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The art of ‘tiefing a wine’: Hassanali on bumpers, bumpees, bad behaviour and wine tiefers

It takes a lot of balls to wade into this issue all willy-nilly. But I miss Carnival and I feel for a challenge. Hopefully I won’t offend and the feminists won’t skin me alive. But if I do unintentionally lapse into ‘mansplaining’ when offering my perspective, I apologize in advance.

Photo: Jamaican champion sprinter Usain Bolt enjoys a wine at Carnival. Not a Trini, he clearly knows a thing or two about wining but did he have to tief?

Let me admit up front that I love tiefing a wine. By “tiefing a wine,” I mean enticing in a largely non-verbal manner a complete stranger to wine with you. Personally, I have worked on it by trial and error over the course of many years and have developed a set of techniques that maximise my chances of success under different circumstances. Indeed, I daresay, perhaps immodestly, that I have now really refined it to a fine art.

Well, I used to think of it as art as I always assumed these techniques were within the bounds of acceptable social behaviour.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Here, succinctly summarized, is my m.o. Sometimes, would-be bumpee makes eye contact beforehand and, through this eye contact, non-verbal consent is expressly given for bumper contact. On many occasions, though, the request for permission has taken the form of a tap on the shoulder or the waist or of some other acceptable, unequivocal physical touch; then, the lady looks back, thinks about it and decides whether or not permission is granted.

For Carnival 2018, however, this question has to be asked: Is this initial, unsolicited, physical, tactile ‘request’ okay?

Photo: Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat enjoys himself during J’Ouvert celebrations in Rio Claro Carnival.

If I were to hazard a guess at the response to this question, I’d say some people (mostly women) will answer ‘no,’ some people (mostly men) will answer ‘yes’ and most people (men and women) will answer “It depends.”

Depends on what, you ask? Well, on the situation and the nature of the touch, be it a nudge, a thrust, a jook, a smack, a grab, a pull or a grope. Surely a reasonable person can sift through these options and determine what is appropriate, what is inappropriate and what is downright criminal?

However, in the context of the organized chaos that is a soca fete or mas on the road where alcohol is often a factor, is it really that simple?

Even the definition of ‘stranger,’ I submit, gets blurred. Is the friend of a friend a stranger? What about the person who you’ve seen around, have never been formally introduced to but whose Facebook page you have on occasion maccoed and now the two of you happen to end up in the same crew in a party or on the road?

Photo: A police sergeant from the West End Station gets a wine at the Sunny Side Up Breakfast party during the 2015 Carnival season. One day fuh police, one day fuh wine tief?
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Under the current status quo, a lot of these issues are negotiated informally and arbitrarily. For example, a woman firmly indicates “no thanks,” and an unembarrassable and/or slightly intoxicated male continues to verbally or physically abuse her. She may deal with the matter herself or raise an alarm to get help. Or both.

Even among strangers, there is usually a mob rule mentality that metes out a kind of rough justice on behalf of the aggrieved party and the transgressor is ‘checked’ (sometimes very harshly). Either way, the lesson is learnt—if only temporarily!

The relevant authorities—we’re talking from simple band security to some nearby poldier—get involved only if the situation escalates beyond a certain point.

Now are these sorts of resolutions ideal? Of course not! But it is the status quo which I, like so many of the Carnival population, have grown accustomed to.

Put myself in a woman’s shoes (flats, preferably), however, and the status quo becomes way more problematic. For one thing, mob justice is wildly inconsistent and by nature non-preventative.

Photo: Revellers enjoy themselves during the 2016 J’Ouvert celebrations.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Moreover, even when we’re dealing with the more harmless physical prompts (the sort I’m guilty of), it must be very annoying to be constantly nudged, prodded or even poked (some people get a little too excited) while trying to enjoy yourself.

Granted that, over time, women have organically developed their own techniques to non-verbally indicate lack of interest but these are not 100% foolproof and often restrict their freedom to enjoy the festivities to the fullest.

The fact is that the CoP’s recent announcement has suddenly opened up a Pandora’s box because, vague and unhelpful as it was, it gave no real indication of what the new normal might be. ‘It depends’ is nice and non-committal, convenient even, but it is hugely problematic because it does not cut it legislatively. Law and ambiguity can’t live in the same house and laws often are pitched at the lowest common denominator because certain people just cannot be trusted to deal with nuance.

You have to read and spell for them. In black and white! And when it’s people’s bodies involved, brother, there can be no room—wiggle room?—at all for individual interpretation of the vagaries of human touch.

So what does a world look like where only verbal permission is acceptable to tief a wine?

Photo: Wait… What? People have to get wining permission now?!?

How many men are even going to get past the first two words: “Ah could…?” without finishing the sentence with a non-verbal shake of some part of their body?

Assuming this new paradigm can take some degree of effect immediately—I have my doubts—I feel sure the incidence of harassment will drop significantly. How many men are seriously going to take the trouble of verbally asking a complete stranger for a wine?

More importantly, how many men are going to wait for the answer even if they do get around to asking the whole question?

Still, we can all agree that less overall harassment is a definite pro. The flip side to this, however, is that people may just end up wining exclusively on who they know, there will be less social mixing, and the Carnival becomes even more segregated. There will definitely be less bacchanal, and dare I say it? the festivities will lose some of their magic as a result.

