I am so grateful to see a strong Black woman lead in a made-for-Netflix movie. Sanaa Lathan was stunning in the recently released flick, Nappily Ever After, a movie about self-love and self-discovery wrapped up in Black women’s complicated relationship with our hair. But as the premier relationship coach for smart, successful sistas, I was disturbed by another movie which doesn’t show powerful Black women winning at love.
SPOILER ALERTS ahead–skip this part if you haven’t watched the movie yet.
Violet Jones (Sanaa Lathan) is the perfect woman. She has a high-powered career. She owns a beautiful home. Her wardrobe is fierce. And her boyfriend is a successful doctor, but he hasn’t put a ring on it yet. If this storyline feels familiar it’s because we’ve seen it in Olivia Pope, Being Mary Jane, Insecure and other shows featuring successful sistas.
Violet soon realizes putting all her energy into become the RIGHT kind of professional Black woman doesn’t lead to the outcomes her Mama told her would be hers if her life was a perfect as her hair.
Her pursuit of perfection ends after a heartbreaking breakup with her boyfriend. She ends their 2 year relationship after he doesn’t propose to her on her birthday. He called her the “perfect” woman, but it turns out that her mother’s teachings were wrong. Men don’t want a perfect woman. They want a REAL woman.
Violet is thrown into an identity crisis. She must not have ever listened to India Aire’s song, “I Am Not My Hair,” because we see her trying on different identities by changing up her hair. A bad relaxer turns into a long weave, turns into a blonde bob, turns into a drastic act of shaving it all off in the middle of the night.
I guess my Mama was right: you can tell a woman is going through something when she changes up her hair. And Coco Chanel said, ”
“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”
At the same time we see Violet transition from perfectly coifed, straight hair into a naturalista, we see her taste in men change. Her blonde hair attracts a white guy in a club who gets her drunk and takes her back to his place. Her shaved head leads her to fall for a barber who makes natural hair care products from the plants he grows in his home, which he shares with his daughter. He’s sensual. Earthy. Simple. And it seems Violet blossoms into her authentic yet awkward self when she’s developing a friendship with him. There’s no passionate sex to cloud her judgment about him. He’s a good guy. Financially stable, but not affluent. Flawed, but principled.
It seems she’s found herself. And her man!
But the movie doesn’t let her have her happily ever after with him, or with any man. Violet sabotages this relationship, goes back to her ex who showed up to her home unannounced (STALKER much?!) and they make love in the shower. He proposes with an onion and it appears she’ll be able to keep her natural hair and get the man. Nope. She chooses herself, ultimately, and walks off into the sunset with her head held high.
Some sistas online were ecstatic that we “finally” get to see a true love story. A story of self love.
But why do Successful Sistas constantly have to choose between loving themselves and being loved by the right man? Why can’t we have both?
The truth is we can, but we’ve got to disrupt these 3 urban legends that keep showing up in conversations about Black women and love.
Urban Legend #1: “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else”
I actually used to teach this to the singles I coach. In fact, I still spend a lot of time talking about self-love and self-care, because many of the high-achieving, highly successful Black women I mentor put themselves at the bottom of their priority list. They know how to be strong for everyone else, yet have a hard time receiving love.
However, my perspective changed when I read this quote by psychologist Ken Page:
“Sometimes the only way to learn self-love is by being loved–precisely in the parts of ourselves where we feel most unsure and tender.”
In other words, when we open up and those parts of ourselves that we tend to feel insecure about are loved and accepted by someone else, we learn to love them too. Sometimes we don’t recognize how amazing we are until we see ourselves through someone else’s eyes!
Urban Legend #2: “A relationship can’t heal you. Become whole first and then look for love.”
On the surface, this cliche holds a lot of truth. How many times have you fallen in love with someone who needed to be “fixed?” This person was unable to overcome his or her insecurities and there was a lot of pain and drama in the relationship as a result. It makes sense that we’d teach people to be 100% whole before they joined lives with someone else.
But there’s another way to think about the purpose of relationships (especially marriage) that shows God’s original design. I listened to a marriage therapist say this at a seminar:
“If you’ve been hurt in a relationship, the only way to be healed is through another relationship.”
In other words, instead of trying to avoid a relationship, and avoiding being hurt again, those wounds can be loved into healing through another relationship.
Simply put, your healing is waiting for you in another relationship.
Urban Legend #3: “Work on yourself before you even think about getting married.”
Shouldn’t you work on yourself before you try and attract someone into your life?
Yes and no.
If you broke your leg, would you try to work on it yourself?
Would you try to read books about loving your leg so it can be ready to walk again?
Would you ask your friends for advice on how they healed their legs and then go and try to do what they did?
Would you spend time praying and reading your Bible so that your leg could heal?
Because the longer you waited, the more infected your leg would get. Instead, you’d go to the doctor who would immediately know how to fix your leg!
In much the same way, if your heart has been broken, you can’t “work on yourself.” You can work on yourself with someone’s help, however!
If you’re reading this blog, it means I am the messenger assigned to coach and mentor you into the greatest love of yourself at the same time that you’re bringing in the greatest love of your life. My tools and strategies have worked for successful women like you who are now in passionate, powerful relationships.
Is now the time for us to work together? Apply for a no-cost Fix My Love Life Now consultation. I’ll show you how my distinct dating methodologies will take you deeper than cliches and urban legends. You’ll have real tools to empower you to be found by the man you’ve been looking for. <<< CLICK HERE >>>
Photo Credit: Sanaa Lathan. Photo: Tina Rowden / Netflix