Posts tagged ‘monday musings’

the pause before a period

bookidle- lucyIn Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid’s protagonist is in the early days of adolescence and experiencing a lot of angst. One of the many sources of which was having a period. Those who have or currently menstruate will be familiar with the discomfort, inconvenience, the pain. One woman I worked with said she welcomed and celebrated her period. It  was for her a reminder of her fertility. I’m not trying to have children, so for me that excitement isn’t there. In Lucy, the mother of the protagonist warns/ predicts…

“finding blood in [your] underpants might be something one day [you] would get down on [your] knees and pray for” (69)

… and let me tell you truer words were never written.

Chris Rock has a hilarious joke (@3:25). He says, “you’re young and you date what do you do? You go to the movies, you go get pizza, you have sex, what else? You wait for periods.” He’s very right. If you’re young, single, fertile, having straight sex, and not planning on having children any time soon I’m willing to bet pregnacny young wocyou’ve had a pregnancy scare.

Owing to my hypochondriac ways I’ve had a couple pregnancy scares myself. Oftentimes not justified: I’m a stickler about safer-sex.  I always use condoms and am often on the birth control pill. But let me tell you, nothing puts fright in me more than, the thought, “shouldn’t I have had my period by now…”

And then rings true the words of Jamaica Kincaid, everyday you wait for finding blood in your underpants… oh what a blessing. What activities do you engage in? This is my usual modus operandi

  • calendar checking
    • when was my last period? I’ve never been good about tracking my cycle. So I end up having to try to remember what was going on in my life- events and activities when I last had my period and work back from there. I actually once convinced myself I was pregnant because I’d gained some weight even though it had been 9+ months since I’d had sex. #hypochondriaisreal
  • decision making
    • should I buy a pregnancy test?
      • Surprisingly I never have. My period has always come before I get that scared. That said, I know many a friend who has a pregnancy test hidden somewhere in her house just in case.
    • when should I tell him?
      • When you’re one day late? When you’re 10 days late? When you get two lines on the pregnancy test? Now I’m definitely torn on this one. I’ve never discussed my anxiety with anyone I’ve had sex with with because nothing makes me worry more than other people worrying with me. But I remember watching a sitcom where a character had a pregnancy scare and she said she was telling him because there was no reason she should be the only one stressed about something they were both responsible for. To each his or her own.
    • what would I do?
      • Because I’m a dilly-dallier it would definitely be too late for the morning-after-pill which leaves abortion on the table. I’m as pro-choice as they come but in these parts of the world (English-speaking Caribbean) save a few territories it is actually illegal. So that leaves finding a doctor who will (there are many) and considering his or her reputation. Talk about stress. #awkwardconversation
  • and thankfully all my stories have ended with great relief.

Hopefully we’ll all have/do an appreciation for the irony when there’s a shift in our desire to have children and we then start cursing the blood lining our underpants.

book idle- summer reading

What is one of the things I will miss most about Toronto?

toronto public library

So as I got ready to leave Toronto my mission was to read as many books as possible.

we need new namesNoviolet Bulawayo does something a little different with this novel. Each chapter could almost stand alone as a short shorty as we catch our protagonist at different, though chronological life stages. We meet her in Zimbabwe, and follow her in her migration to the US as a teenager. In Zimbabwe for me the most memorable “scene” is her describing her mother counting her money every night. She is still holding on to the paper that has been devalued so greatly that most other people’s money has turned to ash- literally, using it to keep fires going. In the US I remember being scared with each page turn  that our protagonist was going to be sexually assaulted by her aunt’s husband or his son whose home she’d migrated to. Fortunately it was not so, but it reminded me of the constant threat of sexual assault that many young women, especially newcomers are under when they arrive. 4/5.

I *really* want to love Nalo Hopkinson. I’ve seen her in person and loved her. She has a real nice vibe, her sister minepolitics seem on point, relaxed, fun, mischievous an personable. Her writing however makes me cringe.  As a full disclaimer I will state that science fiction/ speculative fiction/ magic realism is not really my genre. Her Caribbean infused science/speculative/magic genre does nothing to help. I enjoy the Caribbean-ness and Toronto-ness of it all but it never seems to fit for me. I enjoyed the sister dynamic explored in the book, and even the boundary pushing around sexuality, monogamy, time but I still can’t get behind it. Each page I turned I thought, why isn’t this the last page. That said, if Nalo had a reading tomorrow I’d go to it. 1/5

