Bingo bags and granny shoes

When you’re young you never imagine that you’ll one day be wearing bingo bags and granny shoes by choice.

(“Bingo bag” is slang for the big cotton panties that old ladies are thought to wear; it’s named after the big bag you put the numbers in when you’re playing bingo. “Granny shoes” are wide loafers with low heels.)

You think you’ll graduate from the mandatory cotton panties your mother made you wear when you were small, straight to lacy thongs and you’ll never look back. You think you’ll exchange your white patent leather Mary Janes for fabulous five-inch stiletto pumps forever.
The truth is, maybe not.
Did you know that wearing thongs increases your risk of getting bacterial and yeast infections? A yeast infection is when the normal fungal organisms in your vagina get out of control and cause you to itch and have abnormal discharge. It’s not fun. A bacterial infection in your vagina is similar but caused by different organisms; it is itchy and smelly too. Because of the way they are shaped and the way they fit, thongs can transfer bacteria from your bottom to your vagina, sometimes causing these infections and others.
As unattractive as they are, bingo bags are actually better for you. Cotton underpants allow air to reach your skin and they don’t trap moisture the way synthetic fabrics will. Loose fitting underpants are better for you for the same reason.
And high heels make you look all sexy, lengthening your legs and pushing your bottom up and out, giving you that curvy shape that is thought so desirable. The part nobody tells you is that wearing high heels can really damage your back, legs and feet. I’ve met women who wear heels all the time and they actually can’t wear flats anymore because their calf muscles have become shortened and it hurts to stretch them out. I’ve seen feet with corns on the toes and heels, and toes that have become misshapen from being pushed into high-heeled shoes every day, all day. Don’t talk about the nagging backache from that sexy shape. Granny shoes aren’t sexy, but they’re comfortable, they don’t hurt your back and they don’t hurt your feet.
One day, dawtah, you’ll have to buy your own undies and shoes. Go ahead and get the sexy thongs if you must. (Please choose cotton ones, or at least make sure it has a cotton gusset—the gusset is the part that fits over your vagina.) Get the stilettos if you absolutely have to. (Do ensure you buy them in your size.) But please also get some bingo bags and granny shoes. Wear the bingo bags to bed (or go commando: wear no underpants at all), and keep the granny shoes on hand for the days when you have to do a lot of walking or standing. Please don’t suffer for fashion. Granny knows best.


Every gyal bubble…

… a pot.

When your granny was a little girl, dawtah, running around in the yard and stoning mango from the tree in the back yard, it was common that girls were expected to learn how to cook. Girls were expected to grow up and become mothers and wives and they had to know how to feed their families. This was true of rich girls, middle class girls and poor girls. What’s more, the men they were expected to marry were taught to look for girls who could cook; it was a normal part of the exchange of services in marriage at that time: the women would keep the house and the men would go out and work to provide money to run the household.

A lot has changed in sixty years. Nowadays many women choose not to keep house, and instead go out and work to earn money. Your own mother probably does. And because that has changed, there are now quite a few mothers who don’t cook. Perhaps your own mother doesn’t. Maybe your dad cooks instead. Or you might have your granny living with you and she does the cooking. Or maybe your family buys most of its food already prepared.

A lot has changed, it’s true. But one thing remains the same: everybody has to eat. That’s why, dawtah, I recommend that everybody learns how to cook. Boys as well as girls.

The first reason for this is that home cooked food is delicious. You know your own tastes, how much salt, sweetness, crunchiness, softness, spiciness you prefer. When you cook for yourself you can make food that exactly matches your palate.

The second reason is that home cooked food can be more nutritious than bought food. A lot of bought food is made delicious with the addition of chemicals and fillers, or very high quantities of oil and salt and sugar. When you cook for yourself you select the ingredients and make the decisions about how much fat, salt or sugar you use. When you choose to cook with fresh, good-quality ingredients, the food you make is better for you.

The third reason is that cooking for yourself gives you independence. When you can cook, you can decide what you want to eat and make it. Imagine you’re in a strange country where they’ve never heard of macaroni pie, or curried chicken, or rice and peas. Sure, you could buy a burger, but wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make your favourite food for yourself?

