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THE AL GILKES COLUMN – Culture changes coming

Al Gilkes

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WHILE TRAVELLING on a train in Boston three days ago, I endured a culture shock that brought back memories of my first visit to Canada years ago when I was in my 20 earlies.
As unbelievable as this would be to today’s youngsters, back in that day, Barbados was still a very conservative and Victorian country in which after boy met girl, more often than not boy had to communicate with girl by secret letters delivered by a mutual friend. It would be six weeks, or even more, before he would get his first date taking her to the cinema or one of the popular ice-cream parlours to enjoy a milkshake and hamburger or 7-Up float and hot dog.
In many cases, depending on where on the social ladder her family was positioned, that first date would only be possible after he had “written home’ to her parents expressing his liking for their daughter and subsequently been invited to the home, not for something to eat but to be grilled. If he was able to convince them that his intentions were honourable and that he was not a hit-and-run person, among other criteria, then he was allowed to have his first date.
But don’t think that after filling her with milkshake and hamburgers it would be payback time. In fact, he would be extremely lucky if, while walking her to the bus, she allowed him to hold her hand or put his hand around her waist in public. And if she was fresh enough to consent to a kiss, he would have to find someplace where nobody at all could see them. Need I tell you that when it came to sex, it could take as long as six more months before he would lift her can-can?
So imagine the shock and awe when I landed in Montreal and saw couples kissing and making out on the street, in the malls, on the buses, in the restaurants and everywhere in broad daylight.As the years rolled by and Barbados shed its conservative mask and surrendered to North American cultural penetration, the writing home and presenting oneself to parents, the six-week wait for a kiss and six-month wait to go the full distance became forgotten memories as we reached recent times and heard about young people having sex in public service vehicles, in classrooms, in school washrooms and other public places.
Then a few short months ago the newspapers and call-in radio programmes were filled with news and intense discussion about the revelation that our schools were now awash with lesbians. Somehow, somebody did not notice that they are also flooded with boys engaging with each other.
So there I was on the train from downtown Boston when I realised something strange going on between two teenage girls sitting opposite. One had a hand around the other’s shoulder and the latter’s head rested on the former’s own shoulder, but that was quite normal. It was when one started sucking on and kissing her friend up and down the neck that my eyes opened wide in awe.The shock came when they went for each other’s lips, first with a few light smacks and then some serious French kissing, oblivious to the world around them. In fact, the only people who paid any attention to their actions were my fresh-from-Barbados relatives and me.
Get ready, Barbados.•Al Gilkes is head of a public relations firm.