The Single Girl in a Festive Whirl (Pub. in SHE Caribbean, Dec 2010)

 

“My goodness, Christmas, New Years and Valentines are right around the corner. I wish I could climb into a cocoon and wake up in 2011, say around the end of February. Having no boyfriend during the season is hellish.” Anya, 25.

Anya is single but definitely not alone in terms of her outlook.  For many single ladies tis the season to be clobbered with garlands and roses, carols and schmaltzy love songs, stuffed toys embroidered with professions of love, good cheer and constant reminders that lovers are pursuing perfect gifts for special someones. Singles are forced to endure all kinds of romantic and fantastic renderings of the holidays and Valentines until they’re red and green all over. They’re hit hard by everything, except cupid’s arrow, and the result, in some instances, is the worst case of Singleism known to woman.

If you’re not involved in a romantic relationship you probably dread those 76 days from December 1st to February 14th because, quite frankly, it usually feels like the masterminds design it all without considering you. Optimism may not be as accessible as the pervasive sense of loneliness that snuggles ever so closely up to you, but try to think positively; this is an important factor in warding off those ostensibly organized attacks on single ladies.

Here are a few tips:

  1. “Remind yourself, every day if necessary, that there’s nothing wrong with being single,” recommends Toni Coleman, therapist and relationship coach. You’re not alone in singledom; your singleton status is not everlasting and neither is the season. Having someone merely to share the season with is not a good enough reason to be in a relationship. Have you forgotten the drunken, embarrassing mess he became at every function where alcohol was available? Wouldn’t it be harder to be in a relationship where your significant other didn’t care to make the effort during the season than to be single? Your current marital status is not a judgment on your character, and self-denigration is not a viable coping mechanism.
  1. Don’t avoid your office party and other opportunities to go out and mingle around that time. Actively pursue positive distractions, but don’t overbook and don’t permit a sense of obligation to dictate your schedule. Go where you like and have fun. Events are plentiful during the Christmas – New Years season, but at Valentines, activities where singles would be comfortable are rare, since this day has evolved into a celebration only for lovers. Relationship pundit Yolanda Shoshana encourages singles to plan and host their own events (e.g movie night, night club, bar-b-que, dinner, house parties). These provide occasions to socialize with new people, swap stories and silly gifts and generally have a good time without having to contend with Valentine’s romantic atmosphere.
  1. You’re more than half of a couple – you’re a friend, a philanthropist, an advisor, a boss and, in some cases a mother. Women in relationships tend to neglect other aspects of their lives; therefore this period is ideal for the purpose of rediscovery.  “Look for ways to give to or do for others. Feeling useful and appreciated will provide a great boost to your holiday spirits,” Toni Coleman says. You can offer to babysit for couples in need of a break, and at the same time earn the title of ‘cool aunty’. Contact people you haven’t heard from in a while. Volunteer at a charity event, a church, at an institution such as an orphanage or a geriatric home. Singles with kids can involve their kids thereby broadening the young ones’ definitions of the season.
  1. Avoid people who make you feel uncomfortable about being single. This includes your obnoxious cousin, Gary, who keeps hinting that something must be wrong with you. Relationship coach, Ron Prewitt recommends that you either stay away altogether or prepare some witty comebacks – you’d be surprised at how the latter bolsters you. You may also be surprised to know that many people are not as preoccupied with your relationship status as you think they are. There are possibly a few out there quite envious of your independence. All in all, choose your company wisely.
  1. “Don’t put off or deny yourself those happy holiday expressions, as you wait for your significant other. Make your life all it can be right now,” Toni Coleman urges. Break with tradition or choose to continue with the customs that bring you comfort; of course if you have kids you should give much consideration to what they are accustomed to. Feel free to redefine what Christmas, New Years and Valentines mean to you. Spend time with yourself – if you’re malcontented in your company, you shouldn’t expect much more from others.  Sleep all day, or work all day. Read, exercise, engage in a favorite hobby or try something new. Ignore all unrealistic expectations.
  2. Yes you’re single, but I’m sure you have blessings to count. Are you debt free? Do you have a supportive family/friend network? Do you work at a job you enjoy? Are you healthy? Those in relationships have their blessings and stresses too – you know this from experience. “The illusion that coupled people are happy and well-loved can feed feelings of loneliness or isolation for people who aren’t with someone, and wish they were…Seeing the illusory nature of this holiday can be the first step in feeling better about being precisely who and where you are,” Dr. Laura S. Brown, a psychology professor, points out. Be grateful for what you have and work on the things that you need to, to truly make you the better half in your next relationship.
  1. Psychologist, Dr. Doris Jeanette proposes indulging in non-toxic ways; this of course disqualifies the option to benumb with food, alcohol or drugs. The hospitality industry has recognized the need to cater to your segment, so take a trip or go on a cruise. Choose this time to make a major purchase, such as car. A total makeover could be fun. A shopping spree with your best friend is also an option. Pamper yourself without the attending guilt.  Single or not — you’re worth it.

The period December 1st to February 14th represents less than a quarter of the year but for single girls the impact is significant. Thankfully, the other public holidays are more forgiving, and some in fact seem to celebrate singlehood e.g. Independence, Emancipation. And of course Anya reminded me, “…I can’t wait for Carnival. Trust me that’s the best time to be single!”

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Importance of Market Research: the case of the home improvement industry in St. Lucia

(Pub. in Business Focus, December 2010)

Garvin James, the fictional marketing manager of make-believe Company X, a hardware and home furnishings company, has determined his plan of action for Christmas 2010. The 2009 Christmas season was not as lucrative for Company X, and to improve performance, Garvin plans to request a larger advertising budget at his impending executive meeting. In his estimation, increasing advertising, both print and electronic, is the only surefire way of surpassing the previous year’s sales performance.

