CARNIVAL IS Woman: A Her-story. The idea came to me as I listened to an interview with author Annabelle Hirsch on her book titled A History of Women in 101 Objects, the newest addition to the history-through-things genre. I imagined how cool it would be if a Trini Carnival anthology listed the objects that make and shape the female experience. What things would make the list? My mind went to a BarbieWorld-esque 8K coloured daydream filled with glittery, jewel-toned wonderfulness.
When I snapped out of it, it occurred to me that for all its potential to offer an escape from reality, Carnival can take a turn for the worst real fast. What would be the sources of the darker Carnival artefacts? If curated from news stories via analytics, the main things might reflect the media’s focus on violent crimes and road traffic accidents around this time.
While these are very serious issues to be addressed, less frequent stories point to other “more mundane” risks women face throughout the Carnival season, with Accident & Emergency units having the data: sunburns, including severe scalp and back burns, foot and toe injuries, falls, cuts, bruises, and other traumas to the body.
I am no historian nor writer, so I will leave the Carnival coffee table book to someone else. As the mother of a GenZ Trini woman, however, I’d like to share some tips women young and young-at-heart can use to keep themselves safe (these last few days of Carnival).
Here’s my Carnival-safety-tips-through-things list:
Everyday carry (EDC) bag
To take part in Carnival is no small feat; likewise, day-to-day living in Trinidad isn’t a walk in the park either. With studies showing commuters spend hundreds of hours annually in traffic, it is wise for people to carefully consider their needs and that of those in their care, once they leave the house.
For women, EDC items typically are smartphone, purse with cash and cards, water bottle, umbrella, hand sanitiser, and a personal alarm device. Around Carnival time, it can be even more important to plan ahead, not only for a “rainy day” but also for a “sunny day.” What does that mean?
A sunny day is a good opportunity that presents itself unexpectedly. It could be a friend who calls you up during lunch at work and announces complimentary tickets to an after-work fete. It could be winning a Carnival costume in a raffle. Whatever the situation, whether good or not so good, an EDC bag stocked specifically for Carnival needs can make or break how the year starts for you.
One may want to consider having female urination devices which make it possible to stand while relieving oneself. There are reusable silicone ones and single-use disposable paper or plastic versions. EDC bags are highly personal, and individuals may customise their bags based on their specific requirements and lifestyle (single, mother/caregiver, physical and medical needs).
A simple search engine query will return with many checklist articles by so-called carnivalist bloggers and festival veterans. Additionally, local laws and regulations may impact the inclusion of certain items, such as personal safety devices like pepper spray.
Between the social pressure to be fete-fashionable and the calls to “jump up, jump up, free up, free up,” no lady wants to carry too large a bag to Carnival events. Indeed, police and security advise a smaller bag, as it is likely less attractive to pickpockets. However, attending events hands-free is also risky. Consider the number of hours people spend at these parties.
Not only that, as promoters get more creative with event locations, think of where people are going and the times at which they are headed to and from these places. A J’Ouvert themed mud, chocolate and paint-infused breakfast fete in a remote wooded spot sounds like fun… until it’s not.
Partying in the woods on a hilltop is, for all intents, a nine-hour hiking or camping trip…with no gear. Therefore, a small crossbody or strap-on case which holds essentials can meet fashion sensibilities and mitigate risks. Items like a whistle, mini-umbrella and/or lightweight poncho, flashlight, a map, a mini backup power device.
Clothing and footwear
It’s survival of the fittest and skimpiest on the road to Ash Wednesday. Carnival fashion of the 2020s leaves little to the imagination, far less leaving space to carry items: the “are-we-still-calling-these-bikini-mas?” costumes, the barely-there Monday-wear, the seemingly never-ending permutations of jumpsuits and rompers.
When combined with long hair, long nails, decadent earrings, belts, buckles, straps, wraps, second-skin-tight jeans, and stilettos – it can become extremely difficult to do easy things like using a portable toilet. Consider what the experience will be and try to simplify your attire.
Practising going to the toilet in your outfit and shoes ahead of the fete will also be beneficial. Useful items in a crossbody are foldable ballet flats, a band-aid for blisters, double-sided body tape, tiny square of sandpaper to fix slippery undersoles.
Bonus tip: car trunk cover
Most of us already know car and parking safety tips. Crime is often opportunistic and at Carnival time we tend to have valuables in the vehicle (make-up, handbags, luggage, laptop bags and devices). Stow items in the trunk and a car trunk cover provides an added layer of privacy.
Ladies (and gents), Carnival is a time of pure joy. Shorter seasons like this year’s are frenetic ecstasy. True lovers of Trini Carnival know that, just like soca, steelpan and mas reside in our DNA; risk and time management are also part of our heritage. Plan ahead to have an injury-free time so when the sun sets this Carnival Tuesday and we click our heels, returning from our break from reality, with satiated sighs “There’s no place like home!” Happy Carnival, everyone!