Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

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

On some of life’s ironies

September 13, 2011

Sometimes you meet someone in life and logistically, it’s all wrong:

  • They just had a baby (literally — like less than twelve months ago) with an ex
  • They are yet to be able to procure a visa from the US embassy in POS; you, for the most part, at present, live large chunks of your life in any given year outside of Trinidad
  • They’re direct, you’re sometimes convoluted
  • They’re “traditional” about many issues,  you’re a feminist
  • They have dabbled in illegal activities; you — well, (mainly) don’t, (at least not anything that will get one featured on Crime Watch)

But yet, but yet, something happens whenever you converge because it feels like a meeting of two spirits who already know each other and you’re not certain how that’s possible. You sometimes feel as though you speak different languages but you get each other completely.

There are many times I feel like a dragon, scrambling to unfurl my own wings and foraging for love — all clumsy on land, ridge-backed and speckled and horned and not pretty enough, getting burnt by other people’s fire in the process. This will be a loving friendship in the end, I think, and all I know is that this person makes me feel acutely aware of mental and emotional nerve-endings, as though my mind is this dripping, sensual space (which it is, apparently); and I get gobsmacked because all I might be hearing is simply how it’s raining on The Island on this cool evening and the poetry I hear is clunky, like I am sometimes, yet invigorating — on phonecard calls that inevitably run out from outside a bar in St. James, between the back-fire of a souped up Super Saloon or in the hush of a darkened front porch.

It is filled with hustling stories, sharpened edges, quiet reflection, surprising humour and fierce loyalty. It is poetry that fills me with a reminder that we are alive, upright ticking time-bombs and people are always struggling and loving and fighting to survive in this life. It is most beautiful at just pledging this quiet devotion to me, my happiness — wherever I might find it and with whomever.  It is an open, chafed hand saying, what do you need in this instant? I would do anything for you. Anything.

You Crazy Bitch!: The Myth of the Insane Woman

March 23, 2009

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If you are a woman in a heterosexual relationship now or at any point in your life, I am sure that you have been called “crazy” by the man in your life at some time or the other. I’ll bet money on that. Guys just love to call women crazy, I’ve noticed. If you disagree with them — you’re crazy, if you’re suspicious and have a valid reason to be — then you’re really crazy, if they don’t like what you have to say — you’re crazy. If they just want to get under your skin — you’re crazy. Now there’s crazy as in, wild or spontaneous, brave or willing to do anything and is frequently employed by some young women and girls to one another like: “Girl, you are so crazy!” Some females wear this label proudly, like a badge of honor, espousing things like, “I am one craaaazy bitch*” and they actually like it. (*Also, dismissive of people with mental health concerns and understandably, can be considered offensive too.)

These young women end up reinscribing the same stereotypical qualities of what they have been called because they think it’s cool. But there’s a flipside to the usage still, whenever a  young man employs the word. After all, a really good way to get a woman so-called acting crazy is to call her crazy. And, what’s crazy, really? Many times, crazy is simply female rage. Men are allowed to be angry. Women can only be crazy.

But when young men call the women in their life crazy, it’s often with a particular message encoded within the term that has nothing to do with actual mental health. In fact, they often use this word to simply disregard the opinions of all women as emotional, irrational and inconsequential.  It’s used frequently as a silencer in conversations about to go down a dangerous path as well. (i.e. He’s about to be proven wrong or something along those lines.)

I mean, what can you say to a comment like that but launch off into a tirade professing your non-craziness, only to realize how crazy the whole thing sounds anyway. No woman should need to profess her sanity to a person she is intimately involved with (I hope). And by then, isn’t it kind of too late? Plus really, in the end, it has nothing to do with sanity when the man in your life calls you crazy but it has everything to do with young men using this word as a frequent cop-out any time things get sticky. The range of crazy is far and wide too. Like Diddy’s annoyingly popular  term “bitchassness,” which is another umbrella term referring to a host of undesirable behavior and attitudes. So too is crazy.