I extend my fabrication into that executive meeting when Garvin presents his solution. I can see the accountant shaking his head, the CEO scratching his head, while Garvin sits there with no clue that he is in fact in over his head. His request could have been given greater consideration had he walked in with more than a hunch, a belief, a gut feeling. Maybe a dossier bursting with customer feedback and market analysis could have saved him from the accountant’s scathing remarks about ‘these marketing people’.

Notwithstanding the fictive nature of the above, I conducted an actual survey of 258 St. Lucians to demonstrate the importance of market research and additionally question the basis of Garvin’s proposal.

  1. 55% of the sample deemed home improvements during the Christmas season of some importance to them; women made up the majority.
  2. Painting, minor repairs and new furniture/décor were the most popular home improvement projects mentioned.
  3. 60% of the respondents reported no intentions of undertaking home improvements this year, and of the remaining 40%, three-quarters maintained a budget of less than $3000.
  4. Limited time, shortage/unavailability of supplies, late access to funds and unreliable contractors/workers were the four major problems encountered in completing home improvement projects, according to respondents.
  5. The recommendations to improve were fairly consistent. Respondents wanted companies in that industry to ensure higher stock levels and more variety, better customer service, additional sales promotions, more accommodative opening hours and better facilities eg. credit, delivery.
  6. M&C Home Depot and Sunbilt were named top favorites in the industry, based on product availability and pricing.

Therefore, Garvin’s proposal of more advertising as the only way to better 2009’s sales performance, may not be the most appropriate course of action if the above findings are taken into consideration. Such findings could have helped Garvin identify his competitors, their strengths and weaknesses; discover opportunities to improve, expand or provide new products and services; take a more targeted marketing approach.

In short, market research can help companies (even fictional Company X) get the most out of their marketing dollars.

 

 

FORGIVE ME …I HAVE CHEATED

 

(Appears in  SHE Caribbean’s  2o1o spring issue)

For most of those who cheat there will never be a press conference, and there will never be paparazzi crouched behind bushes trying to get their money shots.  A confession may never ever cross the lips of the debaucher though categorical denials slide with such ease off that tongue. And while those on the periphery hanker for the dirty details, the wronged party may merely want answers to the simplest of questions – why?

Here are ten real life confessions — not justifications – revealing the top motives behind the sexes’ cheating ways:

The Women confess:

Emotionally starved

“After 20 something years of marriage, my husband takes me for granted. I love him, but he shows no appreciation whatsoever. My boyfriend is much more attentive. ” Cherene, Jamaica

According to marriage therapist Terri Orbuch, dissatisfaction is a major reason why women stray. When a woman feels lonely, unsupported and unloved in a relationship, as Cherene obviously does in her marriage, attention from the outside emphasizes the deficiencies of the relationship and increases the likelihood of infidelity.

Lack of intimacy/passion

“Yes I’ve cheated and at first I felt guilty but I mean… my boyfriend at the time was so damn boring.  We never went anywhere. We never did anything.” Karen, St. Lucia

Clinical psychologist Nancy O’Reilly points out that for women like Karen, when the romance and excitement fizzle and that connection has timed out, infidelity provides the thrill, albeit brief, which is lacking.

Fallen out of love

“I cheated because he’s not the man I fell in love with. He’s lazy, dishonest and I don’t even know where this relationship is going.” Gayle, Trinidad.

In Gayle’s case, her former knight’s armor has lost its shine and gained many unsightly chinks.  While she still remains in the relationship, she keeps an eye out for ‘the one’.

Low self esteem

“I needed someone to make me feel like somebody special and the other guy gave me that.” Tessa, Barbados.

Orbuch explains that when a woman relies on her mate for validation and he does not provide that, there is a possibility that she may go off with someone who fulfils that need for her.

Revenge

“I know he cheated on me, so two can play that game.” Rashida, Guyana

A woman like Rashida who has been betrayed by her spouse may use this as justification for her own jaunt into forbidden territory. Dating expert Stephany Alexander recognizes this game of tit for tat.

The Men confess:

Wired/Nature

“I have been with other people apart from my girlfriend, but it’s just sex. That’s how men are.” Elvis, Guyana

Elvis’ basic instincts argument is very popular. “It’s our biological nature to be with as many females as possible,” says author Steve Santagati who supports this view. However, many psychologists do not believe that this precludes a man’s ability to choose.

Emotional disconnect in  a relationship

“Too many issues at home. She has changed or maybe I have changed. But something is different for sure.” Jason, Jamaica

Jason’s reason confirms that with men it’s not always about the sex, but the emotional divide factors in as is the belief of therapist Gary Neuman. A man who’s unhappy in a relationship may resort to having an affair as a diversion, instead of trying to resolve the issues.

Ego boost

“Women must understand that there is always another woman out there to make us men feel sweet, when they making us feel like shit!” Ryan, Trinidad

Neuman firmly believes that men don’t necessarily cheat with women who are more attractive than their spouses but with those who make them feel respected and valued; these may be the feelings Ryan paraphrases as ‘sweet’.

Sex drive

“Since I’ve gotten married the sex has diminished. My wife never seems to be in the mood. A man has needs you know.” David, St. Lucia

Marriage therapist Katherine Hertlein suggests that some infidelity is caused by a man’s higher sex drive. In addition, men may want to have some sexual experiences which they know that their spouses will not agree to.

Thrill/Challenge

“Every now and then I just check to make sure I still have my skills.”Andy, Barbados.

Santagati acknowledges that there are many men like Andy who cheat for the thrill of the chase and kick of the conquest. Infidelity also represents the opportunity to break away from the routine of being with one partner.

Fidelity quick test: if you answer ‘yes’ to five or more of these questions, you should be wary: 

1)    Does your mate pay more attention to his appearance lately?

2)    Does your mate spend a lot less time with you?

3)    Is your mate less interested in sex or less affectionate?

4)    Does your mate consistently walk away when he receives a call?

5)    Is your mate always trying to conceal something from you?

