Monday, July 11, 2011

Who and Where

This may not be the time and space to discuss who and where, but this represents the crux of the matter. It’s no secret to some, but not all, that your environment influences not just your behavior but your feelings.

I usually think of this when identity issues arise. Maybe it’s just a theory but I feel a schism between my Trinidad and Tobago personae and my New York personality. The former influenced by nationalism and the latter by individualism. I seek to synchronize the two.

More recently I find myself applying the thoughts on who and where to my course of study. If you didn’t know I’m doing Post-Graduate Studies in business. Sitting in the class I find myself saying, this would be fine, were I not here. Needless to say I find issue with the hyper-capitalist ideology underlying a lot of what we have covered so far.

When I first heard Beyonce’s Run the World I found it difficult to relate to it on any level. Then the feminists started slamming it over its misinformed thesis. They sounded off on FB about the injustices women undergo and questioned the impact of countering such a belief.

What I have always felt is that she captures the essence of some powerful female entertainers like Shakira, MIA and even Alicia Keys without losing her own story of success.

Notably, more female leaders have been elected in the last year. Too we continue to see the world of Sports expanding both on the field and in the commentary booth.

Yes, there are still injustices but maybe its like saying because so much of the World is at war, there is no peace.

A friend was visiting from NY last week and that’s always a good excuse to go out. I sometimes need an excuse. We went to Elements 5, a Pride Party at the YMCA. Among the highlights was a cross-dresser performing the very, Run the World. I connected with the song in a way I had not before.

In the Caribbean we dance with our waists, call it wining, wukking up or wotlessness. The gender constructs allow for women to be more expressive than men in the dance arena. An overbeaten argument in some circles but one that is not worse for the wear.

It’s undeniable that heterosocial environments restrict some men’s movements. Lest you want to be thought less than a man then you only wine so much. In Barbados I think you’re safe from the attacks if you just make sure you aren’t in fact wukking up on a man. Not even I escape the entrenched biases against men’s expressions.

Before I lose my point the drag act brought the song to life in a real way. The irony of course being that it was a man performing. I fell in love with the song, though.

In this case, the environment allowed me to connect with the song without having to censor my movements and so I wasn’t oppressed and felt free and something that I had not in the past liked became a source of great joy. In essence it isn’t who but where.

Denzil Mohammed wrote on Naipaul in the Sunday Guardian this week.

My most recent thoughts on Naipaul came after the publication of his biography The World is What it is.

It has been commented on mostly for his admissions of spousal abuse, patronizing prostitutes, infidelity and its generally salacious moments. I wonder if living in Trinidad and Tobago he would have so easily divulged such personal and controversial details of his life?

This is not to question his commitment to the truth or his ethics but more how what is no big thing in some spaces is treated quite differently in others.

The challenge it seems is to, live your life, as some casually suggest, if only it were so easy.

Now mind you, any perceived threat to being who I want to be at any given point is more mental that material. We do know, though, that mental slavery and oppression are real and not things many of us escape. Believing that some do escape means that the who is in part responsible. We too know that travelling and reading, even movies can change our perspective and so again our environment influences who we are.

I do feel free but in a strange way, when I exercise my freedom, I feel as if I'm getting away with something and I have got away with a lot, at least until now.

Thanks for taking the time to read this attempt to create some space for myself in this place.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Not a single problem!

Moments of inspiration or a beginning for a piece are sometimes lost if not noted immediately or even explored. The words ‘not a single problem’ have been tickling my mind for sometime. It reads dually in that my penchant for worrying requires that I understand what a problem is. I also believe some of what I see as my problems stem from being single. So even as I see my singledom as problematic I sometimes say to myself …“self, you have no problems”.

I like many in our country, still live with my original family unit, mother and brother. My father is dead. I haven’t started a family of my own.

I once lived like a family with friends in that I spent more time with them and shared more of my problems with them. I don’t expect either my mother or brother to understand my problems. At my age too, I believe I should be in a position to handle them, and I mean my problems not my family.

In an ideal world though at 39, I’d be married and so have a partner with whom I share not only the story of my problems but the responsibility for solving them. Being single and the days of family like friendships long gone, its usually just me and my problems, a double problem.

What is life without problems? Who lives life without problems? Why worry?

Italy, I have heard has a culture similar to Trinidad in Tobago where generally, unless males marry they continue to live under the roof of the parent. In the report I heard high level executives in Italy leave the parent-run environment to head off to board rooms.

My mother, who I am quite close to and love dearly, has mothered me all my life, its her role. So she’s concerned about my health, my spending, my hours, me keeping my job, my bad habits, my associations, my future…perhaps all things she sees as my problems. Mind you my being single is never discussed, this being, to me, a big problem.

Now I can move out but then that presents its own set of problems. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting to live without problems. Some say their philosophy is to see nothing as a problem. My mother advises me to put them at the “feet of the Lord”. I like living with my mother, even though I feel that it’s in the main why I’m still problematically single.

One problem is that even if I move out on my own there is no guarantee that that problem would go away. I have friends in relationships, some divorced, others recently married and so I know relationships too have their problems. This is in part why I remind myself that being single is not a problem.

Coupling is fun. Marriage is an institution. Marriage is a right, a right worth fighting for. It’s also something that some will defend to the death. On one level it’s about securing a partner, making a commitment to be there for each other despite whatever problems may arise. For one party it might be about financial security, for another it might be about physical security. While on the surface it is about love, on a level it is about pragmatic matters like who’ll cook and who’ll mow the lawn.

I’ve been single, in my mind, for at least the last 14 years. The last time I considered myself in a relationship was in the mid to late 90’s. I loved. Both relationships ended. The friendship(s) continue(s).

Being single can make a person promiscuous as the need for physical relations can lead one to seek it at any point and engage in it when it presents itself given mutual attraction. Does it sound as if I want to partner to secure sex? On some level I do. This means that I must be sexually attracted to my partner. When you love like we do though, this can be a problem.

Something always takes lead in attraction and I don’t encourage judgment of that thing or at least try not to. How many times have we heard “she’s with him for the money”? Or I could hear a Trini ask “oh gosh is white man yuh like so?” “I just in it for the sex” is another one. As I said I try not to judge persons based on their choices. Attraction is complex and kudos to you if you can make a relationship work and last.

So I continue to live at home, I’m single and I may even be promiscuous none of which will change unless I take action on them. This having been my reality for as long as it has, though, may make them hard habits to break. Even when I consider these and other situations in my life I am thankful that I find it hard to forget that despite it all I may not have a single problem.