Wednesday morning, as I was getting ready for my fabulous day of work at the Women’s Center, I turned on the television to watch old sitcoms (because we all know, the best old sitcoms are on either in the early morning or late evening). However, I am impatient, so during commercials I like to flip around to other channels. So, while waiting for “A Different World”, I flipped over to MTV, and the show “True Life” was on. For those unfamiliar with the program, “True Life” follows the stories of 2-3 main characters, all with a common thread for that specific episode. I’ve seen episodes about marriage, competitive eating, and poverty. Their scope is amazing.
This specific episode was titled “I’m Giving My Boyfriend an Ultimatum”, and it followed the lives of two young women, Massiel and Amela, who are in relationships with men that were crippling them from reaching their full potential. To watch the full episode, visit MTV.
Although I could only watch snippets before leaving for the day, it was enough to have a profound impact and elicit an emotional response out of me. I do not want to spoil the episode, but I will provide some background information.
Massiel was in a relationship with Eddie, and in the beginning, they were in fairy-tale land. He spoiled her rotten, and she ate it up. Within a month, they moved in together. But shortly after that, things changed completely. Eddie alienated Massiel from her friends, forced her to become a stay-at-home girlfriend, and only does nice things for her when he can reap some benefit from it. He is very particular about how she handles her appearance, and even charged her with growing out her big toenail longer because her second toe was longer than the big toe (Yeah–it’s like that. I am not exaggerating). Amela wants to study abroad and pursue a life with a “viable career”, but her boyfriend Senad is content with his career as a DJ. Amela has tried to convince Senad to re-evaluate his life goals and to go to school like she is, but Senad does not feel like that is his path. While Amela put off her travels for close to two years while dating Senad, he is not comfortable with Amela’s desire to study abroad for a semester.
Needless to say, this episode messed me all the way up.
I was heartbroken watching Massiel’s story. No woman should endure that amount of scrutiny, isolation, and discontent with any person period. I learned from an early age that any person, male or female, that comes into your life and drags you away from your dreams and the ones you love, and places you in a situation where there is little room to escape is dangerous. Some people end up experience abuse, some depression, and it is not safe. I truly believe a romantic partner will further illuminate the beautiful things about yourself, and when one tries to erase such things, only drama and pain will ensue.
However, when following Amela’s story, I found myself conflicted. Maybe it is the gadfly in me, but I staunchly criticize what our society deems as a successful path. To be quite honest, some of us will not need a college degree or a 9-to-5 job to make an impact on this world, and I was upset with how Amela tried to force Senad in that framing when it was obvious that he does not see life as that. A romantic partner should encourage his/her mate to follow their dreams, and not their own. I do understand, however, Amela’s fears; she envisions her future a certain way, and although she loves Senad, his path and her path are not converging in the way she desires. When you love someone, you desperately want it to work, but sometimes it just does not happen like that…
I feel for these women. I already know just by hearing their stories that of the millions of viewers, most of them, both men and women, have merciless criticism resting for them. They can call Massiel weak, they can call Amela demanding, but at the end of the day, they are caught in a web that many of us women fall into. They are giving their partners an ultimatum, as the title suggests, but they are also giving themselves an ultimatum: stay in a relationship that rests on dependency but also on sheer unhappiness, or venture down the road less traveled: the road to self-worth and fulfillment, a path that can only be journeyed alone. Truth be told, you cannot seek these things through a relationship; you have to find them yourself, so that when there is no one around, your self-worth will preserve your strength and give you the essential lifeline to continue on the path.
Once you see it like that, you have more compassion for these women. In a society that proclaims the main way to fulfillment for women is through marriage, we are in a constant tug of war between our aspirations and making sure our heart has its fare share of TLC. I struggle with this on the daily, knowing that many of the steps I take have to be made on my own, in my singleness, and that my personality does not scream “Damsel in distress waiting to be swept up by my Prince Charming”. But, in all honesty, I want to share my life with someone just as much as the next person; but, just as Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist taught me in my senior year of high school, my purpose must be my driving force in life, and if I ever have a life partner, we must complement and enhance our respective purposes. In layman’s terms, I want my man to cheer for me just as much I want to cheer for him.
This is quite possibly the most vulnerable I’ve ever allowed myself within a blog post, and that’s completely fine, because I want whoever reads this to understand that as selfless as one can be, it is okay to guard your heart. It is okay to preserve yourself. It is okay to want to love someone who motivates you to be the best you and not compact and contain you to be the best person for them. We all deserve a person like that. We all deserve to give ourselves that ultimatum.