6)    Is your mate suddenly more critical of you?

7)    Is your mate less concerned about resolving your relationship issues?

8)    Has your mate stopped going out in public or certain places with you?

9)    Does your mate seem less interested in making you happy?

10) Does your mate have less money though you don’t see any new purchases?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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YES SHE CAN! (Published in SHE Caribbean, March 2010)

Research has established that men and women are poles apart, planets apart according to some, in terms of perception. We’re wired differently and let’s not forget, we’re socialized differently as well. However, when these admittedly different beings encounter difficulties communicating, this knowledge is hurled out the window just before the insults start flying. Women can take control; they can harness their knowledge to alleviate the situation. This calls for application, application, application!

Here are five scenarios based on conversations with 220 Caribbean people. These highlight the differing male and female perspectives.

Scenario 1: For the fourth time, She reminds him to complete a task.

She Thinks: He’s lazy. He expects me to do everything myself. He just doesn’t care.

He Thinks: She’s a nag and bossy too. I’ll do it if and when I want to.

Experts Say: Naturally, when communicating men are competitive and women are collaborative. If a man does what he is told to do, in his mind he loses status and because of this, he may resist. Allowing men choices is better than giving out commands. Ladies, learn the art of asking.

Scenario 2: After a quarrel and the usual deafening silence, He goes to bed but She can’t sleep.

She Thinks: He’s so insensitive. How can he go to sleep while I’m obviously hurting and we’ve not resolved the problem?

He Thinks: We keep going around in circles. I’m more confused now than when we started. Let’s just forget this issue and move on.

Experts Say: Men are more competent when dealing with one task at a time and they are more goal-oriented in communication.  Women, on the other hand, can handle several tasks at a time and may talk in great detail merely to unburden their minds. Therefore, women should avoid marrying issues since this really confounds men. Deal with one issue at a time and clearly specify the agenda for the ‘talk’. Bear in mind that men are not naturally inclined to talk about emotions.

Scenario 3: She comes home very upset about a situation at work and spends the evening talking about it.

She Thinks: Talking about the situation makes me feel better.

He Thinks: Complaining won’t help. Let me help solve this problem for her.

A man is a problem solver. If his mate is unhappy and he doesn’t solve her problem, he feels like a failure. Because his talk is ‘report talk’, filled with facts and bottom lines, he doesn’t fully understand her ‘rapport talk’ which is detail-oriented and aims to foster bonds. She can warn him beforehand that she just needs a listening ear but she should not castigate him if he tries to provide a solution.

Scenario 4: She brings up an issue she’d discussed with him a month ago, but He doesn’t remember.

She Thinks: Men never listen. He’s not concerned or else he would have remembered.

He Thinks: She tells me so much stuff, how am I expected to remember all of that or know which is important to her?

Experts Say: Because men are goal-oriented in their communication, they find the level of detail communicated to them by women overwhelming. Experts advise women to not rely on their men for their ‘girl talk’; female friends should be used for that. If there is something important that a woman wants a man to remember, she should point it out.

Scenario 5: Her mood changes and when He asks what is bothering her, She says ‘nothing’. He leaves her alone.

She Thinks: Even if I said ‘nothing’, isn’t it obvious that something is wrong with me? He doesn’t care.

He Thinks: Women are so moody. When she’s ready she’ll talk but I’m not uncovering that can of worms right now.

Experts Say: Men are more direct in communication while women are the opposite. In addition, women expect emotional support where men expect information. Women should not expect men to ‘figure it out’ or recognize certain cues but should be direct if they want issues addressed.

To minimize conflict, experts advise women to try to:

1)    Embrace the generalized differences but recognize the exceptions.

2)    Resist seeing their communication style as superior to that of the men.

3)    Set ground rules and negotiate middle grounds.

4)    Use communication to benefit both parties and not to prove men wrong.

It takes two to make it work, so the men are in no way excused. But why don’t we take the lead on this one ladies?

Top 5 complaints from the 220 respondents:

He Said:
  • Women are too emotional
  • Women talk too much
  • Women expect men to act like them
  • Women are too moody
  • Women think that they are right and men are always wrong
She Said:
  • Men never listen
  • Men have no understanding
  • Men are too uptight; they are afraid to show emotion
  • Men do not talk enough
  • Men think that they are in charge

 

 

SEXY IN THE CARIBBEAN (Published Nov, 2009)

Click on the link below to read the article on beauty in the Caribbean

Caribbean caribbean-beauty.pdf

 

CATCHING UP WITH THE WORLD’S FASTEST MAN, USAIN BOLT.  (Caribbean Belle, Nov, 2009)

http://caribbeanbelle.com/interviews/usain-bolt.phpUsain Bolt Olympics cropped.jpg

Along with millions, I’m sure you’ve witnessed his record breaking performances, his antics on the track, that wide joyful smile, that trademark dance. With those long agile legs, that puma stamped on his chest and a name like Bolt, how can he not be fast? Thank goodness we were not expected to lace up and keep up with him round the track for this interview, because I don’t have to tell you what the outcome would have been.  Thankfully, the fastest man has a little downtime and that’s the only way we were able to catch up with him. At the starting block. Ready. Set….

Belle: To achieve what you have, one can only imagine the level of work. What does your training regime look like on a typical day?

Bolt: I usually do gym in the morning, go home and rest in the afternoon and then do running training in the evening.

Belle: You’ve been running competitively since your early teens, what was the turning point in your career?

Bolt: I think the turning point was in the 2007 World Championships in Osaka where I finished 2nd in the 200m.  I saw then that with more work I could be No. 1 in the future.

Belle: Speaking of being number one, you are known for saying, “My aim is to become a legend.” How will you know when you have achieved this status?

Bolt: I feel like I’m on my way to becoming a legend but there are more things I want to accomplish, like competing and winning at least two more World Championships and one more Olympic Games.

