Category Archives: Caribbean life

Desperately Seeking Attention

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When my children were younger, they did what all children do, which is follow their parent (usually the mother) to the bathroom when she has to leave something in there, but they usually don’t.

Now that they’re a little older they’ve graduated from that and moved on to – well they haven’t really moved on. They still seem to gravitate to the bathroom, choosing that particular time to make their requests.

It’s when I’m stepping into the bathroom that’s seen as the ideal time to talk to me about nothing in particular, or to get permission to have the piece of cheese in the fridge that’s calling her name, or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that she has been wronged by her sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so she requires me to have a chat with the offender so that she can satisfy herself that a beating will ensue.

It’s when I shut the door that’s seen as the perfect time to ask where his father is even though we came home without him, or to run an idea by me, or to negotiate what he’d like to get for Christmas, or to ask for permission to watch TV or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that he has been wronged by his sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so he requires me to have a chat with the offender so that he can satisfy himself that a beating will ensue.

Emergencies like these, as well as others that occur when I’m on the phone happen all the time. So I have to inform about the proper definition of an “emergency”, and warn that unless the house is burning down, except they hear an explosion or save for someone trying to get through the front door without knocking, I’ll need for them to wait until I finish my business – wherever that presently is.

Camping outside the bathroom door, or mouthing their query while I talk on the phone has not gone down well with me, but I think they’re hopeful that I’ll give them what they want just to get them to go away. They don’t realize that I’m counting the number of times I have to repeat what’s already been said and deducting it from their college fund. At the rate they’re going it doesn’t look as if they’ll be going anywhere.

Lately, any conversation between me and my husband is seen as the opportune time for showing us the newest drawing or telling us a joke that’s been running since I was a child. Even a recent episode of their favourite show with dialogue included just must be shared when both of us are seen to be speaking in earnest.

Whatever happened to children being seen and adults not being disturbed?

Holding It In

My daughter has never seen a bathroom that she didn’t like – to enter.

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When I say bathroom, I really mean a restroom. The public ones that I only use at the really-must have-to-go-if-I-don’t-want-to-end-up-embarrassing-myself times. Which happens a lot lately because I just can’t see the point of holding it in anymore. Back in the day, I used to be able to delay the inevitable for hours at a time, leaving my husband to wonder how I managed to do it. I told him that I acquired that useful skill by refusing to get up at three in the morning.

My daughter doesn’t feel the need to hold on to things either, so nothing can stop her from wanting to use the restroom when we visit the supermarket, the shoe store, restaurants, churches, government offices, the drug store, and every conceivable place where she (rightly) deduces that a bathroom should be provided for potential customers or the general public. I’m convinced she wants to go in just to have a look around.

That can be the only explanation, because even though she’s given a chance to empty her bladder before we leave home, she still finds something that she wants to leave in the ladies’ room of wherever it is that we’re going. And my foolish query about why she didn’t do it when she had a chance is met by a look of incredulity when she answers that she “didn’t need to do it then”.

I know one mother who made sure that she trained her daughters to suppress their desire to visit any bathroom other than their own. It’s a matter of pride for her, but I never got around to telling my daughter about all the dangers that lurk in the places that other people visit.

So because of her insistence on visiting the powder room of every place she’s ever been (and dragging me along with her), I suppose the least I can do is teach her the little details – such as the acrobatic skills that will be required when she’s faced with the items found in every bathroom, beginning with that most dubious of surfaces – the public toilet seat.

I remember being in a cubicle and noticing a public service message on the back of the door. I thought the placement was kind of odd, but I suppose they were hoping to provide me with some reading material while I waited – except that there was no way I would be sitting down to do it.

Sometimes fear is a great motivator, but I don’t want my daughter to be one of those people who can’t leave the cubicle she’s in because she doesn’t want to touch the door handle when she needs to get out. So I’ll remind her that toilet paper is also good for opening the door, and for pulling triple duty because when she’s ready for flushing, she can put it on the toilet handle too.

