Tag Archives: women

Listening to Road noise: Womahood is…

Hi guys, I know I’ve been away a bit. I’ve been letting myself get caught up in all the depressing mess ‘m surrounded with. Sorry, It’s an apology to you as well as to myself. I should know better, than to let go my fighting spirit, but sometime last week or was it week before. In a moment of reflection, with a friend, after one such depressing thing, happening simultaneously with a pretty wonderful thing, I got it back.

What does that have to do with this? Well…you see one of the things I’ve been struggling with is what is expected of me, what I expect of myself and where the two should meet. One of the huge factors it seems that affects that is my sex. I am a woman. As such I should, do, be, act like…

Seems like everyone has an ending to that sentence. Maybe I shouldn’t even be confused. What with all thee girl power and ish flying around. All the rights and the roles and the freedom. All conflicting sadly. Not that this is a new thing, I’ve been struggling since primary school. But now my definition of self takes on an even greater weight, as my kids are knee deep in puberty and looking at me to guide them.

So what is womanhood? What is womanhood as it applies to me?

Whelp….

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  • My physical self:  One of the first things I learned about being a grown up woman was that I would grow boobs and be all curvy. I learned this by observation, after I figured out that there actually was a difference between girls and boys. I learned, secondly, that women had the babies, they grew inside us and somehow got out. I learned that boobs were used in feeding those babies. It came later, and with a bit of trauma, the actually mechanics and monthly obligation of that task.I learned it was my truth, irreversible and something from which I cannot divorce myself. It is a natural part of me, and so it has formed part of the framework of who I think myself to be. I am someone capable of ushering life into the world. 

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  • Motherhood: If it’s one thing I have learned definitively in my working life, if not my personal one, it’s that giving life and nurturing it are two different things.  I was raised where there was a mother, or a mother figure in every house I knew. For that matter, not having a father or father figure was a rarity among the folks who inhabited the landscape of my early life. One or two folks had grandparents for guardians, but even then we just dropped the “grand” and that was that. It was never a question that I would raise my children. So much so that up until recently I have shunned every opportunity that would separate me from them for any extended period. I don’t mean weekends at grandma’s, I mean like 3 years abroad. The thought still makes me uncomfortable. I need to be there to make sure these folks grow into people they can be proud of. In my mind, children are the greatest legacy anyone can leave behind. I want to be a part of making my legacy great. Therefore I am a mother. Not the best one by far, but I try my best, I think that’s worth something. Right?

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  • My sexuality: “Society has taught me to regard a woman’s sexuality as currency”- Piper, Orange Is The New Black. 

I learned about sex from a Dr. Ruth book I found lying around. It was taken from me when I was caught with it, but that was on like the third read so that was OK. I learned a lot about the mechanics, but also about the attitude, about the importance of my satisfaction and that of my partner, and about being open minded and able to communicate about it. Somewhere I got the impression that my sex/sexuality was something special not to be shared willy nilly. Yeah I’m snobbish like that, I am the living example of Ms. Mia’s diamonds at the meeting of my thighs, and diamonds are worth the struggle of living up to my standards. Sadly not a whole lot of the populace makes the grade. But for him that does, that open minded stuff and that communication stuff serves well when it’s time to get busy.

You see, for some reason my parents missed that memo when raising me. I was clean, and fed, and the focus many times was not on how cute I could be but on how smart I should be. So I never learned, until my teen years, and late into those at that, to associate myself with my sexuality. Hell, I’m still going through my boy phase, comfortable, functional and cool are for me far more important than being perceived by an entire society as sexy.

As such I don’t know how to use my sexuality as currency. Not really, most attempts go horribly wrong. I do however know that I am a smart cookie, and thus try to use my intelligence the way folks use their sex. Given that intelligence, as far as I know is not a gender specific thing, I expect all my peers to regard me the same. While I am a sexual being and fully satisfied with it, it’s not my leading characteristic. Call me prudish, I’ve been called worse. I give a hard reprimand to anyone who tries to contradict that with my kids.  I lead with my brain, not my bosom.

The only thing sad about that is that it seems I’ve missed out on some potential dalliances through the years, but maybe that was for the best.

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  • My place in society: One of the great things about my parents missing the memo about sexuality is that they also missed the one about me being locked into any one role.

I remember the day someone said to me “You better learn to do this or that if you plan to get  a man.” I remember that person being shut down so hard and so fast it made my 11 year old head spin.

I was taught to cook, sew and clean, not to make me a suitable wife, but so that I could do for myself. So nobody could “cut style” on me. I never assumed that my life would be spent in someone’s kitchen. I bristle at the idea that any work at all should be considered “woman’s work.”

I think it has to do with being a Caribbean woman too. We are a strong bunch, accustomed to bringing home our own bacon. One need only throw a stone to hit a woman in a position of note.

