Writer, Editor, Parent...

A sexist headline, an incomplete story

Posted: October 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Monday's headline emphasised the make of the vehicle.

This week a car ran over two police officers in Freeport, Trinidad, killing one on the spot and putting one in hospital where she remains in critical condition. The reports indicate that a woman was driving in traffic at a road construction site and ran over the officers while they were conducting traffic around the construction.

It’s a tragic story however you read it. But two things made me very annoyed with its coverage. The first thing was the fact that it took a letter from a reader to point out that there is inadequate signage at that site, making it difficult for anyone to negotiate the detour. Yesterday’s Newsday ran the letter by one S Mohan, which reads, in part,

“I passed there on Sunday evening, there were no basic safety measures put in place, no indications that there were roadworks taking place, no signs, no lights, arrows, no police directing traffic, nothing, just some traffic cones placed directly in front of and around the area and police inside it, all of a sudden you have to merge from the right to the left lane, cars on the right don’t know and on the left is no different until you are almost at the work site.

“I myself almost got hit, and right after almost hit another vehicle while I was attempting to merge to the left lane….”

None of this was reported in the main story a few pages before. Instead the story focussed on how overworked police officers are and how ill-trained. Surely the lack of signage is relevant?

The second thing was the fact that of the three papers initially reporting the story on Monday, October 18, 2010, only one paper put the sex of the driver in the headline. By the next day, all the papers were using the word “woman” or “female”; the Newsday front page picture even used it in the caption of the dead officer’s sobbing girlfriend.

By Tuesday it wasn't the Lexus that was important anymore.

How is it relevant that the driver was a woman? Would we have put in the headline, “Male driver runs over police officers”? This plays into the stereotype that women are bad drivers. We should do better.


fff#29 As much as I had loved him

Posted: October 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: FFF | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

For the background, see the posting before this one.

fff#29as much/little as… (starter)

As much as I had loved him, I hate him now. I see his car–an unmistakable maroon Toyota with a silly, excessive spoiler at the back–and my stomach churns with disgust. I’m not stupid. (Well, maybe I am stupid. I was with him for five years, after all.) I know the disgust is as much for me as for him. I can’t believe all the things I put myself through to be with him. All the blatant rubbish I endured to call him mine. Mine? Never was. His lies and my complicity leave me bruised and tired now just thinking about him.

Inevitably, every time I think about him I think about how it ended: hearing from a third party that there was this other woman, incontrovertable evidence shoved in my face and hurriedly digested before a nasty confrontation between him, her and me. And even then, even then, as much as I hated him, I loved him still.


fff#28–The strange tale of the pants cat

Posted: October 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: FFF | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I too-rarely participate in my friend elisha’s flash fiction fridays, a kind of writing exercise where you have to write a short piece of fiction using a trigger that she provides. The trigger can be an opening sentence, a closing sentence or a list of words you have to include in the piece. This week she posted an inclusion trigger. Here’s my attempt. It’s not actually fiction, but fmf (flash memoir fridays) doesn’t have the same ring, somehow.

fff#28 (inclusion) trigger:rebellion, fox, strange, mirror, pleasure.

True story: Fennec came to us in pants.

He wasn’t wearing pants. He was in the pants. Brian walked up to me while I was sitting on a wooden bench in the waiting room of the free dental clinic with Najja sitting next to me waiting to take out a baby tooth that was making a rider. Brian had a strange look on his face. “Look at this,” he said, holding open the pocket of his baggy jeans. Two sleepy kitten eyes stared out from the pocket and the barely furry face opened its mouth in a noiseless mew. I jumped off the bench, yelling, “What the hell?!?” A good moment for an interrobang right there.

We called him Fennec after the fox with the huge ears. His ears were ginormous, bigger than his head, nearly bigger than his body, truth be told. He was frail and dirty with scant hair covering his pink skin. His mother had had a litter of 16 kittens but most cats have between six and eight nipples. Not very strange that he was in bad shape.

Brian took the pants off and went home in his boxers with the sleepy kitten still in the pocket of his jeans. Regular feedings of milk-soaked bread gave him fortitude and within a couple of days the creature was toddling around like an actual kitten, peering into the mirror at himself with puzzlement and interest, batting at his reflection and running away with an awkward, teetering gait. Soon he didn’t want bread and milk anymore and was screaming in hunger at the merest whiff of meat.