I hope she’ll be inclined to do some gymnastics, because faucets are another hurdle to be overcome. Only God can help her if it’s an old-fashioned model that she’ll have to grasp in order to turn it on. But since elbows are good for pushing, I’ll give her permission to ignore the soap if it requires pressing the dispenser- but she should really be able to do that since she’s still young and reasonably flexible. After that she can move on over to those hand dryers known more for blasting noise than air.

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If the bathroom door is open, she’ll be in the clear. Otherwise, she’ll have to keep her just-washed hands up in front of her and back out of the door like a surgeon who’s just scrubbed for an operation, as she makes her way back into the (germ free) world again.

I had resolved to ask my daughter what exactly her fascination was, because I think that when you’ve seen one bathroom you’ve really seen them all. But once while out dining, my husband came back to the table after having visited the restroom at the establishment. As he took his seat he said to me excitedly, “You should see the bathroom”.

Which told me that apparently, all lavatories are not the same.

Selfish or Self-Sacrifice?

Image credit: falconchildren'

Image credit: falconchildren’

I recently heard a story about a local woman who was diagnosed with an illness which would eventually take her life. If what schoolchildren say is true, despite this diagnosis, she chose to become pregnant (or carry the baby to term), and at the time of writing this, is close to giving birth.

Some rumours make more sense to the person telling the story than to the person who’s listening, so I took the story with a liberal amount of salt.

Since I don’t like to be seen as judgmental, I tried to put myself in her shoes and determine whether the choice she made would have really been in her best interest or that of the child’s. Most women want to procreate, so I was hoping that this woman wasn’t marking “having a baby” off her bucket list – because carrying a child isn’t quite in the same league as wanting to take that trip to Turkey before you die.

It is awesome to be a mother, but what happens when you’re no longer here? Of course, since none of us is promised tomorrow, one could argue that any of us could very well leave our children motherless through no fault of our own. But therein lies the difference. If we knew that we wouldn’t be around to love and care for the child, would that be considered a tad selfish on our part?

Recently I read a post by fellow blogger, Dani, who writes at bloomingspiders, where she highlighted the story of an American woman who found out about her terminal illness after she had conceived, but who chose to carry the baby as close as possible, to term. By doing so, it meant that she missed out on arresting the spread of the disease because she refused the chemotherapy treatments that were necessary to do so.

The new mother, who had a legitimate reason for ending her pregnancy declined to do it because she saw it as ending a perfectly healthy life to sustain one that wasn’t. She will have at most a year to live, and I’m sure she’ll use the remaining time she has to bond with the child who will probably not remember her.

It’s likely that she will take lots of pictures and leave video montages for her daughter because of this. But the most vivid memory that will be left with the child is the fact that her mother made such a big sacrifice in order for her to be here. Should it matter that this woman will be leaving a 6 year old son behind as well? And a fiancée, with whom I believe she wanted to have this child?

Not being there for any of them probably doesn’t make any sense to most of us. If I was to guess, this woman probably looked at the odds of her long term survival and stacked it up next to that of her unborn child, and figured that she’d prefer to live without regret – for however long she had left.

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If my local tale is true, both situations will have the same outcome – so should it matter when each knew of her own physical condition? If both women see giving life to another as the ultimate and best goal, it’s obviously worth it to them – even though they won’t be a part of it.

Rihanna Doesn’t Take “Last Lick”

“Last lick”: an end of school game played by West Indian children where no one wanted to be the last one hit before having to leave for home.

Rihanna must be exhausted.

It can’t be easy to have to keep the public guessing about your next move as you try to stay relevant, try to get noticed or try to re-invent yourself if those things don’t work out. For some artists like my girl Rihanna, some of the behavior exhibited leaves me wondering where her good home training went.

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I remember one of Rihanna’s early interviews that I read in SHE Caribbean magazine when she was just coming on the scene. She talked about how her burgeoning success engendered some jealousy among some former classmates, but I think there were more of us who were happy to see this island girl make it on the big stage – and in the US no less. It gave hope to the rest of us still chasing our dreams.

But after her second album, she started to take charge of her own image and she shed the whole girl-next-door visage. Re-branding herself as a bad g(y)al means that she constantly has to do and say things that you would expect a naughty girl to do and say. When she and Chris Brown became an item I realized that the transformation was indeed complete.

