First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Thank you for your patience while I took a bit of a hiatus to regroup, finish my latest novel, and enjoy the holidays with my family. I'm back, and 2014 is going to be my best blogging year yet! :) So buckle up and get ready for my thoughts on a wide range of topics. Today's topic is one that I've been mulling over all week. Grab your cup of coffee, tea, or your adult beverage of choice, pull up a chair, and enjoy my first blog post of the new year.
Everyone who knows me is aware of my love/hate relationship with reality TV. Part of me loves the salacious and passionate exchanges between those who star on these shows. But part of me has grown weary of the high "rachet" factor.
(Sidebar: Rachet (adj.) - (wretched in the Afro-American derivation of the English language) The word means ghetto, trashy)
It gets annoying to watch the same storyline play out on different shows. (The formula is Man + main girlfriend + side chick ÷ fighting between main girlfriend + side chick = ratings gold) Either there's a ghetto love triangle, or there's a bullying situation resulting in physical violence, or there's a ridiculous amount of money being spent by people who are eager to flaunt their gluttonous ways. It's the reason I don't watch Love & Hip Hop, Bad Girls Club, Basketball Wives, or the Kardashians. But, there are a few shows that have survived the cut. They are my guilty pleasures. The Real Housewives of Atlanta (and the Beverly Hills installment as well) are two of the ones that I still watch. Over the years, I have gotten to know the ladies so well that they are "friends in my head", to borrow a line from Wendy Williams.
We have Nene Leakes, the boisterous, pot-stirring, in-your-face sister with the larger than life personality. Kandi Burruss is the super successful musician and songwriter, who is very unlucky in love. Cynthia Bailey is the former model with a gorgeous face, fierce body, and no backbone. Phaedra Parks is a big time "southern belle" attorney (who can't ever seem to win a case). Add to that a supporting cast of crazies, and the show gets even zanier. Admittedly, I get all my housework done by 8pm on Sunday nights and I shut my bedroom door and grab a glass of wine. Then I sit down and kick it with the ladies from Atlanta. And this season, they have given me so MUCH to think about. There's so much material to work with this season that I could write a dozen blogs about all of the drama going on in ATL! Before this season ends, I'm sure that I will tackle Kandi's unhealthy codependency and her mother's manipulative and self-serving antics. I'm sure that I will address the rise in popularity of Nene Leakes, her lofty demeanor, and her controversial comments. ("Ugh! This is sooooo ghetto!) And, Lord knows that coo-coo Kenya Moore and childish Porsha Stewart are worthy of their own blog posts. But, this time my focus is on a situation playing out in the life of Cynthia Bailey. And there are four words that come to mind every time I see her face.
Let me give you a brief synopsis of her back-story.
Cynthia joined the cast of the show in its third season. She was a top model back in the day, and is the single mother of a little girl (the child's father is sexy actor Leon Robinson). Cynthia had been living in NY, but was moving to Atlanta so that she could marry Peter Thomas. Cynthia was described as a "runaway bride" who was scared of commitment. She had been in relationships with Russell Simmons, and with basketball player Jayson Williams. Her storyline was "Will she go through with it?"; "Will Peter have what it takes to tame the runaway bride?". But that soon proved to be the least of Cynthia's worries. Peter was not doing well financially. Suddenly, Cynthia's money was the main source of revenue for them, and she was sick of footing the bill all of the time. As the wedding date neared, the couple was scrambling to find money to pay for everything. And Cynthia's mother and sister were contemplating whether or not they should hide the couple's marriage license to prevent the union from being legal. They were worried that Peter was not the right man for Cynthia; that his problems with money - mainly Cynthia's money - was a cause for concern.
Viewers watched as Cynthia stuck by her man and married Peter in an elaborate ceremony, despite her family's warnings. But by the following season, Peter's business - a restaurant called Uptown Lounge - had failed. A considerable chunk of Cynthia's money had gone into the failed business. Cynthia's mother and sister were giving serious side-eye, and making their displeasure very well known. But, Peter was unfazed. He took another large portion of Cynthia's money and opened Bar One, a smaller bar and lounge. However, this season here we are again. Peter's bar is facing foreclosure, and despite that grim set of circumstances, he has still purchased a building (in which Cynthia now operates The Bailey Agency School of Fashion) and an $80,000 car without even discussing either purchase with his wife first.
