Coming out… Repeat that?

Image of famous LGB Poster found on

Image of famous "....Too Straight" LGB Poster found on

I remember the first time I saw this poster at the Fire Station House (I believe it is now called the “Pride House”) on Stanford campus.  It is quite difficult still to capture in words the precise feeling of joy that the sight gave me.  The idea of these famous people of different races and talents were identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual was beyond belief and tremendously comforting, especially for my then 17 year old self.
I spent my undergraduate years working actively as a member of the lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer/questioning community (LGBQQT… Yes, we tried to cover everyone).  In some ways, I hoped that my work on campus was meaningful and helpful.  For myself it was as it meant doing something for my community and also belonging to a community.
The reality was that back then I did not feel accepted as a part of the Black student community either while in a southern public high school or at Stanford due to my sexuality.  Being Black, lesbian, and highly partial to heavy metal and dressing goth didn’t seem to fit in with what I understood those community expectations to be, which were to be… straight and into hip-hop/rap and R&B (okay, I did some stereotyping of my own ;))  Also,  I never seemed to fit in with the profile of people’s notion of a “Jamaican.”
Apparently, I didn’t sound Jamaican (and still don’t I’ve been told).  I didn’t act Jamaican (this is due the aforementioned heavy metal/goth thing).  I was also a good student and made friends within the non-Black community (this was an issue in high school not college).  All of these factors afforded me the label of “oreo” in high school, i.e. “Black on the outside, White on the inside.”  Teenagers can be so very cruel… and tedious.  Regardless of the critique, I still continued to be my quite strange Jamaican self to this day and am the happier for it.
Coming out

"True Mirror Image," photography by Dolores Juhas (2010). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve never really had to “come out” in any really major ways.  I told my mother I was a lesbian when I was 18, but then proceeded to confuse her by dating men for a year after that.  I also took my first girlfriend to prom in 1995, but that failed to make the headlines in central Florida even though the issue continues to cause scandal in the south.  I guess Poinciana High was ahead of its time, but didn’t know it.

My sisters eventually asked me some years after my coming out to my mother if I were indeed a lesbian, and I believe I answered them.  We are a private family for the most part, and can be evasive in disclosing our personal lives.
From the time I arrived at Stanford in 1995 until… well… last year, I have managed to live a life completely and utterly surrounded by the gay community.  I actually didn’t have any straight friends that I could readily identify.  I could take it a step further actually.  I actually didn’t really have any gay male friends I could readily identify.  That’s right, I have spent a good portion of my adult life surrounded solely by women, primarily lesbians until recently.
Being known as a lesbian has been a crucial part of my identity.  It is something that most people would have known about me within… oh, five minutes of a conversation.  My self-identity was a kind of list that I could state like this, “Hi, I am D. I am Jamaican.  I am lesbian.  I am a confirmed Catholic.  I am Buddhist.  I am a therapist….”  and so on.
I suppose one could say that every conversation was a process of coming out.  In a way that is the lot in life for those of us who are perceived as “different” in some way from the majority of society.
Repeat that???

"Not the self-destruct button" found at I had to include this image... It was just too funny not to do so.

I believe it was my senior year at Stanford when a lesbian friend of mine asked to speak with me about something personal-I should have recognized my calling then.  Of course, I thought that this was going to be news of the start or end of a relationship.  I was right.  It was news of the start of a new relationship.  The relationship, however, was not what I expected.

She sat me down and told me that she had met someone very very special in the past weeks.  I said things like “Uh huh” (being a young adult and all).  She then told me that this very very special person was a man.  I said things like “Uh huh.”  (being a young adult and all).
And then it hit me.  She said the word “man,” but she is a lesbian like me.
It was jarring.  However, I have a tendency to be open to change.  This was simply a change and one that I could easily accept.  She was my friend that was all.
What was shocking was to hear that when she had told other lesbian friends about her new love, they had abandoned her and had felt betrayed by her…  (It made me think of the 90s lesbian film Go Fish.)  Wow, I thought… I am so glad not to be in that position…
Repeat that????

"If you had 5 minutes...," collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

Fast forward some decade plus to my current life.  My ex stated to me, in no uncertain terms, approximately two years ago that she thought that I was straight or interested in dating men.