I’m not exactly sure just when she began to turn me off, but some of her instagram posts and nearly naked poses probably didn’t help. Her unnecessary use of profanity reminds me of those youngsters who think it makes them look like bonafide adults, but one thing that the over-the-top behavior says is that the attention garnered on stage isn’t satisfying enough.

She’s a very attractive girl, but she now constantly pushes the envelope with regards to all forms of self-expression including speech and dress. She is frequently given kudos for taking risks in fashion and never looks the same twice. Down here we would say she’s suffering from a serious case of “overdo”. Up there she even manages to avoid being accused of, as they say euphemistically, “trying too hard”.

"The idea!!!" as my grandmother would say Image credit:

“The idea!!!” as my grandmother would say
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Her outfit at the CFDA Fashion awards for example, left most of us wondering why she even bothered to wear any clothes since what she did wear left literally nothing to the imagination. But since she was actually being honoured as a fashion icon that evening, she had to show why she deserved it.

She did have the grace to say that since her mother was back home in Barbados at the time, she saw the outfit at the same time we all did. Had she seen her when she was leaving the house even Rihanna knows that her mother (like most old-school West-Indian mothers) would have asked her where she was “going dressed like that”.

In her acceptance speech, she said that she didn’t have a lot of fashion role models when she was growing up, but she knew that she had a better sense of style than other girls. But her walk to the podium to accept her award while the adoring audience rose to its feet and applauded, somehow reminded me of the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

When I was younger our grandmothers (and some mothers), would grumble about the bad influence of all things American when they saw us doing things that they know they didn’t teach us. But it’s easy to blame others instead of acknowledging that things that used to be taboo have now become more acceptable, so we no longer have to watch our mouths or mind our manners.

Rihanna’s latest twitter outburst directed at the CBS network over them wanting to use a song on which she featured and then not wanting to use it, and then wanting to use it again, had her livid – and she wasn’t taking the disrespect. So she told them off as she is wont to do and added in a “cuss” word for good measure. ‘Cause she na ‘fraid nobody – and she will always be in demand.

I guess my age is showing, because I really can’t abide people who behave as if they were dragged up rather than brought up and who act as if they don’t know any better. As an adult I’ve come across the types of people who always feel the need to have the last word, and sometimes it’s better to let them have it. In much the same way, when I left the playground I grew to realize that it won’t ever kill me if (sometimes) I have to take “last lick”.


A Matter of Timing

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I read an article the other day that detailed some of the things that a new employee should never do. I clicked on the story because I wanted to see how many of them I could guess. Apparently the writer of the piece didn’t want to leave anything out – including the obvious.

Among the cautions was asking for vacation time during the first few months, complaining to your co-workers about your new boss, bad-talking your old boss or the people you used to work with, taking long lunches, spending time on Facebook and other social sites and calling in sick during your first month on the job.

The article expounded on each one as the writer attempted to spell out in black and white just why it was that the actions were unacceptable – at first. Apparently some of the behaviours become acceptable, (or should that be, expected), when the person has been there for a little while.

So while there was nothing inherently wrong with some of the requests – it seemed that when you asked was what mattered.

Take for example, asking for vacation before you even get a chance to hand in any “sick papers” – that is, within the first year.

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In this neck of the woods, we can’t expect any time off until we’ve toiled for at least a year, so if we really need a break from the job we have to invent a death in the family or an illness that requires a hospital stay – the last for ourselves of course, and the first for somebody else.


…Because we still want the job, we just need a little break from it.

I’ve heard that there are some people who actually like the people they have to report to. And there are others who just don’t.

After you’ve been there awhile though, you’ll find that the proper place to gripe about that, is not with the other workers where there’s likely to be someone who carries messages that you didn’t send, but on the phone with your best friend while in the presence of your employer. Bonus points if she is left without a doubt that the “she” being referred to is her.

…Because we could probably do her job better than she does anyway – we’re just waiting for the higher-ups to notice.

Less than glowing reports about the people you used to work with won’t be acceptable conversation for shooting the breeze – initially.

