jamaican kincaid lucy
There are a few books that I can think of that had a profound impact on me. Zami by Audre Lorde, I read it in my early thirties when I had a strong belief in the power of my masculinity even though I wouldn’t admit it. Instead, I’d rather retreat into a humble role and blame love for the quivering orgasms we were producing: wrong and clueless stuff, but bear with me. Then came Audre Lorde’s incredible Zami, in Zami Audre Lorde reveals what it feels like to be in control and happy without a penis or the limited definition of manhood.
Sometimes Audre Lorde seems like a man’s man. I love Zami, it was a change of heart. My penis and I weren’t that special, we were the substitute for other feelings. Feelings that lead young men and women to search for substitutes, for transfers, for love. However, as substitutes, the penis was luxurious. The “I love you” said, and morale was compromised. And I wanted to believe. Everyone is having a good time until the feeling ends. Then the questions come, and the blame begins and the unresolved problems make their appearance.
My next epiphany came with Toni Morrison’s “The Blues Eyes.” He didn’t think there was such a great level of self-hatred with some black people, ever. And the depth to which they will descend internalizing that hatred. The rape of Pecola by his father, the emotional abuse by his mother. And the joy with which Morrison’s characters internalize everything. This book blows my mind. I came to believe that Toni Morrison is a witch. A good witch! She is aware.
Now adding to that list, enter Jamaica Kincaid’s book, Lucy. This novel is the most honest retelling of a women’s story that she has ever read. It’s like reading the private thoughts in your ex-girlfriend’s diary. The thoughts. Not the events written, but the circumstances that led to the fellatio. Or, the idea of how you come to find yourself naked in a room with your boyfriend and his children. Or bragging to jealous friends about the time you lost your mind seducing your best friend, brother, father or mother. Jamaica Kincaid Lucy is that good.
Our protagonist Lucy tells the story of Myrna while looking at her boyfriend’s hand in a fish tank. She said of Myrna’s mother, “that was so cruel it was like she had an evil stepmother.” Mothers are a recurring theme in Kincaid’s stories. More on mothers later. They were waiting for Mr. Thomas and Mr. Mathew, the fishermen who do business with their mothers.
Mr. Thomas had been drinking that day, and he and his fish did not show up. Mr. Mathew came to tell them the story; he was pitiful, she said, it broke her heart. She fell sad. As they were walking home, Lucy notices that Myrna was crying a lot. Lucy tries to comfort her with “nonsense about there being some great wise purpose behind such things”. So Myrna drops this bombshell. She said that she used to meet Thomas (she didn’t call him “sir” now). They met, under a breadfruit tree near her latrine, near the entrance to the alley behind her house. And she would stand in the dark, fully clothed but without her panties, and he would stick his middle finger inside her.” “Wait, that’s not the bomb. Lucy tells the story that this is the expected behavior of men; they’re not nice, and rather men are dogs. That’s why men like laws so much; that’s why they had to invent such things that need a guide. guide.” That as for what Lucy thinks of men, another of those paradoxes of life is about to unfold. Myna was crying because she won’t get the money anymore: ten pence a blitz, sometimes just sixpence Mr. Thomas used to give her for putting his middle finger on her. She needed that money for something she didn’t know yet.
I thought how far young women would go to get away from an evil mother. Myrna’s story made me wonder about why young girls go to sex. It wasn’t for penis or for love but to feel better. To get away from the cruelest oxymoron, bad mother. The further away you get from them, the greater their influence on your life.
Then on page 105, Lucy said the most amazing thing: Lucy overcomes with jealousy, she said. “Why did something so extraordinary happen to her and not me? Why did Mr. Thomas choose Myrna as the girl he was secretly meeting and place her middle finger inside her and not me?” Lucia continues. “This would have become the experience of a lifetime, one that everyone else would have to live up to.”
Lucy goes on to talk more about how she felt about that story. Kincaid is aware of what she was sharing, she goes on to make that clear. Lucy: “I could have withdrawn into falsehood and said all the appropriate disapproving things, but I saw that she was beyond condemnation.” Lucy wanted to ask, she felt great! -Dude! -What a story, Kincaid made me realize that they are something he thought he knew about young women, but I have no idea. At the same time, I question the depth of my feeling, why and how I define my manhood. What am I looking for? What makes me feel great? I mean, most of it comes from some big loser, like Lucy’s.
The truth is that the novel Lucy is constantly struggling with her feelings towards her mother who teeters between love and hate. One causes the other. As Lucy tries to understand her feelings and asserts her physical and emotional independence, her mother’s love or heartbreak is the anchor or wings that guide her decisions. She constantly seeks her mother’s approval at the same time that she hates her mother’s judgments of her Christian morals. After all, this is a mother who named her Lucy, a girl’s name for Lucifer. That her mother found her, her devilish form did not surprise Lucy. She said: “I often think of her as a god, and aren’t the children of demon gods?”
In my youth, I believed that a weird girl was really into you, whatever I told her to do, she would do. Like Alanis Morissette: “Is she perverted like me? Would she fuck you in a theater?”. I thought it was either my penis or me. We were worship. I did not realize somewhere that it was about the unrequited love of a mother or father. It’s not like women don’t give us clues, Carly Simon: “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” But we never see our needs until those needs are revealed in someone else’s story.
Lucy showed the lengths to which she will go to assert her independence, to distance herself from her mother. But no matter how far Lucy went. She was always emotionally anchored to her mother, her efforts always weighed against hers. Lucy’s jealousy of Myrna is a direct result of the lack of love that she has not been given. Lucy wants someone, an older person, to want her, the way Mr. Thomas wanted Myrna. Lucy longs for loved ones.
Jamaica Kincaid further emphasizes this analogy in the novel. Lucy feels the same way about her new home in the United States at the end of the novel as she did at the beginning when she left her home island. Although her body moved across the ocean, in the end, she felt the same, alone. No matter how many times we move or where we go, we are tied to that first refuge.
His mother’s affections changed when she gave birth to her son. Lucy was no longer the same. She was jealous of a love that belonged to her but she denied him. In Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid details the difficult relationship of mother’s love and her daughter’s disappointments. Indeed, the Kincaid novel gives us a detailed account of where Lucy is and how she relates to her mother. And he hints at what got her to where she is: “Oh, the unfairness of it all. What words did Mr. Thomas use to make this arrangement with her, and why, again, had he not been worthy of hearing them?”
To me, this goes a long way in explaining why a partner hates you, or you hate them, you remind them of a parent. The incredible sex we were looking for in the beginning no longer feels like “the experience of a lifetime.” Those encounters began as a substitute for that unrequited love and attention. Meet your substitute for hate. Now anger is the security of love. Or, as fourteen-year-old Lucy put it, when she was sucking the tongue of her brother Tanner’s best friend at her house during a piano lesson, she was looking at her hands. “Taste is not what to look for in a language; how it makes you feel, that’s the thing.