Earlier this summer I took a trip to New York and had a chance encounter with a gentleman by the name of J.R. at a Manhattan nightclub and it went as follows:
J.R. approaches …. Wow…that’s a beautiful shirt you’re wearing. It compliments your beautiful eyes
Me: Thank you….. That’s quite a spiffy shirt you’re wearing
J.R.: You are approachable and you use the word “spiffy” you must not be from around here! Where are you from?
Me: I current reside Toronto and have been for many years but I was born in Trinidad and grew up in St.Vincent.
J.R: I knew you were too good to be true! I love island girls!… they are always so beautiful and exotic looking… and it’s the beauty and exoticism that pulls you in…. but ya’ll are deadly! I don’t mess with island chicks!
Me, with an obvious look of disgust on my face: I’m sorry… I don’t think I heard you properly because of the music. Can you please repeat what you just said?
J.R.: I’m serious! Island girls are crazy! Ask Chris Brown! I swear, you guys know how to push a man’s button’s to the point where he has no control. American girls get loud but I can handle them… you island girls are on a different level though!
Being the true West Indian woman that I am, I’m pretty sure you can guess where the conversation went from there.
Believe it or not, this was not the first time I have been told that Island aka West Indian women are crazy. I have been referred to as Miss Cleo (remember her?) or when I mention that I am from t he Caribbean/West Indies I am often told about how beautiful Jamaica is (while I do not dispute Jamaica’s beauty, my point is that many people fail to realize that the Caribbean is made up of many different islands) and how the next door Jamaican neighbour was crazy. I have been told that West Indian women are too headstrong, provoking and will often go to extreme limits to get their points across. While some say that we are crazy, I say that we are extremely, extremely passionate!
I am the embodiment of the typical, traditional West Indian woman. My looks are ambiguous due to my diverse racial make-up; I “get on bad and wuk me waist” when I hear soca music; when posed with the option of a mango/passion fruit versus a berry drink, I will always choose the mango/passion fruit option; if I’m not careful and think about the word photography before I say it, I will place the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable and say ‘flim’ instead of film; I will always choose the beach and sun over the snow and cold and I believe that dogs belong outside and not in your house, let alone your bed!
As children, West Indian women are imbued with a strong sense of pride and independence. We are taught to cook and clean not to become housewives but because “your house is a reflection of who you are, so if you have a dirty house, that means you’re a nasty person” and “if you don’t learn how to cook, how are you going to eat?” Having a strong belief system in God is also important because” without faith in something, then what’s the point of living for the future?” Having manners is also paramount because “regardless of how pretty you are, if you don’t have manners, you nah gwine reach nowhere! Manners will take you around the world and back!” (Remember that Chaka Demus and Pliers song ‘Murder She Wrote’ when they said “yuh pretty face an bad character, dem de kinda livin c’an hold Chaka”? It’s basically saying the same thing.) Education is of utmost importance because the ultimate goal in life is always to seek higher knowledge; without an education, one remains stagnate and “if you nah mek moves in life, then you might as well nah live!” As harsh as this statement may sound, it is a sad truth many of us cannot escape.
As a West Indian woman, I was taught that your family extends beyond your blood relatives; your community is also your family. You should also try not to look down of anyone nor “tink say you nicer than anybody because all our shit stink the say way.” Regardless of where we go in life, these principles are embedded in us and continue to guide us. While many of us will adapt well to new environments and integrate in our new cultural settings when we emigrate, we still hold on to these principles and continue to guide us through life. They make us remain passionate in everything that we do. We will fight for what we love and believe in as long as we know it’s in line with what we have been taught.
Maybe Rihanna pushed Chris Brown to his limit but that still did not give him the right to put his hands on her. A true traditional West Indian woman will stand by her man through thick and thin and will “neva mek no other man in she yard to come try tek way nah belong to him;” thus, if the rumors are true that Chris Brown was cheating and he let another woman “in his yard” to take what was not hers, then he should deal with the consequences of breaking the very foundation upon which the relationship was built. It is true that West Indian/Island women are not a homogenous group, however, many of us have been and continue to be guided by these principles.
I will be the first to admit that sometimes my passion is so intense that it is often construed as “craziness.” However, it is this passion and strong commitment in everything that I do that has enabled me to achieve everything I have thus far in life. It has also Like my friend once said, “love without passion is like a car with no gas; it can’t go anywhere. So bring the passion Island girls!!!”
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