As I scoured the shelves I looked specifically for women of colour authors. Let me tell you if you’re on sal mal lanenot looking for advice on marriage or romance women authors are hard to come by, far less women of colour. How I found Ru Freeman I don’t  but I’m glad I did. This book was excellent, tragic and heart wrenching all in one. Set in Sri Lanka during the on-going civil war we see how neighbours so easily get pitted against each other. How family trauma carries. It’s class. It’s race. It’s ethnicity. It’s pain. I came close to tears a number of times. It may just be my middle class upbringing that made me identify so much with the protagonist family, but in that privilege comes great responsibility. Not to pity or condescend, but to share be generous, to be aware and be patient. There are always moments for us to show generousity, and we often lose that as we age, especially the teen years when our contemporaries need us most. 4/5

What did you read this summer?

americanah & me

Snapshot_20130524I never read the backs/ inside jacket covers of books before I read them. I typically trust the authors I have chosen to read* and/ or know what I’m getting into**. With movies, entering with that sort of freshness is hard what with trailers and movie reviews. With books, it is far easier; but with this book, it was far more difficult. So much press,  almost every day it made my newsfeed. I made it though, it was only as I read it I knew what it was a bout. Perhaps there was no more fitting time for to read this novel, as I like Ifemelu (the protagonist) am on my way home, to be received no doubt, like an Americanah, or JCB (just.come.back).

A very general review, just shy of 500 pages, like Half of a Yellow Sun I thought it was too long. It could easily have been three shorter novels, or five novellas. I could have done without the 2008 presidential election, the white boyfriend, and maybe even the Black American boyfriend. That’s largely unlike Ifemelu these things have never interested me and/or I have no such parallels in my life.

There are a million things I could expound upon in my reading of this novel- love, corruption, choices, dreams, class, race, sex. For the attention span of readers (some of which I’ve already lost I’m sure) I pick three. Blogging, returning and loving.

no one cares about your stupid blogBlogging. Would you believe Ifemelu’s a blogger? Blogging about race in America. Now for me the fantastical thing about this is that she seems to have made oodles of money off of this. As many a blogger well knows however that is a privilege afforded to few. I say privilege because meritocracy is not alive and well. For those of us who work, who go to school… it is incredibly hard to maintain blogs with quantity far less quality posts.* Though I’m not sure if intentionally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche was speaks to this directly by having her blog start up while she is dating an obscenely rich man who created an incredibly comfortable life for her. Thankfully, she continued working (at the job he got her) throughout the relationship. But I imagine writing must come more easily, when you’re whisked away to Paris for the weekend once a month. Shout out to blogging while brown and all the clever writers out there who don’t have time to hone their crafts.

Returning. In a few months I go home after a 12 year absence. I’ve visited throughout the years, so the return will not be eddie murphyshocking, but the adjustment is bound to take some time. One of the characters while at a dinner party in England is part of a conversation where white British people bemoan the woes of immigration. A clearly liberal participant says something to the effect of all people should be granted asylum, and be able to live free from terror, war etc. And my character thinks, what about fleeing the, “oppressive legarthy of choicelessness,” and being, “hungry for choice and certainty”.

Growing up middle-class in the Caribbean I have had many opportunities afforded to me. I did not have a nanny or a driver, but my parents have almost always employed a house-keeper. North America affords very few those forms of luxury. There is however the luxury in the certainty that electricity is unlikely to go out, that your car is not going to be damaged in a pot hole the size of a crater or that stores will open on time. That I think of as the luxury of being a middle-classed immigrant (with papers) in North America, that I know I will both be hungry for and miss.

The challenge in returning for me is to

  1. not immerse myself in a wining about how different things are for too long. I can live (and must remember have lived) without cheap restaurants with a variety of foods, libraries that allow me access to Americanah b/c I put my name on the waitlist early this year, not sweating for most of the year.
  2. not to become complicit in the corruption that appears to ease the adjustment of returning. The shadiness described in the novels appears in many forms in the characters lives both personal and professional. Sometimes it is engaged in out of desperation and need, other times simply out of want. I hope to be able to continually engage in the assessment of where on the continuum these things fall for me and not just pick the seemingly smoother route. A reminder, many things take time, and many more won’t ever come to fruition.

