Written by: Nalini Mahadeo
If you are reading this, chances are you grew up thinking ‘cuff’ is a punch. I did too.
Not that long ago I heard the term “cuffing season” and couldn’t understand why it’s a thing some people are celebrating— I also didn’t quite understand the context when I heard it in rap songs. So I Googled...I felt like ah eeeeediat! It got me thinking though...is there really a difference between the two meanings? On one hand, to be cuffed is to be hit and the other is to be “locked” in a relationship; both physically daunting, both emotionally daunting, both relate to bondage.
As a first generation Canadian born to Guyanese parents, I’m constantly struggling to straddle the modern world with their old world ways. Learning how to divide my own thoughts and combine them with my family’s expectations is no easy feat. It wasn’t until about three years ago when I gained a lot more West Indian connections that I noticed one common denominator; damage. True to our roots, we love to share (let’s be honest...overshare) anecdotes about everybody’s business, but we shut down when it comes to our own. We are taught early on not to let anybody talk we name, so we suppress our own discomforts and live in a continuous cycle of closeted emotions and behaviour.
Some of us have even become desensitized to the damage. I’m sure you can recall a story of an aunty, neighbour, or obscure relative who are/were victims of unspeakable violence. Yet somehow they dismiss their experience, citing it as a lang time story, he de drink too much rum or is nah me business! It’s not just the physical cuff, it’s the heavy emotional weight that burns our insides more than the wiri wiri pepper we buss in our Sunday afternoon cookup.
Another common denominator I noticed with my new friends was their strict upbringing, similar to my own. Whether it was friendships, dating, no cutex while in school, even career choices, we were cuffed to our parents and elders. The expectation was to learn how to manage life by being micromanaged. This by far is the most confusing concept to me and has resulted in so much unhappiness, shame and the need to over explain. The lack of freedom propelled a lot of us into decisions we weren’t ready to make, being too naive to differentiate reality and fantasy. We were taught how to obey, how to run a household, how to work hard, not indulge and how to accept without question. The bottom line is, most of us were unprepared; missing the key nuances necessary to survive and navigate our life outside of being cuffed to our family.
So here we are— an impasse of cuffing and cuffing. How do we move forward to a point where we can break the cuffs that attach our mental programming to the cuffs that cut the people we know so deeply? The truth is, most of this is hidden until something triggers it in our own lives. We confront the emotional baggage anytime we look for a partner or a relationship ends. It’s 2021, more Caribbean women are speaking openly, making choices that aren’t typical of our culture, and breaking barriers in various avenues. I often wonder, if the free will that our generation holds upsets the ancestors before us because they see it as a way that ignores or overlooks their lack of choices and resources. To approach change we need to address the past in a healthy way and open the dialogue by ways of acknowledgment while progressing in a way that accepts the freedom that society currently offers. Full stop.
“Self love is the greatest middle finger of all time”. I don’t know who wrote these words but, Lawd! It’s as though the author knew me! I constantly double flip the bird (birds?) while I roll my eyes to imaginary people and scenarios when vex. I used to laugh about being a Jack of all trades, Master of none but now more than ever, I am jam packing my days pursuing my passions and elevating that self love to a level I cannot understand. To be clear, I’m not in competition with anyone...the world is plenty big to house all of us and our quirks.
Hi. I am Nalini. Talkative, witty, button pushing, aggressively learning, multitasking and sassy Nalini. I don’t believe in labels or titles because to me, it’s a definition that cannot necessarily be characterized in a single word. I’m not just a mom and my day job has nothing to do with who I am, I am an entrepreneur and currently reviving my love of writing and initiating conversation by this amazing style of expression known as blogging. Recently, I have become slightly obsessed with learning about my Guyanese heritage and the heavily guarded mystery surrounding my people, the land and the Caribbean. I invite you to join me on my journey so perhaps we can all evolve together!