Memories of the Men in My Life
- By: Samantha Sukhraj
As I try to figure out my life and what is important to me, one thing has recently stood out to me – men in my life and their consumption of alcohol. Nearly everyone I know, including my girlfriends, drink. This is a far cry from childhood in my village where drinking alcohol was a male thing.
As a woman, I can’t say that I’m unhappy to now be a part of a society where women can indulge just as much as men. Funnily enough, most girls I know don’t drink excessively. As for the men, I can’t quite put my finger on how much alcohol is fine, how much is overdoing it and how much is a few years from really overdoing it, and it seems unfair of me to expect anyone to control their drinking because I have a problem with it. But, how do I determine what I can comfortably accept?
My uneasy reaction to men who drink was not always obvious to me. I don’t recall my father being much of a drinker. After living away from him for years and having lived with him the last 10 years, the few times I recall him drinking, he seemed like a happy drunk. Recently, his blood pressure has worried my mother so he doesn’t drink much and, because of her worry, the thought of him drinking makes me apprehensive.
In recent years, all but one of the men I’ve dated drank more than my idea of a little. My last boyfriend, I could argue, drank too much. He tried whenever he could to get me to drink. This is perhaps because I can be a little tense and alcohol helps me to loosen up, but I couldn’t make myself drink much around him although I liked drinking.
I never wondered why I hated his drinking. It seemed natural since it also bothered his parents. I began to wonder about it when I experienced the same thing with another guy in my life. I realised that even though he was pretty responsible, it made me uneasy to see him drink. I didn’t want to stop him from drinking; that should be his decision, but I didn’t hide my discomfort.
After that, I recalled that alcoholism had been a part of my life once. In my native country, some men regularly headed to ‘rum shops’ on Fridays after receiving their pay. Women often complained that their men spent their sometimes limited money there rather than on their families. The one woman I knew who drank consumed too much and spent money she was given for food on alcohol.
But the memories that stand out the most are from the years before I turned 10. Whenever my parents worked, my brother and I stayed with a family in the street we lived. Memories from that time are vague. While I am certain that when the father of that family drank he became verbally abusive to the mother, I can’t say if he was ever physically abusive to her. I seem to recall him destroying furniture once and I also remember how scared of him she was.
By the time I knew them, his children were grown, so I can’t say how he treated them, but his daughter did whatever she could to take care of him. Her love for him doesn’t surprise me. One memory I have of him sober was an afternoon he stopped my brother and me on our way from school to give us fruits he was selling. He seemed almost meek and kind and I feel that I liked him. Still, other memories tell a different story.
Almost as though it could be a dream, I dimly recall the mother once hiding behind trees with my brother and me in tow to get away from him. The other more vivid recollections occur later when a family gave her a home in which to live across the street. A little older, I remember the measures taken to ensure the father had no idea she lived there. My brother and I entered her yard through a neighbour’s fence. We went everywhere else from the bushy entrance at the back of the house. When we entered the home, the doors were immediately shut to make it appear as though no one lived there.
We also spent a great deal of our time locked on the second story of the house and only went to the small, dark first story to bathe or for food. That was a little difficult for us as we didn’t have many toys or much to do and the house seemed big and felt strange. I can’t say if it was months or years after, but things changed and we eventually roamed outside more freely. I know that the dad eventually passed away, but I can’t tell if it was before or after I left my village when I was 11 to go away to school.
These hazy, sometimes striking recollections must have an impact on the way I now think of men and alcohol, but writing this article has helped me to realize that I need to focus on individuals and what I know about them in the present rather than worry about the future. Still, my unease with alcohol will likely continue unless my perspective changes.
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Samantha Sukhraj grew up in Guyana, South America until age 17 and now resides in Canada. She works as an analyst, studied languages, loves to learn new things and be active and is attempting to see life through writing.