Belle: You are surely on your way. At Beijing you dominated both the 100 and 200m, but the 200m is known to be your favorite. Why is that?

Bolt: I have been running the 200m since the start and I have put years of work into it.

Belle: Every time you win, we look forward to your signature “lightning bolt” winning pose? How and when did it start?

Bolt: I had a bet with a friend who is a dancer in Jamaica that if I won in Beijing that I would do a dance.  I adapted a Jamaican dance and people seemed to like it, so it became my trademark.

Belle: You recently received the Order of Jamaica, the 4th highest honor in your country. What was your reaction when you were told?

Bolt: I was honoured by the announcement and I am happy to know that I am appreciated in my own country. Even with all the love I get all over the world, honour in my own country is always good.

Belle: So true. Your land has produced some prominent athletes. What do you think Jamaica is doing right?

Bolt: We have a lot of talent and great coaches.  The current success is inspiring for the next generation.

Belle: Many athletes move away from the Caribbean when they realize success. Why have you not done the same?

Bolt: I love Jamaica and will always live here.

Belle: With success comes much criticism, and you’ve had your share of both. How would you respond to those who say that because you’re 6 ft 5 inches you’re better suited for the 400m?

Bolt:  Most people think my height is a disadvantage for the 100m, especially at the start.  I can’t change my height so I work with what I’ve got.

Belle: What about those who say that no man can be as fast as you are without performance enhancing drugs?

Bolt: People who watched my career since I was young saw that I was born with a lot of talent.  I have been tested many times and I am happy to be tested to show people that I am clean.

Belle: Some say that you’re relying on natural talent and not putting enough work in. How would you respond to that?

Bolt: It is not possible to run as fast as I do without a lot of hard work.

Belle: And finally, there was much talk when you slowed down at end of the 100m in Beijing. What is your answer to those who say that you should not have done that?

Bolt: [Simlpy] I was happy to win the gold medal.

Belle: Enough profoundness, onto lighter stuff since you do seem to be such a fun loving person. Who are your favorite celebrities?

Bolt: I like Jamaican artiste, Vybz Cartel and internationally I like Beyonce.

Belle: Does the philosophy work hard, play hard apply to you? How do you unwind off the track?

Bolt: I tend to listen to a lot of music and play video games while I hang out with my friends.

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SUPERWOMAN LOIS SAMUEL  (published July, 2009)

Lois

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” This Oprah Winfrey quote instantly came to mind as Lois Samuels provided details of her journey up till this point: details of an adventure of epic proportions springing from the boundless imagination of a little Jamaican girl. A commendable mix of beauty, brains, God- given talents, aspirations and faith fueled her tour the force. When asked for one word that encapsulates this adventure Lois responded, “It’s not easy to put it all into one word. It has been an amazing journey and it’s far from over.”

The starting line – the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. Back then, while most of her classmates were giving singular answers to the question What do you want to be when you grow up?, Lois had composed a comprehensive to-do list inclusive of athlete, artist, missionary, teacher, designer, musician, writer and model.  After she was discovered by Kingsley Cooper of Pulse as she sauntered across a school yard in her native land, her to- do list was swiftly transformed into a full- fledged progress chart. She was only 14.

Just a few years after crossing that school yard, Lois proceeded to walk the wider stage in the fashion capitals of London, Paris and New York. Her trademark smile, unique look and her personality placed her head and shoulders above the rest – more than stiletto heels ever could. Lois built an impressive resume as a supermodel: she graced covers of top magazines such as German Vogue and Essence; walked for top designers like Christian Lacroix, Issey Miyake and Thierry Mugler; and was part of advertising campaigns for Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Calvin Klein and Banana Republic. Lois has left the world of fulltime modeling behind but she looks back with fondness at her entire modeling career, despite the industry’s highly competitive nature.  Lois particularly treasures the experiences of being shot by photographers such as Steven Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth, Ruven Afanador and fellow Jamaican Walter Chin.

Her decision to pass the baton on to the other aspiring models came nine years ago. She decided to deviate from the catwalk despite all her successes. According to her list, there was still so much to accomplish; according to her, “It was time to begin a family and explore other dreams.”  She ambled down the avenue of motherhood which she refers to as “… such a wonderful gift.” She was joined on her life’s journey by her son, Malo (with her former husband Mark Ingledew) 8 years ago. Lois experiences great joy in watching her son grow physically and cognitively. She is content as a mother of one and jokes that a sibling for Malo would be nothing short of a divine intervention at this juncture.

Lois Samuels continued to check off achievements on her list as she explored her more creative side (writing, poetry, painting, photography) with the publication of her two books, A Glow in the Dark (1999) and Jamaica Through My Eyes (2006). In her first she imparted advice based on her experiences as a model; in the second she shared an intimate pictorial of Jamaica with the world. “I love Jamaica. There is something so authentic and special there, something I never came across in all my travels… Jamaica will always be home.” Lois definitely sees another book in the future: probably a sequel to A Glow in the Dark, maybe another book focusing on Jamaica or (surprisingly) a children’s book.

On the latest leg of her journey, this former fulltime model is now hailed as designer.  She has no formal training in this area but her years as a model for top designers offered some qualification – she has a trained eye from paying close attention to the work of so many of the great designers whose clothing she showcased. Further insight was gleaned from the works of some of her favorite designers such as Ann Demeulemeester, Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten and Rick Owens.

Lois debuted her Collection – the Vessel. by lois (SS2010) – at Caribbean Fashion Week this past June to rave reviews. The name Vessel bears significance to Lois. “I see us all as vessels of life of the spirit – the vessel protects, nurtures and provides.”  The collection reflects Lois’ own personal style. Chic. Professional. Practical. The collection boasts simple, tailored yet comfortable work attire suited for women across the board, not only the board room. She also carries a complementary collection of ties for women under the name her tie. Her vision for the brand is global and initial demands are coming in from as far as Japan thus far. Lois expects to put together a robust marketing plan after her showing at New York Fashion Week in September. The line will be sold at Staysie’s boutique in Jamaica’s Half Moon Hotel. She also accepts sales enquiries at info@the vesselbylois.com.

