All Articles Tagged "women"

Can You Be Spiritually Connected Without Church?

May 9th, 2016 - By Patia Braithwaite
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Black (Christian) woman praying

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When I was 15, my older cousin took me to a Methodist church in Queens, New York. This cousin, Cousin Kiki, was my Beyoncé: a Biology student in college, she was (and still is) one of the prettiest women I’ve ever seen up close. Beyond that, she was my perpetual ride to the mall, my companion for trashy movies, my sounding board for tweenaged angst, and my chaperone for R&B concerts my parents wouldn’t let me attend alone. Cousin Kiki had all the responsibility of a guardian, yet I was too enamored with her to realize it.

I would’ve gone anywhere she asked, so when she proposed that we go to her church one Sunday afternoon, I was game. I think I was actually excited.

I’m not sure what it was. Maybe it was the music that seemed to come from somewhere beyond vocal chords, or maybe it was the word (long gone from my memory), but I remember being moved to tears. I’d sobbed as the pastor invited those who felt moved to head to the altar. One of the ushers put an arm around me and helped me down the aisle where the pastor prayed over me and some other congregants who felt called. When service was over, I was counseled briefly, asked to put my name on a mailing list, and sent on my way.

I never went back.

Though it felt like a moment of deep connection, I didn’t feel a pull to explore the faith. Cousin Kiki never pushed it. She trusted me when I told her that place wasn’t meant to be my spiritual home. More than 15 years later, I’m still homeless.

According to Pew Research from 2009, 83 percent of African-Americans identify as Protestants/Christians, and one percent as Muslim. I’m among the 17 percent who fit elsewhere. Over the years, as my faith has changed and shifted, I’ve tried to find a traditional church community that felt right. I’ve also explored Buddhist temples and Universalist churches. While the teachings speak to me and the work happening within each congregation is often powerful and transformative, the buildings and people never feel like ‘home.’ The introvert in me doesn’t want to stay for the chat and chew. When volunteer forms float around, I sign up but never attend. Though, to the untrained eye, I must seem like a millennial cherry picker, I am deeply committed to cultivating a spiritual connection with the divine, and being an embodiment of goodness in the world. I’m a person who has done 10-day silent meditations and spends much of her contemplative time in solitude. I have spiritual mentors across many denominations who I can call on for guidance and further study, yet I want to find solace in a single place. I crave the ritual and the connection that comes from having a spiritual home. I am hungry for a physical location and a group of people with whom I can nourish my faith over a lifetime.

Those who are like me often tout the idea that many of the individuals in a church community are NOT overwhelmingly Godly. Though that may be true, it’s also a cop-out. Just as you wouldn’t disown your family because sometimes they aren’t familial, it seems unfair to use the “church people can be messy” argument to disavow the importance of a spiritual home. In a church family you can find intergenerational conversations and community action. You can find in-depth study of ancient texts–and good friends to hit brunch with after service. Mostly, however, I imagine that when one finds a spiritual home, they commit to a sustained and concentrated understanding of their faith.

Maybe that’s what scares me the most. There’s no path that I agree with completely.

While I understand the value of spiritual community and traditional religious paths, I also wish that those who follow traditional paths had more respect for my wandering ways. I wish they understood that spiritual homelessness doesn’t mean soul depravity. Spiritual homelessness does not mean spiritual inferiority. It doesn’t mean that I’m living (too far) against the tenants of the Bible. It simply means the walk in faith is often a lonely journey.

My hope is that, until I find my home, we all meet on this winding road with open hearts.

 

Patia Braithwaite is a God-loving writer in New York City. To learn more about her journey in love, life and spirituality visit: www.menmyselfandgod.com. She also tweets and instagrams when she feels like it: @pdotbrathw8

The One With The Close Guy Friend And Other Women Who Stay Single Longer

April 28th, 2016 - By Meg Butler
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No woman is the same. Some of us had our first kiss in kindergarten; others didn’t have their first kiss until they were getting their pigtails pulled. Many girls developed in middle school and a few were almost on their way to college before finally seeing substantial changes.