However, if you wait long enough your co-workers will show their hands first – and then you’ll simply need to add your stories to the already colourful plate. Personality comparisons (about others), is a great bonding activitiy and can make fitting in a whole lot easier.

…Because our knack for telling stories has got to count for something. 

The article spoke about a “lunch culture” and as a new worker, you’ll do the one hour thing and actually eat your lunch during this time…

…Until your co-workers come back raving about the one day sale at Payless, and you understand then, why all the calls were coming back to you. After that, you’ll realize that the “culture” is one where the time taken for lunch is used for anything but actual eating, since kids need to be picked up from school, errands need to be run and bills have to be paid – literally. So lunch will actually be consumed in that hour when you get back and should be working.

…Because Saturday is our day off, and we don’t want to spend it running errands when we can do it during the week.

You should expect to have to wait to catch up with your favourite fashion sites, online magazines and news portals when you get home – or during lunch.

Is it time for Facebook? Image credit:

Is it time for Facebook?
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But what would the workday be without being able to check out what’s happening on Facebook? Besides providing information, it is a source of constant entertainment during an interminably long day. Eventually, you find that being at home and being at work are much the same – you just have to dress for the latter. However, if you’ve been unemployed for a while, this habit will be a hard one to quit…

…Because before we got this new job, that was precisely how we spent our days.

The final infraction is really the biggest one for employers because it is frequently abused. Chikungunya notwithstanding, no sensible worker will want to have to take sick leave during that first month when you’re still thanking your lucky stars that you have a job.

When you’re more comfortable however, you’ll think it best to take those twelve allowable “sick days” before the year runs out. You might even see them as “personal days”, and think nothing of taking your kids for an ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, or catching an early movie since you’d be off the clock by then anyway.

…Because vacation days are not the only things we don’t want to save up anymore.

Smoke Signals

I was watching a video last week via facebook that showed a baby, no more than two years old dancing on a table like there was no tomorrow. Truth be told, he was doing more than I ever could at that age or even now for that matter. He was on the beat, never lost his balance and kept at it for what I thought was an extremely long time.

I enjoyed it, but it reminded me of those old-time West Indian mothers who would look at you and them calmly ask, “You know your school work?” – if they figured that you knew something (which wasn’t your school work), a little too well. And when that question was asked, it wasn’t rhetorical. It was cause for concern – and for action. Meaning, stop whatever it was that you were doing.

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Everybody talks about how much smarter our children are than we used to be, but for children who are supposedly more savvy than we were, some of them don’t read signals well, a number of them don’t know what a hint looks like, and others can’t see what’s coming from two feet away.

It took me a little while but I’ve realized that there are other things that completely go over their heads.

Take for instance the hard stare. This has absolutely no significance for them, because “the look” from back in my day apparently didn’t translate very well across the generations. Most of them probably think that we’re simply searching their faces for the solution to some unanswered question, when we’re really trying to understand how our own children became so daft.

Then there’s the repeated question. The true meaning is completely lost on them, so they don’t know that a parent repeating a question simply means that the first answer that was given wasn’t the correct one and that they need to come up with another one. It’s amazing that it takes them even longer to realize that causing us to repeat ourselves doesn’t buy them any time.

And finally, the silent treatment. They don’t know how to interpret this, so the poor things don’t realize that an unanswered question doesn’t mean that they weren’t heard the first time. So it stands to reason that they would also be clueless to the fact that a continued lack of response means that it won’t ever be answered – because there is no answer for a question that should never have been asked.

But there is yet hope, because some of today’s kids will grow up to be great negotiators. I know this because some kids treat the consequences of inappropriate behaviour as something to be included in a negotiated settlement. As in – am I willing to dispense three spanks instead of the customary six for this infraction?

The only problem I foresee is them knowing how far to push their luck. Because if they can’t understand the smoke signals, they’re not going to be able to read the tea leaves either.

“News You Can’t Possibly Use” – No, we are not related

Not me and my sister Image credit:

Not me and my sister
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I can’t tell you how many times somebody has looked at me and asked – are you related to so-and-so? When I respond in the negative, the person invariably says, “Well, look how some people can look alike”, and I agree, but sometimes I don’t know what the heck they’re looking at.