With reference to her list, Lois’ ambition to become a missionary has not been achieved in the traditional sense but her brand of ministry nevertheless touches many lives. Some proceeds from the Vessel collection go to support causes in her native land. The Mannings Boys Home is a beneficiary of such goodwill.

As with all journeys, Lois has encountered her share of mountains, cliffs, valleys and rivers. At those times, faith and a good support system helped her ward off the weariness. Lois credits God as her ultimate guide and recognizes a number of life coaches – among them her father,  Kingsley Cooper who discovered her, and her first booker Tyron Barrington. She identified faithfulness and persistence as keys to her remarkably successful adventure so far.  When asked what she is most proud of, her excitement was evident and so was her grace: “Everything!!! Being given a gift called life and being able to enjoy it and feel such great gratitude to the Divine for such wonderful blessings!”

Lois. Fiercely patriotic. A Jamaican Icon. A passionate and altruistic woman. A genuinely creative spirit.  A ball of energy and positivity. As she gazes into the horizon, she still sees so much more to accomplish before she crosses that finish line.  It has become apparent that her to- do list from back then was in fact an abridged version because as Lois travels through her life, she slowly unfurls the expanded edition. Look out world!

the Vessel by lois These multi-seasonal garments draw inspiration from traditional menswear and industrial typologies, in particular the suit and the uniform, a blend that creates a collection that is both absolutely comfortable and undeniably feminine.The collection provides simple yet sophisticated garments and are offered in fabrics that accommodate any climate, work environment and lifestyle. Incorporated in the collection is a line of neck wear for women (www.her-tie.com).

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ClaudiaA DAY IN THE LIFE OF CLAUDIA PEGUS ( Published October 2008)

The name Claudia Pegus is synonymous with style, creativity, passion and acclaim in the Caribbean and beyond. The Pegus touch is indeed golden as evidenced by the designation Master, conferred on her at Caribbean Fashion Week 2008 and the numerous decorations for excellence over the years. This Couturier is an inspiration to Caribbean Belles who need look no further for a definition of success and sheer strength. What is a typical day for such an extraordinary woman? We provide a narrow window of opportunity to glimpse her world and glean the probable secrets to her success, ageless beauty and grace.

5 a.m I’m Up! ‘Wake up before the sun for greater personal success’. This old adage appears to holds true for Claudia who lays claim to the early morning as the favorite part of her day. The dawn offers a breathtaking view from her Fort George home which singly makes the early rousing worthwhile. Claudia indulges in a good book — a serene prelude to an action-filled day.

6:30 a.m Time to get moving. With the mind fully awake, the body must follow suit. Claudia jumpstarts her days with physical activity, while some of us are just jumping out of bed. Daily, she alternates among the gym, yoga and walking. Her preference? Walking. “Walking stimulates my creativity,”she admits. Her show stopping creations are usually conceived while trudging up steep hills, on early morns. The benefits of a good walk are therefore twofold – fitness and creativity. Claudia rewards herself with a massage twice weekly.

8:00 a.m: What’s going on out there? Back home, she refuels body and mind. On the menu is always a healthy breakfast consisting of grains, fruits, vegetable juice or black tea. “I don’t put any junk into my system,” insists Claudia who enthusiastically describes herself as very health conscious. While having breakfast, she also feeds her hunger for knowledge, flipping through channels to discover what the rest of the world is up to. “I’m an information junkie…I need to know what’s going on out there!”

9:00.a.m: Time to head out. Preparation to leave for the office ensues after a firm foundation has been set for the day ahead.

10:00 a.m : Let’s get this show on the road. Generally, 10 a.m marks her time of arrival at the office. “Usually my day is packed with supervision of production, management, dealing with clients, making and receiving calls. And on top of all that, I’m on the computer all day because I’m a computer fanatic…” This is such a neat summary of a work day which is crammed full of activity and ends at approximately 6 p.m. Her atelier on Warren Street is a cozy, artistic setting, where her ideas come to life. Most of her production is done by her seven trained employees, working under her supervision, from this location. The production of couture garments is time consuming because of the requisite meticulous handwork. Production for export is also ongoing. The help of subcontractors is enlisted to manage the workload. Daily, an average of five to six clients are accommodated, by appointments only, on and off premises. Claudia serves a distinguished clientele but relishes the opportunity to let her imagination run wild when she puts together a collection. “This area of fashion allows creativity to be uncontrolled,” and the stage affords her the occasion to ‘go crazy’. She takes a very active role in the presentation of her designs. Before a show, Claudia personally shares the stories behind the collection with the runway models who are entrusted with the duty of translating that story for the audience.

Somewhere Between 1and 2 : A Power break? “I don’t like breaks in my day,” says Claudia who opts to eat lunch in office. Following on from a healthy breakfast, the lunch is no less wholesome: a choice of meats, vegetables, salads. “A woman can be beautiful at any size…beauty comes from within”. But she obviously places a premium on good health, more than anything else. She is undoubtedly committed to taking care of herself and demonstrates great discipline where that is concerned. Claudia admits to coffee being her one irresistible weakness. Luckily her cup of joe boasts the benefits of the antioxidants; and true to form, this self professed ‘health and information fanatic’ is well aware of that fact!

After lunch till about 6: Last Lap at Work. After lunch, it’s back to what is described as ‘a generally packed day’; however, her work extends far beyond her studio at Woodbrook. Claudia has her eyes fixed on research and development of the fashion industry in the Caribbean at large. She sees immense growth which she accredits, in great part, to Caribbean Fashion Week . This annual event showcases the best regional designers, and pits them against international designers: this is thought to forge a higher standard throughout the region. Claudia currently serves on the board of the School of Fashion and Design, and the Caribbean Fashion Industry Forum. She also chairs the Fashion Designers Association of Trinidad and Tobago. She offers internships as her personal contribution to the development of the industry on which she already has an indelible influence.