Interestingly, when women use the term “crazy,” it usually does refer to someone hanging out in the bushes across from where she lives. Or some other kind of concrete behavior. Men as far as I can see, use crazy to sum up all the emotional aspects of a woman’s personality in any of the myriad of ways that pisses them off or makes them uncomfortable. That is not to say that a man cannot ever have an actual stalker. (Totally hearing Machel’s tune in my head right now: “Elevator. . . she riding up, she riding up, she riding, escalator, she riding down, she riding down. . . .”) But many young men regularly use the word “crazy” to denote some intrinsic quality of women, which is later supposedly (and conveniently) manifested in some situation between the two individuals. Supposedly. That’s when he says something like, “see I told you — you’re crazy.” So it turns out, you’re crazy simply because you’re a woman. Which is a mighty annoying sentiment that is well rooted in history apparently.

According to Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s Complaints and Sickness: The Sexual Politics of Sickness, even in today’s medical profession, “it is psychiatry, more than gynecology, that upholds the sexist tenet of women’s fundamental defectiveness” (79-80). And “in classical psychoanalytical theory there is no such thing as a mentally well woman” (80).  Thus assisting the “crazy bitch” and the emotionally unbalanced woman to become a fixture in our cultural landscape. Plus for the men who dominate our health and science industry and dictate where research funds go — it’s certainly more of a money-maker, what with all the potentially, supposedly, emotionally unbalanced females all over the place.

The focus of the inherent ill-health and instability of women, has shifted from the uterus to the psychological, due to some scientific advancements which no longer meant that “doctors found uterine and ovarian ‘disorders’ behind almost every female complaint, from headaches to sore throats and indigestion” (Ehrenreich and English 29). Furthermore, these medical misconceptions are firmly rooted in the notion of “women’s innate sickness” (Ehrenreich and English 32).

So the next time your guy calls you crazy, pause, take a deep breath and recognize it for what it is: a cheap shot most likely. Most of all, don’t believe the hype ladies! Young women should also take the time to explain to their male partners why “crazy” is not an okay default setting anytime he doesn’t agree with you on something.  Constantly discounting a woman’s viewpoint, fears, criticisms, thoughts, observations and what-have-you as crazy is oppressive. Dismissing her anger as craziness is also oppressive. Especially when it’s socially acceptable for a guy to punch his fist through a wall — or a female (as the case might be) because he is upset. And who’s to say what looks like crazy anyway? Seems like any woman who isn’t passive to any extent — must be crazy. The range of what makes us who we are, is as variegated as the experiences that we have had. And that’s something, that we all must keep in mind.

On a reluctantly related side-note update: — speaking of crazy women, in the May 2009 Vibe issue featuring Rihanna — the one with the tag-line echoing Ike-and-Tina on the cover, some alleged source close to the Chris Brown/Rihanna situation is quoted as saying (about Rihanna), “. . . she’s craaazy. . .she’s insane, you have no idea. She gets super-jealous and flips out on him.” Um wtf?

And why is all that equated with being so-called “crazy?” And can we be situation specific without resorting to “she’s crazy,” like that explains anything at all? Why the hell is there no in-between for women! Notice how craziness is conflated with possessiveness, jealousy and/or insecurity (that is to say, any and everything). Not to mention, whether these factors may or may not exist, is irrelevant in the broader scope of what apparently went down between these two individuals. Yet it’s being seen as a justification for the outcome of the situation by many individuals who think along that way. This is what I am talking about! But, meanwhile, no one has been calling Chris Brown a crazy-ass dude quite as much? STEUPS!

criteria: or why one should not become emotionally/romantically/sexually involved with particular individuals

December 14, 2008

1. shredded slivers of past lover’s heart are clearly embedded in spaces between teeth but person claims that this is chicken

2. you each have competing versions of what constitutes reality

3. people who know them look past you with hollow eyes when it is announced that you are indeed involved with this particular individual

4. people who know them are in fact excruciatingly and overwhelming nice, sweet and welcoming of you into the fold after having just met you only once, as though trying to make you steelier for some impending tragedy

5. person squirms a lot

 6. person just has way too many friends, whether of the opposite sex or not and is not reclusive enough

7. when things implode into the proverbial shit storm, you marvel at that irony that you can at long last place what that stench was

8. person has a long track record of exes that are never to be seen again, shrouded in a cloud of mystery and offers little or no details upon inquiry

9. person is never reciprocal—ever

10. person’s family members always strike you as being embroiled in some kind of vicious inner turmoil, as though they really long to tell you something but just, can’t