Insecure S2E3: Hella Open

I really anticipated ALL sorts of foolery with S2Ep coming off the heels of the dramatically awkward & juicy 1st two episodes. And because Issa Rae is my friend in my head, she came through for me!

The episode starts with Issa fully entertaining being single and "moving on," which to most means actively dating or engaging in romantic or sexual activity. To Issa, specifically, it means finding another man to sleep with--and the Tinder dating app is apparently a good way to go for this (let me know in the comments; I'm gathering some data)! She's awkwardly trying to navigate sexual behavior with new partners--when you do this while you don't know yourself, your needs or your desires well, it might look as awkward as Issa. If she could really & deeply learn the lesson that she is not ready, she could avoid moments like this! (Props to this Luke James cameo--love him!) Issa is so busy encouraging Molly to get back into her own therapy that she's not considering herself as a prime candidate for some deep therapeutic work on relationship grief, social skills and romantic partner seeking. Learning about Lawrence and Tasha catapulted Issa headfirst into the dating game prematurely, which means she arrives on the scene unprepared.

Often, we can feel pressured in dating to know how to go about finding a partner. For clients who are open to dating, I often work with them on becoming more confident in what their relationship needs are and their criteria--what are your negotiables and non-negotiables in a partner & in a relationship? how do you envision your time being spent and what you want to learn? Who do you want to be as a partner? About 80% of my clients have never actively thought about what/who they are looking for. they slide into relationships with people they feel comfortable with or people who fulfill a specific, time sensitive need, then stay in because it's "easier," or "good enough." This tells me that intentional dating, i.e. dating with knowledge of self and what self needs from other, & ability to leave scenarios that don't fulfill these identified needs because it pulls you out of alignment with yourself, is not the norm; leaves room for becoming close to someone who isn't a good fit for you who who you may find yourself MAKING a good fit by compromising on your non-negotiables. Where's your list? What's on it? 

Issa is trying to make it very clear to the universe that she wants to date again and NOW--expressing to Molly that she wants to have a "hoe" phase and needs her help (Really? That's a goal? A skillset?)  "F* love, F* getting to know men, F* feeling feelings." Sigh. Whenever I hear people say that they "hate" feelings, don't have them or don't need them, that tells two some things immediately. 1. They're hurting. 2. They don't understand emotions, in general or their own and think they can spot-check feelings by only turning off the ones that don't feel so good. (This is, by the way, impossible) I wish them the best of luck trying to navigate without 'em! Forget trying to date, Issa could benefit from working on basic social skills, as we see her try & fail to connect with men all episode. From her body language, to her comments, to her questions, Issa is unlikely to find a good fit if she can't even express herself confidently. Seeking out her convenient neighbor works in her favor--no need to have much conversation or get to know each other when the implicit setup is only for sex. Issa gets what she wants in the moment, but again, not what she needs. I'm interested to see if he becomes a consistent sexual partner or if an awkward encounter by the mailboxes is in our future. Issa is no longer in the safe (read: familiar) territory of an unfulfilling relationship. She's unskilled, lacking insight and lacking social skill and criteria for romantic/sexual encounters.

While Lawrence becomes more acquainted with new coworkers & a new work vibe, he's also getting a relevant glimpse at how people his age date and connect with one another, and he LIKES it! I'm honestly glad to see him around some other energy that he appears motivated by. Problem is, he's also fake dating Tasha, and these two options do not go together. We haven't seen not ONE conversation between Tasha and Lawrence about his sleeping with Issa and what it means for both of them, but what we do see is them right back in the saddle without skipping a beat. It can only go one direction when we sweep things under the rug, minimize and pretend they don't exist, and don't speak up when we are confused. Short-term gain -----> Long-term self destruction. Headscarf on (those don't surface until folks go together for REAL), watching TGIT, & family BBQ?? Because you two are playing these avoidant games, someone's (Tasha) bound to be disappointed. Did I expect Lawrence to go THIS left and just not return to the family function? Not at all! This really surprised me in the moment, but the more I thought about it, why would Lawrence show respect now when he hasn't before? The new shiny social life is more appealing to him and gets him to lying QUICKLY. I will say, Lawrence had some empathy from me this season because he is confused, depressed and finding his way. But once you begin actively lying, my empathy meter pushes the other direction real fast. Lawrence could have played that entire situation so differently by saying/doing any number of things from 1. making a plan to be there for no longer than 30m-an hour to drop off chairs, say hey and to keep a frame on her expectations 2. telling Tasha BEFORE the family event what he ended up telling her after he was dishonest; that he doesn't want anything serious because he's newly single & grieving, or 3. YOU DON'T HAVE TO ATTEND THE FAMILY BBQ BECAUSE SOMEONE ASKED YOU TO GO. Lawrence, you've had choices, and you continue to make the least thought out ones. Because someone wants you, or wants you to be a certain way, does not mean you are obligated to be those things. But for Lawrence to get what he wanted--attention, an ego stroke and sex, he had to play the game, right? And he got what he wanted until he became too confident in Tasha's complacency and she finally stood up for herself. 