6:30 What’s next? Claudia leaves for home still full of energy. Despite her successes, and constant travels sweet TnT is still home.

7:00 p.m: And the quest continues… Next on the agenda: getting home in time for local and international news. The remote assists her navigation through CNC3, BBC, FOX, TV6, CNN… in her hot pursuit of information. “I’m like a sponge…I love absorbing news…it’s very important to me”. As it has done to many of us, the American election campaign has commanded much of her attention lately. Dinner preparation is squeezed in between her channel surfing and takes a mere ten minutes. She uses fresh herbs from her kitchen garden (which she personally tends) to flavor her pot. Dinner would not be complete without a night cap – a complementary glass of wine.

9:00 p.m: The end is nigh. The day ends as it begins – with a good read. This marks an official winding down of a fast paced day. Her passion for reading can be truly understood with the knowledge of her employment at the University library for 7 years, before she took the leap into the world of fashion.

Between 10:00 & 11pm: Bedtime already? Finally, bedtime rears its head. Had we not been designed naturally for this restorative period, Claudia might have kept on going. In six short hours she will once again greet the day and pick up where she left off.

And so ends a typical day for Ms. Claudia Pegus but her exemplarity resonates. She recognizes the progress of women in the business arena and in the bounds of sisterhood. Caribbean women still face challenges in the business world and her advice is to, “Be sharp. If you want to go into an area of business you have to study that business or you will be eaten by the sharks.” Again the reference to knowledge cannot be ignored. And on the flyleaf, she leaves a message to all Caribbean belles: “I like to see women nurturing women. I now have a great deal of sisterly support. It is important to see women, like myself, with presence: women who can stand on their own two feet with or without a man.” Well said. Well done.

Tidbits about Claudia

Favorite meal: Smoked salmon with cottage cheese and champagne, cassava oil down

Hobbies: Collects and listens to all types of music, reading, sailing

Favorite designers: John Galliano (International) ; Biggy(regional)

Favorite City: Barcelona

Role models: Oprah, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela

Causes championed: Transfer of knowledge in the fashion Industry

First Career considered: Law

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CROSSROADS (Published February, 2009)

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The hands of the clock crept to the 11pm mark. I was exhausted. Tricia lay on the bed – spread eagled and comatose from booze. Her mouth was agape. She was snoring lightly.  Though asleep, she held on to her cell phone as if it were her lifeline.

I had never been this physically and emotionally drained from dealing with someone else’s issues. I had agreed to spend the night with her but playing the role of shrink for the past six hours had not been an experience I’d want to relive. I had cried with her, held her, begged her to view the situation for what it was. I had preached about self worth and pleaded with her to discard the crazy notions which presented themselves. I listened through the maundering phase and was still trying to anchor her when the tide lulled her to sleep; she was intoxicated from alcohol and still very much infatuated with that fool she called the love of her life.

Tricia had spent three hours on the phone with the proverbial other woman as she painfully unravelled the web of lies Jonathon had spun.  It appeared that he had cleverly calculated his every word and deed. He constructed the foundation for lies he planned to tell two months down the line. He left nothing in his life disconnected from his network of deceit, and by the end of the conversation, Tricia was left to wonder what she really knew about Jonathon Duncan. I watched her go through a maelstrom of emotion as she made discovery after discovery. When she finally hang up at 9:25 pm, she was spent.

This was not the first time he had hurt her so deeply – far from it. It appeared, that their life together was composed of chapters of the most unbelievable and harrowing events. Their neighbours never tired of the dramedy. It’s hard to forget the time Tricia called me at work hysterical, ranting and cussing like a crazy woman, “I will kill him! I swear. He better come get his things out of my house. I just catch his ass in my house with that slut. I’ll kill him. You better believe it!”

It turned out that not even Tricia believed her own words that day, because she never acted on them.   Later, I found out that she had chased that slut – her then best friend, Cherisse – naked down the street; then she and Jonathon had engaged in some sparring, both verbal and physical. All this had been in full view of the neighbourhood.  I was left to wonder what prosaic explanation had gotten him out of that mess. She subsequently installed me as new best friend and Jonathon was reinstated as the centre of her universe.

My friendship with Tricia was a strange one; it was forged out of her need for someone when she was depressed.  In happy times she called, but not as often.  I tried not to get too involved, but she had this way of drawing me in— like now.  I touched her hair as she slept. What could have made her so afraid of being alone? Why do so many pretty women allow themselves to be abused by men who are not worth their time? Tricia existed for Jonathon Duncan. Her house was filled with things he liked and wanted; though he lived elsewhere. The Xbox, plasma tv, surround sound stereo system, were all bought from her pocket for him. This was his playground, but her way of holding on to him.  There were pictures of the two of them all over the house; the pictures captured radiant smiles. I had never seen her smile so brightly otherwise.

Tricia stirred. Her eyes opened, searched for her bed mate and registered disappointment that it was only me. “Why me?” she muttered, half asleep yet still fully aware of the abyss she was in.  I continued to stroke her hair, and my heart grew heavier in my chest at the memory of her forced abortion.  He’d accused her of getting pregnant in an effort to tie him down, verbally assaulted her for weeks into her pregnancy, and then added a few punches for good measure. In the seventh week of her pregnancy, Tricia sacrificed her child to save her own life and ironically, almost lost hers in the process.  Mr. Man had gladly forked over the money for the abortion, and for a while he was the ideal boyfriend to assuage his own guilt. During one of their many arguments, unable to keep up the facade any longer, he called her a baby killer. This marked the end of their month of bliss.

