What’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior varies from culture to culture. What I find curious is that I have yet to be given explanations for some of the ones shared in the Haitian culture in which I was raised.
I took the liberty to compile a list of some of the “dont’s” that have stood out to me. I also came up with my own plausible explanations in order to rationalize them. Some of these are so ingrained in my psyche that I, as a parent, forbid my own children from engaging in them.
- Kids don’t whistle.
It is rude. Plain and simple. I am not a good whistler anyway but the one time that I did, I was immediately reprimanded. I was never given a reason and I would never dare ask, “Why”. When you parents told you something, that was that. I am going to assume the reason is along the same lines of ” Children are to be seen and not heard”. Whistling draws attention to you and it is something considered adult. You ran the risk of being a called a “ti grumoun” ( little adult) and that was not a compliment.
- Never eat in public. I don’t mean you can’t go to a restaurant. You just better not ever be caught eating while walking down the street. Where I grew up, there was a pizzeria about a block away. I walked to get myself a slice of pizza with the plan to eat it when I got back home. I knew the ” never eat in public” rule but I also knew that my mother was not home. I was starving and I wanted that pizza! Needless to say, I got halfway down the block and the temptation got the best of me. I proceeded to eat the pizza from the bag. The cheese was stretching from my mouth to the bag. That is when I hear a car approaching from behind. I think nothing of it, I am walking down a street. The car doesn’t pass but comes to a stop. I hear a car door open and slam shut. Busted.
- Sidewalks only. I firmly believe that if I was ever caught walking in the street and not the sidewalk, I would be run over by none other than the parent who saw me. “Boozans” (promiscuous girls) walked in the street, ladies walked on the sidewalk.
- Never leave the house without earrings. That’s right. When you did, you looked like a boy. Yeah, I said it. Oh and by the way, let me add that you never left the house not properly dressed from head to toe. You hair must be combed in a nice style in case your parents’ friends see you in public. Don’t you dare leave the house with rollers. These same friends will immediately call your parents and inform them.
- Maintain a blank facial expression when being spoken to. You might be upset, but resist the urge to roll your eyes. You might not blink again. Avoid the temptation to twist your lips in a motion that would give the appearance of sucking your teeth. Just stare straight, but never directly in their eyes. In fact, I found that the safest bet was to look at the parent’s shoulder.
- Kids don’t chew gum. I am not making this up. They just don’t. If you know why, please tell me. I am thinking the popping and smacking is just too much. My friends would buy Bubblelicious brand gum all the time and I was oh so jealous.
- No talking to a boy not related to you in front of the house. This infraction was HUGE! It is considered the cardinal sin to Haitian girls even to this day. There are so many assumptions tied to it. You could be seen by other people. You might be labeled a boozan. It meant you were most definitely having sex. You were trying to be like your Amerikan friends. This type of behavior could get you some serious lock down time in the house. Avoid at all costs. It is the seal of death for any attempts at a social life as a teen.
These are just a snapshot of some of the rules I had to live by. Are there any on this list that made you nod your head in agreement? What would you like to add? What were some things you could not do as a kid but never knew why? What are some behaviors deemed unacceptable in your culture?