Now, given the fact that I’ve self-identified as lesbian since the age of 11, the idea seemed quite preposterous.  Even my dating of men at the age of 18 was a complete experiment on my part… and it was an utter disaster-even my mother told me to quit while I was ahead!
More recently as my world has expanded to include more diverse groups of people, I recognize that I am open to dating whomever I please.  Does it mean that I have de-label myself “lesbian”?  Should I now proclaim bisexuality?  Eh, I don’t think so.
I am simply myself.  And to be quite frank, I am quite sick labels in general… and if I must have one, then I will go back to the good ole tried and true “Queer” that was (and possibly is) so popular in California.
Until next time!

Self-potrait, photography by Dolores Juhas

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at or email her:  She has her own blog at

So… Into What? Pretending…

"Arms Full of Words," photography by Dolores Juhas (2011). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Truly, no one owes anyone else an explanation for his or her relationship preferences.  When it comes to breaking the news to someone else that you cannot return romantic interest, then it becomes important to consider what you say as well as when and where you say it.

Think back to the first time or last time (or any time) that you have told someone that you “liked” or “loved” or were “interested” in him or her.  How much courage did it take?  Did you deliberate over it for some time alone?  With friends?  With family?  Did you feel vulnerable telling this person how you felt?  Were you worried about being rejected?  Were you concerned that he or she would never speak to you again?

Use your memories of emotional vulnerability to guide your words when speaking to someone about your feelings (or lack thereof) for him or her.

So, what might be good to say, if not “I am not that into you” or “I am not into you” or something similar?  Well, I am no dictator.  I believe each person can find his or her own words through the experience of empathy.

I am so into…

I might, however, suggest some guidelines (truly, this is in no particular order):

  • Focus on the positive of the person. Compliment who he or she is.  What you like about him or her.
  • Be honest about your incompatibilities.  You know… things like, interests, values, religion, culture, height, age, sexual preferences, psychological baggage, relationship status… Whatever “schtuff” (as a former colleague of mine would say) it is that you get hung-up on when you are considering someone for a relationship. Really… be honest with yourself too!
  • Be truthful.  That is, do not lie… I promise, it will come back to haunt you.
  • Be honest about what type of relationship you think can work between the two of you.
  • Be open to dialogue and encourage the other person to speak about his or her feelings, i.e. if he or she wish to do so.  Either way, allow the person to know that you are available in the ways that you can be in that moment (everything has a time limit… and the duration of that time limit should be relative to the nature of the already established relationship)
  • Be clear.  Do not leave hope.  That is, do not say things like, “Perhaps in the future…”  or “Maybe one day…”  This only causes confusion and leads the person to hang on/remain hopeful.
  • Compliment the person on his or her ability to speak with you about his or her feelings.
  • Move on… from the subject.  Normalize as quickly as possible.  This will help to alleviate the feelings of awkwardness between the two of you.  There is no need to have a long and drawn-out conversation about the issue, especially if you are clear.  If the person needs space, then allow him or her to take it… and then move on from the situation yourself.

So, what might a conversation be like?

"The Revenge of Pride," photography by Dolores Juhas (2010). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Well, let’s pretend ;) 


Person A: I really like you… and I was wondering if you would like to go out some time.

Person B: Wow, that was an unexpected compliment.  Thank you so much.  I like you too.  Going out for coffee would sound interesting, but I could only do so as friends.

Person A: Oh… I… I thought you liked me…

Person B:  I do like you, but only as a friend.

Person A:  But why only as a friend?

Person B:  Well, because typically I tend to date people who share the same interests as myself, and I know that we don’t share many common interests.  It would make things difficult.  Also, although you are a physically attractive person, I am not sexually attracted to you.  I know that that is probably hard to hear and I hope it doesn’t hurt our friendship.

——— This would be the move on point———

Okay, so… Some people might say that this statement is harsh and hurtful.  Well, it may be hurtful in the moment and for a moment.  It is, however, clear and caring.  That is, Person B is direct that there is no hope for a romantic relationship now or in the future, but she or he really wants to maintain the friendship/relationship that is already established.  Above all, it is respectful. 😉

After that interaction, I would suggest that if Person A felt wronged…. then grab a friend and a copy of the film “He’s Just Not That Into You“… watch, commiserate, laugh and learn… then come back and read my blog. 😉

Until next time!




