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A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste, Eh?
Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2006

So, Wendy is passing hers on.

By Linda E. Edwards

On the bedside dresser of this old school teacher, now approaching the fiftieth anniversary of my beginning to teach, is a signed picture of Ms. Wendy Fitzwilliam, Miss Universe 1998. It was given to me by her mother, when I came home in 2000 to attend the funeral of my sister-in-law, Barbara. Her mother, a neighbour, had lent her beautiful voice to the funeral service. All of my students back at school were impressed that I had a signed picture of one of the most beautiful women in the world. The guys, some "fresh' 16 year olds wanted to kiss it. No thank you, I snatched it back and let them admire her from afar.

I would have liked to add a picture of her in her lawyer robes, shot on the steps of the Hall of Justice, the day she was called to the bar; but the person I knew at the paper that published a full picture of her, did not grant my request, and I did not bother to ask her mother a second time, less I seem greedy. I told my students though, that she is the epitome of woman, beautiful, intelligent, concerned about humanity, talented beyond her law degree; which I think she is saving for later, or to prove to those doubting Thomases worldwide, that beauty and brains can be combined in one joy-filled Caribbean woman of African ancestry, who dances through the streets of her native Trinidad and Tobago in next to nothing. My kids have seen that too, from the Carnival magazines my nephew and nieces faithfully send. (There are some pages that I pull out first.)

Now, it seems that this daughter of the soil, our beloved Wendy, is not as loved as she was, since her announcement of impending motherhood. My response? You go, girl!

Who better equipped to raise a child as a single parent than a well traveled, beautiful and intelligent woman who has given significant service to her country, who has spearheaded AIDS care for children, who has put us on the map both in winning, and one year later in the handoff to Ms. Botswana, in a history making event? (What history? It was the first time that daughters of the African Diaspora had won back to back.) I have that picture from the newspapers, laminated and saved also.

Those who are criticizing her- "shame on you, bad role model" etc, need to look at themselves in the mirror, and say "wake up." Would they prefer a marriage concocted in lies like the one Diana of Wales had, in which the head of the English church apparently colluded?

Let me digress a bit. In 1986-89, when I was a member of the board of the Caribbean Conference of Churches, specifically appointed to represent women, I asked repeatedly for us to debate what would be an appropriate sexual role for a person exactly like Ms. Fitzwilliam to adopt to her own sexuality, and by extension, to the possibility of single motherhood. There was much hemming and hawing from all the male clerics, and unfortunately, the issue was treated as a joke, one of those things Linda Edwards would suggest, you know her.

Ms. Fitzwillaim has unwittingly answered the question that the Christian churches of the Caribbean refuse to discuss or even acknowledge- that a grown and sensible woman, who had the education, job skills and strength of character to do so, should go ahead and have a child, who, hopefully, would not only fulfill her need to experience motherhood, but would possibly be there to comfort her old age as no husband or lover could- for this would be the fruit of her womb, forever blessed in her eyes, conferring a blessing by being there for her.

Now, I did not come to this position overnight. I have to give credit to one of my younger sisters, who announced thirty-five years ago that if she was not married by age thirty, she would go ahead and have a child. I think it would have killed my mother, but that sister did get married, although her husband took no role in raising the children. In fact all of Elaine's girls (eight of us) got married. That was then. This is another era, when one can have an active sex life without being married, provided that one is mature enough to handle the consequences. I have also advised my girlfriend who has been married three times, that it is no longer necessary to marry a guy just to sleep with him.

When my students, even the ones who go off to college, call to ask about such things that their mothers may still refuse to discuss, my advice has been: Can you handle the possibility of contraceptive failure? And supposing you get pregnant, and the baby was born with some birth defect can you love and raise such a child? Do you realize just how much having a child changes your life? You will have to put someone else first for the next twenty to twenty-five years; can you do that alone? And what if your mother and aunts were not supportive, do you have girlfriends who will be there for you?

I do not expect my students to answer yes to the above before proceeding with a single act of sex, but I want them to think about the questions at all times. For girls under eighteen my answer is forget boys, focus on college so that you could chose your own path, so that, if you later marry, you will not have to be waiting anxiously on Friday evenings to see if he brings home anything from his paycheck; nor will you become a c-rent woman, who waits outside the phone company, near the docks or by T&TEC waiting for a handout before the man goes home to his wife.

But for all the young women whose parents fear they will follow her example, I say: Follow her example. Go to college, get your degree, get a doctorate first if you can, for that is what a JD degree is, Doctor of Jurisprudence (Portia had one in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. It gave her the capacity to reject all sorts of suitors. I knew all that Shakespeare I had to study would come in handy some day.) Travel, see the rest of the world, do some good for others, then, when you are ready, go ahead and become a mother if you are so inclined. You will have so much more to give to a child from your bounty of knowledge and experience; but do not let the biological clock tick away into nothingness. Men sometimes fear marriage to brilliant women, but being smart should not deprive you of motherhood. It's a wonderfully painful and exhilarating experience that strengthens every woman who knows it. Old eggs, when fertilized, increase the possibility of Mongoloid and Down' Syndrome children. Your best child bearing years are twenty-two to thirty or so, and if you are in great health, maybe to thirty-five for a first birth. This is what Wendy Fitzwilliam is doing. God has blessed her. The nation should too, for setting a sensible example.

Parents who disagree with this should make every effort to keep this article out of the hands of teenagers. They may become wise from reading it. Everyone knows wise children are so difficult to handle. It is better to keep them ignorant and obedient.

Now, if God did not mean single women to become pregnant, surely He would not have allowed it to happen, even to Mary.

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