How does love survive in a tough economy?
IN the daily, weekly and monthly hustle to make a dollar, find an elusive job or trying to hold on to one that is surely slipping away, many times we forget that, at our core, we are vulnerable to the emotions that we have invested in others or, we are eagerly but silently yearning for 'that special one'.
Family suffers as the dollar eludes the household and new relationships sit on a knife's edge as we become unsure what is the ultimate objective of the 'other one' — love or a meal ticket.
Charice is university-educated, highly intelligent, employed, about 30 'nuff-nuff', drives a three-year-old car that is costing her $38,000 per month at the bank for the next three years, and she tells me that love and happiness are just, as she puts it, Hollywood concoctions designed to make a film director filthy rich.
"So, have you never been in love before, I mean madly and out of control in love?" I ask her.
"Of course," she answers. "It is counterproductive and bad for the human spirit."
"Oh, I see, you have been badly hurt and have decided to retreat from love. I understand," I responded, then added, "but how long can you hide from yourself?"
"So, do you have all the answers?" she asked.
We sipped our wine and it appeared that her eyes had floated away from the conversation. She wiped away a tear and I asked, "Listen, you want us to change the subject?"
"No!" she said abruptly. Her voice broke a little as she said, "I was once an innocent girl like every other innocent girl, but you people," she said, pointing at me. "You, you men, you men have hardened me; taken something away from me, something pure and honest. Just too many lies, too many."
She began to cry. I have never been one to intervene in tears, but unfortunately too many times when I am in conversation with women I know, they bring out an emotional side of themselves that makes me want to get up and leave and go sit with my male friends and talk about street-level inanities.
In recent months, I have noticed that young men who were, two years before, waiting for the jobs, jobs, jobs manna to fall from economic heaven, have begun to get work on various construction sites. That is a bit of good news, and I would not be surprised if an uptick in sales of cement, steel, lumber, and aggregate is recorded. Somehow, getting regular work makes navigating through matters of the flesh -- and invariaby of the emotions — that much easier.
According to a roadside vendor 'bredrin' of mine, it all comes down to pricing: "Mi nuh trus no woman," he said. Then he added, as he looked around him carefully, "Mi only trus my woman when mi can si har." One suspected that if his woman should suddenly come within earshot of what he had said, he would be immediately penitent and apologetic.
The sheer number of lonely and terribly unhappy people whom I have met over the last five years have, at times, debilitated me. According to one man, who in his 30s was seeking my advice, his phone became damaged, and because his girlfriend had an extra phone he borrowed hers until he could replace it.
"Imagine, mi fine a text message inna har phone. Is a message from a man a gi har directions how fi fine him place," he said.
"But I thought you said you suspected her of having someone else. Is that the person?"
"No," he said. "It look like is another guy dat."
I thought about what he had told me. His girlfriend had a fairly steady job. He could only find odd jobs working on construction sites. "Do you give her a regular money, like every month, when yuh mek something?"
"How mi fi gi har weh mi nuh have?" he answered.
"I hate to say this," I said to him. "If you cannot satisfy what she needs economically, she is not going to sit around and wait on you forever. She name woman."
A poor man is at an economic advantage, not only because poor women are not content to sit around, smoke weed and play dominoes, as many men do, but men as an attractive commodity fall much lower down the tradeable ladder than women. That is all too obvious.
Marriage is not without its share of problems, only that the institution is geared to hide the economic problems which tend to destabilise the love that is left over from that first big rush left over after the honeymoon. Women in marriage are much better at subduing whatever tendencies they have to protest problems 'of the heart', especially if the monthly financial inputs are positive.
Men are more easily driven to brief, destructive relationships whenever there is an economic downturn, but they face a two-edged sword. If the wife is being rejected sexually, the husband will still want to maintain her financially. But he has to grapple with the fact that the outside paramour will immediately sense his vulnerability and begin to milk every dollar she can out of him. In quick time, his best friend becomes a bar stool.
One young woman who is a street-side vendor downtown tells me, "I don't have time fi wait pon a man. Yuh still have good one bout di place, but nuff a dem lazy an jus wan use yuh and all beat yuh pon top a it. Mi mek my money and turn my own key, so no guy can't tell me weh fi do. Times hard, and me haffi look it fi me and my two pickney dem."
A businessman friend of mine tells me that it is impossible for him to keep just one woman. Married, he is quite aware that if his wife of two years should find out about his 'outside' woman it would be hell to pay.
"Listen, I work hard and have to hustle like hell to keep the small family together. But sometimes when the economic crunch is on I have to face the fact that I am basically maintaining two households.
"Now, that costs real money!"