Self-potrait, photography by Dolores Juhas

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at or email her:  She has her own blog at

Just not that into… What?

"This is Rome..." photography by Diedré M. Blake (2011)

I am the least romantic person I know.

I write this with a slight smile on my face, because I know that there will be friends, former partners, and family members who will be vigorously nodding their heads in agreement.

To say that I am practical about relationship matters is an understatement… I am downright analytical.  I weigh the pros and cons of all situations.  I attempt to look at all sides objectively, and am usually successful.
Why am I writing about this today?  Well, after writing the last three posts, you know, about relationships… I began thinking about my take on different aspects of what it takes to build relationships…;)

I mentioned in the first post on men that I truly disliked the expression of being or not being “into” someone.  I am taking a look at this today and tomorrow…

I will admit two things: 1) I am writing my way into this piece… 2) I am listening to the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” in the background.


Just not that into…

As much as I love the film “He’s Just Not That Into You,” I dislike the expression as I have mentioned repeatedly.  Yes, I am all for being straight-forward.  This expression, however, seems to take away from rather than give to the person who is on the receiving end.  In fact it is truly vague.

I could say I am into yoga. What does that really mean? It could mean that I like the meditation aspect of yoga.  It could mean that I am into hatha and not ashtanga yoga.  It could mean that I like to watch people do yoga, but am not inclined to do it myself.  It could mean that I am interested in learning yoga. It could mean that I once studied yoga.  It could mean I am Buddhist.  It could mean that I am attempting to live  a yogic lifestyle.

I could say I am not into clubbing. Again what does that really mean?  It could mean that I dislike going out late at night.  It could mean that I dislike loud music.  I could mean that I like to dance, but I dislike dancing in a room full of people.  It could mean I don’t know how to dance.  It could mean that I think going to places where there are clubs is dangerous.  It could mean that I feel I am too mature or too immature or too intellectual or too artistic to be associated with clubbing…

Get my point? Saying someone is or isn’t into something doesn’t actually say a whole lot.  Perhaps that’s the point–I don’t know.  Imagine, however, if someone said to you, “I’m sorry, but I’m just not that into you…”

Well, how would you feel?  What would you understand from this statement? Are you left with questions or answers?

Sure, there is one thing that is clear:  this person is not wanting a romantic involvement with you… Maybe

I wrote “maybe,” because of the use of the word “that,” which seems to hint at some already established interest.

More importantly, there is also an undercurrent to this statement, that is that… there is something missing or lacking in your qualities (physical or otherwise) that makes this person not into you…

But what if you could change? (I can see the wheels beginning to turn in some minds already…)

Okay, granted if someone said to you, “I’m sorry, but I’m not into you,” then this is more definitive.  Still, it leads to possible the questions:

“Well, what are you into?” or “Why?”

Until next time!



Men… As promised… (part 2 of 2)

"Zed," photography by Dolores Juhas. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

  • Finally, men over 35 are perhaps more ready (read here: financially, emotionally, psychologically, physically… hopefully) to not only seriously consider marriage, but to also follow through with putting a ring on your finger the actual wedding day…

I cannot credit “Ask a Guy” Eric Charles’ responses with providing me with all these lessons.  I also learned a great deal in talking with friends and clients.  I listened to what was going well in their relationships and what was not working as they would like.

I also took the time to read a free kindle book (well, it is no longer free, but reasonably priced) on titled Master Dating:  52 Brilliant Ideas by Lisa Helmanis.  This book gives a wonderfully practical and accessible approach to examining and changing your behavioural patterns in your relationships with men.

As I generally am a just-rip-the-bandaid-off sort of person, I appreciate the author’s directness and clean style of writing.  The book covers issues from self-esteem to dating older/younger men.   My favourite chapters (almost all…) are:

  • Where are you at?
  • Too much information
  • Love mechanic
  • Facing the facts
  • If you meet this man, run
  • Keeping the boyfriend box clear
  • Putting the past where it belongs
  • Why men love bitches
  • The big freeze
  • The phone stops ringing
  • Breaking up is hard to do
  • Getting over rejection
  • Ex alert
  • How to make anyone want you
  • Green-eyed monsters
  • Real confidence
  • Are we there yet

Yes, there are actually other chapters 😉

Keeping promises…

So, what have I learned?  First, writing about men is difficult for me and second, I enjoyed keeping this promise.