Come to think of it, I also remember when I started primary school and the boy two rows back used to tease me relentlessly. About my weight, my hair, my lunchbox. I remember coming home crying and getting reprimanded for it. I remember them telling me to fight back if it came to that. I remember knowing that fighting wasn’t right, but if I did have to, win. Because if I didn’t, I would get a licking on top of a loss when I got home. This is far at odds with what I later learned from the church and the politicians and the news and the radio etc etc etc. Maybe that’s why I find myself many times off kilter, or at odds with many of the gender arguments set before me. I blame my parents, and I thank them.

I am not weak. I am equal to anybody out there. 

I understand the perception of womanhood varies from place to place, family to family, social group to social group…you get the point. But I’ve concluded that outside the genetics which is something we can’t control, it’s pretty much as fluid as we are in our thinking.  There is no general definition of womanhood. It certainly isn’t the stereotype we see everywhere or the garish impersonations we tend to get. Swear to Baby Jesus, I never met a woman who fit either of those molds. Well maybe one, but that’s a sad story for another day. So in the end I don’t think there is a standard definition. I think trying to find one is a task that would only serve to confuse me more. So it might be better to try to describe myself by way of definition. Here goes…

img_20160617_090431.jpg Hi I’m Michelle. I am someone capable of ushering life into the world. I am a mother.I lead with my brain and not my bosom. I am not weak. I am equal to anybody out there.

I love fun, the boring kind, most days. I love food, the fattening kind, and a good cocktail. I love beer.

I don’t like ignorance, or illogical folks. Too much emotionalism makes me uncomfortable, though too little makes me suspicious. I’m a good person most days. Faithful, loyal, all that good stuff. Unless you are one of those people who have violated me, then I tend to be less so.

I am of Afro-Caribbean decent, which means I got rhythm even when I don’t want it, and am creative, colorful and sometimes loud. My sister tells me that is called having “A big personality.” lol,

That’s me, does it qualify as  a definition of womanhood? Probably not, but writing this, reflecting on it, has lead me to think it may not be as important as my character and my sense of that.

So what is womanhood? Socially and culturally? Who knows? But it’s not something in a little box, it’s not about clothes or hair, or appearance. It’s not sex, it may not even be sexy. It isn’t determined by society.

A study in devil’s advocacy

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So here I was sitting in a crowd, at a party, husband at home, and an attractive man across the domino table. I was kicking ass I have to admit. I was having a ball. Now as things would have it, most of the fun of serious dominoes is talking smack, often of a lewd and/or expletive-heavy nature. Things were good, I was tipsy, I’ll admit that too, and maybe it was the beer goggles but this guy thought, very vocally, that I looked tasty. I probably did, thought I was just there for the cards and the liquor.

So talking smack turned to not so subtle throwing of lines. (I took of my wedding ring to avoid breaking a domino and worse a finger in all the slamming. Which is the another part of playing dominoes.) A friend, maybe thinking they were doing the poor guy a favor, leaned in and informed Mr. Yum that I was in fact a married woman, and that was it.

“You know you cute nuh.” and “Baby girl you want another drink?” turned into “Meh me kip me side see, me na able you man vex.” or “You husband have a gun? Lemme behave ma’ self.” I’m used to it. My male friends and even strange males often stay far, or treat me like one of the homies in deference to or maybe out of respect for my rather imposing significant other. Shrug, not like I was interested in anything other than a six-none under my belt.

Fast forward a few weeks. We are at a public event together, the vibe is nice, and being the social butterfly he is my Pudd’n’ is all over the place. He settles not 20 feet from my location when a female peer walks up to him. She places her hand on his arm, then his chest, then smiles and blushes and strikes up a talk.

She doesn’t stray far from his person the rest of the night, and at one point or another finds an excuse among all that exhaustive blushing, compliment fishing and chatting up, to whip out her phone and offer to swap numbers. All this is happening not 10 feet from where I was standing, no less.

Now most women would expect me to launch into a tirade at this point, about how “doggish” men are, and how this man deserves to be ripped a new hole somewhere really sensitive. But that is a matter for another musing, what struck me here was the difference in the male and female response to the same couple, even in the face of the proximity difference.

Men, even those who would call me friend, will simply forget that I am in possession of a vagina. My ample figure is a moot point, my femininity, sexuality, no matter how overtly displayed no longer plays a role in our interaction. It is even often stated, as if to remind me of the fact, that my man is to be respected in so far as I “belong” to him. Even when the guys in question are strangers to him, even when he is half an island away!!! Asleep!!!

I tell you, the friend zoning is real. Really real.

While women are not at all deterred by that same given “ownership”, not even a little. But why? Is it that men are more respectful of each other than they are of women? Is it that they have more respect for the vows exchanged before God and family than their female counterparts? Maybe, but why? Aren’t we taught at an early age to expect to be hounded by the male of the species? “Have vagina will trouble” as it were.