Yet, she stayed with him. Why she stayed was a mystery to me. “Lin, I do everything for that man. Why he treating me so? What these men want?” Again, the same questions. She was now fully awake and ready to relive the entire heart-rending situation. I wasn’t.

“Tricia, he doesn’t deserve you. You deserve better. You know that…”

“He has a baby with this other woman but he made me get rid of mine. I was stupid to do it. I’m a damn fool!”

“The past is gone now girl. You can make the changes that will make you happy. I’m not saying it will be easy, but look at where you are now. You deserve better.” This had been my mantra for months; tonight, I was tired of the repetition. In fact, tired all round.

After a brief silence, she unburdened herself, “You know he… force me to have a foursome with Rody and Glen?”

The admission arrested my stroking hand, quickened my heartbeat, and prompted another round of tears.  At that moment, no words came to express that terrible aching I experienced, for my friend.  Rody and Glenn were Jonathon’s best friends.

“He didn’t physically force me…no… but for weeks… he was going on about how he thought it would be good for us to have that kinda… open relationship. He said that if I didn’t want to… he’d find someone…” Sobs racked her tiny frame; anger consumed mine.

“Tricia…tell me you’ll end this please. As your friend, I can’t bear this and I don’t know how you can. You won’t be alone. You have so many people who love and care about you. I will be here for you any day you need.”

I hugged her. She felt so fragile in my arms. Amid sobs, it came, “It’s over. I think the time has come to move on. This thing too painful.”

These words, uttered with such an air of finality, made this stressful night worthwhile. I sensed that this time she would end it for good. One person could only take so much; she had passed her threshold, in my opinion.

“But I can’t stay here, not tonight. Can we go to your place?”

“No problem.” I felt that this request was a step in the right direction. She needed some distance from this shrine and crucible of memories.  I imagined that I was beaming like a proud parent.  We prepared. Packed a few things. Locked up, and jumped into my car. A few seconds into the journey, her phone rang. The caller id confirmed that it was Jonathon.

“Don’t answer it.” My move from proud parent to mother hen was swift.

“I won’t. Don’t worry.”

But, as the phone continued to ring, her resolve melted away. She answered. I listened in a daze as she got swept up again. I moved from sadness, to anger, to disappointment. I had heard her side of the conversation so many times before that I don’t think I was listening, merely playing a record in my head.  I didn’t even realize when she got off the phone.

“Lin… drop me off at the next bus stop please.”

I said nothing.

“I owe him at least the chance to give his side of the story. That woman could be lying. I don’t know her from anywhere…”

I remained quiet.

“You won’t understand. I love him. I owe him a chance to defend himself.”

I pulled up at the bus stop, at the crossroads. Tricia opened the door.

“Lin, I’m not getting back with him. I just need to end this the right way. Please don’t be mad.” She touched my arm. I didn’t look at her at all. I didn’t respond. She finally got out of the car. She closed the door. I drove off.  I was sad, angry, disappointed. Despite my efforts, I had lost a friend, because she couldn’t find herself.  The next time I saw her five years later, at first glance, I wasn’t sure that it was her. Tricia was broken, almost beyond recognition.

*************************

MANAGING PARENT-TEENAGE CONFLICT (Published April, 2009)

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They don’t recognize their daughter in the 16 year old who resides upstairs, in the room two doors down from theirs.  The makeup on her face, though as thick as war paint, is ineffective in hiding her perpetual scowl. Is this the once sunny girl who had brought so much joy to them for over a decade? The Teenager too thinks that there has been a change—in her parents though. She’d observed their metamorphosis into heavily armed field marshals, blocking the doorway to her happiness.

Anyone who thinks that the 335 year war between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly was long has sorely limited his scope. The ongoing war between teens and parents has outperformed this with regard to duration and at times rivals in terms of destructiveness: the words exchanged are as sharp as daggers and the actions are the explosives that rent families asunder.  Like shellshock, the effects of ill managed conflicts can live on. Can anything be done to bring forth a peaceful resolution?

I called in the troops. Didn’t some wise man once say that diplomacy is the cornerstone of love? I sat down with a group of six, 14-17 year olds (two males, four females) and much later, their parents, 29-46 year olds (three single mothers, three mother-father pairs). Mission:  explore the possibility of a truce.

The battle cry from the teen’s camp came fast and furious:

” Parents try to control us in every way – what we wear, friends, music, EVERYTHING. It’s like they want us to be their robots!”

“My parents feel they know it ALL because of their experiences.”

“Usually my father asks too much of me. He expects me to be good at everything, all the time, and he’s very critical when I’m not.”

“My mother goes through my phone and searches my room. She doesn’t trust me.”

The retort from the other side of the battle lines came without hesitation:

“Teens won’t listen to the voice of reason. They want to do as they please but not while in my house!”

“If we parents don’t keep eyes and ears open, teenagers will end up pregnant, in jail or on drugs, then it’ll be our problem.”

“My 15 year old lies constantly and so I find out what she’s up to by any means necessary”

” They don’t want to do anything around the house and have an answer for everything.  My moody son is always in his room, on the phone or with his bad company of friends.”

From discussions with both groups it was obvious that the discord was borne out of a lack of understanding. And while conflict is natural and inevitable, minimization is possible and proper management is recommended. The handling of conflict is decisive in the future of parent- child relationships and based on the views of two practicing counselors and the literature, the following guidelines are thought to be helpful towards a ceasefire.

1)      Empathy

The teenage years are difficult as adolescents are at the stage “Identity vs Role Confusion” (according to Erik Erikson, a noted developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst) where they are trying to figure out who they are. It is not a personal choice teens make to move away from their parents or act as they do, this is wired in.  Parents should take time to remember their own teenage years, being realistic instead of idealistic. Parents too are in a difficult place. They have been used to attending to all their children’s needs and it is only obvious that they would be worried and feel rejected by the changes in that relationship. Both parties need to identify how difficult it is for the other instead of being inward-looking.

