Four Five Seconds to Domestic Violence

Sometimes, when you spend eight ten twelve hours a day working on something, you start to see that thing everywhere, even when other people might not.

For me, that thing is domestic violence. As an attorney who works on child abuse and neglect cases, I get more than a few cases a day that involve domestic violence (because hey, if you’re going to beat up your kid, you may also be beating up your partner).

So as I was driving into work the other day, I heard Rihanna and Kanye West’s new single, Four Five Seconds. For the unfamiliar, here are the lyrics:

Four Five Seconds (Lyrics from metrolyrics.com)

I think I’ve had enough
I might get a little drunk
I say what’s on my mind
I might do a little time
‘Cause all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

Woke up an optimist
Sun was shinin’, I’m positive
Then I heard you was talkin’ trash
Hold me back, I’m ’bout to spaz

I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

And I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’, “How could I be so selfish?”
But you called ’bout a thousand times
Wondering where I’ve been
Now I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’ “How could I be so reckless?”
But I just can’t apologize
I hope you can understand

If I go to jail tonight
Promise you’ll pay my bail
See they want to buy my pride
But that just ain’t up for sale
See all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
That’s all I want

Songwriters
Mccartney, Paul / Fenty, Robyn Rihanna / Omari, Kanye West

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The radio show hosts couldn’t figure out what it meant. They spent a long time discussing what “Four Five Seconds” means–is it forty five seconds? Four, five? Four “five seconds”?

They did not talk about the heart of the song, which is, to me, obviously about domestic violence. At least, I thought it was obvious. Apparently the internet doesn’t think so. I googled “Four Five Seconds meaning”, and didn’t find anything about domestic violence, other than one article that simply hints at “ins and outs” that Rihanna and Chris Brown have gone through. Wikipedia had this to say about the meaning of the song:

Lyrically, it “express emotions ranging from the flip to the resigned”.[9] Sharan Shetty of Slate stated that the song is about “heartbreak and redemption”,[17] while a Yahoo! Newsreviewer noted that it is about “personal travails and confusion”.[18] Nora Crotty of Elle magazine described the single as an “ode to repenting in the morning for the foolish mistakes you made the night before”.[4] -Wikipedia “FourFiveSeconds”

Baffled that that nothing explicitly mentioned the clear domestic violence message of the song, I tried googling “Four Five Seconds domestic violence”. Nothing. There were some sites about the song and some sites about domestic violence, but really nothing that linked the two. So, dear internet, let me tell you. “FourFive Seconds is a song about domestic violence, told both from the perspective of the abuser and the victim. It attempts to go beyond the surface level discussions that so often surround these debates, and get into the heart and souls of people in such relationships.

All of My Kindness is Taken for Weakness

Rihanna doesn’t waste any time getting into the heart of domestic violence. Survivors might feel like they’ve had enough, but they’re willing to give their abusers one more chance, out of the kindness of their hearts. Over and over again survivors talk about not wanting to give up on their abusers. They love their abusers, and so, even while recognizing that they’re not being treated as they should be they bestow “kindness” on the abuser, giving the abuser a chance to redeem themselves.

From an outsider’s perspective, this “kindness” is so many times called “weakness”. We often hear things like “Why can’t she just leave that guy–he’s always beating her and slapping her, she’s just too weak to leave”. Rihanna herself suffered such victimization. After Chris Brown famously assaulted her in 2009, Rihanna left him. After many rumors that they were back together, she announced in 2013 that they had reunited. Commenters on a Rolling Stone article about the reconciliation had this to say about that decision:

“I love seeing someone like her run back to her abuser-she looks like the idiot she is by her actions.” Hook UK

“Rihanna is a role model for young women. By staying with her abuser, she is encouraging other women to stay in abusive, dangerous relationships. It’s only a matter of time before one of those women ends up battered, maimed, or dead. As far as I’m concerned, Rihanna has or will have blood on her hands. Shame on her.” Robotclam

So many times victims say that they want to give their abusers “one more chance”. It is an important step. While so many people view it as weakness or idiocy, it is not meaningless. It is an important step that a victim takes towards recognizing that there is a problem in the first place.

