Crazy Island Girls: Mental or Outspoken?
Fact. I became much more aware of my Trini-ness when I left Trinidad. When someone asks about Trinidad, I can easily and confidently monologue for hours about my twin-island republic and its pros and cons. Moving to the UK, seven years ago, also made me realise that many people think we’re all from Jamaica, eat jerk chicken and say, “What ah gwan”.
Who is “we” you ask? Island people. People from the Caribbean. The West Indies. The Windwards and the Leewards. We are associated with idyllic surroundings, smoking marijuana, cricket, football, great food and beautiful women. Which brings me to my topic this week. Why are island girls considered more times than not – crazy?
Overseas, when you hear someone refer to an ‘island girl’, they’re definitely referring to a Caribbean woman, not someone from a Greek island. If you read Black gossip blogs, especially the US-based ones, check any post on Rihanna, especially one about the incident with Chris Brown, or a blog post about ‘Black love’, and you’ll find a few comments that dub island girls as a crazy bunch. True, some of the incidents that make it online don’t help, like the woman who rough up her boyfriend on the Brian Lara Promenade (you’ve seen it!), but methinks they mistake our gusto for ‘crazy’.
Many people who I have encountered on my travels think I am outspoken, stubborn, crazy, mad, and mental and an ex-employer even described me as disruptive. Why is that? I can’t speak for any other island girl but myself. However, I think it’s because I speak my mind. Always. I say what I feel and even when applied with diplomacy on steroids, the threads of my opinions are controversial. But you realised that already, didn’t you?
“… even when applied with diplomacy on steroids, the threads of my opinions are controversial.”
To get a bit personal with you, that’s one of the reasons I write for Outlish Magazine… because I have the freedom to express my opinion to you, and, while many of you will not always agree with what I say, you always express your appreciation for my opinion – one of the things I miss about home.
I would like to thank you, my readers, and Outlish for giving me this forum to express myself… because in my daily life, I am judged. From the innocent, “Girl, you’re so crazy” to the serious “Michelle, you seem all over the place. Is everything ok?”, sometimes I feel that non-island people don’t get me. They don’t understand that I want to express my opinion on whatever I want, whenever I want. Isn’t that what freedom of speech is?
And I know I am not the only one. Should I adapt? Maybe, but I won’t. Should I dilute my messages? Might improve things, but it’s not in my long-term plans. You see, we all grew up in a culture where exclamations happen. Where we express ourselves to the fullest. Just think of your routine check on Facebook in the morning. Our status updates are expressive. Expressions of love, worry, anger, laughter and much more. And we’re not afraid to say what we feel about, well, anything.
I have had run-ins with colleagues, management, clients, and fellow travellers on the London transport network. These scenarios are clear examples of me at my craziest. Don’t think any of you would have acted differently.
So on a daily basis, I am constantly running over what I am about to say in my head, so as not to be misconstrued or have my tone detract from my message – at work with my superiors, and at home with the people in my life who matter. But on the tube, my fellow commuters are not in my inner circle. So if you push me, I retaliate, and – over time – this retaliation has ranged from a glare to full-blown cuss outs, where I look around and people are looking at me thinking, “Crazy woman with the dodgy accent!”
I could understand why they may have that perception, but I see so many people walk away from potentially volatile situations. People get shoved on the tube. Pregnant women don’t get seats on the train or bus. Me? I not taking that. Bounce into me, yuh getting cuss. Stand up too close to me, yuh getting cuss. Don’t move down into the aisles, you getting cuss. I am not going to just stand there and let these things happen to me. And what, does it makes me crazy that I react? I should just bury my face into my paper and act like I am unaware of what is going on? Can I get a steups please? Oh, and with ah side ah cut eye! Note, I don’t ‘go off’ from the get-go. For de least, yuh getting me blasting some Sizzla on my iPod. That usually scares people and encourages them to move away an inch or two. If not, then I bring on the crazy.
“… what non-island people need to realise is that if you think I am acting crazy, chances are you have done something to bring on the crazy.”
As for when I am waiting to get on the train and people are behind me, and someone bypasses me to get on before waiting for passengers to get off? Well I turn into some sort of social activist, cussin’ about the right way and the wrong way of doing things, ‘cause that is how we were brought up in the “the islands”. To respect other people – even if we don’t know them (yes, yes, minus the cussin’). We call all women over 40 “Auntie” and their husbands, “Uncle”. We went to church, temple or mosque. We celebrated all religious holidays – Divali, Eid, Easter, Shouter Baptist Day and Indian Arrival Day.
I have behaviour. We all do. But what non-island people need to realise is that if you think I am acting crazy, chances are you have done something to bring on the crazy. So is it that I am crazy enough to have the audacity to watch the girl on the tube who just shoved herself onto me to get a space and say, “If you would lay off the Mc Donalds, that manoeuvre will become easier”? Maybe. To the cyclist who I screamed at from across the rode, labelling him as “a balding mudda c…”, you nearly threw me down on the pavement, so you deserved it.
Thing is… many people shrug their shoulders when my Trinidad twang is evident – as if the crazy is directly linked to my place of birth – my island. Not the cyclist who nearly threw me down. As island people, we express ourselves. Our reactions may certainly border on crazy at times, and seem even crazier in other cultures, especially when we switch to dialect and buss chat, but what about the stimuli? So what, if we express ourselves? It’s just that – expression.
I could go on and on, but what I am going to say is this. As strong Caribbean women, we don’t hesitate to fight back. We saw our mothers do it and our daughters will see us do it. So my advice to the people waving the crazy placards at us – act right, and you’ll be spared. Fact.
Author bio: Michelle Eng Leang is a Trini living in the UK. Married for almost ten years, she is a mother to a two-year-old-son. She eh really cater – and that’s all you need to know. You want an honest opinion? With her, that’s exactly what you are going to get. Check out her blog http://mamaengsthoughts.blogspot.com.
Image courtesy iStockphoto.com.
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (6/12/10; Issue 35):
- Collis Duranty: He’s Got Unlimited Soul
- Colour Blindness: Protecting Your Child From Racism
- Mystie Thongs: True Tales of an Unusual Name
- How Cartoons Warped My Perception of Men
- Tortured by Exams? Escape the Chamber
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!