That’s what I also think when some people ask whether my sister and I are twins. There’s a five year difference between us, and though I will admit that there is a resemblance (because we are siblings after all), I don’t get how they come to the conclusion that we are not fraternal – but identical twins.

Could it possibly be because we have the same eye colour? How about the fact that we are both tall and ( I wish), impossibly thin? Maybe it’s the fact that we have the same parents? Or the fact that we like many of the same foods?

But coming from the same household doesn’t mean that we’re one and the same, and some things are definitely not interchangeable.

In a recent case of mistaken identity, most commonly known as “they all look alike to me”, a British company that was contracted to print memorabilia for the 2014 World Cup, wasn’t able to tell the difference between a British soccer player participating in the matches and the president of the United States.

By the time the error was discovered, some 2,000 cups with Barack Obama’s face had already come off the assembly line.

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The soccer player in question was Chris Smalling who is a defender for England’s national soccer team, and yes he is a black man. I have seen one or two people who can possibly play Mr. Obama in a yet-to-be-produced movie, but I have to say that Mr. Smalling isn’t one of them. But maybe they saw something I didn’t.

Anyway since, as we say locally, every spoil is a style, there is a wholesale clearance company that is trying to make a killing on the souvenir company’s mistake by selling the mugs for the affordable price of just over three thousand US dollars.  Which I hope is the amount for the whole lot, because even though it makes for a good story, a mug is still just a receptacle for tea.

Nazis or Ninjas?

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Image credit:

I really try not to pay too much attention to controversial issues on social media, because everybody and her mother will have something to say – and I can almost always imagine what the sparring points will be.

In addition to that, there’s probably nothing I could add to the conversation that hadn’t already been said.

I’ve discussed the issue of hair somewhere else before so I’ve never felt the need to address it here. When I had talked about it previously, it was about the popularity of us women attaching hair to our heads that used to belong to somebody else and using it as one of the benchmarks of our personal beauty.

But the length (or at least longer lengths) of our hair is not the only thing that makes us beautiful – or so we’re told. Wearing our hair exactly the way it grows out of our heads should be everyone’s ultimate goal.

The natural hair movement, complete with Youtube tutorial videos on hair care, hair styles and hair typing adds to the confusion. “Natural Nazis”, or people who look down on you if you go near a hot comb or a tub of lye relaxer, may or may not be the same type of people who think that it’s okay to use a wig just as long as you sign a declaration that you’re only using it as a “protective style”.

With that brief background, you can understand why I chose to ignore the discussion centered around a campaign designed to get a popular American singer to comb her daughter’s hair. Joke or not (which the instigator initiator later claimed it to be), it was meant to show up a mother who decided that she would let her daughter’s hair be free – of (supposedly) a comb.

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As a girl growing up in the Caribbean, and as a descendent of African slaves, I knew that my hair grew up and out, didn’t bounce and sometimes had to be manipulated in order for it to “behave”. Some West Indian mothers don’t discriminate between a boy and a girl when they’re babies, so you have to pay close attention to the clothing and not assume that the girl is the only one with her hair out.

These are probably the mothers who hold out for as long as possible before cutting their son’s hair, but that doesn’t mean they don’t comb it – even though it might look that way. Starting school means that boys get their first haircuts and girls enter the wonderful world of hairstyles – which for some mothers means seeing how many different ways they can put their daughters’ hair in “one”.

Over the years whenever I would see a little girl with disheveled hair I’d say to the mother (silently of course), “Wait, can’t you comb that child’s hair”? Because I thought that surely she could take a little time to wave some Vaseline over the child’s head and put in a couple of bubbles since, left to most kids, playing will always win over getting their hair done.

Even with all that, I never considered it appropriate to tell somebody else what to do with this thing called “hair”, but there does come a time in life when some things need to be dialed back – and we need to (gasp) conform.

This is how my determination to say nothing about this hair debate was foiled; it happened when I read that a woman is suing her former employer because she was fired for refusing to “tame” her hair. As a cancer survivor, she decided to eschew the use of chemicals that would make it easier for her to have a hairstyle that (to put it delicately), didn’t make her stand out as much.

