Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Why I Love to Love and Hate to Love West Indian Men

June 4, 2015

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Every now and then, an article or two makes the rounds touting the pros of dating “a Caribbean man”, primarily for the elucidation of women outside of the region and our cultures. Sometimes, a few women and men friends of mine post these on Facebook with either an eye-roll, a pointed ‘no comment’ or as comment bait, but more often than not, they often go ignored by most of the folks I know personally. It’s almost like once you’ve been living with it all your life, like sunshine and warm oceans, it’s not that special — The Caribbean Man — and certainly not warranting all that list attention. Plus, we like to try to not feed the machine (cough, egos). Furthermore, not all of us may agree. According to a Trini sistren I know, “Trini man is de worst!” But unfortunately, guess who holds her heart right now? Yes, a Trini man. Cue the sound of sighs. Love dem too bad and hate to love dem.

But what is it with West Indian men? Living abroad, dating West Indian men can be like comfort food. I like hearing my own accent and dialect tumbling in my ear. I like the worn familiar feeling of an old and obscure-to-nearly-everyone-but-Trinbagonians Machel song. I like how they love me — for the most part. I like how they freely wine or stoically rather not. How we fight. How I challenge their worldview as a queer black feminist. Or, watch them leave me, walking away with a headshake saying, “Nah. We are too different.”

I love West Indian men’s carriage and swagger, their walk and heteropatriarchal expressions of protection and care. I love how they hail up one another and embrace, give each other bounces and touch thumbs. I love some of the many things they share all up and down the archipelago, not just Trinidad and Tobago. There is plenty that I don’t love about West Indian masculinity too, by the way. But right now, for the time being, I just want to sit on the verandah and watch them gallery deyself.

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Love in the Time of Fear

May 8, 2014

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“You called?” I inquired. I was responding to a missed call on my cell. It was the waning hours of Valentine’s Day and the late night was winding down; I was ensconced in a short hallway by the bathroom, inside a hipster bar in central Florida. The young man on the other end was visibly uncomfortable. I could hear his discomfort through the phone, and I could see his face in my mind—sapodilla brown, and probably scrunched up with that squirmy look of his.

“Uh, happy over commercialized holiday.”

“Aw, are you telling me happy Valentine’s day? Did you think of me?” An emotionally inaccessible man is ever tortured by me and my endless turns of the screw. I am incessantly excavating—or attempting to.

He might have sighed inwardly then, if he was the kind of guy who sighed—he wasn’t. He dodged my emotional curve ball and tried to deflect away from the matter at hand: the fact that it was Valentine’s and he called me, because he cares.

“Well it’s almost over.” He noted. “And I was also calling about something else.” It was, arguably, 11: 56 pm when I hit the call button.

Of course, I quibbled, “Well it’s not quite over yet though.” I almost cooed it. Almost. Everything is strategy when you love a guy who cannot love you back the way that you want. When you love someone whose emotional maturity level may not always match up with yours. So many things are elusive, too. Sometimes even impervious. It is hard. But yet, I am still here after all these months, with the phone in my hand and the thrum of my full heart in my chest.

When I make him an offer to come by later if he wants to, he doesn’t want to drive over the bridge to my neighboring county, yet he is irked that I am, in fact, out on Valentine’s. I can hear it in the snap of his reply. He worked an eight hour shift until 11 pm and never tried to make plans with me. He buries disappointment so fast sometimes you could almost miss it, but I catch it because I am always on the look-out. I don’t tell him where I am exactly (strategy, remember) and it feels silly because, it is, and I spend my Valentine’s late-night alone in bed with a dull ache in me. I miss him terribly for a while, then I sleep.

This all began when I met him in a mutual friend’s party about a year ago. We’re from the same island nation, Trinidad and Tobago. He was funny and he could dance. He was younger than me, tall, and a lover of carnival and music. We wound ourselves around each other slowly, at first—texts and short phone calls and exceedingly random and sporadic Facebook messages—now my spool is a hot, frayed out mess. We grew to know and like each other more, letting each other in. As communicative air signs, we reveled in conversations, long succulent ones; after his shift as a CNA and my stints at teaching, we talked overnight into several mornings. Conversations like those I had as a teenager, trying to get to know every nook and cranny of each other’s minds. He grew to be one of my dearest friends. I was loving him beyond friendship and one day (night really), we finally talked about it, albeit under the heady influence of Caribbean rum and we acknowledged that we loved each other (me first, naturally).

And because “I love you” is a spell caster, I clung to the magic and reverence of the words in my head and fed myself from it often: the idea and the words. And what about the practice? Actively loving and expressing love fearlessly takes courage and it takes more than simply admitting that you love someone. I have never been in love before, not in this way, so I don’t know what to compare it to. There is so much I don’t know about love and I have considered that it’s also possible that the language has simply failed me. What if I just really like him a lot? And want him to be the best person that he can be? What is it? And if it is love, why would someone try to run from it?

I had two choices when he told me he was afraid of trying to love me the way that I wanted: either that it was crap and he was playing me for a fool or it was true. And even if it was true, then what? He loved me but had never lived on his own before, far less away from home with freer rein than ever before to flex his mettle at being a man. While his mother raised him in the West Indies, his father resides in the US and they have a decidedly terse, though working relationship. His dad is what we call a “sweet man” in Trinidad—a Caribbean ladies’ man who is good looking with light colored eyes. He tells me he is trying not to be his father but he also admits that he knows he is.

But he could just love me, right? Commit to me? Be brave. What good are these musings on cosmic connections and synchronicities that leave both of us occasionally flummoxed and transfixed otherwise? He is there for me even when he is mad at me and I have been hurtful or petty; and I am there for him likewise. He emotionally shows up when I least expect it sometimes, but he doesn’t show up in the other ways I want him to. It feels Sisyphean, between the love and the fear. Between what I don’t know and what I think I know. We exhaust each other sometimes. Breaking up and coming back together, then again. But he is also lovely in the way that he tries to crack himself open to make a call on one of the most stereotypically romantic days of the year. It’s a small bone I gnaw at hungrily.