Mmmmm… rice and peas with curry goat! [Photo courtesy Wikipedia from Babble on Babylon in Melbourne Australia. Photo by avlxyz (Flickr)]

That’s whyyou should learn to cook.

But what about the how?

Cooking is both an art and a science. The science part is understanding how ingredients interact with each other and heat and cold. Cooking is a chemical reaction, and the reactions are predictable. That’s why we have recipes. But cooking is also an art. I’m not talking about fancy haute cuisine dishes that look like they should be in a museum rather than in your tummy. I’m talking about the special something that makes your granny’s stewed chicken taste like no other stewed chicken in the world. Same ingredients, yet she’s done something special in there that makes hers unique. That’s the art of it.

You can learn to cook from recipes in books or on the Internet or TV, but the best way to learn to cook is from cooking with someone who knows how. If your mom or dad cooks, ask if you can help them in the kitchen. Watch what they’re doing, and you can even try your hand at making something with their supervision. You don’t have to learn to cook everything, and certainly not all at once. Try simple things at first—boiling macaroni, making scrambled eggs—and build on your knowledge as you go along. You might never grow up to be a four-star chef. That’s quite all right. But you should at least be able to cook a dish you like, whether it’s sada roti and tomato choka or pelau or mannish water.

The skin you’re in



Skin is such a big topic. It might seem really silly and superficial to start a blog for Caribbean girls with a post about skin, but to me it’s actually really serious.

Think about it. What’s the first thing anybody sees when they look at you? Yup, your skin. And we females can obsess, sometimes in an unhealthy way, about our skin. The colour, texture, tone, whether we have pimples or freckles or hairs sprouting from strange places… and let’s not forget the hair that’s biologically supposed to be there whether we like it or not. Skin is the largest organ on the human body and it’s even an indicator of our overall health. And, politically speaking, the colour of our skin is still a big issue in the Caribbean.

So, yeah, skin.

The first thing I want to say is that no matter how your skin looks, love it. Whether it’s dark, light, in between; whether it’s flawless or spotty; whether it’s loose or tight; whether it’s smooth or hairy… love your skin. It can be hard to make a decision to love your skin because we get all these messages from cosmetics companies and movies and music videos that skin should be perfectly smooth and hairless, and definitely not greasy. The truth is, the pictures we see in magazines are very often Photoshopped to remove what are perceived as flaws. (If you haven’t seen it already, watch this video to see what I mean.) So don’t hate your skin because it isn’t “perfect”. Nobody’s skin really is.

The second thing I want to tell you is that your skin is alive. Silly thing to say, right? But your skin needs sunlight, water and air, just like other living things.

Sunshine is important for Vitamin D (which helps your bones and teeth, funnily enough) and the vitamin is formed in the body when we absorb sunlight through our skin. It’s also important because sunlight helps improve your mood; there’s actually a kind of depression people get when they don’t get enough sunshine. So get out in the sunshine! Remember to wear sunblock, though, because sun can damage your skin if you get too much of it.

Also drink lots of water. Drinking water is great for the skin because the hydration is necessary to keep it supple and soft. Don’t drink too many soft drinks because they’re full of useless sugar and really don’t give you anything but gas. (“Soft drinks” includes fruity drinks, which are usually mostly water and sugar, and contain hardly any actual fruit. Eat an orange and drink some water instead, it’s much better for your skin. And the rest of you, come to think of it.)

What about air? How does your skin need air? The clothes we wear can affect our skin. If they’re too tight, they can cause chafing (ouch!), and if they’re made of synthetic material, they don’t allow air to pass through to the skin. In this tropical climate, let me tell you, cotton is your friend! Slinky tops and jeans might look cute, but switch it up sometimes and wear natural fibers like cotton, silk or linen, which allow sweat to escape and air to pass through them. Your skin will thank you for it.

There’s tons more to say about skin but that’s enough for now. Until next time,




(image source:

Dear Dawtah…

I think we should talk. Not one of those, “Oh oh, what have I done now?” talks. No, this is more of a, “Hey, did I ever tell you…?” kind of talks. I hope we’ll have a few. We can talk about clothes, and your body, and life and other stuff. I just love you and want to share some of the things I’ve learned over my life.



ps: You see this? It’s yours.


Image created by Reto Stöckli, Nazmi El Saleous, and Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, NASA GSFC