Love and Friendship

“I’m just going to the drugstore.  I’ll be back in a jiffy,” Alison called out to her cousin, Derek who was visiting from New York and staying at her place.  It was good having him around, even if it was for just a few days.  He helped to take her mind off Richard or least distract her from her misery as much as was possible.

She grabbed her handbag and headed to the door.  When she opened it, she was startled to see Richard standing there.  “Richard!” she exclaimed.  Her heart lurched.  Joy and dread mingled at the sight of him.  How she missed him.  It had been about two weeks now.  She longed to throw her arms around him and tell him how much she loved him but she didn’t.  She couldn’t.  They were just friends.

His face was pale and his eyes were restless on her face.  “I had to see you, Alison,” he muttered.  “I miss you.”

She swallowed hard.  “I-I was on my way out,” she told him when what she really wanted to say was, “I miss you too.”

“Please let me come in.”

She stepped aside and let him in.  She closed the door and leaned against it for a moment.  He turned to face her and was about to take a step closer to her when Derek walked into the room, talking to someone on his cell.  He stopped when he saw them.

Richard looked at him and then at her.  His expression darkened.  “Is he the reason why you haven’t been returning my calls?” he asked.  “Are you and he–?”

“No.  Derek is my cousin.  He’s here from New York.  He came for the Caribbean Carnival.  He leaves tomorrow.”

Derek finished his call.  He looked apologetic.  “I thought you had left,” he said to Alison.  He turned to Richard.  “Sorry, Man, I was just leaving.  I’m Derek, by the way.”  He held out his hand.

Richard shook it.  “Richard.”

“Richard, I’ll be with you in a minute,” Alison told him.  He went over to the sofa and sat down.

“Is he your boyfriend,” Derek asked in a low voice.

Alison shook her head.  “No. We are just friends.”

Derek looked surprised.  “Really?  Well, when he saw me he acted more like a jealous boyfriend than a friend.  I’ll see you later.”  He called over his shoulder, “Nice meeting you, Richard.”  And then he was out of there.

Alison closed the door and walked slowly over to the sofa.  She sat down.  Richard was staring at her. “How have you been, Richard?” she asked.

“How do you think I have been, Alison?” he demanded.  “It has been two weeks since we last saw or spoke to each other.  I have been miserable.  Why have you been avoiding me?  Have you met someone? Do you think he would have a problem with our friendship?”

“I haven’t met anyone, Richard.”

“Then why haven’t you called me or visited or answered my calls?  I thought we were friends.”

She got up agitated.  “That’s the problem,” she said.  “I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.”

He jumped to his feet and taking her by the shoulders, he turned her round to face him.  He looked distraught.  “What do you mean?” he asked.  “Why don’t you want us to be friends anymore?”

With him this close, his eyes penetrating hers, she couldn’t think straight but she had to tell him the truth.  She owed him that much.  “I want to be more than friends, Richard.  I have wanted it for a long time now.”

He looked stunned.  Then, his countenance brightened.  “Oh, Alison,” he cried.  “You really had me scared.  I was going to tell you that if I couldn’t have your heart, at least I could still have your friendship but, when you said that you didn’t want us to be friends anymore I nearly lost it.”

Alison’s expression was frank.  “You have my heart, Richard,” she confessed.  “You have had it for a long time now.  I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know if you felt the same way.  And I couldn’t go on pretending that I was fine with just being friends.”

“And that is why you stopped seeing me for two weeks?  You have no idea how much I suffered during that time and until now.  I thought you had met someone and I was out of my mind with jealousy, wondering who he was.  And when I saw Derek, I thought–well, you know what I thought.  Yet, I would still have wanted to be your friend.  It would be better than not having you in my life anymore but I was relieved when you told me that he was your cousin.”

“Derek was right.  He said that you were jealous.”

“I was.”

“You have no reason to be jealous of anyone, Richard.  I love you.”

“And, I love you, Alison.”  He bent his head and kissed her.

Moments later, she drew back to look up into his flushed face.  “Derek won’t be back until later.  We have the apartment all to ourselves.”

He smiled.  “That sounds good.  You and I have a lot of catching up to do.”

black and white couple

The Temporary Assignment

He had gone through a bitter divorce and custody battle.  His wife had their two daughters.  He didn’t hear from them not even on Father’s Day, his birthday or Christmas.  To them, it seemed as if he didn’t exist.  At first, it hurt but then he learned to cope and he had one more year to pay child support.

His marriage had left a very bitter taste in his mouth and as a result he had sworn off relationships.  He buried himself in his work.  He had friends and a church family who cared about him.  Life was pleasant for him.  Some might say his life was mundane but for him it was how he wanted it–relationship free.  And then she walked into his life and wham!

