A series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.
Oh they gonna hate me for this one…
Recently the conversation about infidelity has come a few times. I entered a Facebook debate about the lead character of Scandal, Olivia Pope, and whether or not she represented a “sidechick.” Naturally, I first wanted to define the term sidechick and what it means to be with one (because its a colloquial term and its subject to different meanings). However, for me, what the conversation came down to was whether or not Olivia and Fitz’s relationship could be considered cheating. The show’s plot is more complex than just making the two characters the participants of an illicit affair. The two characters are in love as well as in the public eye and because of the public nature of their lives, they cannot be together at the moment. Fitz’s wife knows about the relationship and Fitz himself has told his wife that he is in love with Olivia and, if not for the threat to his position as President, he would leave his wife and be with Olivia.
On the reality side there has been a lot of recent conversation about Dwayne Wade and his girlfriend of 4 years, Gabrielle Union. It was publicly announced that Wade had recently become a father again with a woman that was not Union. Wade’s original statement that the child was conceived during a break in the relationship has been refuted and the media has generally accepted the position that Wade cheated on Union. Neither Union or her ‘people’ have made any statements regarding the news. However, Union made a very obvious statement in her acceptance of Wade’s proposal this December. So, ofcourse, the buzz has become a flurry of questions about whether or not Union should marry her cheating (alleged) boyfriend.
In both instances, with the fictional Olivia Pope as well as with Gabrielle Union, I have reserved the opinion that neither is foolish, or dumb, or wrong for continuing their relationships with the men they love. My point is that relationships are complex and almost never black-and-white and infidelity is no different.
Infidelity, is about loyalty and a failure to fulfill one’s obligations to another. I do not argue with this notion. However, who can say that they have never failed at meeting an obligation, for whatever reason? So, what makes it different when we talk about relationships? The major difference that comes when we use the term in reference to relationships is based on the way that we view relationships.
In our imperialistic capitalistic society, everything tends to become a possession to be commodified, including relationships. We only befriend those that we will feel will advance our causes or help us to attain some goal — whether that is financial, emotional, or social. We only choose the jobs that are prestigious and add to our career advancement. We only participate in those activities that allow us to present a grand lifestyle to the world. In short, everything comes with a purpose. We rarely do anything for passion or the sake of someone else. When we approach people and relationships like this, we are destined to lose. No one wants to be a slave. And that is what we will make them if we can only view them for their value to us or our lives.
In short, we are selfish. And what’s worse is that this idea is fostered by society. We are told to do so. we are told that if we don’t look for ourselves no one else will — a lie. We are told that our every act of selfishness is about self preservation, which is natural — a lie. Certainly there must be a level of concern for one’s well being, but when it comes to emotions, we often don’t know what is best or most healthy. We’re all just guessing. And we neglect the fact that no 2 situations are ever the same; what might a healthy act of self preservation in one situation is just a willful selfishness in another. There is nothing black-and-white about matters of the heart.
We do not always find our great loves the first time around; however, when we find them, we know it. That emotion we feel for that person will inspire a level of commitment and connection to that individual. This connection cannot always be demonstrated or dictated by holding a certain title or position in that person’s life. That wouldn’t make the two people any less connected just as getting married doesn’t make to be fall in love with one another (or stay there). Olivia and Fitz on Scandal are the star-crossed lovers who are always missing one another. When one is ready to throw caution to the wind and pursue their love at all costs, the other is usually not in that same frame of mind. The one constant is that they remains supportive of one another and their love for one another endures. At the heart of any relationship, that is all that really matters.
When love is seen as a commodity, we feel we have to consume that person. They are our property and we don’t want to share. It’s because we love them and want them and value the connection with them, but often it gets expressed in a possessing of that person. Therefore, infidelity is viewed as a theft of what belongs to us. Honestly, anyone who could possibly objectively say that infidelity is an automatic reason for ending a relationship is looking at the relationships as a commodity: something they own. The details of Union and Wade’s situation is largely unknown; yet, the public has stood as judge and jury sentencing not only Wade but the relationship to death. There are so many negative emotions and issues surrounding infidelity, but if we see it as a poor choice a person has made or their failure to live up to their obligations, a story unfolds. this story considers that this person is a person and at all times has the choices. The reason they have made the choice they did is where the true problem lies. In Union and Wade’s case, the true problem was obviously something that could be surmounted — and that is what they intend to do. And how anyone can not see the beauty in two people overcoming their own demons and struggles together, I’ll never understand.
It is easy to stand outside a situation and criticize those who are living the life that we voyeuristically watching. It is easy to use any and every publicly acceptable excuse to resign from the hard work of building a relationship with someone. It is easy to give up as soon as we find out our potential romantic partner is as flawed as we are. It’s easy to be selfish and to think only of ourselves, but that is the complete opposite of what a relationship is. Relationships are about connections of sustained commitment to other people and in that it requires a commitment to the consideration of both parties by both parties.
There is nothing more tragic than a person with a big heart and a small mind. our potential for love s limited by our ability to conceive of it n its truest form. Until we can see love beyond labels, titles, and ownership, we will continue to experience romance superficially. There is no tangible value through act or word that can measure the infinite potential and power of true love. A selfish person rarely realizes that no one wants to be with someone who will at every turn always choose themselves over the other person and the relationship. That in every moment of failure their partner will abandon them emotionally and/or physically. No one is signing up for that. To expect someone to always live up to our idealized fantasies about relationships places a superficial value on something that is priceless. I do not propose that anyone should allow themselves to be degraded or become someone’s doormat; I’m proposing that every poor choice; every bad decision; every failure is not black-and-white. It’s all actually some shade of gray. If we are truly seeking a loving connection and romantic partnership that defies the odds, then we will have to defy the opposition. When giving up stops becoming an option, succeeding does.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man