want to hold surface conversations with shallow words and topics (not for long anyway). I want to go deep.  I want to know you and I want you to know me.  In the words of Rascal Flatts, “there’s a place in your heart, nobody’s been, take me there. Things nobody knows, not even your friends, take me there…I want to know everything about you…” that’s the kind of connection I seek. I want our “soul print” boxes to connect as Marc Gafni speaks about in his book Soul Prints. We can’t get to “soul print” connections on the surface. I don’t want to withhold compliments or touches. I want you to know I appreciate what I see and I want you to feel my touch. And I want to the same in return.

I can no longer tolerate pretense or to act like things don’t bother me when they do, or  act like I don’t see or hear what I see and hear. I don’t know how to get to know you without asking questions or clarifying issues. I can’t kiss without passion or make love like it doesn’t matter. Sporadic love, communication and intimacy doesn’t interest me.

Everything matters now. Every second matters. Every word matters. Every touch matters. Time is of the essence. The hourglass of time is turned upside down and the sands are trickling down, it won’t be too long before they are gone. I want each of my remaining minutes to be filled with passion, laughter, joy, love and purpose. I want my life to be connected and if we(whoever “we” are) choose each other, then I say, let’s be all in, let’s leave fear at the door and let us show each other what it means to love, protect and respect each other. If we can’t have that, then we can’t have anything.  No, I can’t do “half-way” love anymore. I’d rather fly solo until my present and ready someone arrives.

 

Rhonda E. Frost