“A Washbelly typically refers to the youngest child in Jamaican Patois, especially if that child is much younger than the rest of their siblings. In addition to being the youngest, the term can also denote that the child is spoiled and lazy”.
I am not sure why the youngest is called this, Jamaicans have a knack/art of being literal when describing things. I love how my ancestor’s words are just that… LITERAL. For instance, if you met a guy who was affectionately known as ‘ bruk foot willy’ or just ‘ bruk foot’ there is no doubt, somewhere in Willy’s past he had broken his foot (Sorry Willy), Unfortunately for him, he will only be known as ‘bruk foot’, his actual name could be Reginald Augustus Clement the third, unfortunately for him this is now null and void, never to be used again. So in the case of ‘Washbelly’ I assume it means the last child, who possibly cleaned out the womb, a womb that is now desolate.
The wash belly, some might say the pampered pet of the family, the least experienced, the most sheltered, the most impulsive, whimsical, childlike, the most fragile, true I guess yet probably inaccurate.
I have heard it often from my peers, you see I am part a secret club containing fellow washbellies, we compare notes laugh at the similarities and sneer at the irony of our status within our family. Oh….you didn’t know? Yeah we discuss everything, our futures, our limitations, our frustrations, our efforts and opinions dismissed, purely because our position in the family equates to nothingness. There are many of us, we are out there. We are not quite the only child, but in many ways we very much are. The gap between our siblings is almost a lifetime, therefore we grew up…alone.
I grew in a house full of adults.
What a daunting experience, voices were on constant command, the cadence often short, sharp and to the point. Adult themes, adult worries, adult laughter, adult decisions ..adult. For many years that was my environment I did as I was told, my voice was a teeny tiny one that spoke in the back of my head a few times a day if allowed. I spent much of it in a daydream, a made-up world full of dancing, pretty dresses, and fairy lights, In that pink world I made a difference no matter how small.
“Why are you so shy talk up when people are talking to you” I was often told “why do you talk like that like you are shy”
Well, how could I speak when I didn’t know how to without being spoken over? When my childish opinion meant not a great deal, When my world, my little word was insignificant compared to the minor strikes on TV, Thatcher and her Poll tax, and everyone else. Bamboozled into a church I had no choice in being in, told what to do, how to dress, what to say, how to be. Don’t get me wrong, I was well loved..smothered even, but not really …seen
Being the youngest can lead to a lack of respect, unwillingness to listen and be learned from, the sky could be blue, but if convincing enough can be made to look pink due to the fact the member of the household is older. Our religious cult of washbellies discuss all of this, they told me to tell you what is going on so here I am writing, writing our bible for all of you to see and understand.
It starts with chapter 1 the first dismissal. Chapter 2 How to survive when you merely exist, Chapter 3 Learn to be seen and not heard, Chapter 4 How to deal with unsolicited criticism, Chapter 5 Learn to withhold your opinions, Chapter 6 Play your role as the youngest well and see how you can benefit. Chapter 7 observations , Chapter 8 Realise your strengths can be used elsewhere. Chapter 9 Grow a backbone and get a shield, possibly off of Amazon (may take 5 days)
I grew into my power. The small youngest child is now grown, a person with thoughts, intelligence, legitimate concerns regarding how society is functioning, responsibilities, and more importantly a voice. But where do I fit? Does my opinion even mean anything or is it still an insignificant voice amongst those I call the ‘knowledgable unknowledgeable’ whom have guided me up until now.
It can be difficult to bite your lip whilst listening to bullshit flawed conversations. How do you keep your eyes pointing straight ahead when the urge to roll them towards heaven is so strong, I mean let’s face it only God can help. I have sat at large family gatherings in a dream listening to conversations whirling around my head similar to when I was a child. I learned to have superficial conversations and leave the deep and genuine ones to well…… the deep and genuine. No one really knows who I am, so what am I doing there in the first place?. I could talk you under the ground about any and everything..the close ones know.
I was unable to drop my washbelly persona, that was obvious, so I took it on and wore it as a charm. Much like Joseph and his Technicolor dream coat the dreamer in the bible who was not listened to by his siblings his dreams laughed at and eventually thrown to strangers on a dusty road, and look what he became in the end? A great ruler. The bible is full of families where the youngest and weakest is ultimately shown to be the strongest. King David, the story of Jacob and Essau, and of course Joseph. I draw everything from these stories in this ancient book. The stories still ring true today.
I have had to deal with quite a bit, war-beaten washbelly who would have thought it? Dealt with more than most, less than some. Here I am standing. My culinary skills may not be up to scratch but I can tell you about family law, I probably can’t fix a tap, but I can write a novel easy, Common sense may have bypassed me, but critical thinking is a walk in the park. I may have a flakey nature but my inner strength is unmatched. Yes, mistakes were made along the way, but they have only given room for growth I for one am not stunted, I learned and used each setback as a launchpad! I don’t blame my situation I use it to help others. I guess that is why I am writing these words, you mean something. We all do.
In all honesty, I learnt that the pecking order within a family structure means nothing. It only means something to the insecure, but in the real world what does it really mean?I mean do you play a strong role in society where do you sit? What have you done? How are you really helping your community at large? So many questions so few answers.
My own washbelly status fell to my feet as I received encouragement and strength from the unfamiliar faces I chose to detail my innermost thoughts with, they have helped untangle a small child’s mind . I am learning who I am, my legacy, my strengths. I let go of my Joseph coat of many colours a long time ago and became an individual.
Dedicated to all the washbellys that are doing amazing things under the radar.
I see you