Four Five Seconds from Wildin’

I absolutely love the chorus of the song. It evokes so much emotion. The pouty, slow breaths of the lines bring up feelings of struggle. The references to Friday and Monday make one remember that personal struggles are not just about these lofty ideals of “what type of person is right for me” and “what do I want out of life”, but rather are often much more finite–“how will I pay the rent this week” or “my child is sick but I can’t take any more time off of work” or “we don’t have any more chicken in the freezer but I don’t get paid until Thursday”.

I remember one night in college, I was all stressed out because I had a big paper due that I wasn’t nearly ready to turn in, along with some other finals and shifts at my part time job. I called a friend, who told me that she was also feeling stressed. We decided to meet up and talk about our issues. I remember feeling almost angry with her when she told me that the problems that were keeping her up at night were “what type of person do I want to be” and “where do I see myself in 10 years?”. Of course those are important questions to answer, but you can’t really deal with them until you turn in that final paper, which is due no matter what type of person you are.

While a relationship can give people joy and love and safety, there are also practical benefits. There’s housing, there’s shared finances, there’s co-parenting. I know someone who has been separated from his wife for years, but still hasn’t signed the final divorce papers because he and his daughter are benefitting from being under his wife’s insurance. This arrangement works for him, but if his wife was abusive, it may not be practical. There’s a lot of extortion that happens: Sleep with me and be my partner, or you can’t stay in my house anymore. If you leave, you’ll have no where to go. Your job (if you even have one) won’t be enough to pay for an apartment and living expenses all on your own. Stay with me, where it’s safe.

If I Go To Jail Tonight, Promise You’ll Pay My Bail

If my husband needed to be bailed out of jail, I would march over there and bring every single penny in my account to help him out. Because I love him and he’s good to me and he deserves my help. Even if he did something foolish and stupid–he might have to deal with the consequences later, but I’d help him out in the moment because, love.

For so many victims, the sentiment is the same despite years of being treated badly. There is still love. There is still affection. There is still a very real feeling that the abuser deserves to be loved, despite whatever may have happened in the past, because, love.

This can’t be dismissed very easily.

There are no easy answers. We can educate boys and girls how to behave in relationships and what is healthy and what is unhealthy, but at the end of the day, every individual has to make the choice that is right for him or her. There are so many nuances involved in the decision that an outsider can’t see. All that an outsider can do is offer assistance and support, and most importantly, to be there, no matter what.

“He put me in the hospital when I was pregnant with her. The next day he started crying, begging for forgiveness. He said: ‘I’m so sorry, I was drunk, I need you so much.’ So I took him back. The next time it happened, he managed to convince me that it was my fault. He said that he wouldn’t have gotten so angry if I had paid more attention to him. So I started thinking that I could be better. Then it happened again. Honestly, I stayed with him so much longer than I should have because I was afraid of becoming the stereotype of a single black mother.” HumansOfNewYork.com
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Splitting the Chores

My mother is an amazing woman. She works a full time job and takes care of her house and cooks fabulous shabbat meals and still maintains her sanity.

Yesterday, I was speaking to her on the phone, when my husband came home from work. He looked around and noticed that I was in the middle of doing laundry. He asked me, “Should I switch the laundry now?”. I asked my mom to hold on a moment while I explained to him that yes, the laundry was ready to be switched, except for one load which was already in the dryer and that he should just bring that one upstairs so we can fold it.

When I got back to my mom, she said “Your husband does laundry with you? WOW.”

My father is one of the “manly men” from the previous generation that works all day, comes home and sits on the couch and relaxes after work, eats the dinner my mother prepared for him, and then goes upstairs to watch a game while he gets ready for bed. Meanwhile, when my mom gets off of work, she does the grocery shopping, cooks dinner, cleans the house, and makes all the social arrangements.

My parents like to say that when they got married, they made an arrangement: My mother would be in charge of all the minor, day to day decisions, and my father would be in charge of the major decisions. But, they realized, throughout the course of their marriage, there has never been one major decision!

You see, they came to the realization that all of life is simply a series of small decisions. A couple doesn’t just decide to buy a house, they decide to go to a few open houses, decide to talk with a real estate agent, decide to make some offers, and finally, decide to transfer a whole lotta money to a bank that’s going to own them for a very long time.

And while, this “big decision/small decision” method may work for my parents, it’s not the marriage that I want. Sometimes to a fault, I want every decision to be made mutually between myself and my husband. This is just as true for decisions like “should I take this job?” as it is for “what’s for dinner?”. He knows that one of the most frustrating things he can say is, “Honey, I don’t care, you do what you want.”

