Tag Archives: caribbean life

Nazis or Ninjas?

Image credit: beautyramp.com

Image credit: beautyramp.com

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 Change.org 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.

Image credit: BlogSpot.com

Image credit: BlogSpot.com

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.

Image credit: onlinehairacademy.com

Image credit: onlinehairacademy.com

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

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The Sun Rises in the East

Image credit: acig.com.au

Image credit: acig.com.au

“But wait…You not a West Indian?”

This is the question normally asked of somebody who does or says something that the typical West Indian or Caribbean person wouldn’t do or say. In my case, it’s not being able to do what most West Indians can – which is, being able to tell north from south and east from west.

It’s embarrassing, but I’m just going to put it out there and admit that I am directionally challenged.

This island is a pretty small place, so when I visualize the map of it in my head, I know where certain areas are located. But stand me up in the middle of the street and ask me to face east, and I’ll ask you if I should turn left or right.

At my last residence, I had cemented in my brain the location of the north side of my house and of course, everything would fall into place after that. But I haven’t yet gotten my bearings at my present residence – and it’s been four years!

Yes, I know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but that’s not going to help me in the middle of the day.

Don’t ask me for directions and expect to be told to travel south along a particular road until you come to the gas station. What I am going to tell you is to make the left over there and continue along the road until you come to the fork, veer left and continue until you reach the gas station.

Image credit: images.clipartof.com

Image credit:
images.clipartof.com

If I’m recounting an accident that I happened to see, I can’t tell you who was travelling in an easterly direction or who was going west on Parliament Drive. But I can tell you that the car with the most damage was on the left side of the road and the other car came over there to join it.

Like I said, this island isn’t very big, and having lived here all my life (even with a four-year hiatus for college), I pretty much know where most places are. And if I don’t, just give me a landmark and tell me how many left turns to make.

It doesn’t matter if the car I’m driving has an onboard navigation system. It doesn’t make a difference if there are plenty of directional signs – unless they’re saying “left”, “right” and “go around this way”.

That’s why, sadly, whenever I travel overseas, I’m pretty content to take a back seat, enjoy the scenery, and have somebody else drive. Because that’s the only way I’ll ever hear the lady on the GPS say, “Girl – you have reached your destination”.

Privileged Information

One of the first celebrity "tell-all" books Image credit: Wikimedia.org

One of the first celebrity “tell-all” books
Image credit: Wikimedia.org

There’s really no way in heaven that I am going to have you people all up in my bed grass – as we say locally. But we can’t all be so circumspect. There are tons of others out there who have no problem speaking about things that should probably remain private.

Sure I’ve told you before about people who think that I’m a good listener, but those conversations are between me and them, and I’m not calling any names. And besides I realize that sometimes, some people just need to vent.

How does a person feel comfortable though, saying that he or she smoked an illegal substance, or had an abortion or had thoughts of killing himself or somebody else – without obscuring his face or altering her voice? But you can’t really do that if you’re hoping for a book deal or making the rounds on the talk-show circuit.

Most of us like to talk about ourselves and the types of people we are. How many times have you heard a person say, “Well if it had been me, I would have done so-and-so”?, because deep down we like others to know what we think. But some of us should really consider writing a tell-all book, since the details therein would let others know why we think it.

And why we do the things we do. And why we choose the wrong men. And why…

These days, everybody and her pig has written, is planning on writing or is in the process of writing a book. Some people are barely in their twenties and have already recorded for posterity, portions of their life (so far).  Maybe they think that the rest of their years won’t be nearly as interesting as what’s gone already.

But increasingly, the scourge of too much information or TMI is masquerading in memoirs of people’s lives where you get to know every nook and see every cranny of the person’s life – and it goes way beyond the person’s favourite colour and most desired food.

The authors who write personal stories of childhood abuse, molestation, mental illness and other tales of woe, probably do so with the intention of helping other people who may be going through the same thing. But I don’t think the publishing houses would waste all that paper if they didn’t think that somebody’s anguish was going to make them a boatload of money too.

There’s nothing wrong with telling your true story if you want your life to be an “open book”, but as a reader of other people’s blogs, I am sometimes amazed at how deep down some people go into their souls, then open up their hands to show you. It’s cathartic, I guess, but no amount of accolades is going to make me go there.

Sure I’ll tell you some stories, but I think I’ll keep the information about my dysfunctional family entirely to myself.