No really, what I have actually learned is that like women, men (generally speaking here) want to be in relationships with someone who is whole.  What I mean by that is that they want to be with women, who have health self-esteems, have full and happy lives, and who understand the balance and value of give and take AND space and togetherness in their relationships.

Eric Charles says that men enjoy the chase (I think this was one of the hunter-gatherer references…) So, allow men to DO things for you, rather than you doing things for them.  Allow them to WORK for the relationship… You know, in the past I think we called this courting.

He says, “…it’s very important to get fulfillment, entertainment and love from many different areas of your life, not just from one lone man.

Also, having a full and fulfilling life makes it much easier for you to extend only as much effort towards the relationship as he’s extending.

… whenever you put effort into a relationship with someone, you are investing in them.  Whenever they put effort in, they are investing in you. If you are waiting by the phone for him to call and to make time for you, then you’re probably the only one doing the investing.”

Lisa Helmanis says that women should give to men what is appropriate to the status of the relationship.  So, don’t start by giving to men every possible gift that you can, otherwise what can you do to top yourself?  Holding back giving the best parts of yourself at the beginning means that you have more of yourself to offer later…

She says, “Now think of yourself as an expensive wine, give your next man too much, too soon and you’ll make him drunk with excitement, a bit unsteady on his feet, and then eventually sick at the very sniff of you.  Dole out your loving nectar in well measured portions.  You need to give him the chance to savour every mouthful, and be excited about anticipating the next.”

Perhaps thinking about yourself as something to be consumed might not be your ideal metaphor… So, she also says this,

“Be aware that anything that comes too easy doesn’t seem valuable.”

Until next time!



Self-potrait, photography by Dolores Juhas

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at or email her:  She has her own blog at

Men… As promised… (part 1 of 2)

Untitled, photography by Dolores Juhas. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved

I will be the first to admit that I know very little about the not-so-fairer sex.  (Well, the guy in this picture is pretty fair… don’t you think? ;)).  This may have something to do with the for-so-long-queer issue.  It may have something to do with the primarily working with females issue.  I mean, really, my life has been surrounded by women:  from five years living in a convent to three years attending an all girls high school to working in treatment programs for girls.
More recently, however, I have found myself surrounded by, engaged in, and pondering about the world of men.  And oh man (pun intended) it is fascinating… Of course, more fascinating to me is how women, whom I know, view men in their lives and in general.
Want to know about men? Ask a Guy
Since early last year, I have spent time visiting the site A New Mode.  It is a site dedicated to addressing the relevant topics of the modern-day woman, which has nothing to do with me.  Thus, I always go to the only area of interest to me, “Dating & Relationships.”  Why?  Well, it’s as I have stated above, I have spent a great deal more time recently talking about men with women.  Hence, I enjoy reading about dating and relationships, especially if there is a unique and/or male perspective.
And A New Mode most definitely has a perspective that is both unique and male…  It comes in the form of advice columnist Eric Charles in the section titled “Ask a Guy.”
In “Ask a Guy” Eric answers a variety of questions, e.g. “Why is always the girl’s fault?” and he writes special segments titled “Decoding Male Behavior,” in which he tackles topics such as the male perspective on “neediness.”  Of most importance to me is his style of relaying the information he deems necessary for readers.
If you are expecting any kind of sugar-coating, there is none.  He is quite in-your-face about his understanding of male behavior AND why, at the end of the day, women need to learn to accept the men in their lives or… move on.
Okay, so what’s my point?  The point is Eric has taught me a great deal about men (from his perspective).  That is, men…
  • are more action-oriented rather than word-based
  • need space to resolve their issues than “help” (so, don’t try to fix him…)
  • men know how to use a telephone.  Really… they do.  They know what text messaging is and don’t suddenly lose their visual and digital capabilities upon receiving your text messages.  They are simply choosing not to respond.
  • do things one thing at a time… So, if he is reading, he is reading and doesn’t want to be disturbed.
  • men’s concept of time is profoundly different from women.  This goes back to both the action-oriented and one thing at a time issues.  That is, men are less aware of the time that is passing since you last sent that text message, left that voicemail, email, Skype/Windows Live message.  They are focused on getting things done… and responding to you goes in order of sequence. Don’t take it personally.
  • If a man is “into” you (I really dislike this expression), you will know.  Why?  Because he does what he says he is going to do.  Simple.  He calls when he says he will.  He shows up when he says he will.  So… Stop asking him, your friends, your family, random strangers…
  • If a man is not “into” you (I really really dislike this expression), you will know.  Why?  He does not do what he says he will.  Simple.  He may call you sometimes (randomly).  Show up when it is convenient for him (maybe).  He certainly will not be responding in any reasonable timeframe, if at all, to your messages (no matter the format).
  • Men don’t like “needy” women.  Now, let’s clarify that.  I believe “needy” here would be in the category of emotionally insecure and co-dependent women, who are seeking a relationship to feel more stable/more whole/more accepted… etc.  Women who need someone to show them the beauty of who they are.
  • Men don’t like to feel needy.  So, men like to feel in charge of their world, their destiny.  They like to know they can provide for themselves and their loved ones.  I believe Eric mentioned something about our primal days when discussing this issue…
  • Men choose to heal from break-ups in multiple ways.  Some take a lot of time to be alone and sort themselves out while spending time with friends.  Others become quite sexually promiscuous (this brings to mind urban slang “man-whore”… but I dislike that expression almost as much as slut or whore sans man), and drift from one “relationship” to another.
  • Men are not all complete jerks, so don’t generalize based upon your experiences or those of your best friend, sister, mother, next door neighbour…
  •  Men will run from a woman who only, or mostly, reflects back to them the worst parts of themselves (i. e. of the men… I imagine they would run from a woman who was only showing the worst parts of herself too… unless truly sadistic or in saviour mode.)
  • Men experience emotions… too.  You know, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, anger, happiness, surprise, disgust, envy/jealousy, love…

