Women in Trinidad are vain. This is not a criticism, in fact it is a compliment if being vain means making an effort all the time and not pulling on your best tracksuit to dine out as many do in the Canadian Midwest where I had the fortune to live some years back. Many have commented that you can see the most beautiful women in your life here in T&T. It is the cultural mish mash of Black, Indian, Chinese and White that makes these people so gorgeous. They dress up to grocery shop and they dress up to go to the beach, always standing inches taller in their mandatory heels. They know the meaning of the word accessorize and love to select just the right colour earrings to accompany their belt that circles their oh so tiny waists. It might not always be my taste, it doesn’t matter if the gold is real or if the green glow of the bangle will eventually peel off; if it works today it works.
I recently noticed the male take on all this glamour during an afternoon at the beach. People watching is a sport here and like good observers the men carry cameras or at the least camera phones and snap the pretty girls. They don’t mind, it is the ultimate compliment. I cannot imagine this going down too well on a beach in Maine. In fact being photographed is such a desired option here that the best of all worlds is to be snapped up by a pro and put on the popular website Triniscene.com. This website features photos of all the pretty people at all the shows, bars, events and functions.
Back in my hometown of Montreal, Canada women can most often be seen sporting their lycra outfits, climbing into huge SUVs, Starbucks clutched in hand. Men at work look sharp in ties and crisp shirts but the weekends will find them in 20 year old jeans, worn Ts and indescribable sneakers. The men here have creative facial hair, perhaps an earring and certainly a bangle or necklace. They are waiting to be looked at as they sit and watch. So what makes this Caribbean island so style conscious? There have been two Miss Universe that have hailed from T&T, a fact of which they are extremely proud. A main high way running through the city is named after one of those winners. So perhaps it starts with the fact that they are all so attractive to begin with, the goods are already there. Might it also have something to do with the heat, the music, the rum that sends all the beautiful people into a dancing, whining frenzy that most often leads to desire? The girls wear painted on jeans, heels that sparkle and tops that leave little to the imagination. They do not just dress to impress, they dress to seduce. And it is the sexy curvaceous woman who fares best here. Black booty must be a fabulous thing if the posters for the parties are to be believed. “Bootylicious Short Pants Party September 1st!” screams out one poster in vivid pink and green colours. “ Hot Pants Party” shouts out another. And these are not ads aimed at the Hooters crowd, it is the fine appreciation of a good Trini woman that is in order.
Titillation, flirtation and the conscious awareness of the power they hold over men is always in mind. While not every hot dance leads to sex the vague promise is always there and the scent of desire hangs in the air. In the end that is a big part of Carnival. While in the past the parade of costumes harked back to characters of myth and history, today the tiny sparkly bikinis, bedecked in feathers is another reason to celebrate the body beautiful.
Perhaps it is the beauty all around them that inspires the dresses, the fashion, the effort. Colour is imperative here. Black is simply not an option. Instead, as I flicked through a rack at a local clothes store I realized my choices lay in the colour of gems. Brilliant blue, canary yellow, hibiscus pink, ruby red, diamond silver and plenty of gold. Fabrics that shimmer and drape, clothes that stretch and reveal. The Western concept of the perfect body goes out the window; who needs to be tiny? Tiny is good but any body that is shown off and celebrated is better. Shy white men on the beach look around in adolescent glee as women don’t hide or fret over their bodies but rather strut and flaunt, often with short sarongs dotted with gilt that seem to shimmer and sing as the girls twitch their booty and walk the beach, ever aware of watchful eyes.