Out and about on Main Street, and, btw, what does a 50-year-old on a mission look like?

Sunday, July 15, 2012    

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Well, what a thing! Coming out of the closet is now all the rage. Who knew? Certainly not me. I might not have had a closet to come out of, but, surely, had I known how simple full public disclosure would be today, I could have at least come out of, well, a drawer. A cabinet, maybe. As a woman who only likes being a woman 25 days out of each month and spends the other three bemoaning the fact I wasn't born with a penis, but who, don't get it twisted, will absolutely die the day menopause sets in. I swear.

Like, seriously? Someone should tell the ones who came out as gay recently that the bigger story would have been if they'd gone back in. Hello? Anderson, I love you. Always have. Since the moment I blessed eyes on your gloriously white hair, the mischievous twinkle in your intelligent blue eyes, the way you absolutely own a suit. Frankly, sir, I love the cut of your jib. But come on, I wasn't hanging around hoping to meet you on the street somewhere and spark the love affair of a lifetime. There was no Vanderbilt legacy in my future, I knew.

Some things you know instinctively. And Diana King. Really? Re-all-y, Diana? How about, next time, truly shocking us by admitting you love men? I mean, really? Were there people who fell over in a dead slump at that bit of news? But the coming-out party that really seemed to get lips flapping was R&B singer Frank Ocean's. Listen, he admitted via his Tumblr account that his first love was a man. Hey, so was mine. But you don't see big ballers like Russell Simmons and 'em commending me on how I "changed the game".

(Well, OK, so maybe I had no game to change. Still. When am I going to get my very own celebrity endorsement, dammit, is what I want to know.)

I really don't mean to be making light of what very much could be more than a mere publicity stunt. After all, hip hop, with its grandiloquent paeans to crass excess against an unremitting heterosexual backdrop, isn't known for its public embrace of "alternative" lifestyles. You've seen the videos. The men are always over-the-top macho and the women, well, the less said about the women, the better.

It may seem I'm mocking these 'newly' out celebrities, but in all seriousness I'm glad people are finding the courage to declare their sexuality. I firmly believe that if these conversations were happening before, the HIV predicament would not have reached the critical mass it has today; there can be no doubt that down-low creeping is lighter fluid for its spread. Let's face it. Today, the public's role models are no longer preachers, teachers and medical practitioners. Sadly, it's celebrities and media whores, um, personalities. Basically, anyone who's held a mike up to their mouths (and I'm not just speaking euphemistically now) or happened by a red carpet. It is what it is. Today, celebrities are the new gods of the arena, it's that simple.

This, however, isn't a meditation on gayness, per se. I've really just been thinking about how the world has changed since I touched down on it. And, what with Jamaica 50 celebrations almost in full cry, which patriotic Jamaican hasn't been thinking about how our little slice of paradise has changed since full free? We're all in contemplative mood around these parts, aren't we? While we're at it: there's been much debate about the proposed removal of the Queen as head of state. All I'll say on the subject is that even though I'm an independent woman who no longer depends on parents for assistance, when I turn 50, it will still be good to know that my dad is a fall-back plan, just in case. Sue me.

In some ways, we've done well for a 50-year-old independent nation — I've never been prouder to be Jamaican. In some, we've dropped the ball. There are those among us who are highly critical of the areas in which we mess up. And, indeed, there are some things that we're doing wrong that are absolutely inexcusable. The perennial problems with insufficient water in our messed-up dams, is just one example. It cannot be that this is an unsolvable problem. Because, as much as there are many of us for whom water tanks have become a feature of everyday life, there are equally as many who don't have tanks and who must take baths out of teacups each morning before they go off to their individual pursuits. It's positively scandalous, all these many years later.

Then there's that revelation in this week's SO celebrity interview with the actor Lyriq Bent, who makes me feel glad to be a woman, even on those wretched days I feel like ripping out my ovaries. (Good job, Miss Heather, on this fabulous series. We're absolutely inspired by these Jamaicans on a mission. Who knew there were so many of them on foreign TV? And thank you, NMW, for always, always creating a space for us to see that we can all dream bigger, because there are so many who are doing so and, despite the odds, actually living their dreams.)

Anyway, according to Bent, the film he most recently wrapped, Home Again, about Jamaican deportees should have been shot in our island home. Makes sense, right? Home. Again. However, because of foot-dragging on our end, the film's producers were forced to look elsewhere for locations. Guess which twin-island republic rose to the challenge? That's right. Trinidad and Tobago, which is also celebrating 50 years of Independence this year. It's called opting for opportunity. The truth is that traditional industries for Caribbean countries have been failing. Our salvation lies in non-traditional areas like film, entertainment, health tourism, and the like. People on a mission understand this and don't squander opportunities.

But I don't want to dwell on negativity. Not as we look forward to the nice-nice time we're anticipating come the Olympics and Independence. It's not that they don't abound. They do. We have many other Sundays to bring them up and, hopefully, tackle them, so that in another 50, things will be a whole lot better for those who're still here.



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