Amelia Johnson was hired to fill Susanna’s position.  Susanna was on maternity leave.  Amelia came from Alpha North Group Ltd with excellent qualifications and references from previous assignments. He remembered the first time he saw her as if it were yesterday.   When they were introduced, he tried not to stare but her fresh beauty took his breath away.  The unruly curls cascaded past her shoulders, some of the tendrils managed to escape the clasp that was holding it together and brushed against her face.  She wore a white top and black skirt.  She was petite and slender.  He towered over her.  When she looked up at him with those big brown eyes and smiled at him, he felt his heart melt.  He knew he was in trouble then.  Their handshake was brief but long after he had released her hand, he could still feel its warmth and softness.

During the 18 months she was with them he tried to keep his growing attraction hidden under the veneer of professionalism.  No one had a clue that every morning he would look out of his office window overlooking the street below to watch her walking up the sidewalk.  He was tied up in knots.  He didn’t want to become emotionally attached again because of the pain he had experienced with his ex but the more he fought against his feelings for Amelia, the stronger they seemed to grow.  It was a battle that he was losing.  He had no idea of how she felt about him.  She was as pleasant to him as she was with the rest of the staff.  He could tell nothing from her interaction with him if there was something there on her part.  And for all he knew, she might already be in a relationship.  The thought stung but he had to be prepared for that possibility.  How was he going to find out whether or not that she had a boyfriend?

He sat at his desk now in deep thought, wondering what to do.  This was Amelia’s last week with the company.  Susanna was back on Monday.  He had to do something before Amelia went out of his life forever.  The mere thought of never seeing her again agitated him so much that he jumped to his feet and paced about the room restlessly.  He had prayed about the situation and he knew that the answer was to talk to Amelia.  He swallowed hard and tried to suppress the rising fear that threatened to overwhelm him and deter him from doing what he knew he must do.

He went back to his desk and his hand trembled as he reached for the receiver.  He hesitated for a brief moment before he dialled her extension.  His heart was thudding heavily against his ribs.  When she answered, he kept it short, “I need to see you.”  He sank heavily into the chair after hanging up the phone and waited.  His tortured gaze was on the door which will open any minute now and Amelia will walk in.  There was no turning back now.

After she hung up the phone, Amelia stared at it for a moment.  Mark wanted to see her.  Why?  She was nervous about being alone with him.  What if she couldn’t hide her feelings for him?  It was one thing to act professional around him when others were around but quite another when they were alone.  Slowly, she pushed her chair back and got up, her legs feeling like jelly.  She smoothed her trembling and sweaty palms over her skirt and headed for his office.

She knocked on the door and hear him say, “Come in.”  Her heart was beating so fast and she couldn’t seem to control her breathing.  I must remain calm, she told herself as she opened the door and went inside.  He was standing behind his desk.  Her eyes travelled over his tall figure as she closed the door behind her.   She walked over to him and stopped in front of the desk.   She clasped her hands tightly in front of her so that he wouldn’t notice that they were trembling.  “You needed to see me,” she said.

He cleared his throat.  “Yes.  This is your last week with us.”

She lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see the sadness in them.  “Yes, it is.”  She had dreaded this moment.  She liked working here and the people but most of all, she hated the thought of leaving him.  He was the reason why she enjoyed coming in to work.

“I hope you have been happy here, Amelia. We were very fortunate to have you.”

She looked up.  “Yes, I have been very happy here.  Everyone has been so great.”

“We are sorry to lose you.  You will be missed.”

“I am going to miss all of you.”

There was a pregnant pause during which they stared at each other, each not knowing what to say next or how to act.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” He asked suddenly.

She blinked in surprise.  She hadn’t expected that.  She shook her head at once.  “No.”

He looked relieved.  “Good to hear,” he said, coming around the desk to stand close to her.  “Amelia, I’m divorced and have two daughters.  I had sworn off relationships until I met you.  You walked into my life and turned it upside down.  For the longest time I tried to fight my feelings for you but it was no use.”

Her eyes grew wide.  “Your feelings?”

“Yes.  I love you, Amelia and I wanted to tell you that before you walk out of my life for good.  Do you have any feelings for me?”  He braced himself for her answer, his face pale.

She nodded, her heart was in her eyes.  “Yes, Mark,” she cried.  “I love you too.  I tried so hard not to show it because it never dawned on me that you felt the same way.”

Mark took her in his arms and kissed her.  “You and I did a really good job of hiding our feelings from each other ,” he said when he raised his head, his eyes tender as he gazed  into her upturned face.  “I’m just very thankful that your assignment here is ending this week.  It was the possibility of never seeing your beautiful face again and encouragement from God that pushed me to declare mine.”

