Recently I came across the above picture of my sister Anne (not her real name) and myself posing with the Samoa Canoe Team. I was nineteen at the time and Anne was seventeen. She was five inches taller, had legs a mile long, golden blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a personality that was both inviting and entertaining. So it was no wonder she had all the available boys on the island lined up to date her.
In contrast, I was a sober brunette that found the whole idea of dating to be tedious and awkward. I didn’t understand or appreciate the way Samoan boys wooed their love interests. From my point of view, the boys in our village thought it was acceptable to show up on our doorstep at 11:00 at night, reeking of alcohol, and in slurred pidgin English demanded that my father let them speak to his daughters. Dad kept a cricket bat next to the front door after the first time that happened.
Anne was lucky. She got a job in Pago Pago as a store manager for a paint shop and got to meet civilized men. When she told me she had met a guy that was part of the Samoan Canoe team and wanted me to come with her to meet him and the rest of the team at some awards ceremony, I agreed. I had nothing better to do.
I have to point out that there wasn’t very much to do on the island for a single white girl. I wasn’t going to school; I was working part time as a political cartoonist for my grandparent’s newspaper (the previous cartoonist disappeared, they thought he had been murdered or something, but we weren’t sure. He showed up a few months later without an explanation). Anyway, I wanted to get off the island and go to college, but my family was broke at that time having lost all of our investments in the Chocolate Business (Thanks to Hurricane Val). When I wasn’t working at the newspaper, I was running my small bakery from my home. I didn’t have much of a social life, so I seized any chance I could get to go meet new people and socialize.
That evening, Anne and I got dressed in our best casual clothes; her in a white blouse with knee-length grey short, and me in a red and white striped long-sleeve shirt and jean shorts – stylin’! Doing our hair in the heavy humidity of that tropical climate was pointless. My hair was a mess of waves that was neither straight nor curly and with two cowlicks, hard to do anything with, whereas Anne could do amazing beautiful things with her hair and keep it looking nice all the time. To this day, I have no idea how she always kept her hair and makeup looking so good. I gave up a long time ago trying to compete with her in the looks departments and just accepted my plain-looks as perhaps a blessing that kept the players away.
About 6 that evening, we hopped an aiga bus for Pago, enduring the winds that swept up off the ocean as our nearly drunk driver careened along the winding coastal road. A storm was coming (as you can see in the background of the picture). With slashing rains, and no seat-belts, it was not uncommon to find me squeezing my eyes shut and praying for a safe arrival whenever I traveled by bus in Samoa.
When we arrived at the large domed shaped building in downtown Pago, a party was already in progress. Anne quickly spotted her new love interest, Luther (name has been changed). I could tell immediately that Luther wasn’t Samoan at all. He was Hawaiian and he was HUGE! Slouching as he was in the picture, he actually stood about 6′-8″ and was totally ripped with solid muscle. Luther was a real life version of one of those intimidating statues of an ancient Hawaiian Warrior you’d see as a tourist in Hawai’i. He would easily give Dawyne Johnson a run for his money in being the sexiest Poly alive. When I saw Luther, I instantly developed a serious case of infatuation. I turned to Anne and said, “He is fair game.”
This was the first time I ever openly challenged my sister for the attention of a man. Even though she had found him first, she hadn’t secured his affections. You will recall that I mentioned earlier that in the “beauty” department, I couldn’t compete with my sister, but I had watched and studied her boy-luring tricks all through high school and I was pretty sure I could imitate her.
I think Anne was shocked that I would dare challenge her and I could sense that she had been shaken. Nonetheless, she looked down at me with amusement and upped her feminine charm power. I could feel that power oozing out of her and I must say, I faltered. Looking at Luther again, emboldened me. Something awakened inside me. Maybe it was my latent, slowly developed feminine powers coming awake, but as we approached the team, I felt empowered and ready to do battle with my sister for the affections of this Hawaiian Warrior.
Anne was seriously annoyed with me, but I was totally enamored with Luther. He was the image of any one of the Heroes in my favorite books I liked to read over and over. Luther seemed flattered by our attention, but for as much attention as we were showering on him, his buddies were doing their best to get our attention. Looking back now, I can see how ridiculous we all must have looked. Neither Anne nor I was the least bit interested in the antics of the other guys when this god-like canoe warrior was standing in their midst.
After only about 20 minutes of this funny courtship ritual, Anne asked to take a photo with the team. She snuggled up to Luther’s right and I jumped in on his left. As soon as the photo was taken, Luther said his goodbyes and returned to the party. We never saw him again. Anyway, it’s just as well Luther disappeared as it would have caused a bitter feud between Anne and I had he stuck around and wanted to date either or both of us. When we realized we had both been ditched, it was a bonding experience for us as we realized that good looks or smarts don’t win the guy every day.
As if being rejected by the man of my dreams wasn’t bad enough, when Anne and I waited for a bus home that evening, a FOB, which means Fresh Off the Boat, a Samoan slang word for someone who doesn’t speak good English and/or isn’t very educated, came over and sat down on the other side of Anne. Leaning forward to look past her at me, he asked Anne, “Is this your brother?”
Anne laughed and said, “No, this is my sister.”
He thought about that for a moment, before replying, “He is very beautiful.”
As Anne laughed, I ducked my head and started to cry.
I never did date anyone on that Island.