Loving. Ifemelu and Obinze have a love story that hurts. Ifemelu makes many choices in her life that I think I would never. She describes relationships young women have with rich man in Nigeria (and all over the world) to maintain a lifestyle they cannot themselves afford. A fixation on marriage, a desperation to impress, an absence of expectation of monogamy… These are the very things that make me so hesitant when it comes to romance and relationships in my own life. What we want and the couplewhat we expect are often so vastly different. To quote a character in the novel, “Many of us didn’t marry the women we truly loved. We married the woman that was around us when we were ready to marry.”

With all that surrounds us, for me, believing in the possibility of love is a challenge. I wish I could be that cold, jaded, unfeeling, calculated person who says, that love is construct, which in theory I very much know it is. But I have also known the joy of love, the agony of love, and construct or not those feelings have been very real; so real that I rooted for Ifemelu and Obinze, even when it was often too problematic for me to think it in their best interests. Love, I truly believe is lovely**, thank you Ms Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for that wonderful reminder.

All that to say buy it, I’m going to even after I’ve borrowed it from the library. 🙂

*check out our great list over at goodreads as well as up and coming fiction by writers of colour for 2013

**cheesy mystery novels, I may or may not have read every Spenser novel and picked up some Agatha Christie’s last week

*in case you haven’t noticed Monday Musings has all but dropped off

** and complicated and messy J

10 pts to anyone who gets the (super corny) 3rd picture reference

4th picture- I have a few favourite couples, who say cam^2; but these two people make up my favourite fictional couple.

soca sistah soljahs

soca partyHow I’ll make it through what is now my 2nd missed carnival- which further cements the fact that there will be many many more that I will miss- I. Do. Not. Know. That’s pretty dramatic. I know I’ll be just fine. In the meantime I’ll try to get the most out of Toronto by going to a soca fete or two. I started just the other day and had a wonderful time. It has for me however highlighted the importance of doing to fetes with the right kind of people.

I *love* parties. Few would suspect this. But give me a party where the music is so loud that dancing is the only way to interact with the people around me and I’m the happiest I can be… That said, it have many people who I don’t like to party with. The expression, yuh doan bring sand to de beach comes to mind. That hasn’t been a big issue for me in the past but there are definitely benefits to going unattached.* But what I can’t handle are the lackluster party people. So speaking specifically to my soca heads, I want to party with you only if you meet what I now deem the criteria of a soca sistah soljah** . Are you a soca sistah soljah? If so you should be…

  1. practising your wine in the mirror at least weekly***
  2. able to handle wining at least at a 45 degree angle, with aspirations of 6:30… no matter how unrealistic***
  3. willing to wine on random men
  4. willing and able to stop random men from wining on you
  5. willing and able to stop random men from wining on your friend who has having difficulty with [4]
  6. willing and able to get close to the stage/ front of the crowd if your or your friend so desires
  7. greeting at least one person in the party with a wine
  8. holding your head and wining at least three times in the party
  9. at the party significantly past last call with no visible decrease in vibe or stamina

*that said, the heterosexist world in which we lives definitely affords privilge to having a fella in your crew- musings to follow

**no reference to Sister Soljah of whom I’m not a fan

*** source- pieces2peace, the original soca sistah soljah!

**** so I was going to put a picture of myself up but I said that might incriminate too many people. But I will go on the record that saying unlike these womyn in the picture it’s *very* race you’ll see any man wining on me and touching me so much. I don’t mind a wine but why’s your hand on my thigh, waist, shoulder, black… yeah. 🙂

Django Unhinged

popcornDisclaimer:

  1. I have been steadily consuming all movies of QT since I was first introduced to Pulp Fiction by my aunt who is a QT junkie some 12 years ago. I think I largely enjoyed watching obscene amounts of violence, clever wit and swearing being actively endorsed by an adult… and the stories were for the most part intriguing.
  2. I have recently read three pretty good fiction books about the lives of enslaved African people in the diaspora- the Caribbean, the USA and Canada.
  3. I identify as a Caribbean womon of African descent whose African ancestors were enslaved people.
  4. I had my reservations about seeing this movie primarily because the combination of #3 and my waning interest in violence. I have become terribly concerned with what I consider entertainment these days. More specifically, how frightening it is that I have become numb to large amount of violence both for “entertainment” and in real life; and I don’t care what people say, there is a correlation. Entertainment affects how you interpret the world, it’s the reason media is so powerful.