 

 

That’s Out of the Question

Only the most self-involved person living on this island would be unaware that we are awaiting the culmination of a too-long election season. So I was not surprised that my son had some curiousity about the process.

However, I wasn’t prepared for his bold inquiry regarding who exactly I was going to vote for.

Sweet thing.

But given that I’m not one of the people flying fifteen flags and sporting eleven bumper stickers on every part of my car, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t have a clue.

After getting over the initial shock, I realized that he wouldn’t be aware that there are some questions that you just don’t ask somebody. So I told him that certain topics such as politics and religion, and particular queries such as “how old are you?” (after 40), and “how did he die?” are usually off-limits.

When my husband heard the question, he just about jumped down the boy’s throat, so he had to soften it by explaining that after listening to what the contenders had to say, we would, on Election Day, determine the most suitable candidate. Which for some voters really means choosing between the lesser of two evils.

But on Election Day? I thought to myself that waiting until then might be cutting it a little close, because shouldn’t I already know who I was voting for long before then? But I suppose that’s why there’s a section of the population known as undecided voters.

Well I’m not going to spill the beans and say that I’m one of them, but what exactly could cause a person to take such a long time to make up her mind? In our local situation, both parties have a track record that can help in decision-making, Granted, one is more recent than the other, but frankly, a leopard can only rub out so many of its spots.

It can’t be that the undecided voter is taking stock of the many promises that are the calling cards of all politicians? It can’t be a comparison of whose rallies have the sweeter music or which entertainers seemingly indicate their support by taking on the job? It can’t be whose voices are louder or whose faces loom larger from the innumerable billboards occupying every available square inch of land? Can it?

Well in that case bring it on. Because now, with a little over two weeks left to go, there is probably still a lot more that can be done to convince. I just can’t imagine what that could be.

However, I am planning on having an election night soiree – something akin to a Superbowl party – so if my son stays up late enough, depending on my reaction, he may just be able to find out who I chose.

 

The Boy With The Teardrop Tattoo

Image credit: tatoodesigns.com

Image credit: tatoodesigns.com

Do you remember when the quickest way your mother could bring you down when you were busy singing the latest pop song was to ask whether you knew your schoolwork?

And if you didn’t quit the singing, the dancing or whatever she considered to be inappropriate behaviour quickly enough, you’d be asked to recite your 9 times table or some innocuous fact from last week’s homework that you didn’t think she remembered – just so that you could prove it to her.

Back then, parents were quick to nip in the bud, whatever they considered to be troubling issues or unsuitable conduct.

These days I wonder if some parents are paying any attention.

Take tattoos for instance.

I’ve been on my soapbox with this before. I’m not a big fan of them even on people who have been around the block more than a few times, have all their wits about them and have clearly thought the whole thing through.

Not that tattoos are a sign of deviant behaviour or proof that your child is on her way to hell, but when I hear that a teenager who is still in school is showing off her tattoo on Facebook, I realize that times certainly have changed.

The parent who was telling the story wondered what kind of relationship this daughter had with her mother where something like that was acceptable in her house, but maybe that’s because it was perfectly acceptable in her house. Not all parents see things the same way.

Truth be told, there probably are a lot of these expressions hiding underneath the collars and cuffs of more school uniforms than we think. So now we know where all the money from those chores is being spent.

But there are some kids who are obviously running the show where they live.

My husband told me that last week he saw a boy riding a bike. He was surprised not by the wheelies he was executing, but by the fact that plain as day, were two teardrops tattooed on the teenager’s face.

Now I don’t know if these tears were designed to be an everlasting reminder from his mother of the butt-whipping he got when he had put a tattoo somewhere else. Or if like the basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire, they were placed there to show that he’s always crying inside.

Maybe his tattooed tears represent the number of people that he’s killed so he’s silently telling us to stay away before he’s forced to add another tear. Maybe he wants to erase the stigma associated with that particular tattoo. Maybe he thought it just looked nice.

I’m not sure his mom is any the wiser either, because this school-aged boy has been missing quite a few lessons – and not just the type that we get in class, either.

teardrop

“School Call In”

Quite a few months ago, my daughter asked me if there was such a thing as a parenting class. I told her that there wasn’t and that as parents, we learn as we go along. My son laughed. I’m not sure if the funny part was because he thought it was a ridiculous question or whether he felt that I was falling down on the job.

Since then, however, it’s come to my attention that such a thing does exist and in areas where it doesn’t, people are thinking that maybe it should.