Until next time!



Self-potrait, photography by Dolores Juhas

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at or email her:  She has her own blog at

Spending Time Strategically Avoiding… and Engaging Life…

ImageHmm… Well, I thought of starting this off with a big, fat lie about how I lost my computer/lost internet connection/forgot that wordpress existed/convinced myself that my blog was just a dream…

Eh, but why avoid the truth, which is so very simple? 😉  I was busy living…

Yeah, that’s right.  Living. Can you believe it?  It’s something I’ve been strategically avoiding for some time now.  Actually, being avoidant had been quite useful while going through that period of… well, how should I put it… difficulty and uncertainty. 😉

Truly, however, benefit can be found in focusing in on yourself, in order to heal and reinforce one’s emotional and psychological foundation.

Gratefully, I have achieved a sense of stability in my new environment.  That is, I am attending university, working, and making and spending time with friends.  Also, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of what it means to actually ‘live’ in Rome as opposed to the ‘extended visit’ experience I had before.

What is truly wonderful is now I am in a place of balance… and can return to doing the other things that I love, such as writing (blog, etc.) and playing guitar.  It’s a nice feeling…

I promised at the end of my last post that I would talk about men, a neverending source of dicussion here in Rome for women as women are for men.  Below is an excerpt from my essay “Why Rome…”, which basically sums up my observation of men in Rome.  Hope you enjoy it.

Connection isn’t Obligatory

There is a particular occupation of Italian males that I believe must be highly expected and duly ignored.  I call it the ‘Sexual Objectification Initiation Program.’  It is like a built-in computer program that is implanted at an early age in the brain of the average Italian male.  I will explain in further detail.  Just keep reading.

Rome is a city of attraction.   Attraction, sexuality, sensuality are a way of life here.  Above all, there is an exceptional appreciation of beauty that surpasses issues of race and ethnicity.  Really, I have been told, on more than one occasion, that Romans are not racist.   Romans merely suffer from an acute case of grand aestheticism.

No, no, really (my Italian friends assure me of this every time they see me), no matter what race you are, if you are perceived as beautiful, then Romans will accept you.  Not only that, but they will absolutely let you know about it.  (Now, think back to the above-mentioned ‘Program.’)