In general, I think it’s healthy that we do things together. I like that he chips in with laundry. I like that I can bounce all sorts of ideas off of him. Still, sometimes, if it’s my turn to make dinner, I should just choose something and be okay with it. And, well, that’s hard for me. I know that even if I think chicken is a good choice for dinner, he may not be very hungry and might only want soup. Or, he might have had pasta for lunch and not want it again for dinner, but I won’t know until he tells me.

In some ways, I’m happy that we have a 50/50 marriage. But sometimes, I think that the problem is that we don’t do things 50/50, we do things 100/100. There’s absolutely no reason why we both have to go to the grocery store together (other than, of course, we like each other and want to spend as much time together as possible) or both decide together what to have for dinner. Instead, we need to get better at splitting the chores evenly, instead of us both doing everything, so that we can have more time to spend with each other doing the things we really want to be doing.

Working Moms and Busy “Others”

I’d like to be frank about something here. I know what I’m about to say is not popular, but I’m going to say it anyway. I really don’t have that much sympathy for working moms.

I really don’t mean to downplay how hard it is to be a mom and also work full time, but in my world, that’s normal. When I was growing up, my mom worked full time. Both of my grandmothers also worked full time while raising children. Almost all of my friends’ moms worked.

I am not a mom, but I still have a busy schedule. I go to law school full time, and work part time, plus I have an hour long commute each day, meaning that I don’t get home before 9pm most nights. And once I get home, I have papers to write and cases to read and client files to go over.  I often do the grocery shopping while falling asleep, and my laundry hasn’t been done in two weeks because I just don’t have time for that. Forget about ever making the bed. And yet, there are not blogs and magazines and books dedicated solely to coping with my schedule. How come having a busy schedule is only sympathy worthy if part of the schedule includes children?

Still, despite my non-sympathy, being a working mom scares me. When my sister-in-law was recently complaining about a hectic day she had at work, it started with her pre-school age daughter being sick and having to arrange last-minute childcare before she left in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, she had an off-site meeting that went longer than it was supposed to. Since my sister-in-law is nursing her baby son, she pumps milk during the day. The late meeting meant that she had to find a place in the unfamiliar office building to pump, keeping her co-worker (and ride) waiting. Another time, she told me that her office building was closed for repairs, but all employees were expected to report in to a temporary site. She went to the temporary site, and found that she, and the rest of the employees, weren’t able to do a lot of work from there, since they didn’t have their files and other necessary things with them. While her co-workers had to stay and find busy work to fill their time, her boss gave her permission to leave early in order to nurse (there was no place to pump in the temporary location).

I know that my sister-in-law is an incredibly hard worker and very dedicated to her job. She’s also quite smart and good at what she does. Still, often when she talks about work, it’s often about how her children interfere with her ability to do her job well. It scares me that my ability to do my job well will be impacted by my children.

Perhaps, just maybe, this is the real reason why it irks me so much when moms complain about how hard it is to balance their work and home life. Perhaps, every time I hear that discussion, it reminds me that soon enough, that will be my fate as well.

Facebook Enables Insecurity

Girls like to over-analyze. So do bloggers. Therefore, I can feel justified in falling into multiple stereotypes as I write the following.

Today, I noticed that despite the fact that my boyfriend and I currently live 4 hours away from each other and only have the chance to get together once a week at best, approximately 50% of the pictures tagged of me on facebook from this past year have him in it. That’s grossly disproportional to the amount of time that I spend with him.
Why so many pictures of us together?
I recently read an article which reported on a study that found that people are happier with their relationship when they see pictures of them with their significant other. So perhaps that’s it.
Another thought hit me tonight. I am going kayaking with him tommorow. While thinking about what to pack, I debated bringing a camera. Pros-kayaking pics are awesome. Cons-digital cameras are expensive to replace if damaged by water. Clearly the cons outweighed the pros on this. But I REALLY wanted to bring it. Why?? I have gone on a number of fun outings this summer with friends (strawberry picking, fourth of july fireworks, outdoor movie on the waterfront) where I felt no need to take pictures. But for some reason, outings with my boyfriend seem to necessitate picture taking.
Furthermore, what is my purpose in taking the pictures? Are they for me or for my friends? I certainly feel more of a push to publish my boyfriend pictures online than my friend pictures.
Could it be that I need to project how cute of a couple we are to the world? Am I that insecure with our relationship, that I need other people to see how happy we are? Do I need a reminder that my relationship is a happy one? Why isn’t the knowledge that I did those things enough?
Am I so insecure in my relationship that I have to validate it by posting tons of pictures of me and my boyfriend? Have I really become THAT girl?