A few years ago I was a member of a woman’s networking group that hosted a series of forums designed to help parents deal with the many issues they face as their children grew and matured. The title of this post is taken from the name of the series that was presented by the group.

From helping children with schoolwork, to understanding the transition from primary school to secondary school, to coming to grips with our children’s sexuality, to matters of discipline (to spank or not to spank), it was dealt with. By having teachers, psychologists, nurses and counselors as facilitators, the parents were “schooled” in what to expect and what to do when it happened.

Back then, I was only a mother of a two-year old, and when I realized the many issues that some of the parents of older children were facing, I prayed that his early childhood years would pass slo-o-owly.

My mind was drawn to my daughter’s question because of the recent incident in the US where a mother left her two young children unattended in a car while she attended a job interview. It would be heartless of me to say that she really left the kids home alone, because the woman and her children are in fact homeless and actually live in the car.

The woman was arrested, and then the firestorm of comments began, with people questioning what support she had or could access, and whether she was in a catch 22 kind of situation in wanting to take care of her kids but not being able to take care of her kids.

One article discussing the case referenced British Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2012 Can Parent Initiative, which provided vouchers to help pay for parenting classes offering advice on nutrition, behaviour and development.

By saying that it was “ludicrous” that we are expected to train for hours to learn to drive a car or to use a computer, he was probably mirroring my daughter’s incredulity because even she realizes that parenting should be more than the crash course that it is.

With the changing times, a lot of us are swimming in the deep. When we were growing up, we had fewer temptations than our children now have that can lead them away from the straight and narrow. We can make all the jokes we like about what’s in the water or what’s being put into the food, and we can reminisce every day about the fact that one look, two harsh words and a hand to the bottom was enough to straighten us out, back in the day.

However, we need to find out what works for us and for our children, today.

I don’t want to give the impression that it’s all about discipline for me, because guidance isn’t only about punishment, but would I have appreciated a parenting class when my young ones were younger?

Would I have liked to know that academically, some boys need extra encouragement to read and that finding books about topics that they like is a good place to start?

Or that socially, both boys and girls become interested in their appearances much sooner than we did, and with it comes an awareness of their sexuality?

Or that as a parent I should never make a promise that I can’t deliver on because my children might accuse me of not telling the truth?

Or that I should never announce a trip or an outing until a few minutes before we get ready to leave because doing so is a sure way to eliminate all serenity until we do?

As you can see from these questions, there are some things that the experts could have told me in advance. And then there are other things that I wouldn’t know until I got here.

School’s Out

I generally like to bump into old classmates who I haven’t seen in a while, despite the fact that their gray hairs usually mirror the ones in mine. The faces are familiar, but some names escape me. There have been one or two people who, even though they haven’t seen me in years, remember my name – and I wasn’t ever the most popular girl in school.

 

But maybe it’s my memory that’s bad.

 

I feel awful when I can’t attach that person’s name to my return greeting, because I know how good it feels to be called by name. And I’m embarrassed when I have to struggle to remember where I’ve met the person before. Did I go to high school with her? Did I meet her in college? Was she the teller that served me in the bank a few days ago? Or was she the person I introduced myself to when she cut me off in traffic?

 

Last week, I met a former classmate when he came into my place of business. I hadn’t seen this person in years, but he instantly looked familiar. And this time I knew exactly at which institution we had crossed paths. We recognized each other at the same time. He said my name, and as usual, I was struggling to say his. Luckily, I kept my eyes trained on his lips and I was able to say his name just as it came spilling out of his mouth.

 

Anyway, he was in a spot of difficulty and was hoping that I could help him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t assist with exactly what he wanted, but I did have an item that would tide him over. So I agreed to lend it to him and he promised to get it back to me a few hours later.

 

It took four days and two phone calls before I got my property back. Since I “remembered” his name, I was able to scour the phone book to get his number. Because if he thought that he was going to be getting a free what-ya-ma-call-it from someone that he used to know, he was quite mistaken.

 

This borrowing without bothering to give back is something that’s plagued my children’s classrooms as well – and they’ve unfortunately been the ones on the giving end. Sometimes, if they aren’t diligent in asking for what is theirs, they may not ever get it back. I, however, was not going out like that.

 

When my former classmate finally returned the item, he gave his apologies, but he didn’t even, as we say, have the grace to look embarrassed. And he didn’t bother to offer an explanation either.

 

I had planned on giving him a piece of my mind, but I didn’t feel up to teaching a lesson that day.

 

However, I learned mine.