Roman males, in particular, try to be specific in their feedback and will let you know just where you fall on their personal attraction rating scale, even if they do not know you at all—let’s not worry, for now, about whether or not you have asked for this information.  For them, it is seemingly an automatic thought-to-mouth (or foot-in-mouth) experience of the ‘Program,’ which if I had to write its code in Standard English would be something like this:

  1. If Roman man, then notice all women.
  2. If woman perceived as young and attractive,
  3. Then stop mid-action, mid-conversation, mid-anything.
  4. Ignore intelligent thought.
  5. Revert to caveman-like utterances, of which the only intelligible words are ciao and bella.
  6. Ignore woman’s response.  Be persistent.
  7. Repeat process until life on earth ends,
  8. OR if wife and/or girlfriend present, break process by remaining silent (unless complete ass****).

Until next time… I promise that it will be much, much sooner.


(“Via dei Condotti,” Photography by Diedré M. Blake, 2011)

An old gypsy woman, Italian men… and renewing my “Bitch” card.

An old gypsy woman at the Spanish Steps, Feb. 9, 2011

I realized today (…Am I caught up yet?) that unbeknownst to some men (and I am sure some women too), third-wave feminism did not die out in the 90s when it began, but is actually still alive and kicking its very high and pointy stiletto-ed heels as well as steel-toed combat boots (both of which I happen to own, even if I am more partial to the pointy variety at the moment)!  By the way, I am generally inclined towards ignoring the outline of my headlines and just plunging into whatever topic most interests me first.

Italian men

What a way to start?  The topic that most interests me first is Italian men… Right!  Well, it’s perhaps not in the way that you might think.  No… This is not the “Eat. Pray. Love.” – version (Yes, there may be many more references to come… Deal with it) of some handsome, young, Italian man with an unpronounceable (at least, for me) name such as “Massimiliano” sweeping me off my very queer-loving feet into some fairytale love-land or even love-fest.  Actually, this is a two-part observation: one of two men I know personally, and the other of the Roman men I have observed so far… or should I say, who have observed me?

Part 1. I have two friends here.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, they both happen to be male and Roman.  One, I believe, is more accepting of his Roman-ness and wears it as a badge of honour (Friend A).  The other, well… We’ll just say that he thinks of himself as a sensitive type of man (Friend B), which I am not quite certain fits in with my perception of the Roman male… Then again, what do I know?  I have only been here a couple of times in my life, and only know these two guys.  So, what the heck.

Without going into very long and rather tedious stories, I will simply state that both Friend A & B demonstrate a similar behavioural pattern, i.e. the when all else fails, “women-are-at-fault-all-times-no-matter-what.”  Curiously enough, this behavioural pattern has manifested only when I was engaging in an assertive act, such as expressing my own position on a topic, or my own right to act independently, or my own right to be heard and not be demeaned.   Immediately from both of these men, I was told that I was somehow injuring them by being assertive.  That by actually standing up for myself, I was actually being “rude” and “aggressive!” (Insert “Angry Black Woman Syndrome” because that is what it surely sounded like they were suggesting to me.)  I am in therapy.  I know for a fact that I am certainly not a sufferer of ABWS. (Now,where is that certificate of proof?)

Part 2. Beyond my two friends, I have been subject to the scrutiny of the general Roman male population, whose members, I can tell you, are not shy about making their assessment of your sexual appeal known.  Between the catcalls (“Bella!”), the stares (up and down, and up and down, and up and down, and call the friends over to stare up and down again and up… you know), the polite hellos (“Buonasera“), the direct one-on-one pretend conversations (“Hi, are you American?”or “Where are you from?”), and the pull-the-car-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-to-stare-and-try-to-engage-in-conversation (yes, this actually happened on Sunday); life here in Rome has been quite simple as a woman to enjoy. 

I don’t at all feel like a walking vagina on a daily basis whatsoever.  Nope.  Not at all!  I don’t at all feel like I should try to scrub away the filthy, grimy looks I received all day long as soon as I get home – Mind you, one never knows if the looks are due to lewd thoughts, or racist thoughts, or some whacked combination. Either way, it does make leaving my little studio each day quite an adventure!  It could be enough for a more reserved woman might want to resort to wearing a burka, were she permitted to do so.

