I'm Afraid of Being Mary Jane

Gabrielle Union will be returning to our television screens very soon for the third season of BET’s popular drama series, Being Mary Jane. I’ve kept up with the Mara Brock Akil production since it first arrived as a T.V. movie in 2013. The series takes us inside the life of the fictional Mary Jane Paul who is a successful journalist and talk show host for the (fictional) news network, SNC. The ups and downs that she experiences in her life when it comes to family, work and relationships make Mary Jane to be relatable to many Black women. But maybe too relatable.

When I first started watching the program, I was very excited to see the portrayal of a successful Black female journalist, mainly because that is what I aspire to be. She was gorgeous, owned a beautiful home, drove an amazing car and had a job that so many of us dream about. But as I continued to watch, things began to get a little scary for me. Although Mary Jane was a successful Black woman, it bothered me to see her struggle when it came to romance.

In the very first scene of the show when it aired we were able to see a very steamy moment between Mary Jane and her gorgeous love interest, Andre (Omari Hardwick). She wakes up in the morning on cloud nine and full of bliss until the bomb is dropped that he’s married. The worst part about it is that she found out by stepping on his wedding band. Then, there’s her ex David (Stephen Bishop). He’s the successful man that Mary Jane allowed to get away, but she still finds trouble letting him go. When they finally tried to give each other another go, Mary Jane finds out that he’s gotten his new girlfriend pregnant. And finally there was Sheldon (Gary Dourdan), the suave and debonair lawyer who knew how to do and say all the right things until it came time to get serious. Mary Jane wanted to be married and have a baby. Sheldon did not. What a perfect life... or so we thought.

When I look at the life of Mary Jane, it’s a little hard to not think that this is the norm. I have read so many stories and have seen so many portrayals of Black women who have success in one arena but are struggling in another. Is it really so impossible for a woman to have it all?

Like I mentioned above, I very much aspire to have a career in media. Being involved with the media, especially the news, can be a very demanding career path. Sometimes to the point where work is just about all you do. I remember at one point in the show, Mary Jane’s producer and friend, Kara, was dealing with a recent divorce. The cause of her divorce caught my attention quickly. It wasn’t infidelity or anything of the sort, but her husband divorced her because she was too invested in her job. When I saw Kara’s storyline unfold, the first thing I thought was, “oh no. I don’t think I’ll ever be applying to be a producer.” I desire to be a wife and mother one day and I do not want my time with family to interfere with my love for my career. I knew I didn’t want to end up like Kara. But then I had to snap myself out of it and ask, “why would I ever consider depriving myself of my dream of having a family while also being successful career-wise?”

Society paints the picture that we cannot have it all. Being Mary Jane reinforces that image. Just when it seems like things are about to look up for Mary Jane, it all comes tumbling down. Why is it that women can’t dream of having it all when it comes to a personal life and a professional life? Sometimes this negative stigma can allow real women watching to think that they cannot attain their “American Dream”. So instead of still believing for that dream to take shape, they shut one part of it down for the other. It’s either I have a successful career or a successful family life. It seems like both can ever be a thing. I fear that possibility. For me, that is failure. I believe in the concept of balance and that if done right, success can be achieved within both avenues. I guess that just means having the right support system.

I also don’t want to end up like Mary Jane in the sense that she felt the need to settle for men who weren’t able to give her what she needed. It saddens me that some women feel the need to take such measures as to capture a man’s sperm without his knowledge so that she can become pregnant. It hurts my heart that some women are trying to create a fairy tale with a man that is married or a man who has no real intention of committing. Look at Sanaa Lathan’s character in Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys. She was sold a dream and was convinced that the man whom she was having an affair with would leave his wife for her. But in the end, she was dragged. I mean, it works out for some, but I’m sure that isn’t the plan that anyone has in mind when they think about finding the love of their life. It’s tough to even think about.

I hope that there will be more of us who will be able to get away from this notion. I earnestly believe that we can and will have it all. I do believe that there is someone out there who is able and willing to give us what we need without any strings attached. We just have to be more mindful of our situations, have a little more patience and realize what we deserve.

I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid of being Mary Jane.