Alternate Personalities via Google

I Googled my name today. Among the people sharing my name were a registered nurse, a college volleyball player, a professor, and a woman with my first name who married a man with my last name and had six bridesmaids.

Sometimes I think that google is not just a search engine, it’s a portal into alternate universes. What if I had pursued volleyball after my tenure as middle school captain of the varsity volleyball team? I may just be playing college ball now, with a full scholarship and everything. What if I hadn’t been disuaded from the sciences when my 9th grade biology teacher made us watch Finding Nemo four different times throughout the year? I may have become a nurse, or even a doctor…

As I sit here sorting through the law school acceptance letters that have arrived, and wait eagerly by my e-mail inbox to hear from the others, I often ponder if the carreer I chose in 10th grade is the correct one. My roomate said the average American changes carreers 7 times in their lifetimes. Great, but I would like my starting carreer to NOT put me hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt just in time for me to realize that what I ACTUALLY want to do is something I could have gone in to straight out of college.

This is where the Google portal stops being useful. When I click on the names, I read about someone who is not me. I’d like a button that I can click next to any one of these alternate selves that says, ‘how to get here’. It would tell me, in great detail, what to do to become that person, starting from where I am right now.

So, any of you computer nerds-up to the challenge??

On Relationships

I have been dating my boyfriend for a little over 9 months now. We are just starting to exit the honeymoon stage and are (trying to be) settling into the committed relationship stage. It’s not easy. I routinely look back to how we were when we first started dating and think, how come we’re not as cuddly or as giddy around each other as we used to be? Does he not like me as much as he used to? Why do we stay in waaay more than go out? Why does he not make an effort to impress me as much as he used to? Why do I no longer make an effort?

On the other hand, my roomate has been dating her boyfriend for about two years, on and off. They are very giddy around each other, very nauseatingly try to “sneak” carresses to each other, and talk about each other constantly. The on and off, I’ve started to realize, is important. My theory is that they never ACTUALLY move past the honeymoon phase, but, by virtue of the fact that they have actually been together for so long, effectively have entered the committed relationship phase as well.

They went out for about 6 months, started fighting, broke up, and several weeks later got back together. They have done this about four times. It seems that when the newness of the realtionship starts to wear off, they just break up and start over.

The rational part of me says my way is healthier, that we address problems, that we learn to work with each other instead of against each other. But the low-self esteem part of me that’s constantly comparing myself to others says that they’ve caught hold of something important. They have, albeit by extreme means, learned to continuously ignite the spark that started their relationship. I hope that my boyfriend and I can learn to do this too, before it goes out all together.

Blogging Makes the World a Better Place

Just minutes after I posted my disgruntled post earlier today, things started turning around.

I found out that I didn’t actually leave my wallet at home, rather, had thrown it not in my purse but in my backpack, which I had with me as well. And there was still time before the test to down my tall iced vanilla latte with skim milk. The one down side to this event was that the coffee bar had run out of caramel syrup, so I wasn’t able to get my caramel macciato, but hey, caffeine and sugar is caffeine and sugar in any form.

I met with my Boss, who was very sympathetic to my plight and said the only reason she mentioned my absence was because she wanted to make sure I wasn’t sick or otherwise incapacitated. I am sick, but that’s not the point. She cares about me, and thinks I’m a fine employee.

I sat down to write my reasons for wanting to attend law school. Turns out, I have some pretty legit reasons. And also, apparently, I’m pretty darn good candidate if I do say so myself. My resume is overflowing with things I’ve done to be proactive in my community, and that’s OBVIOUSLY something that will follow me in my law career.

I’m still unholy and dirty, but after a whole day of meetings and classes and talking with professors, I sort of seem to forget about it.

Also, and most importantly, I know I have yummy leftover carrot soup waiting for me at home.