Things happen for women at different speeds, and when it comes to relationships, things are no different. Whether it’s because we take more time to find the one or could care less about where he may be hiding, we are all on a different timetable.

Women come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And thank goodness that in this beautiful world, not all of us are created equal. And some of us are created to stay single longer than others (and sometimes, for the long term).

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Women Who Refuse to Settle

You know what you’re looking for in love (and in life and your career), and you refuse to waste your time with anyone who doesn’t live up to your standards.

Are You Intuitive Or Guarded?

April 28th, 2016 - By Patia Braithwaite
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woman-intuition

Behind closed doors, women whisper to each other about intuition. We say that we have the power to feel the molecules change in a room, and we know when our children are somewhere they shouldn’t be. Our hearts have ears attuned to the dishonesties of silence. This intuition, which I believe rises from somewhere ancient and divine, keeps us safe. Maybe it’s our direct communication with God.

The problem is, however, we misuse it.

Abusing our intuition manifests in two ways. First, we sometimes ignore the still small voice that beckons us toward something better. Secondly, and more often overlooked, we mistake our personal fears and biases as intuition. We use our judgments about things we don’t understand and pretend our “gut” told us to steer clear.

When talking to my best friend over drinks, she confessed feeling a deep level of calm at the pace of her new relationship. She was going super slow, but her new boyfriend worried that she was holding back. The thing was, he wasn’t exactly a new man in her life.  She was in a new relationship with an old lover.

“I don’t know if I’m being guarded or trusting my gut,” she says. “I hope I’m not closed off to love.”

The friend in me wanted to shake her. I wanted to tell her that she needed to trust herself. I knew their history, and I wanted to tell her that her pacing was fine, but deep down inside, I realized that I had my own questions about my intuition. In an effort to be a bit wiser than I was the day before, I find myself slower to act, and I frequently wonder if my discretion is good sense or if I’m not open to new possibilities. I couldn’t give her advice that I couldn’t stand behind, so I just listened. But I was left wondering, how can we tell the difference between our intuition and our caution? It’s an ongoing experiment for me, but here are a few ways I try to keep myself honest:

I journal.  A friend of mine is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for many years. When rereading his old journals, he discovered that he’d written that he was an alcoholic almost a year before he found himself in recovery. “My journal was the only place I could be honest,” he’d said. I find this is true for myself as well.  Our minds are so chaotic that honest thoughts get mixed in with the noise. If we can find ways to get our thoughts out, we’re more able to see the difference.

I ask friends to listen. Sometimes, when I’m confused, I ask a friend to listen to me and repeat back what she’s hearing. Now, this doesn’t mean your friend is going to give you advice or tell you what she would do.  That’s not what you need. He or she is simply meant to listen to you while you rant, and then report back what they’ve heard you say. Often, our words in someone else’s mouth can bring us clarity“Oh sh*t,” we think as our friends tell us what they’ve heard. “Did I really say that?”

I pray on it. I’m not an overwhelmingly religious person, but I cannot think of a single time when I’ve asked God for guidance and didn’t receive some insight. I am able to live more openly than most because I truly believe that life won’t let me go too far down a path that is ultimately not for me. Granted, this is a two-way street. I try to live my life righteously and do the best for everyone I meet, but ultimately, I can live a little more openly because I know that I don’t walk through this life alone.

Only my friend knows if she’s holding back out of fear or intuition, but when I find myself holding back in the name of emotional danger, I like to remember that I am the descendant of those who survived. I come from a lineage of strong and powerful people, and carry the genes of the strongest of the strong. So often, our caution does a disservice to this strength. We protect ourselves as if we’re more fragile than we are. In the end, only you can decide when something is safe, but my hope is that we can all get closer to our intuition and further away from guardedness so we can love and live more freely every day.

Patia Braithwaite is a New York City-based relationship writer. You can follow her ridiculous tales of love, life, and travel on her personal blog, Men, Myself, and God.  She also tweets and ‘grams whenever the mood strikes her @pdotbrathw8.

About The Time My Personal Trainer Sexually Harassed Me

April 26th, 2016 - By Patia Braithwaite
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Deciding to go back to the gym wasn’t an easy decision for me. I’d damaged a tendon in my knee during the Philadelphia half-marathon, and the pain sent me to the couch (where I decided to stay for about three years).

