Breaking point for two bedfellows


By Anthony Deyal

There are many different explanations for what causes two people to become “strange bedfellows”. Some blame religion and even resurrection. A few point to misery as the major cause. Then there are many, like William Shakespeare, who are convinced it is adversity, and others like comedian Groucho Marx who blame marriage. However, what I have learnt especially in the past few days in Trinidad and Tobago is that politics makes the strangest bedfellows of all. This is why when dealing with politicians you have to make sure you know what they mean. Inevitably when they say “Run!” the best bet is to stand up, and when they tell you to kiss any part of their anatomy, they expect you to ask “How often?”

If one bedfellow in a relationship writes to another about what or where to kiss him or her, one has to be very careful about how one interprets this oral promiscuity. What we think might be sheer anger may actually be shared desire. A seeming insult might be an invitation. For example, the term “kiss my (anything)” might be taken as an angry retort but, as all of us know, in any kind of bedfellow situation it might be a request for special services. Some people believe that women should kiss and nibble on a man’s earlobe in bed to turn him on. Many others think it’s nuts while a few hang on to bananas. Worse, if one Caribbean bedfellow in a relationship says, “Give me a break” you are never quite sure what that person really wants.

This is the dilemma I faced when I saw a headline in the Trinidad Guardian of Wednesday, September 29, 2021, which alleged, “PM confirms telling Ishmael ‘kiss my ar**’ & ‘go to hell’. The article by Renuka Singh started with what seemed to be a picture of the prime minister of the country with his name “Keith Rowley” and the words, “Inshan Ishmael, you kiss my ar**!” Further down it continues “life or business so you GO TO HELL!!! You are overdoing it now. Kr.”

The report which followed established, “Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has confirmed that he did tell businessman and Breaking Barriers host, Inshan Ismael to ‘kiss my ar**’ in an email exchange between the two on September 23 but called on Ishmael to ‘provide context’.” Since the Guardian was the only one of the three media houses in Trinidad to run the story, it is impossible to get any other perspective or facts about the issue. It is even more difficult to understand why the other two newspapers totally ignored it.

It is easy to assume from even the extremely limited coverage that both parties in the email exchange were on relatively familiar terms and this was definitely not their first communication with each other. However, as the newspaper stated: “According to the email conversation between the two, Ishmael accused the Prime Minister of favouring a business with foreign exchange access.” Following denials by the prime minister, Ishmael is reported as responding, “I am overdoing it? Kiss you ar**? That is difficult as I would not be able to tell the difference between that and your head! (You asked for dat). And you expect respect?”

It is a fact that political bedfellows do lash out at one another in anger. It is something that Donald Trump does, resorting to the same “kiss-my…” phrase which, most dictionaries agree, is a harsh rejection or refusal to perform a requested action. In the case of the communication with the prime minister, Ishmael claimed, “You are the one that have say with every state board, so don’t come with this sh** that you do not know the man…”

Having worked for several prime ministers – Dr Eric Williams, George Chambers and A.N.R. Robinson – as well as heads of international organisations, I was stunned that any leader would have a relationship with an individual who felt free to use that kind of language to him or her and was prepared to release supposedly private conversations when he did not get his own way. This was certainly taking “strange bedfellows” to an unprecedented extreme.

Donald Trump tends to explore all the depths of that particular “kiss” phrase. For example, he boasted that Facebook boss, Mark Zuckerberg “used to come to the White House to kiss my…” Talking about the big-shots in Palm Beach, Trump boasted, “They all come over, they all eat, they all love me, they all kiss my …” He added, “And then they all leave and say: ‘Isn’t he horrible.’ But I’m the king.” In his war against Joe Biden, Trump claimed that Biden was only a good vice president because “he understood how to kiss Barak Obama’s …”

Trump is far from being alone in demanding that people kiss his (*) asterisk. President Lyndon Johnson made it clear that as president, “I want real loyalty. I want someone who will kiss my *** in Macy’s window and say it smells like roses. I want his pecker in my pocket.” Harold Pinter, the playwright who declared that cricket “is the greatest thing that God created on earth, certainly greater than sex” saw the attitude as common to all US foreign policy which “can be defined as ‘kiss my *** or I’ll kick your head in.” However, the last words on this subject and our cue to return to the core of the issue, strange bedfellows in Trinidad and Tobago, is from Rapper Nicki Minaj who tells us, “Kiss my *** and my anus ‘cause it’s finally famous.”

I am not going to get into either Pinter’s or Minaj’s love life but will remain in the province in which we started- the matter of strange bedfellows. I first came upon it in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (Act 2, Scene 2). Interestingly, the person who said, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” was shipwrecked and found himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster.

The Los Angeles Times explains the phenomenon: “The reason politics makes strange bedfellows is because they all like the same bunk.” In this particular case of the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Ishmael, while many people think both parties were talking bunk, I prefer the view of poet Marcel Achard: “The bedfellows politics made are never strange. It only seems that way to those who have not watched the courtship.” However, what I am sure about is that while politics makes strange bedfellows, inevitably it also ends with estranged ones.

Most of us have never really been close to the courtships or mating rituals of the politicians so that we are always amazed not just by the pairings but also by the partings. I suppose if one party has done extremely well with the relationship, instead of being angry when told by his former bedfellow to kiss his asterisk, he should smile and declare forcefully, “And you can kiss my assets!”

*Tony Deyal was last seen explaining that the bedfellows reminded him of the fable of Mercury and the Woodman who, as a chop off the old block, told him, “Kiss my axe!”


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