Last summer, we were on the same flight to Toronto; he went for Caribana and I to visit my sister and wander a city removed from the south east mugginess. We weren’t talking before that flight and I threatened to change seats but couldn’t because I checked in too late. When the turbulence started, I was glad that he was next to me: to talk to, laugh with, his presence was a calming energy and his forearm was where I wrapped my fingers. Our touch often feels familiar, like in a parallel universe somewhere, we love each completely and our souls remember echoes of this. February was also his birth month. I got him two shirts and a pair of socks. He really digs funky socks. I love him but what I fear most is that maybe, he cannot ever love me the way that I want. Or worse yet, he just doesn’t want to. Maybe the fear resides in me.

Image via: Strawberryposh on Tumblr

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

March 21, 2012

“You are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you . . .

you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.”

This feels like I’ve been looking for these words & knowing them almost all my life! Such beauty. Such achingly astute truth-telling.

Hair, Home and Meaning

January 28, 2012

“To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that’s political, in its most profound way.”  — June Jordan

I come from a culture, it is said, somewhere between where the Ganges meets the Nile, converging with European colonialists, Chinese, Syrians and indigenous people. Where girls slicked their hair back with petroleum jelly and water — cinching cinnamon buns wound close and pulled tight with woogies. Where box-plaits were common and traditionally, you got braids for carnival, even my East-Indian, white and black mixed friend whose hair I’d done, tightly winding the ends with tiny rubber-bands. Her father hated them, she told me — hated how it looked when she plaited up her hair. And my curly haired primary school friend: a Trini ‘Spanish’ — every swivel of her head echoing with the clack of snap fasteners and aluminum foil on the ends down her back.

In secondary school, rebellious girls shaved half the underside of their heads — it was a way to be definitively edgy then. And more than one East-Indian girl came into her own by loping off the long, dark strands she’d been waiting to remove. Many of them, never looked back. Some girls permed their hair straight; some were life long naturals like me. Some of those naturals permed then when natural again — some stayed natural, adding length in locks, in nattys: coiling, clumping, unbridled, twisting, spiraling across shoulders, down lower backs.

Our heads once smelled like Luster’s pink oil, Let’s Jam! pudding and African Pride products. We pulled brushes from school book-bags and dipped them under the tap before dragging them across our scalps and flaked black gel buildup from our tresses.  We leaked jheri-curl juice onto the top of our blouse collars and maintained dry-curls and glittered finger waves.  We learnt about “weave-ons” and sat still with our selves, quietly dancing fingers around and around to put our hair in corkscrew twists.

We traded in banana clips, barrettes, the sharp teeth of tortoise shell hair combs and baubles; and sported bandeaus, bandanas wrapped around buns and metal hair clips made famous by those girls tumbling through the air at the Olympics on TV, instead. Once upon a time, our mothers slow-rubbed Dax grease into our roots, coated strands with coconut oil and wove colored woolies into plaits and styled them to match uniforms. They burnt and sewed the edges of our hair bows so they wouldn’t unravel — and when they did, we ran the length of school yards in vain, searching for them like lost dreams in the breeze.

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POWER!!!!!!!!!!THE GREAT VISION

January 15, 2012

This is currently my pc screen saver and I’m not sure when it will ever change, to be quite honest. I love all that this image evokes for me: the beauty, Gothic, the blackness and culture-mash-up feel of the whole thing. There is so, so much in Delphine Diallo’s astounding work that constantly stirs my insides and makes me want to get lost inside her art for days on end.

Body Lovin’

October 19, 2011

A couple days ago, I did this physiological word puzzle below (click to enlarge) seen floating around online. I got “beautiful, broken, fat.” Then I took a moment to scribble the words in my notebook and sit quietly the finding.


Today is Love your Body Day. It’s the only one we’ve got — might as well, right? And if it wasn’t for the blogosphere and facebook, I’d probably never  have remembered. One year the FSA (Feminist Student Alliance) had this wonderful event where we celebrated various body types and made stickers and posters to share all around the campus. I was certainly smaller in size back then and in retrospect, it was easier (slightly) to be happy with who I was then. As for how I feel about my body currently, overall? Could be better for sure. And I frequently think about Stephanie  Quilao’s examination of culture and body image where she talks about family members making impertinent observations on her body size and weight. I told a good white American girl-friend of mine, that reading Stephanie’s blog post was so much like my experiences within my own West Indian cultural background. My friend was so appalled.

“But you’re not fat,” she told me. “And people have no right trying to make you feel that way.” I don’t know that it’s a goal necessarily, but I get what she is saying — I think people just don’t always think about the impact of their words. I had a close relative say to me this year, “What happened? You used to be so nice and skinny!” One of my aunts, who I haven’t seen in a while, between her new found bible beating (and directing me towards specific soul-saving scriptures *insert eye-roll*) found time to exclaim about how big and fat I was. And I just had no words to reply. None. Because it feels like I’m in the twilight zone and I still wear a single digit size in shorts and pants. I don’t feel exceedingly large. (I also don’t think anything is inherently wrong with being fat or claiming fatness as a body-positive self identifier for yourself  and/or being okay with it used by others in a myriad of ways that are not degrading or insulting, but I do have issues with people declaring how they read and categorically define my body changes just because I haven’t seen them in a while. And I especially have problems when it’s counter to how I see myself). It makes me uncomfortable and I don’t appreciate it — being made to feel uncomfortable in my own self when it’s been such a damn hard painful journey as it is.

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