To get back on track, I needed help. I loved my hardcore lady trainer, and we’d become friends over the years, but I grew up with a brother and have always thrived in competition with guys. I decided, this time around, I’d work with a man.  I’d been through this with my friends: scouring Instagram to find beautiful male personal trainers who looked like they could crush me with their arms, but they weren’t for me. I didn’t want to be distracted by a good-looking personal trainer. I didn’t want to worry about sweating too much or feel embarrassed if I farted during my ab workout (it happens).

This was a gift I was giving to myself. I wanted to focus on me.

With all of these thoughts, I went to my local gym and picked the trainer with credentials that seemed perfect. We’ll call him Frank, a former football player who specialized in rehabilitating runners with knee injuries. He was significantly older than I and looked it. The front desk woman told me everyone loved his Southern hospitality, and a quick Google search uncovered that he was also an off-Broadway actor who’d been happily married for over 20 years.

He felt right, but I discovered I was wrong…

Almost every woman I know is subjected to some form of harassment daily. Whether she’s being cat-called on the street or stared down in the supermarket, we often have to ignore the unwelcome advances of men. As a result, the hairs on our neck are attuned to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) advances of strangers.

When Frank’s texts became one too many smiley-face emojis before our first session, I grew uneasy. When he complimented my body and told me I didn’t need to lose any weight, I tried to convince myself that he was just attempting to be encouraging. When he tried to help me lift the weights, I became irritated because that’s just not beneficial (and also because I was struggling to lift 30 pounds by myself). When he slid his hand a bit too low while helping me into a stretch, I became confused.

By our third session, which he closed with a hug, I was weirded out.

“My trainer is a bit too touchy,” I told a friend. “You know I don’t like to be touched.”

“You should say something,” she said in response.

“Nah, I’m probably tripping. You know how I just hate being touched.”

It wasn’t until the phone calls, and text messages started, that I understood what my gut already knew.

“I try to keep it professional,” he said in a text message, “but if I wasn’t married, I think we’d be together.”

I searched my mind: Was I too friendly? Did I send the wrong message? The truth is, I should be able to joke and laugh with my personal trainer. So, at that moment, while he was waiting for a response, I owned the fact that there was nothing I could’ve done to avoid the situation. If I’d worn sweats instead of leggings, if I’d smiled less and been a little colder, the result would’ve been the same.  I’m also not stupid enough to think I am special. I’m sure he’s done something like this to all his female clients.

I waited a few days before responding:

“Hey, just wanna give you a heads up. I’m terminating our training.”

He apologized, and I informed him that I wouldn’t accept.  Instead, I told him that during the five block walk that it takes to get from my apartment to the gym, I’m propositioned by men between almost daily. I informed him that while men will accost me everywhere, I won’t bite my tongue in the presence of someone in my employ.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asked.

“We’re done here,” I texted back.

He had proven what I sensed from his first text: He was a creeper who exploits the trust of his clients.

Ultimately, it was enough for me to terminate my relationship with my trainer without coming for his job.  Trust me; I thought about it several times. Maybe I’m a punk, but in the end, I felt that if I lodged a formal complaint, I’d have to switch gyms. I didn’t want that. I like my gym. Maybe this was an inherently selfish choice, but I felt like it was enough for me to remove myself from that situation. I felt like karma would do the rest of the work. And in the end, that proved to true. He was only in the gym for a few more weeks before he up and disappeared from it.

There’s no moral to this story. I’m not entirely sure I even did the best I could do in this situation, but I wanted to tell my story because I want anyone who has dealt with this to know that it’s not okay. Whatever course of action feels right for you, take it. And know this: If your trainer tries it, you don’t have to let it slide.  Of all the quietly destructive things we do on a daily basis, getting your health together is such a positive step. You deserve to feel safe as you work toward inner and outer transformation.

#FirstTimeIWasCatcalled: Has Street Harassment Negatively Affected You?