Countless fleas lurked under Fennec’s dingy white fur, especially in its archipelago of brownish-gray spots running up his back to his tail. After Googling kittens and fleas we learned that although he was probably a little too young for a proper flea treatment we could wage a war of attrition against them with twice-weekly baths in mild soap followed by blow-drying him on low heat. It’s strange to suggest bathing a cat–it never sounded like a good idea–and Fennec, unsurprisingly, wasn’t a fan. A warm bath and chocolate-scented body wash, which was the mildest thing we had around the house, was punishment to him. His rebellion against this inhumane treatment took the form of vicious slashes with his razor-sharp claws and the occasional bite. He really didn’t want to be bathed. Ever. Again. But we did it religiously twice a week for about a month. He still has fleas but far fewer; a side effect of the regular baths was that his fur grew in properly and he was no longer hairless, even if his mammoth ears are still too big for his increasingly rotund body.

The nicest part about bathing Fennec was that afterwards someone would have to put him under their shirt to get him warm because he was shivering so much. He’d curl up around your tummy and subside into sleep, purring in pleasure. Maybe he was remembering how he came to us, snug in the pocket of a pair of pants.


I <3 the smell of vinyl in the morning

Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

Thanks to the extremely generous sponsorship of Caribbean Airlines, Scrip-J printers and many others, the Allen Prize for Young Writers seminar on Monday October 11 is a go!

Caribbean Airlines sponsored tickets for two writers to come, and Scrip-J sponsored programmes and a vinyl banner. Unrolling that 6×3 sheet of vinyl released a smell unlike any other… and a flood of emotion in me. This smell, the feel of the vinyl, the sight of the Allen Prize logo writ large made the whole enterprise real in a way that nothing else has so far.

This seminar has been so much work to put together that I am now bone tired (and the seminar itself isn’t even over yet!). But with the tiredness is also a deep feeling of gratitude at all the kindness that has been extended to us. The Ministry of Education has been a godsend. From Gayelle, C, IETV to the Student Press, Catholic News, Guardian, Newday and Express, I95 FM, and Power 102 FM, the media have been extremely helpful in spreading the news about the prize and the seminar. Donations by private individuals, Chee Mooke Bakery, SM Jaleel, Graphics Extra and so many more have helped us enormously. Not to mention the authors who will be presenting at the seminar, Roger Bonair-Agard, Roslyn Carrington and Dr Paloma Mohamed, who are taking serious pay cuts to come to speak.

All of this would not have been possible without the board and committees.

Nothing is so humbling as being the recipient of kindness. I hope and pray we deliver a product that young people will cherish and grow from for years to come.

I’m taking the night off, revelling in the smell of that vinyl banner and all it represents.


What you don’t read in the baby books

Posted: October 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Two women I know are embarking on first-time motherhood and it got me thinking: what are some of the things I wish I knew when I was about to have a child?

Maybe the number one thing was that some of those old wives’ tales are true. Every time I look at my very round belly I think, “Why didn’t I band my belly like my big sister told me to?” The short answer, of course, is that I thought that idea was rubbish. Muscle springs back once the baby’s out, doesn’t it? (Uh, no, it don’t.) The truth is unless you’re into some kind of regular exercise with an intense ab workout component, you’re going to end up with at the very least a pooch, or in the worst case, a pot belly. Band it. It won’t kill you.

Breast feeding is not over rated. Do it for as long as you can. It’s the best thing for the baby, it’s cheaper than formula, it’s less work and more sanitary and it’s definitely better for the environment. Breast feeding also helps with your post-partum tummy. (See above.)

Relax. Motherhood is hard, hard, hard. Make sure you take time for yourself and get some sleep. Don’t make your job or husband a priority right now. They’ll keep. The baby needs a lot of attention and he or she will get it, but you won’t unless you make yourself a priority.

You’ll miss stuff in The World while you’re getting used to being a mother. Even when the kids get big, it might happen. Don’t worry about it too much; The World will still be there when you are able to and interested in going to see what it’s up to.

Love your baby. Trust me, this is harder than it sounds sometimes….

Get support. Your mom, in-laws, friends etc will all be lining up to help you. Don’t be proud, and don’t let their alternate ideas on parenting put you off accepting their help. Gently but firmly let them know what you prefer, but by all means let them come and help. It makes life a million times easier.

Babies are expensive. But the money always comes.

What are some of the things you experienced parents out there learned about that you wish you’d known when you were a first-timer?