By Tamara Prosper
Last night I stumbled upon a new television program called “Married to Medicine.” It’s about the lives of four women who are married to doctors, and two women who are doctors themselves. Like most of its “reality show” predecessors, it is a complete mess! A good friend of mine, who happens to be both married to a doctor and a doctor herself, had already warned me about it, but somehow I was drawn in. When I started watching, everyone was enjoying an evening outdoors at the beautifully landscaped home of a mutual friend. The guests wore formal attire as they sipped wine and casually chatted with one another. This was no rock-n-roll/hip-hop video pool scene. As a matter of fact, the pool appeared to be no more than a lovely centerpiece around which affluent associates could circulate in an effort to discreetly see and be seen. Presumably, the event was hosted by and given for Atlanta’s elite ladies and gentlemen. Aside from a few pretentious personalities and the extreme bulk of several hair weaves, I found no reason to change the channel.
I was even more pleased when one woman chose to avoid causing a scene when an older woman began speaking to her in a way that I thought was out of line. Apparently the older woman took offense to the fact that the younger woman complemented the beauty of the host’s home but neglected to pay a similar complement to the host of a prior event. I learned later that the un-complemented host is the daughter of the older woman. That blatant pettiness should have clued me in, but I was just pleased to see Black women maintaining self-control in a reality show setting. I’m disgusted and bewildered by what appears to be a constant stream of loud, crude, back-biting, selfish, easily-angered Black women on shows like Love & Hip-Hop, Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Keshia Cole: Family First, and others of the sort. It seems like someone always feels disrespected, and therefore must fight.
For a few minutes I was lulled into believing “Married to Medicine” would be different. Of course it had the same set-up; wealthy people; women with attitude issues who can afford enough designer clothes to hide their flaws; fake hair, eyelashes and high end make-up to pass for pretty on television; people pretending to be friends and just enough drama to keep people watching. I kept watching. Really, since I was getting ready for bed I was listening more than watching. I heard a woman speak and I don’t know what she said but her tone held serious attitude. In response, another woman said something along the lines of, “My mother would never say anything like that.” Seconds later they were in a full on, weave grabbing girl fight. They went from being the gentry of Stone Mountain to the hood rats of wherever, in no time flat. I found myself sad and angry all at once.
I wondered how many other people were watching this, not through the eyes of a person who knows that our community is better than that, but through the skewed lens of ignorance. How many people of other ethnicities saw this and thought nothing of it, assuming that is how most Black women (except for Mrs. Obama, Ms. Winfrey and possibly Mrs. Huxtable) normally behave? How many young Black women saw this and thought, I would have smacked her too if she disrespected me like that…? How many people’s thoughts and ideas about Black women were shaped, even slightly, by this ignorant display of “reality?” Many people assume that someone with little money, few options and a life in a low-income community is more likely to act this way because they haven’t been exposed to anything better. They get a different kind of “ghetto pass” to behave badly because they don’t have much going for them. Yet the people on reality shows appear to have everything a poor person could want and they still behave with utter disrespect for themselves. What is going on?
Such displays are evidence that money can purchase many things, but respectful behavior and good manners are not among them. I know some of the women on these programs came from meager backgrounds and their current lifestyle is new to them. So what! People need to behave themselves properly whether they were raised in the projects or on an estate. It’s true that many people have never been taught self-control, patience and decent manners. That happens in every socio-economic group. We haven’t all been blessed with parents or other family members who were willing and able to guide us in the right direction. If mom disappeared, dad worked 16 hours a day and grandma was too old to keep track of what was happening, a child may have never learned that one can only be disrespected by ones own behavior. In other words, we can choose our responses to the behavior of those who mean us harm. Ladies! A hateful word from someone does not necessarily mean it’s time to Vaseline our faces and ask our friends to hold our earrings in preparation for a fight. Respectfully backing away from a fight does not indicate cowardice. In fact it’s often fear that causes people to fight in the first place.
I am a Black woman and I know plenty of women like me. I’ve lived on the East Coast, in the Mid-West and the Deep South and I know poor, middle-class and wealthy people in all of those places. Yet I’ve never seen grown women who supposedly have their lives together behaving the way that the new “reality” stars behave. I know that their lack of control is not indicative of the behavior of most Black women and I hope others know it too. I especially hope that little girls and young women don’t look to any of these people as role models. Reality television is not “real” and many of the women on those shows are just adult versions of confused, scared little girls, doing anything they can for attention, be it good or bad. I urge young women who lack guidance to talk to a teacher, a good neighbor or a good friend’s mother for advice. Imitate the behavior of a respectful lady in your community. Just don’t normalize the immaturity displayed by the few women who portray faux-friendships on reality television. Take this advice from Proverbs 16, The one who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and the one who rules her own spirit is better than the one who captures a city.
Contributing Writer, B.L.O.G. Magazine
Tamara Gaskins Prosper, is a believer in Yahweh and His son Yeshua. She is a resident of New Orleans, La, a graduate of Tulane University and the Social Services Director for one of what she believes to be the best Nursing Homes in the area. She loves working to assist the elders in her community and recently received a Nursing Facility Administrator (NFA) license, which she’s looking forward to using to make an even bigger impact on elder care. Tamara also has a great love for children, especially those who need more support than their families can provide. Most importantly she is a wife and a mother, positions which she feels both honored to hold and blessed to enjoy.