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Barbados, Brits, and Barbie Freedom

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Forget the hot dogs. Forget the parades. Forget the fireworks.

Although Fourth of July preparations and celebrations are well underway, I decided to declare a different kind of independence this year.

Barbie Freedom.

Yep. Barbie Freedom. After spending six days out of the country…

Whoa, missy, I’ve waited 52 years to say that. It makes me sound so, well, cosmopolitan, my dear, and now I have my first official stamp on my nifty passport to prove it.

My recent trip to the wonderful Caribbean island of Barbados, billed as only 21 miles long but a “smile wide,” got me to thinking about things.

Apparently relatively few Americans vacation in Barbados compared to Europeans — particularly the British. So I, along with one of my BFFs and my two daughters, had the pleasure of meeting quite a few Brits and participating in a rather loosey-goosey cultural exchange, in which we dispelled rumors that Texas was just one big, vast desert like in the movie Independence Day and offered such travel hints as to never eat Mexican food north of the Red River.

In return, a very lovely couple on their honeymoon explained why the Brits eat beans in the morning, while a group of young men provided my daughters with an entirely new slang vocabulary along with hand gestures. Don’t ask.

But the most important cultural lesson didn’t occur over afternoon tea. Instead, it occurred on that Caribbean beach. Surrounded by Brits, I felt good sitting on the beach for the first time in a gajillion years, and it wasn’t because I was wearing my sporty tankini supposedly designed to hide a multitude of what our fashion magazines term “problem areas.”

No siree, Missy. That was not the reason.

Everywhere around me were women wearing two-piece bathing suits, regardless of age and regardless of size. Hails bails, most were even wearing bikinis of the itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie-yellow-polka-dot-bikini type. One woman who tipped the scales upwards of 250 pounds was wearing a string bikini, and no one (except my friend and I) appeared to notice.

Now either the Brits are too polite to gasp, or they feel very, very comfortable in their own skin.

My friend noted that Americans seem to be the only ones who are so image-conscious, and who, despite steadily weighing in heavier and heavier on the scales, still yearn for that skinny, mini, photoshopped, wrinkle- and cellulite-free Barbie body.

She’s right, you know. I still have boxes of my childhood Barbies stashed in the attic in various stages of undress and sporting various non-Mattel-sanctioned avant-garde hair-dos guaranteed to forever ban me from entry into the Barbie kingdom and the world of cosmetology.

This epiphany comes as Barbie celebrates her big 5-0 birthday this year. I must say, she looks spectacular, but then again, she always looks spectacular, while I — now 52 — never, ever, (did I say ever?) looked that good at any year in my lifespan. At this point, I don’t think even plastic surgery could propel me into the spectacular world. Let’s face it, nothing short of a complete, all-out, full-body transplant would help.

Now there was a time, a pre-Barbados-meeting-the-Brits-time, when I would have pined away about all of that nonsense. But watching all those British women secure in their own skin made me comfortable in mine.

For that, I could hug each and every one of them.

Except I know better about that hugging thing.

Instead, let’s just fire up that barbecue, and while you’re at it, toss on an extra hot dog for me.

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About Carol Richtsmeier

  • STM

    Mark, Colin Powell was born in Jamaica and left as a kid to go to America, where he’s obviously kicked on very nicely. He is very forthright in his views on what the British Government did in the 1830s ie, they legally freed every slave in the empire, and in the west indies (including Barbados) paid a huge amount of compensation for that time (about 20 million pounds sterling) to plantation owners as compensation for their lost profits.

    You are right, it was ungodly stuff.

    So while being involved in the first place in slavery is a black mark against the British, realising as far back as the 1770s that it was wrong (The King’s Bench ruling outlawing slavery in the British Isles, the intent of which which then spread to the rest of the empire through the anti-slave movement in Britain), is a definite plus in their favour.

    I understand that it may not always have worked out in practice as intended, especoially when you consider the nature of Britain’s colonial empire, but at least they legislated to end it, and had banned the transatlantic slave trade in 1808.

    Powell said they freed the slaves in the west indies, told them they now had the same rights as any Englishmen, and stuck to their word on it.

    His point was that in 1833, they weren’t just paying lip service to it. They actually voted in parliament to abolish slavery and gave freed slaves the same rights as other free Britons.

    It doesn’t undo the wrong, but it certainly IMO also should give some idea of one of the reasons behind the American revolution … to maintain the institution of slavery in the Americas as a profit-making concern that came under threat in the wake of the King’s Bench court.

    My other view on this is that it was not about “liberty” (Americans always had prior to the revolution the same kind of personal liberty they have now), but a movement sparked by a group of wealthy and powerful men who wanted to keep their money, power and prestige.

    Yes, there was some idealism, but it wasn’t the whole of the story.

    I still don’t understand how Jefferson is regarded a hero in the US and could write about all men being born equal when he kept slaves himself and believed wholeheartedly in maintaing people in bondage because of the colour of their skin.

    There’s my little rant on myths and delusions – and how the world has turned around in the US 200 years down the track, with a black president in the White House. Amazing, really, when you think about it.

    As for you Carol, loved your story and glad you enjoyed the holiday and finally got a stamp in the passport. Sounds like it was a beauty. Your are very lucky to have a place like Barbados on your doorstep.

  • mark fenty

    A reflection on our black culture

    As we reflect on the struggles our ancestors faced during slavery and beyond, just to fine their rigthtful God given place in this world. Taken from the African Continent by the European and brought to the United states of America and the Caribbean to work on the cotton and sugar plantation, and in the proces denied they basic human rights and dignity and because of this, black people has always struggle for self respect and acceptance in a world that viewed them as Agricultural Profit,but despite this reality many blacks leaders from America the Caribbean and Africa have emerged with the audacity to confront this Evil System that keep they people subhuman bondage for over four hundred years.

    Those, voice that picked the consciouness of those evil forces, who saw God creative design as mere economic profit; so as black struggle in this world to regain their rightful place among the tapestry of the collective human organism is seen hopeless.
    There where great sacrifices that they endured for century,because the price of freedom was great, and as Nelson Mandela said freedom do not come without struggle, sacrifice and most of the times militancy