The Politics of “MWEN RENMEN W'”

This post is also available in: Kreyol

This post was originally written in: Kreyòl

MWEN RENMEN W’ is Haitian Creole for “I love you.” Doris offers her opinion on the use of this phrase in our culture. Do you think we say MWEN RENMEN W’ enough?

There was a time where you could regularly hear kids and adults living in the same household, same community saying mwen renmen w’ to each other. They would exchange the words happily,  reminding the other how much they love them, how much they mean to them. Friends, family, neighbors, classmates, etc. They all at one point were at ease to express their feelings. And one day it stopped. It seems, most families back home don’t have the culture of saying mwen renmen w’ to their kids, or to the people close to them. I could  single out Haitian families in this issue, but I do not want to fall into the trap of generalizing. Maybe I’m exaggerating? Ok, let me start by asking you a question:

When was the last time a member of your family told you, or have you heard someone else say “MWEN RENMEN W’”

If you answer “often”, you are an exception. Love is a verb we mostly conjugate behind someone’s back instead of in front of them. It is a verb that we hesitate to say to people, not because we don’t love them, but maybe because we are afraid. It is easier to show appreciation towards outsiders than to your family. This is not necessarily  because there is discord, but because the concept of opening one’s heart to those closest to us tends to be difficult. We tell ourselves that those closest to us surely already know that we love them, or that they don’t need to hear us say it because they’re with us every day, or we tell ourselves “I’ll have time to say it.”

Many parents will tell their young babies mwen renmen w’ while they are still too young to understand, then stop as soon as they start to mature a little. They treat mwen renmen w’ like a curse word that should not be repeated, or an epidemic that can kill them. To me, a child needs to grow up in an environment where they feel valued and loved, so they can in turn to value and love themselves. These little details apply to adults as well. We all deserve to know and hear how loved we are. We need to know that we will have the support of the home we are evolving in if/when we need it. In this support, there is love, and in this love, there is the ability to say it, to show it.

Some families have a tendency to remind their children that they are well taken care of when they come looking for affection. They remind them that they have shelter, food, a place to sleep etc. What more do you want?? This results in empty family relationships, and can cause people to look for love elsewhere. Brothers and sisters, mothers and/or fathers end up living the same place without really knowing or appreciating each other. The relationship ends up being based on the fulfillment of material needs because, to them, that is ALL the family needs. This is a serious mistake that causes many to grow up in silence, not expressing anything inside. They teach us this from a young age: “Girls, do not show too much emotion, or else people will hurt you. Boys, you are a man, feelings are not manly.” (Sound logic, huh?) In our adulthood, we can begin to see the mental damage these lessons cause in us, men and women alike. But being strong is understanding your weaknesses and strengths, knowing how to move forward with them and control them, not ignoring them. It is knowing that you are a person, and everyone has a right to show and speak whatever emotion or doubt they have.

A lot of times, people equate love to sex or any type of intimate physical contact. They don’t understand that you can love someone’s soul, you can love what the person represents, the way they live, or simply the energy they bring to your life! I will even add, that it’s possible to love more than one person at a time (that’s my opinion, don’t pay too much attention to it, keep reading.) I say all this to say that the culture of not speaking, or living, or manifesting love since the home makes it difficult for people to open their selves up to what love can bring to their lives and to what they can bring in loving others.

The politics of not saying MWEN RENMEN W’ to the people in your home while easily saying you love soccer, or music etc. shows that this mentality can cause one to be unable to show love to anyone. If you love your friends, your family, someone who treats you well, then tell them that. Tell them even if you think it won’t change anything. Saying MWEN RENMEN W’ is one of the best gifts that exists. Let us stop waiting until someone falls ill, dies, or falls into major life issues to tell them MWEN RENMEN W’. Even if you don’t have a reason to, say it.

Do you think you say this phrase enough?? Well then, let me ask you about something else that we don’t do enough in our culture:

When is the last time somebody in your family or anyone else called you, or wrote to you to pay you a COMPLIMENT?


Photo Credit: timoza
Doris Lapommeray

Doris Lapommeray

Doris Lapommeray (Pommeris) is a Haitian architecture student studying in Barcelona, Spain. Doris is a creative and lover of the arts, a painter, drawer, and jewelry maker. She playfully describes herself as a cousin of Basquiat, and niece of Erykah Badu. She is the Creative Director of Woy Magazine.

1 Comment
  1. Beautifully written. This aspect of our culture needs to be known and worked on! Thank you! You guys are doing a great job!

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