So when QT takes his time to graphically depict two enslaved African men having to fight to death in a fancy colonial style home while two white enslavers sit down and drink liquor… I have to wonder what makes us in the cinema who are watching the reproduction of this so different to the white men at the time who were watching it at that time in the room for entertainment as well? Is it entertaining because we are shaking our heads at the obscenity of it all? While still watching it?

Now I’m not saying that it is the same, but there is something unsettling for me about the unnecessary graphic detail. Was it to demonstrate the gravity of the situation? Directors, good directors of which QT is one can convey gravity without me having to watch two black men fight literally to see another day at the whim of rich white men. Professional sport parallels anyone?

vs. Inglorious Basterds

When I saw Inglorious Basterds I was in Trinidad and the audience cheered excitedly as the Nazis were outsmarted, outstrategised and killed. I was a little confused because I was unaware of what the audience’s investment in this history was. It historywas of course a combination of things

  • the graphic and often near comic violence
  • the wit
  • the effective demonization of Nazis in history
  • the typically audience commentary that comes with that cinema.

… but I had to wonder, if I saw a similar movie about slavery would the audience be cheering the same way.

Django Unchained is not a similar movie. Inglorious Basterds was a revisionist history, it was creative and imagined something systemic that would have made a difference to the world. Django Unchained is the story of one man looking out for one man and his wife who happens to have been enslaved at various points throughout the movie. This story of the solitary hero in no way seeks to address the systemic-ness of enslavement. Please note that I do not think this was the character’s job, I’m highlighting the difference in story.

taking up the enslavement of African people

EmancipationThe enslavement of African people in this part of the world was largely physical, but the mental control imposed on this forcibly displaced people has in my opinion has been captured far better in literature. There are hints but when you don’t depict what life is like on a plantation for people in any real way… you’re doing an injustice. Yes, we saw some punishments where QT didn’t hesitate to show naked black bodies but for me it’s the day in day out… the drudgery, the uncertainty, the constant threat of violence, the fear…

In Octavia Butler’s Kindred her protagonist is transported between being enslaved in the 1700s/1800s in the USA to 1970s (then present day). She only gets back to present day just before she about to die. In one scene she’s an enslaved person, and she is being whipped for something and soon after it commences, the pain, the agony… she wakes up in present day in so much pain, the scars of our history.

Later on in the novel she’s back to being an enslaved person, she is being whipped again and she soon expects to be transported again to present day… she doesn’t. She’s still an enslaved person. You know what happened? She thought she would die the first time, the second time, she knew she wouldn’t, that this was just her life… now that’s some heavy shit. Depict that

taking up womyn

Speaking of black womyn who were enslaved… I’m happy Kerry Washington got top billing in a movie where she only had 3 lines.

probably b/c we're invisible anyway...

probably b/c we’re invisible anyway…

But really, let’s talk about misogyny and sexism. QT has a great record with these two. But even this was over the top. The silencing of black womyn was beyond beyond.

  1. Women weren’t being traded that much were they?
  2. Most times we saw black womyn they were comfort womyn. And yes, I get there are all sorts of things attached to that, forced sex work is rape but where were the women working on the field, like most of them were?
  3. Why all these women had long, straight/ loosely curled hair?

What stuck with me most though was the fact that Kerry Washington was the sole motivation for the main character and yet we know nothing about her, except of course what makes her special:

She’s a wife- it’s not right for her to be a comfort woman

+

She speaks German- therefore identifiable

+

She’s pretty- light skinned, speaks well (little evidence of this, seeing that she had so few lines) “nice” hair

= woman worth saving

battle vs. war

Sesa WorubanSpoiler alert, how dare QT make one of the more personally violent vengence scenes occur between Django and Samuel L. Jackson’s (SLJ) character. Yes, I get the that the HHNIC is depicted as the most despised black person. But I maintain, only two types of people survived slavery- the lucky and the scampish. And SLJ was a super scamp, venomous even, but you see that’s what’s make this story so much about a hero as though he’s fighting an individual battle vs. an institution.

Because this was a movie about a battle we see Django “get back” at SLJ in a very real way. And because QT didn’t bother to make this a revisionist history we’re supposed to get some satisfaction with Django’s battle wins

  1. knowing well and good that it’s only a matter of time before his luck runs out and
  2. forget about all the other enslaved people who I guess will not be quite forever trapped because it is 1858 but definitely of no concern to our hero.
  3. I was left sadder… more despondent

A white man of  this time writes the most personally violent and antagonistic scene  between two black characters. Far too unsettling… White privilege and white supremacy are real when a white man can write this “entertaining” piece of film and be celebrated for his wit, satire and genius this “new” world.