Now this is where it gets interesting. This season, Peter is complaining that his wife isn't giving it up in the bedroom like he wants. In his opinion, she's working too hard. She's also dealing with a health-related issue, causing her libido to suffer even more. Peter has been loud, mean (telling his wife, "you do look pregnant" as she battles fibroid tumors in her uterus), insensitive, and brash this season. Whenever she brings up his financial improprieties, he flips out, cursing, yelling and pacing around menacingly. He has expressed his desire for a "man cave". No, not the basement room that many men have in their homes to use as an escape from the women in the house. Peter wants a whole separate apartment that he can use as his "man cave". Despite the financial problems that keep Cynthia up at night, Peter remarked to his fellow "Real Husband" Apollo that, "I started to get the Aston Martin instead [of the Mercedes Benz], but I got this." Ignoring his vows to stay true to Cynthia in sickness and in health, Peter admits that if she hadn't had surgery to correct the fibroids and restore her sex drive, he and his boys were heading out of town so that he could cheat on his wife discreetly. Adding fuel to the fire, Cynthia's sister meddling Mallory is back and she has announced that she is going to move in with the couple for the next two months.
Recipe for disaster.
As I munch on my snacks and sip my wine, I'm riveted by the drama. Whenever I find myself this engrossed in a storyline, I try to psychoanalyze the people involved. What's Peter's problem?, I wonder. Why is her family so meddlesome? Is her family saying all of the things that she isn't brave enough to say herself? Why is Cynthia still with this jerk? And I now have a theory about it: Cynthia is determined to make her marriage work so that she doesn't have to hear those dreaded words from her family. "I told you so."
No one likes to be on the receiving end of this sentence. We all want to prove the naysayers wrong. We want to defy the odds. I went through a similar situation with a so called "relationship" I was in several years ago. In retrospect, I was the only one in the relationship. But I couldn't see that at the time. Then, my father voiced his unsolicited opinion that the whole thing was doomed from the start. I was defiant. I would prove him wrong. My situation was different, I insisted. I would show him! Of course, he was right. I wasn't sure if I was more upset about the failed "relationship" or about the fact that I would have to go back to my Dad with my tail between my legs and admit that he had been right all along. It took me so long to get up the guts to admit the truth to him. But when I did, his only response was a knowing smile, a slight shake of the head, and a pat on the back. "It's alright," he said. "His loss." That was it. Not the long, drawn out "I told you so" speech that I was expecting. Still, the sting of having to acknowledge that I had been warned and I still fell flat on my face was painful.
I see that same thing playing out in Cynthia's life. Let's be honest. Not just in Cynthia's life. In many lives going on around us every day. People hold on - to that job that's heading nowhere, or that (wo)man who's no good, or that house we can't afford, or that car, that business, etc. - just to avoid having to hear someone say, "I told you so." We present an image to the world that we've got it going on. Our homes, cars, kids, jobs, relationships, credit, cash flow...everything is going GREAT! And we fight tooth and nail to maintain that image. God forbid anyone should know that we're secretly worried about XYZ, or that the thing that seems so "picture perfect" to the world is really just a mirage. I believe that we've all been guilty of it at one time or another. That desire to defy the odds, to prove the world wrong, or to just save face has kept many of us spinning our wheels in dead end relationships and even friendships for years!
"The People". That's the phrase an old friend of mine would often use. Her mother was always worried about "The People". What will "The People" say if they find out that my child is less than perfect? We can't let "The People" find out that our marriage isn't really happily ever after. Don't go out there telling "The People" our personal family business. In fact, churches are filled each and every Sunday with those who put on a show for "The People", worrying about which hat to wear, which shoes, running to the nail salon, the hair salon, and buying new suits just to praise the Lord! If church folk are worried about what "The People" think, you know the average Joe and Jane are even more pressed to keep up appearances.
It makes me sad for Cynthia, and for others like her. And it makes me grateful that I let go of my worries over what people may think about the goings on in my life. None of us lives a perfect life. And, while no relationship is 100% wonderful 100% of the time, I think it's vital that we learn to cut our losses before we allow doomed involvements to do irreparable damage to our emotional health. Why stay in a situation just to avoid having to hear "I told you so"? Take that experience and chalk it up as a lesson learned.
As I tune in for the remainder of the season, I'm hopeful that Cynthia will face the truth about the state of her marriage. It's a hard truth. Peter doesn't respect her. He wants to appear to be the "man" in their family, but he spends money like a little boy who can't wait to blow his allowance. He's arrogant and condescending toward her - and that's when the cameras are rolling! I can't imagine how he must talk to her when her sister and the Bravo TV cameras are not around. Peter has big dreams, but no solid plans for how to make them come true. He sees something he wants - a building, a car, a new business - and he gets it, even when he's using his wife's money to pay for it. And to add insult to injury, he doesn't even bother to discuss it with her first. But, here's the best part: she allows it. She barely says a word. All because she's worried about saving face in front of "The People", and in her case "The People" are her mother and sister. The very people who will no doubt be there to help her wipe the tears and pick up the pieces when this farce inevitably falls apart.
Let 2014 be the year we stop worrying about "I told you so" and start chalking our experiences up to "Lessons learned". After all, life goes on, and the goal is to grow in the process. Growth often involves growing pains. But that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
And "I told you so" ain't never killed nobody.