Her large afro seems a bit on the unkempt side to me, but maybe she’s decided that a brush would mess up the look that she was going for. I’m all for being able to express yourself – even through your hairstyle, but I fail to see why the woman (who preferred standing on principle over having a job), didn’t just go to Youtube for a couple of tips, because some youtubers are really (hair) ninjas in disguise.

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But who knows? Maybe she was afraid of the Nazis.

“News You Can’t Possibly Use” – The things some people do for their art

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I don’t know if I told any of you who don’t know me personally that I love to sing, and that when I leave the shower, I’ve been told that I don’t sound half bad.


Anyway, it’s something that I’d love to be able to do professionally, but only if it didn’t come with the knots in the stomach, the bundle of nerves and the numerous bathroom trips prior to a performance.


Not to mention the annoying paparazzi and hangers-on that I’m likely to attract after I got really famous.


But even being a singer comes with its risks, and I don’t mean the crazy fans, the stalkers, the ego strokers, the detractors or the endless comparisons to others.


Now and again we hear of singers having to cancel tour dates in order to rest their voices or recover from damage to their vocal cords, while some singers have had to have surgery to repair them.


As with most major surgeries, the patient is usually knocked out by general anesthesia and the doctor determines the degree of success achieved after the patient wakes up.


But I read of a professional singer who not only was awake for the entire operation to remove a tumor from her throat, but who sang her way through it. Because the pain would obviously be felt since she was awake for the procedure, a hypnotist was required to take her to a place far, far away – from the operating room.


By having the patient sing, the surgeon was able to determine while he was operating just how things were going. And since one slip of the scalpel could have destroyed her singing voice, I dare say she wasn’t afraid to take on board any and all suggestions.


I don’t know which is more amazing, though. The fact that the hypnotist was able to make her “travel” without leaving the building or that she didn’t mind singing for free.


But that’s what you do when you’re a singer. I should know.


What If…?

Michael Jackson Image credit:

Michael Jackson
Image credit:

Do you ever imagine what your life would be like if you had taken a different path?

For example, suppose you had married or settled down with your very first boyfriend or the person who was your very first crush?

Suppose you had done that before letting that first blush pass or allowing the scales to fall from your eyes? Or before you managed to take off those rose-tinted glasses?

But maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical, because I might have actually enjoyed migrating to New Zealand with Phillip K after we got married, and would now be regaling our children with stories about growing up in the tropics.

I know there are a number of people who actually married their high school sweethearts and probably an equal number of them are still together.

But how many of us know for a fact that we dodged a bullet?

I’m not planning on giving away too much information here, but like other young ladies I know, I’ve had my share of crushes. I can’t say that any of them were people on TV, because I’m a practical girl at heart – I want to know that I actually have a chance in hell of hooking up with the man of my dreams.

Not all of us can be as “lucky” as Katie Holmes.

So no. There were no posters of any actors or singers hanging on the walls of the bedroom I shared with my sister. Sure Michael was a looker in his early days, but I can’t say that I ever wanted to marry him.

I know though, that there are some of us who see where our first crushes (or boyfriends) ended up and are glad that first love means there’s a second or even a third to follow.

How many of us know now what we didn’t know then, which is that he really wasn’t marriage material – evidenced by the fact that he is no longer married to the person he decided to marry?

How many of us are relieved that we didn’t have to understand that even though he said he wanted to be married, it didn’t mean that he wouldn’t continue to look for suitable prospects – even after he was married?

How many of us are thankful that we didn’t have to find out that he wasn’t the one for us when he decided that we weren’t the one for him after all – several thousand dollars and a couple hundred wedding favours later?

How many of us are happy that we didn’t have to discover that our significant other was also very significant to others – which could have meant significant weight loss for us?

How many of us are delighted to have avoided owning the title “my baby’s mother” because he was perfectly happy being nothing more than your baby’s daddy – in addition to someone else’s?

Talk about a close call.

What about you? Do you consider your first love the one who got away, or the one you got away from?