If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
-Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland 1970s

What carnival has taught/reminded me about myself (the pre-j’ouvert edition)

I haven’t been home for a carnival since the 2008/2009 season. Four years is a long time, so I expected to be surprised by how much carnival has changed – I still don’t know yet if it has or not – but what I was actually surprised by is how much I’ve changed. So here’s what I’ve learned about myself thus far:

1. I am too old to go out of my house at night, stand in the middle of the road and wuk up. For those of you who don’t know Party Central, it’s a nightly jam session that takes place at the centre of town leading up to and during carnival with various DJ’s and/or bands. It’s often packed with people I know (of), except like the 2 train in the Bronx, only Kittitians I have no desire to see. I don’t know what it is about wukkin up in the middle of the road next to a stationary sound system (yes, I just found the technicality to exclude Last Lap from this rule) but I just can’t get down with it.

2. I am too old to go out of my house at night, stand in the middle of the road and watch people. Again, I don’t know why this feels so much more entertaining at a club or a more closed off space, but it does.

3. I have too much past in this place. One of my friends is visiting and the number of times I stop to hug some random man who she’s never heard me mention before (and I’ve told her about a lot of people) or explain to her why I’m not a fan of some person is ridiculous.

4. I love Nu Vybes but Small Axe riddim box is true & pure inspiration for waistline wutlissniss.

5. SK sweet.

Who say J’ouvert?

A Womyn’s Guide to Straight Win’ing Culture (What I learned win’ing in an unnamed Caribbean Big Island) Part 1

Re-post: #writersblockisreal & wishing for a party! 🙂

 

Has it ever been so long since you’ve been to a party you think just maybe you have forgotten how to wine?

That was me on Thursday. I am thankful report that such is not my situation and I managed to leave the party just short of winin’ my life out. Another friend was not so lucky and will be having a funeral for his waist tomorrow.

Being out however reminded me of the dynamics of winin’ in this particular island. I present to you:

A Womyn’s Guide to Straight Win’ing Culture (What I learned win’ing in an unnamed Caribbean Big Island)  Part 1

  1. The driver must get a wine*

If you are female and presumed to be straight and a fella (presumed to be straight) picks you up or will be carrying you home you must wine with him regardless of whether you fall into either of these three categories prior to the ride: (1) you two are involved, (2) exploring being involved, (3) complete strangers.

It is essential that you know the essentials of the wine:

It can be initiated by either party- preferable if by the passenger but perfectly acceptable (and more common) by the driver especially in the event that the two of you are in fact strangers.

i.        The dance must last at least three (3) songs if not expect to be visited multiple times in the dance.

ii.        If the passenger did not initiate the first dance a second dance later in the night would be looked upon favourably- in this dance a bumsie wine (for one (1) song will suffice.

iii.        If the passenger does initiate the first dance a bumsie wine will not be adequate if she only wants to dance with the person once an ass-to-crotch position (in either direction) is required for most parties to be satisfied with the unspoken agreement.

iv.        Scandalous win’ing is almost always encouraged but not necessary; putting in good effort is encouraged if you plan on seeking future transportation arrangements with this person.

v.        If the person’s significant other is there playful win’ing is recommended: (i)bumsie, (ii)side grind, (iii)bending the fella over. Moving outside of this framework is advised only if the significant other is scandalously win’ing with other parties. Do not be confused by his encouragement of scandal; there is only one exception.

vi.        If you find yourself attracted to the driver and would like to indicate such moving outside of the three song wine would be the method. Be careful though- going past seven songs though a second seven song set at another interval in which you seek him out is useful.**

If you plan on seeking future transportation arrangements with this person. Gyal you can’t get away tonight.

NOTE: Please do not confuse a wine with affection. It is an obligation that most carry out gladly because they enjoy win’ing. If you previously expressed interest by win’ing see (1)(vii). I have given and been given the look of “I guess it’s about time to dance with person “x”” on people’s faces. People think they are rude if they don’t. Have no fear I completely see how wrong this is- look out for the full brief in part 2 but I wish I had known all of this ahead of time.
* Consider it payment for service. Yups that’s right our bodies are still very much for sale.

** Continuous lock down dancing is not advisable under any circumstance. You should take the break between intervals to wine (playfully) with other people if not playfully ensure the level of dance with the driver is clearly more intense even if it means a pendulum wine with the fillers.☺

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