She smiled.  “When I took this assignment, I never imagined that I would find love too.”

two professional people in an office2

 

No Hitting

I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman, though I don’t recommend you do it the same way that you hit a man.  An openhanded slap is justified–if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning – Sean Connery
Man-hitting-womanJust recently I was watching Turner Classic Movies (TCM) with my son and we saw the trailer for the movie, Too Late for Tears.  There was a scene where Dan Duryea slapped Lizabeth Scott.  I turned to him and I said, “A man should never hit a woman.”  And he nodded in agreement.  Then, I added, “And a woman should never hit a man.”

Some time ago, there was a commercial where a woman slapped her boyfriend because she thought he was watching an attractive woman as she walked by a parked car.  It turned out that he was admiring the car.  My manager objected to the commercial because he thought it was wrong to have the woman slap the man.  I guess others agreed with him because when I saw that commercial again, the scene with the slap was no longer there.

I don’t think a man should ever hit a woman.  In From Russia With Love, there was a scene with James Bond and Tatiana Romanova where he grabbed her and dragged her to her feet, his expression thunderous because he thought she was lying to him.  He was gripping her tightly by the arms and when she told him that he was hurting her, he threatened that he would do worse.  And he did by giving her a backhanded slap across the face, sending her reeling backwards.  Thankfully, she lands on the bed.  I read online that Sean Connery said he never hit or would ever hit a woman but that there are times when hitting one is justified.  He said if a woman were hysterical or a b—, then it was okay for a man to hit her.  “It’s not the worst thing to slap a woman now and then.” In his interview with Barbara Walters, Connery argued that if you’re having an argument and you’re trying to get the last word in and the woman won’t let you have it…then “it’s absolutely right.”  I guess if he had a daughter, he wouldn’t have a problem with his son-in-law slapping her if she got out of hand.

Interestingly, Roger Moore who also played 007, revealed that he suffered domestic violence at the hands of two of his former wives.  His first wife repeatedly punched and scratched him and also threw a teapot at him.  She even punched the doctor who treated him for the slash on his hand.  His second wife was also violent and attacked him after learning he had been unfaithful.  It doesn’t come as a surprise that Roger Moore didn’t enjoy filming a particular scene in Man With the Golden Gun.  It was of James Bond twisting the arm of Andrea Anders behind her back, and threatening to break it unless she told him what he wanted to know. Roger felt that Bond would have instead charmed the information out of her.  I agree.

I read this article by Todd Dunn and thought I would share it.  He gives 4 good reasons for a man to hit a woman and 5 bad reasons.  Then, he makes it clear, that it is never justifiable for a man to hit a woman.

woman-hitting-man-300x124What about a woman hitting a man?  Is it ok for her to do that?  In my opinion, it is never right for any woman to hit a man.  In the article, Women: hitting your man is not cute; it’s abuse, it was noted that pop culture gives the impression it is cute, funny, empowering or even sexy when women hit men.  “The casual female on male violence that we accept on our screens is also sexist, as it presumes that women cannot do men any real harm. The size of bruises and the amount of blood spilled is not the only way one measures the effect of violence, as any man or woman who has been belittled or controlled or intimidated by their partner will tell you.”

I wonder how sympathetic people, particularly women, would be toward men who admit that they have been hit by their girlfriends or wives.  Would they ask, “What did you do?” or assume, “you must have done something to deserve it.”  Would an abused woman have to deal with this question or assumption?  Hitting, slapping, punching, abuse is wrong, regardless of gender.  There are other better and healthier ways to deal with conflict.  When things start to get too heated, walk away or go and let off some steam in the gym or go for a walk or jog to cool your head.  Don’t use each other as a punching bag.

I saw this quote on HealthyPlace:   “A woman should never invest in a relationship she wouldn’t want for her daughter, nor allow any man to treat her in a way she could scold her son for.”

I think it should apply to men too.  “A man should never invest in a relationship he wouldn’t want for his son nor allow any woman to treat him in a way he could scold his daughter for.”  Both men and women deserve to be in loving and healthy relationships.

 

Source:  The Telegraph

Rape in South Africa

I barely caught the headline about a South African girl who was raped and badly beaten.  I searched for the story on the Internet and came across some startling information.  Apparently South Africa is known as the “rape capital”.  According to Women’s groups, a woman is raped every 26 seconds.  The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world.