2)      Communication

Communication may break down during this period: teens see their parents as complainers and the teens are seen as defiant.  Launching personal attacks, being aggressive and judgmental or trying to force one’s view point on the other, all hinder effective communication. Teens and parents should be open, appreciative of expressed points of views, and accepting of responsibility when they have done wrong. Practising active listening is essential; the focus should be on understanding each other, not on being right. It is also important to communicate positive observations instead of dwelling on the negative.

3)      Education

Parents should not believe that their experiences endow them with sufficient knowledge to deal with the range of issues confronting teenagers, but teens need to respect that these experiences do offer valuable life lessons. Education is key for both groups. Parents need to provide timely information to teens before they are confronted with this phase. Educating teens is especially important as they are striving for peer approval at this time. Parents too need to equip themselves to understand and handle the changes. There is much information available in this area.

4)      A New Approach

The baby-proofing must come off! These young adults will now attempt to walk on their own; they will challenge their parents’ views; and what they value (e.g fun) may differ from what their parents see as important. However, they still need their parents’ support.  Giving ultimatums and holding tightly to the reigns of control increases the likelihood of teens rebelling. A partnership needs to be forged to get through this time and therefore a collaborative problem solving approach is proposed; a power struggle will only exacerbate the situation. Curfews and rules may need to be adjusted and more privacy should be allowed to teens. However, core values need to be upheld, expectations clearly stated and guidance lovingly provided.

If parents and teens are not able to manage their conflicts on their own the Family Court can provide counseling and mediation, if needed. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral party aids two or more sides in coming to an agreement. This non-adversarial approach has been used with great success. Private counselors and mental health workers also offer assistance.

While teens are trying to figure out their purpose in the world they are at a fragile place and are susceptible to eating disorders, suicide and depression, delinquency/criminal behavioral, drug abuse, promiscuity and teenage pregnancy. A positive relationship at home can help in warding these off.  Teens are the future and parents are their trusted mentors –  two sets of Very Important Persons,  by all accounts.

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I’M BAD, I’M BAD, YOU KNOW IT… (Published July 2008)

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You can’t ignore that swagger or his machismo, which elicits the Axe Effect. His pants ride low, offering more than an acceptable glimpse of his boxers. His cornrows or dreads are neatly parted, meticulously styled. You’ve found yourself in the path of those piercing, wandering eyes, and blushed a bit. He is not the type to wear his heart on his sleeve but the way he wears those scars, tattoos and jewelry, is nothing short of sexy. He comes with extra baggage; a couple baby mamas, a rap sheet and an ever present posse, yet you can’t get him off your mind. So now you know what happened to Whitney when she got mixed up with Bobby, so please share.

My curiosity propelled me to pose a burning question to 300 Caribbean women and I was not surprised by the response. Do women really have a thing for bad boys?

95% answered affirmatively however 96% admitted that bad boys were in fact no good for women; like chocolate on those hips.  The dominant view was that these men treated women in a manner which is deemed disrespectful and callous.  So the obvious question is: why? Why do women pursue, fall for, and commit to those men? The respondents had views consistent with the writers who have tackled the subject previously. They said that…

1)      Bad boys arouse more passion and excitement. They are unpredictable (92%)

2)      They are a challenge; they don’t give in to women the way other men do (45%)

3) Low self esteem issues experienced by women themselves let them accept ill treatment (80%)

4)      These man are seen as being able to offer protection (77%)

5)      Women think they can change these men, and some try (22%)

Barbados native Vanessa admits her love affair with bad boys. She claims that she has always been attracted to those kinds of men because of the excitement factor. Vanessa, is a lawyer, well respected in her field. She admits that these relationships always go awry and she has chapters of sad and terrifying stories to tell about her experiences, including a near fatal confrontation with a gang member looking for her then boyfriend.  “I am supposed to be a rational woman. I am educated. I should have good sense, right? I defend women against these bad boys all the time in court and I tell women to keep their distance, but I can’t seem to follow my own advice.”

Lisa shares a different view.  She extols her bad boy’s virtues and calls him a real man for taking good care of her and their kids, in a society which, “does not give the average man a break”. This Trini appears unperturbed by his illegal lifestyle, and his ‘outside’ women and children. Lisa calls herself Queen at her house, “I am the woman at our house. He comes to me every night. No one else matters.” She is emphatic when she states that not every woman can handle a relationship with a bad boy and we are inclined to agree as we observed J-Lo’s swift exit from Diddy’s life when the going got rough.

In 2007, R&B group Cherish declared, ‘Shawty is a killa…heartbreaker…playa…but it really don’t matter, cause I really want him tonight.” That’s fine for some people but personally bad boys are only good as eye candy because I have absolutely no intention of spoiling my diet. The illegal lifestyle and promiscuity would make me excessively paranoid about my safety and health. The roughness around the edges would indeed be too cutting. But that’s just me, because as they say – to each his own; every north has its south; every bread has its cheese.

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3 responses »

  1. Well as a relatively good boy myself I was confused by woman falling for guys who are players or have certain undesirable traits many years ago. I conducted some research, listened and observed a lot and came up with the ab-sol-ute right answer. So as you are now scanning my words with bated breath, I’ll give it to you :).

    In times past our ancestors relied on certain physical and emotional attributes for survival. Now women chose their mates because of their alpha-male qualities: physical strength, aggressiveness, symmetry/attractiveness which suggests (not always the case) good health, confidence which is borne out of these physical attributes and the success they engender, and the warm cave and steady food supply which this guaranteed. Now we have evolved quite a bit since then, but women are still biologically predisposed to be drawn to these traits, which in modern society, may not really be a good thing. Thus the reasons for their being attracted to such men is a subconscious, primal one that remains. Being aware of this can help, but it is likely to persist. Fortunately for relatively good guys like me ( a bit of a bad streak can get one a long way), some women, like the blogger, likes good guys, so there is hope :).

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