Brainwashed: For the Love of All Things Foreign

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I sit here in front of my computer faced with a dilemma. I have to finish an article I started months ago about Trinis and their love for all things foreign, namely the tendency of some of our fellow citizens to wear scarves, jackets, and knee-high, winter boots in the scorching hot sun, all in the name of style.

You know the people I’m talking about. They’re the same ones who will put on a sweater the minute the sky gets slightly overcast. You know that underneath those layers, they’re dripping with sweat, but their faces remain stoic; their expressions stay “cool”. When asked if they’re hot, they say, “nah I good”. Yet the beads of sweat dripping down their faces say differently.

I can never understand these people and their choice to torture themselves in the name of following an international trend. I must admit that I spent a little time in “foreign” myself, getting my undergrad degree. During that time, I developed a love-hate relationship with winter. I loved seeing the first snowflakes fall in early November. It was especially beautiful indoors with a fresh cup of hot chocolate. I hated having to walk outside in the muddy slush of dirt mixed with snow, the biting cold winds gnawing against my cheeks. I went to class wearing practically five layers of clothes that made me feel like I was ten pounds heavier.

So, I was happy to move back home and get away from all of that, so imagine my shock to see young Trinis walking around with knee-high boots with fur tassels that eerily resembled the same ones I wore when I was in Canada. In Trincity Mall, I even saw one girl in a full-on winter jacket with fur around the hood! And come on. Knee-high boots in the hot sun could only mean one thing… toe-jam.

You’d NEVER find an American or Canadian teen in a sweater on a summer day. So, when I tell my friends and family that I see some Trinis walking around in winter wear, their main question is, why?

This brings me back to the dilemma I mentioned at the beginning of the article. I was having trouble finishing this piece, because I was trying to figure out the “why”. Why do we Trinis love “foreign” so much?

I could write that it’s because of our colonial past, and that it’s a relic from a time when we had no choice, but to accept foreign norms as our own. Or I could blame technology and the fact that as Trinis have become more exposed to media from the US, their culture, and ours, have become inextricable intertwined. Or maybe people are just wearing whatever came down in ‘d barrel’. There are many potential explanations, but from what I see, Trinidad is really a place of many paradoxes, where things that don’t make (common) sense are commonplace.

This love of all things foreign extends to pretty much every area of life in Trinidad and Tobago. I won’t touch on these other areas, because I might start to rant about things like, why do we celebrate the tastiness of KFC in Trinidad, as if KFC is one of our national dishes? KFC is an international franchise, yet we say that our KFC is the best and beam with more national pride than ever (There goes me not ranting).

Getting back to my point…

Choosing the clothes we wear is the most superficial level at which we see this expressed love for everything foreign. The question we need to start asking, and answering, is when are we going to define what it means to be a Trini in the 21st century, on our terms? How do we express this ‘Trininess’? Can’t we even determine our own sense of style? Wouldn’t it make more sense to appreciate fashion that matches your individual taste, and your lifestyle?

Honestly, nothing’s wrong with liking a trend from another culture, or even adopting it to a degree. My problem is that we don’t weed out what’s irrelevant from ‘the relevant’. On that note, I’m mentally preparing myself to see even more jackets out in force, because Christmas is coming, and yuh know how de place starting to get cold.

 

Author bio: Patricia Grannum is someone who enjoys observing people, but not in a stalker-ish way! Sometimes the observations make their way onto paper or onto websites.

 

Check out the rest of this week’s issue (Issue 32, 15/11/10)

 

Image courtesy iStockphoto.com; andyjibbs

 

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