Biology tells us that, as women, we look for the dominant male to father our children, we look for the ones who are fertile and strong and good providers, and what better way to prove this than already being in a relationship with healthy well taken care of kids. Right?

I found the whole thing easily dismissed at the time, but then I related the observation to a girlfriend, who quickly asserted that it was all my fault. For marrying a pretty man, for not painting him the devil, or the deadbeat, in other words for advertising my man in all those glowing blog posts. “Then you let him walk around by himself knowing that chick and all her sort are all around? What you expect?” she said. I was taken aback, here I was thinking that being an reasonable OK couple was, you know, a reasonable thing to be.

Her husband, gave a hefty nod. “You don’t even have any family pics up on social media.” I wasn’t aware I needed any. Those same friends and I spend quite the time laughing at all those couples with multiple albums of professionally shot hey-look-at-us pictures.  Apparently there is supposed to be something to this digital marking of the territory. Something akin to sprinkling my pheromones in his laundry. Not that I think that would work to deter the throwing of selves.

All of this and neither of them could answer me as to the reason why the difference in the male and female response to our spouse-age. Neither he nor she had a clue. Offering me for my confusion, only a “Gyal Ah so woman bad, dem too tusty now a days.”

hmmmm….Now I find I’m just a little miffed at the dudes around me. Who when asked admit that it could be quite an interesting thing, to see who could flirt their way into my blushing presence, if not for one 6 foot tall detail. I mean really? The one disparity you guys choose to hold up is this? Ugh. Not even my disinterest would be a deterrent, but him? There are some serious gender biases at play here, and I don’t think I like it one bit.

Ugh…

 

The business of sexual logic 1

Now I think it’s fair to agree that everyone with a head on their shoulders can agree that Rape is WRONG. No means no and that is just that. It’s just the way things are, and we can all agree. Right?

I had the pleasure of speaking to a male friend on the topic of rape from the male perspective, and I must say I came away with a little food for thought. We were talking about the matter against the back drop of the carnival season, not so much the dress which we both had to admit had become more and more risque over the past few decades but the attitude of us as women.

“If you have a purse full of cash are you going to leave it in an open car?” he asked. “No, you wouldn’t, you would lock that mother up, arm your alarm system and make sure you aren’t parked that far from where you are going.” I must say I had to agree. We protect or possessions to the gills, because they are precious. Of course, the thief has no right to go into your car if not invited, but that doesn’t mean we don’t protect ourselves. But that wasn’t all he had to say.

“Women flirt and play coy, they sell their company for the price of a top up, or a few drinks, all the while promising more when the night is done. They intentionally play with the emotions of others, and at the end of the day it works even better when you have a full and interactive view of all the things you are supposed to be able to play with.” he lamented.

My response was the right one. I said “No means no. No matter what she is wearing. Like the car, open or not,one has no right to enter without being invited”

He agreed. But he asked me to think of carnival the way it happens on the road.

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He asked me to think of the grinding of flesh on flesh, the flirting, and the overt carnality that has come to define Jouvet and Mass. He asked me to envision Idris Elba, giving me a good slow wine, whispering in my ear all the things he was gonna do to me in the aftermath, he asked me to envision furnishing this man with libations and transportation that and any other thing I was asked for in that smooth low sexy English accented voice. Giving him all that with the promise that later would be greater.

Then he asked me to envision brotha man sending me home at the end of the night unfulfilled. Needless to say after my fantasy I was considering giving Mr. Elba a piece of my mind.

“You see,” he said. “Now put intoxication or a bit of mental instability into the mix and BAM, you’re sitting in jail worrying about a rape of your own.” I was applaud, I made the argument that it really wasn’t the same thing. We flirt, it’s what we do. We imply sex, we put on the show, it’s all part of the male/female dynamic. It’s not prostitution it’s a ride and a few drinks, and it does not give anyone the right to touch me. Or for me to tough Mr. Elba.

But I was beginning to see his logic and it scared me to no end. I began thinking of my clubbing days, and the strangers in the dark who had bought me drinks. With whom I had smiled suggestively and given a good slow wine in a dark corner. What if they had followed me and my miniskirt out of the club, what if they hadn’t taken no for an answer. It’s not like I had informed them off the bat that I was involved so they really were only investing in my company on the dance floor.

I hadn’t even been toting around my pepper spray in those days. I had been playing a dangerous game and didn’t even bother to see the risk I was putting myself in.

“You see, if you implied that it was for sale at the cost of a drink or two and a ride home then you are placing yourself in a terrible position. Yeah, most men will sulk or throw a few hostile words your way. But you gotta admit there are some sickos out there who won’t stop there. If you can protect your car, why not your body? And it’s not that hard either, the buddy system, some car keys in your fist, some jeans, hell even a clear declaration that you are not looking for a hook up and a change in demeanor.” He said. “No body should ever rape anyone else, but there is no harm in knowing your danger and being willing to protect yourself.”