Back in October as well as now, I wondered how Roman women have been able to deal with this kind of crap (what I deemed Roman male chauvinistic attitude towards women’s equality and sexuality) for generations.  Then, I thought about the rapidity of the language of Italian… and how for the most part, it was pretty hard for anyone to get a word in edgewise… and I had the answer!  The women didn’t listen to these whining,complaining, and seemingly sex-starved men -The women just talked over the men! (Okay, maybe I am being a bit simplistic, but…) 

I suppose the therapist in me had prompted me to have the patience to listen to them, or even to pay mind to them.  In the case of my friends, the reality was that they just did not like having a woman stand up to them… once again.  In a patriarchal society, what’s new in that?  And in the case of the general Roman male population… Well, men always desire what they esteem highly, but can never have.

Renewing the “Bitch” card

So, I renewed my “bitch” card, put on my name tag “Bitch Numero Uno” and wore it proudly today as I walked out of a bookstore, leaving Friend B behind, who thought that I should spend my time chasing after him (after he walked off and left me without letting me know where he would be going… I imagine he did this because of the small lecture I gave him on feminism… Oh well!).  Side note:  I am beginning to think I need to pick better Roman male friends.

Being a “bitch” is a necessary mode that all Black women must be able to access in my humble opinion.  When I say “bitch,” I mean that you are quite capable of showing even deeper levels of your personality, that you too are  a “beautiful, intelligent, talented, courageous hellion,”  and will serve all of that up with a smile. 😉   All you need is a reason.  Right? 

Black women have for too long been subject to the bottom of the totem pole.  It is in our best interest, therefore, to thwart anyone who tries to get in our way from upward movement… At least, these are my beliefs.  I could also apply the same thoughts to a whole slew of minority groups to which I also belong (general women-folk, foreign-folk,  gay-folk, chronically-ill-folk…you get the picture).  In essence, down with the man!… Did I just write that?  Well, what I mean is… Power to the people!  And the people, in this moment, happen to be me.  And I happen to be a Black woman living in Rome, albeit for a short time, where minorities are not well-liked or respected (no matter how nicely it’s put – Thanks, Francesco and Catherine)… and I am not sure exactly what the position women exactly hold… and if it is actually seen as vertical (of course, I am quite new to Rome, so don’t hold this against me… My opinion might change).

Old gypsy woman

There are many beggars here in Rome like many cities around the world – This is nothing new.  Guidebooks, natives, embassies, your friends and even parents warn you against them.   Don’t give them your money.  While one distracts you, others will come to rob you.  Darn right!  It’s true…  It is equally true, and not surprising for me, that a majority of the beggars that I have seen in Rome have been women…  And of course, minority women.  From what little I can tell, my assumption is that they are gypsies, who have been notoriously stereotyped as thieves and who live in fear in Italy due to their minority status, especially as the level of intolerance for cultural and ethnic diversity increases throughout the Italy’s major cities. Sadly, it seems to me there is a lot to be feared by the Italian male, if you happen to be female and a slight shade darker than White… At least, this is my opinion for the moment.  Who knows what experiences and new insights 17 more days will bring.

For the most part, I like beggars.  I always have.  I should actually rephrase that.  I like to help the homeless.  I was brought up that way.  It is not in my nature to look askance at someone, or to turn my nose up, or to shift my eyes away from that which makes me uncomfortable.  I learnt this from my mother, who I watched when I was a child give to many strangers bags of food when we, ourselves, were quite poor.

Distinctly, I have a memory of an old man who came to our home in Jamaica asking for food in exchange for work.  My mother would have been happy to have given him the food without having him work, but he insisted to cut the grass in the back of our house.  I watched him all day cut away at the tall grass with nothing but his frail body wielding, what seemed to me then, a giant cutlass.  This image has never left me. 

So it was that I found myself today standing atop the Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti (“Spanish Steps”), located in the Piazza di Spagna, looking  down at an old gypsy woman holding her hands clasp together as though praying.  She called to each passerby and to those who stood above her, “Ho fame.” (“I am hungry.”)  I stared at her for a long time.  I did not think much about whether or not she were telling the truth.  I only thought that I liked the look of her face.  Her face told many stories as she had seen many things – Stories I would never know. So I took pictures of her – Several.  And for that, I placed a euro in her jar.  Still afterwards she called to me, “Bella, ho fame.”

I smiled at her, and thought, “So am I.”