I'd like to say something briefly about Tasha. I'm seeing quite a few responses about Tasha's character being complicated, being a "victim," of Lawrence, and being vindicated after she yelled at him, called him a few names, and stated that she's been onto his relational deficiencies all along. (I use all these words became I can't type out what she really said LOL) But here's the thing. Lawrence was only able to treat Tasha how she allowed herself to be treated. For her to become upset with him in this moment and only one other moment & only when he is more blatant about not prioritizing her, shows that she's taking no ownership for her role in their situationship. I view Tasha to be just as avoidant as Lawrence, and played into a role that he needed someone to play, and he played into a similar role for her. This isn't to condone or support Lawrence's behaviors (I'm sure you can all tell how I feel about Lawrence by now), but Tasha was an active participant in Lawrence not prioritizing her. She never asked or commanded to be prioritized. She asked for company and took only what he was willing to give & where he was willing to fit her in. She didn't ask the hard questions because she was aware of what the likely answer would be, verbal or nonverbal. Now that she feels embarrassed, it seems OK and empowering to tell Lawrence off, but until I see a behind-the-scenes confessional of Tasha admitting that she relinquished her own control, I will not credit her or allow her to be the face of a "strong woman." Nope. You're not strong until you can hold YOURSELF equally or accurately as accountable for your own circumstances. It's easy to get mad at other people but you don't get to blame people for your emotions. I lied about that being brief. I could say more but I need to move on to Molly! 

Viewers are trying to break Lawrence down into one of two categories; good guy or bad guy, but when it comes to the complexities of being human in contact with other humans, it's never that black and white. Lawrence IS being emotionally and socially immature, even manipulative, but it is clear that this is not a normal pattern for him, or even a pattern he exhibits comfortably. He's guilty-looking, hesitant and not confident about his movements. He's sad, then reactive. e's open, then closed off. None of this has been easy for Lawrence. I'm not condoning his behaviors, but providing an explanation and context helps with understanding. He is still entirely responsible for getting clarity, taking time to himself and figuring out his next moves from a clearer headspace, even if he is swimming in confusion right now. No one else is responsible to help him to feel better or to walk him through this.

Molly. Molly. Molly. Molly is making me sad, though I'm not surprised and VERY familiar with Molly, both personally & professionally. We see her in this moment receiving a heavy shipment of furniture...alone. Carrying it while wearing stiletto...alone. And watching, longingly (and seemingly upset), at a black man help a white woman with her shipment. I'm sure it was enough that Molly was reminded that she was single, but it was very intentional by the writers to see an interracial couple, black man/white woman, doing something she longs to do with a black man. Be together. Feel supported. There are millions of letters and words out there on the internet, in the magazines and books, and in scholarly journals, about the statistics of black "career women" being single and more likely to be unmarried as they age, and the narrative that Molly portrays is just that. Molly wants romantic partnership, but is having such a hard time finding someone equally yolked, that she has put dating on the back burner in order to focus on something more substantial, more controlled, even more fulfilling at times; her flourishing career. Clinically, I work mostly with women of color, and black women of color, and this is often part of our therapeutic work. How to navigate dating when the odds seem stacked against you, not enough positive relationship role models and examples of what a culturally healthy relationship could look like, and how to navigate the dating world as a very capable black women who does not NEED a relationship to live, but WANTS one to enhance her life. I give most of this research a side eye because of is often not written by black researchers or even black women researchers, and pegs black women as deficient, incapable to love, and in a negative light if we choose to prioritize aspects of life other than love. it perpetuates success as only achieved if you are in a relationship or married, AND have a successful career, and if we are not connected romantically (and bring children into the world physically), then we are not enough and that we are "missing" something. It's an emotionally insensitive and dangerous expectation that is so ingrained, it can lead women to bouts of depression, anxiety and poor, reactive relationship choices.

So when we see Lionel (Sterling K. Brown and all his phenomenal acting glory), we are rooting for them! Molly, he's here! The man you've been looking for since fall 2016 on The League app, has arrived! But alas--Molly isn't here for Lionel. He checks off everything she's said she's looking for; attractive, attentive, proactive, good in conversation, interested in her, financially successful, funny AND open! But from the looks of it, Molly is no longer ready to date someone who is ready to date her. It's too early to call this self-sabotage, I'll have to see how this plays out, but something's got Molly falling away from Lionel (while she's simultaneously falling away from therapy), and I'm not too mad about this. While I selfishly want Mr. Brown on my screen more before This Is Us next month (eek!), I don't want Lionel doing too much work for a woman who isn't emotionally available to herself OR to him. I will not penalize Molly for taking time away from dating in order to focus in other areas of her life, unless she strings him along and isn't upfront about where her priorities or fears are. Black women often get penalized for focusing on what they can control i.e. career advancement, but careers and education advancement can often be a place of safety, competence & confidence and a very important part of our identities. Choosing to not date, for any length of time, is NOT deficient. Shame on you if you try to make the Molly's of the world feel so. 


For thought:

-The show writers have received a bit of flak about lack of contraceptive use/conversation in a show about black millenials (who statistically, are at very high risk for STIs). I personally would love to see it as part of narratives, even if no condom use is representative for some. Thoughts?

-Rod Williams (actor from Get Out) and his cameos as Quentin always tickle me. I just love seeing him! 

-Molly is drinking as much wine as Olivia Pope--do we need an intervention? Stay tuned for S2E4 recap SOON! I promise, soon!