For the period 1998–2000, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita according to the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs for the period 1998–2000.  It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only 1 in 9 rapes are reported.  It is also estimated that 14% of perpetrators of rape are convicted in South Africa.  According to a survey that questioned rape victims who did not report the crime to the police, 33.3% of victims cited they feared reprisals, 9.6% cited that they felt the police would not be able to solve the crime, and 9.2% cited embarrassment as their reasons for not reporting the crime.

There are several different forms of sexual violence, including, but not limited to: rape or sexual assault, child sexual assault and incest, intimate partner sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact/touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, revealing one’s genitals to another without consent, public masturbation, and voyeurism.  There are several types of sexual violence cases in South Africa that have specifically garnered a significant amount of international attention:

South Africa has the highest reported incident of rape in the world.  While men are also subjected to sexual violence and 3.5% of men have been forced to have sex with other men, the majority of sexual violence is against women.  The South African government reports that one of these reasons is the culture of patriarchy in South Africa. Its report states that patriarchy is firmly rooted in the country and fighting it is seen as attempting to destroy African tradition or Afrikaner ideals.  The danger from rape and sexual assault is compounded because of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South African townships. A woman being raped over the age of 25 has a one in four chance that her attacker is HIV positive and more women than men are affected from HIV/AIDS.   The perpetrators of rape in South Africa tend to be men known to the victim.  It is reported that a husband or boyfriend kills a woman every six hours in South Africa.  Many men and women say that rape cannot occur in relationships; however, one in four women reported having been abused by an intimate partner.

Corrective rape is prevalent in South Africa.  More more than 10 women per week are raped or gang-raped in Cape Town alone because of their sexual orientation.  31 have been died from their attacks.  Two years ago Noxolo Nogwaza , 24 years old was raped, beaten and stabbed to death on her way home from a night out with her friends in the South African township of Kwa Thema on 24 April 2011.  Her brutalised body was dumped in a shallow ditch.  It is believed that the motive was her sexual orientation.  Little progress is made on her case and her attackers still remain at large.

There is also the problem of sexual violence in schools.  girls from all levels of society and ethnic groups have been subjected to sexual violence at school in bathrooms, empty classrooms, dormitories, and more. Police, prosecutors, and social workers have also complained that many incidents of sexual violence in schools are not reported to them because schools often prefer to deal with it internally, thus hindering justice against the perpetrators. The danger of sexual violence in schools has created a barrier for girls to seek education. HRW also reported that South African girls’ school performance suffers after an incident of sexual violence.

Societal attitudes contribute to this epidemic.  The Medical Research Council states, “Many forms of sexual violence, particularly sexual harassment and forms of sexual coercion that do not involve physical force are widely viewed as normal male behaviour.”

Among children, a survey by CIET found 60% of both boys and girls, aged 10 to 19 years old, thought it was not violent to force sex upon someone they knew, while around 11% of boys and 4% of girls admitted to forcing someone else to have sex with them. The study also found that 12.7% of the students believed in the virgin cleansing myth.

In a related survey conducted among 1,500 school children in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that ‘jackrolling’, a term for gang rape, was fun.  Furthermore, more than half the interviewees insisted that when a girl says no to sex she really means yes.  It is also noteworthy that those in this study were school children as age is significantly associated with rape. Men from ages 20–40 are more likely to have raped than younger or older men.

Market Research Africa, a Johannesburg-based market research agency, reported in 1994 that 76% of men felt that women had a right to say no to sex, one third thought that women could not decide for themselves on abortion, and 10% condoned a man beating a woman or his wife.

I can’t imagine why anyone would think a woman means “yes” when she is fighting off the man’s unwanted attention.  “No” means “no”.   No woman wants to be forced to have sex with anyone.  Sex is supposed to be consensual.  And rape is not sex.  It is an act of violence.  The 17 year old girl was brutally raped.  The Cape Town newspaper, Cape Argus newspaper stated that she was sliced open from her stomach to her genitals and then dumped as if she were trash on a building site in the town of Bredasdorp, 130 km (80 miles) east of Cape Town.  What is going to become of this?  Will there be justice for this victim in a country where rape has lost its power to shock?  The government of the Republic of South Africa is aware of this problem of sexual violence against women and there is a law which is supposed to ensure rights of all of the people in South Africa with the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.  Furthermore, it calls for the right to freedom and security, including freedom from all forms of violence by either public or private sources and the right to bodily and psychological integrity, including reproduction and bodily security.

It seems to me that the law has very little effect on the violence it is supposed to be protecting its women  from.   The harsh reality is that women are being brutally raped and abused and are not receiving adequate psychological, social, or medical care.  There are few places rape and abuse victims can turn.  The Simelela Centre is one of those places.  It was established in 1998 in response to a case involving the rape of a 1-year-old girl at the hands of her father in Khayelitsha’s Site C.