April 11th, 2016 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Tumblr

Image Source: Tumblr

Do you remember the first time that you were catcalled? For most women, especially those of us living in big cities, catcalling is almost a way of life. It happens to us on the way to school, work, while we’re in sweats just trying to pick something up from the grocery store — we’re basically at risk anytime we walk outside. And since it starts from a very young age and continues to happen for so long, most of us don’t think about how it affects our lives — until now.

Thanks to #FirstTimeIWasCatCalled, thousands of women have been sharing their first experiences with catcalling and how it has affected them ever since. Their goal? To dispel the myth that catcalling is a compliment and not that big of a deal, once and for all.

Do you remember the first time you were catcalled? And how does being objectified as you walk down the street affect your life negatively — or does it?

Times Men Deserve The “Crazy” Label They Try To Put On Us

April 8th, 2016 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Tumblr

Image Source: Tumblr

Calling women crazy for having complex emotions is the go-to move for some men. Their ex-girlfriend was crazy, their sister acts crazy, their co-workers are crazy, and they’re “hoping you won’t be crazy too.”

But for the men who think that everything women do is crazy, we wonder if they’ve ever looked at their own behavior and realized they act a fool from time to time, too. Men only think their behavior is normal because no one is every calling them out for their shenanigans all the time.

But today we’re turning the tables and calling out all of the things men do that could earn them the “crazy” label if we were petty enough to throw it around every time things didn’t go exactly our way.

And if we’ve missed anything on your list of male pet peeves — the kooky things that he does but doesn’t realize deserve a label too — feel free to leave it in the comment section.

Spotting Cheaters On Sight And Other Superpowers You Didn’t Know You Had As A Woman

March 16th, 2016 - By Meg Butler
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Patriarchy and periods have given being a woman a bad rap. But being a member of the fairer sex actually comes with some perks. Perks that many of us aren’t even aware of.

We’ve discovered a host of superpowers that most women didn’t realize they had. From being able to spot a cheater on sight to seeing more colors than anyone on the planet, and being able to multitask in ways that men couldn’t even imagine even if they wanted to (sorry guys), these feminine powers are pretty amazing. Read on to find more ways that being a woman can actually be kind of cool and let us know what you think about those “powers.”

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

You Can Turn Food Into An Aphrodisiac

Need to get your motor running? Women’s brains share arousal and food craving centers. Skipping a meal and then thinking about your favorite food could possibly turn the heat up in the bedroom.

15 Reasons to Thank Obama That You’re A Woman In 2016

March 8th, 2016 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Tumblr

Image Source: Tumblr

Did you know that women make up the majority of voters in any presidential election? Or that more women tend to vote for the Democratic party than any other? So in a way, women can take partial responsibility for bringing President Barack Obama into office. And he has returned the favor by making his time in office one of unprecedented gains for the women that helped him and the First Lady into office. From better health care for women of all ages (and their children) to giving every woman her own month-long holiday, Barack and Michelle Obama have been busy making sure that women are covered.

So this International Women’s Day, we thought we’d take a little time out to appreciate just why it’s great to be a woman in 2016. Read on to find out why a lot of us should be saying “thanks Obama,” and what benefits you could be taking advantage of right now.

You’re Not Insecure: Things He’d Be Mad About If You Did Them

February 15th, 2016 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Tumblr

Image Source: Tumblr

You say that his behavior is the problem, he tells you that you’re just being insecure. Some arguments in relationships feel like they’re part of a playlist that’s stuck on “repeat.” Sounds like it’s time to stop asking him how he’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot and actually make him try it on.

Empathy is the art of understanding how your partner feels by putting yourself in their place. But not every partner is good at feeling your pain. Especially if you’ve been nagging each other. But if you’re tired of feeling like it’s just you, it could be time to turn the tables on him.

Showing him how just you feel doesn’t have to be about tit-for-tat. But occasionally flipping the script could be the perfect opportunity to open up a dialogue instead of arguing about the same thing for the umpteenth time.

Struggles All Big And Tall Women Understand

December 29th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Twitter

Image Source: Twitter

From flooding jeans to little men, these are the struggles that big and tall women understand. Did we miss any of your experiences?