With that he made me promise to be safe if I did go to Jouvet this year,  he asked if my pepper spray was expired which it wasn’t and told me that sex doesn’t follow the same logic as car, or property theft, or even other services in trade. He told me not to play with something so precious, then he left me with my thoughts.

Me, Society and My Sistas

My Sista asks me if society doesn’t push women to believe this or that or the other. My sista, before I even look at the tweet, let me tell you what society tells me.

  • Society tells me that I should embrace myself, while telling me I will never feel like a strong beautiful woman until I lose maybe 40 pounds and my skin is about 4 shades lighter than it is.

To this society I say, I am short and my hair is too, and nappy, and I am the color of dark chocolate, and I love that no matter how many pretty light skinned chicks you use as mascots for my blackness. I am over weight but not obese and I will never be a size 2.

  • Society tells me, especially Caribbean society, that I am not a woman until I have had a child, it also tells me that I am less that other women for having a child. Because having a house and a car and being exhausted from overwork is what I should strive for and having a kid, to distract me from that grandeur is just wrong. No one notices that mothers are just as strung out as the single chicks even more so.

To this society I say, it’s my uterus and my salary. Get over it.

  • Society tells me that I must have an opinion. I must pick a side, based on my gender, my sexual orientation, my socio economic situation, my background, my nationality, my race and on and on.

To this society I say no. First and formost I am human, and if there is so much between me and my fellow man to block the sight of his/her humanity, then there is something wrong with my vision and I need to unblock it.

  • Society tells me that not having a degree makes one less than our learned colleagues . Not just less qualified, but less of a human being. While telling me it doesn’t matter because education is a conspiracy set forth by the well to do to keep me down.

To this I say I am an intelligent woman, and qualifications are not a measure of that. Just look at parliament.

  • Society tells me that a 4 year engagement is ridiculous because how dare I not want to be married, not matter my emotional, psychological or economic state. They say more power to me for being single and independent. They ask where I am going with three kids, while asking me when I’m going to have another.
  • Society says that as a poet, as a writer, I must sell sex. The explicit raw, nasty, pornographic kind to gain the favor of the masses. I need to abandon my love of the literary. Of metaphor and whimsy and write filth to be loved.

To this I say. Read and weep. Those words are not welcome here.

  • Society tells me that I am property, and my only purpose now is to be the ball and chain that he runs from. That my rings are a symbol of servitude and the end of my freedom, they tell me I’ve lost myself my individuality. While telling me that my Sistas on the other side of the matrimonial fence are simultaneously better off, better kept and envious of me. That I should see them all as completion, because for all their freedom they want to be me. So I should envy them.

To this I laugh. Society doesn’t know me very well. Society doesn’t know jack. So yes my Sista society is trying to tell you what to think. But if you are as strong willed and strong minded as you think you are, you wouldn’t give a shit about society. You would be an individual and do you, not caring what society has to say, because in the end society is just a group of conflicting assholes trying to fit in or make us feel less that for not fitting in with them. The question was accompanied by a tweet. Some average Josephine tweeting bile into the world, because you know, that’s what social media is for. 11061682_684342195000051_813113724490435182_n As for the tweet. I appreciate the Irony of it, and there is some truth for some folks. For others it’s just a catchy song that married or single I can shake my booty to. Beyonce is an entertainer and she sings what sells, is all. It’s not that serious. Further little Miss Venon is only one small part of kaleidoscope of conflicting opinions in our society. And that’s all it is, an opinion, again not that serious.

But my Sista. Let me ask you. Don’t answer because I really only want you to contemplate you.

Are your full? Is your soul filled? Are you happy with you and what you have? What you have strived for, does it fulfill you? Who you chose to stay in your life, does he or she or they make you happy? Are you happy? If the answer is yes then, join me in a middle finger solute to society and live you, no matter what they say.

If the answer is no, then what will it take? And when you figure it out, go for it, and again joining me in a middle finger solute to society.

Just when I thought I had nothing to write about.

http://elitedaily.com/women/untamable-women-women-need-adventure-not-partner/949569/

A friend tagged me in this article, I choose to believe as a joke. I really wasn’t going to read it. But maybe out of curiosity or boredom I did. And I must say, it gave me a chuckle and a half, which is great considering the funk I have fallen into the last few days.

The article is all about this untamable, free spirited woman who takes life by the nuts. Which is really cool. I mean which woman do I know at the moment who isn’t independent and out going? But then the article consumes itself in a flurry of marriage bashing.

With statements such as:

  • Marriage is about oaths, questions, engagement, stability, the death of adventure.
  • Marriage is about babies, routines, ups and downs, maturity, servitude forever.

Continue reading Just when I thought I had nothing to write about.