Something needs to be done and fast.  Women should not be living in fear.  Imagine the fear of your son growing up and one day raping your neighbor’s daughter?   The way men view women has to change.  The law has to do more to protect women and girls.  It’s time for the lawmaker to fulfill their promises.

Outrage grows over the incident, according to a news report on CNN.  Many marched the streets of Bredasdorp toward the crime scene, chanting, “No violence! No violence.”  Residents say that this attack is uncharacteristic of the rural town.  I read that the girl’s injuries were so horrific that the hospital staff who battled to save her life needed counseling.  She was able to identify one of her attackers before she died.  He was a family friend. The victim’s aunt had this to say about him, “He was a lovely child to have in the house.  He was her friend, and it’s just incomprehensible.”

He and two others have been arrested.  More arrests are forthcoming.  Two of the men arrested have been charged been charged with murder and rape, the same charges the third will face.  Let’s hope that they all will be brought to justice.  It’s unfortunate that it had to take this young girl’s horrific ordeal and subsequent death to spark outrage.  There was the case of a mentally handicapped girl, same age as this last victim was raped by seven men, aged between 14 and 20 and the attack was recorded on a cell phone video which later went viral.  The men are on trial.  Unfortunately, this incident failed to gain the same outrage and attention as did the gang rape in New Delhi.  Columnist Rachel Davis of the online publication, Daily Maverick, raised this disturbing question:  “If the gang-rape of a mentally handicapped 17-year-old failed to get thousands on the streets in protest, what will?”

The men of South Africa need to stand up with the women and speak out against this epidemic.  The perpetrators of these crimes need to be brought to justice and women and girls need to feel safe in their communities.  Girls should be able to go to school and learn in a safe environment.  Their education is important.  They should not be forced to stay out of school because they are afraid of being attacked.  Girls should not have to live in fear of being brutally raped by strangers or even men they know.  Women should not be treated as if they have no value.  Violence against women and girls needs to be taken seriously and the public needs to make as much noise as possible, letting the government and the perpetrators know that they have had enough.  Let us join the men and women of South Africa and say, “No more violence!”  In the words of one of the women from Bredasdorp, “…we must do something.”  No more silence.  It’s time to take action!  Let the death of Anene Booyson count for something.

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Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_violence_in_South_Africa; http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/south-africa-girl-dies-after-rape-comparison-made-to-indian-case-327511; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/06/ana-matronic-backs-amnesty-write-for-rights-campaign; http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/domestic-violence/dv-africa/dv-safrica/1386-violence-against-women-in-contemporary-south-africa.html; http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/08/world/africa/south-africa-gang-rape/index.html; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/06/us-safrica-rape-idUSBRE9150VZ20130206

Stress

What is stress?  For some it is trying to prioritise the many projects they have undertaken and making decisions.  For others it is moving to another apartment; raising a family; going for a job interview; meeting their future in-laws.  Stress is knowing that the deadline for an article is fast approaching and you just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and write it.  Stress is having to wait another 15 minutes for a bus because the first driver did not stop even though he saw you dashing across the street, your arms flailing.

Then there is good stress like having a child; getting married or getting that promotion you always wanted.  These are stressful because they are big chances.  For each there are greater responsibilities and a lot of adjustments to make.

Stress can result from an overactive imagination.  Take Susan for example.  She invited her boyfriend for lunch for the first time.   She worried that she wouldn’t get home from church in time to prepare the meal.  She worried that he wouldn’t get a parking space.  She worried that he wouldn’t be able to eat chicken or turkey because she wasn’t sure if he was a vegetarian.  She worried that she would be so nervous that she would spill or break something.  Well, her boyfriend got a parking space as soon as he arrived.  Not only did he eat the chicken and the turkey but he had seconds.  Lunch went very well.  The only setback was that it was not long enough.  Susan had allowed herself to get stressed out because she imagined the worst.  Stress robs us of a peace of mind and rest.

Many of us have spent sleepless nights because of stress.  We lie awake worrying about that presentation we have to make to very important clients; a job interview or final exams.  A lot of times stress is self-induced.  We worry and fret unnecessarily and only succeed in giving ourselves high blood pressure. 

How do we cope with stress?  Taking time out is always a good idea and doing something else such as going for walks in the neighbourhood or in the park.  Around this time of year it is especially nice because of the changing colours of the leaves and the air is fresh.  Fresh air helps to clear the mind.  Exercise is another option.  Walk off the stress on the treadmill or pump it out of your system as you lift weights.  Read a book or flip through a magazine.  Pick up the phone and call a friend.  It helps to talk to someone.