Or maybe not. Perhaps now, under the new rules, women will become the new leaders of the wine tiefing movement. Sure there have always been dedicated female wine tiefers in our ranks, but now perhaps even more will feel empowered and/or forced to go hunting for bumpers. Yes, the laws will apply to them as well but I don’t see many men being aggrieved by unprompted physical provocation from an empowered woman. Even if his response is ‘thanks but no thanks,’ he will probably still feel flattered.

Photo: Tribe revellers let loose on Carnival Monday in 2015 with women in the thick of things.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The culture of wine tiefing may be under new management but still in good hands after all. Or, more accurately, in good waists.

At the end of the day, it’s not up to me or to men in general and I’m relieved by that. So, ladies, when you all decide how you want things to go, let me know; I’ll adapt.

About Jabal Hassanali

Jabal Hassanali is a semi-retired, Trini urban planner-cum-English teacher, who is currently stuck somewhere in Asia. He has made a career of being in-between countries and in-between jobs and sometimes, mainly in his in-between moments, fancies himself a writer.

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9 comments

  1. “By “tiefing a wine,” I mean enticing in a largely non-verbal manner a complete stranger to wine with you.” Your article is based on the art of tiefing a wine – but your definition is in disagreement with what most women (or men) would call tiefing a wine. Enticing is not the same as tiefing (there is no law against enticement or most ads would be illegal) – even when it’s non-verbal – it’s more on the side of seduction, if you will, and most people can get away with that quite easily and certainly without retribution. It takes a very skilled person to do non-verbal enticement without actually getting into the tiefing – i.e. taking the wine without permission.

    “However, in the context of the organized chaos that is a soca fete or mas on the road where alcohol is often a factor, is it really that simple?” Yes, it is really that simple. A light tap/touch is not a smack nor any of the other words you tried to put forward as, but are clearly not, potential synonyms for this. If you are too close for comfort in the space where you are because of the crowd, it’s still tiefing to wine on someone without permission.

    I almost stopped reading at this point – actually I did, but came back this morning with renewed determination to get through to the end of this article and I am glad I did.

    Indeed “Law and ambiguity can’t live in the same house” not if you want to have order

    “and the Carnival becomes even more segregated.” I dare say you are completely wrong about this because it makes the grave and misplaced assumption that all women will say no to a stranger and vice versa (I have been told it goes both ways for permission) – it will not become more segregated just because people are forced to be polite and respect the wishes of others. There may be other reasons that will continue to exist for that. Being a respectful person of others rights will not be the determining factor for segregation. The magic will still be there.

    “Perhaps now, under the new rules, women will become the new leaders of the wine tiefing movement. ” Well, now that might actually make sense except for the double standard.

    “I don’t see many men being aggrieved by unprompted physical provocation from an empowered woman” I am in total agreement here.

    Glad to know some men are willing to adapt, but the truth is this should not have even been an issue in the first place. It all comes back to the very simple idea that a no means no and before you take something you should ask permission unless it’s yours. Why can’t all men just sing this refrain: Dis Carnival I will try hard to behave and limit myself to jump and wave” and it will be ok if they drop on de ground and roll too as long as they not rolling on top of anyone.

    • Thank you for getting to the end… much appreciated. I respectfully disagree with your assertion that ‘wine tiefing’ and enticement are separate; as much as you may wish for it to be so because it makes things easier. Make no mistake, if a scallywag who seeks no permission whatsoever of any form, wines on you, his end goal is hoping that you would reciprocate. Unless he is completely deluded, in that 2-3 seconds it took for you to brace him, he doesn’t think to himself ‘aha!… I have successfully stolen another wine!” and pats himself on the back. For whatever reason, and as flawed his judgement was, that was just his way of ‘enticing’. How did that ‘scallywag’ get that mindset and how can it be corrected? (and I don’t think it comes down strictly to a gender divide). A person’s ‘wine tiefing’ m.o. reflects a wide range of factors, such as their personal values and respect for others, wining skill, ego, level of shame, confidence, types of parties they attend and wining culture they have been exposed to, what has worked for them in the past (nothing teaches like rejection), how well they can read body language etc. The point of my article wasn’t to justify bad M.O.s, i was just wondering aloud whether legislation is the best way to go about creating a change in behavior, can it even?, and if it does, what sorts of consequences may result, good and bad.

  2. I said it and will say again, enticing is not tiefing. Tiefing is not enticing. I am not sure this is clear.

  3. A total “nonsensical” issue. Gyrating on anyone without their approval constitutes an assault on their person, be it woman or man. A person should have the right to walk and enjoy the carnival without being subjected or placed in a situation that they do not appreciate. However the action is been painted as art (which is a total joke) without the parties concerned giving the “green light” it is illegal. And yes, a friend of a friend is a stranger to you and one does not need to gyrate on another in an attempt to socialize.

  4. Tiefing a wine might be given a golden nod, since it appears the police force – if represented by the likes of ASP Michael Jackman – doesn’t know the difference between assault and battery.

    In no less than 2 separate announcements, a week apart at least, he clearly demonstrated his abysmal ignorance of the law. And if the police can’t say what you are charged with, well, how can a court convict you?

    Not for the first time, I wonder why the entry requirements for the police service is so damn low, and why only 6 months of training…. surely, learning about law, and the other requirements of the police career would take a sight more than 6 months to master?

  5. Next norm for legislation? Horn.