I wanted some time to settle into writing this blog before I opened up a vein online—there are some subjects that are very personal to me that I have not discussed with many, if any, people. In fact, I would have liked to open up sooner about this to some of those closest to me before spilling my guts to the whole of cyberspace. But a certain reality TV show has brought out a subject about which I can empathize with both of the combatants…and opens a lot of old wounds and unresolved issues in my own life.
Despite my resistance, I have gotten sucked into Hollywood Exes. Following the exploits of Mayté Garcia (former Mrs. Prince Rogers Nelson), Nicole Murphy (former Mrs. Eddie Murphy), Sherree Fletcher (former Mrs. Will Smith), Jessica Canseco (former Mrs. José Canseco) and Andrea Kelly (former Mrs. Robert Kelly), and their adjustments into a less high-profile world than they enjoyed during their celebrity marriages, the ladies act as each other’s social and emotional supports. The show in large part has stayed on the classy side thus far, with few outrageous moments and burgeoning “catfights.” However, in one episode a confrontation arose between Mayté and Jessica regarding Jessica’s seemingly callous mention of having had an abortion in a previous altercation with Sheree. Mayté is the only one of the five women who has no living children—she miscarried one and the other, while born to term, only lived a week. So to be sitting amongst friends and have this touchy subject come up in such a cavalier way did not sit well with Mayté. As viewers, we had the opportunity to hear Jessica relay part of her story to her daughter Josie—and we see here that though it may seem that Jessica is glib about it, this is not an easy thing to deal with. Unfortunately, in that given moment at the restaurant, Mayté doesn’t know any of this and kind of loses it, throwing a glass across the room and walking away from the table shaking in anger and frustration. Jessica is nonplussed, not understanding why Mayté is so upset and believing that this behavior is an overreaction. Feeling that the mellow vibe of the evening has been lost and that she is under attack, Jessica decides to leave the restaurant.
I could relate to both sides as I have been through the emotional process of an abortion and I am mourning, lamenting and second-guessing my current childless state. I was a young college student when I discovered I was pregnant, and the circumstances with the father did not lend themselves to our successfully completing school, finding gainful employment and being responsible for a young life. I knew well from friends and classmates that, while difficult, it could be done; I just didn’t know if I could do it. Additionally, I had yet to tell my parents, who I knew would not be happy about my being an unwed mother and was fairly sure that support from them, if I got any, would be tinged with disappointment and the heavy leverage of guilt. I vacillated every day between keeping my child while facing my parents’ censure and releasing my child from a possible life of struggle. I thought long and hard about giving my child up for adoption despite protests from the father—a conflicted adopted child himself-—and facing the fear and potential pain of the Procedure, which was the only way I could think of it to get myself through with my heart semi-insulated. I imagine these are all of the feelings Jessica was trying to mask, distancing herself emotionally from a statement about an actuality that was more painful to disclose than she was willing or able to let on.
I truly believe that I would never have accomplished any of the things in my career had I attempted to do so while being a mother, yet I often have times where I wonder if maybe the tests of that situation were exactly what I needed to happen to me. I think often about what he or she would have looked like and what it would have sounded like to have them run around with their cousin. I’ve had two different surgeries on my uterus and have had the overwhelming guilty feelings that I was being punished for my choices and would never be blessed with a family of my own. I see my friends and classmates interacting with their children and sometimes grandchildren and am wistful about what I have missed. I have not given birth to a child and watched him struggle to survive for one week like Mayté did, but I did have a bond with my unborn child despite my ultimate decision to discontinue the pregnancy. Even with that, I knew that my feelings were not exactly the same. Having spoken to a few friends who have gone through that, the majority of those who have dealt with miscarriage have had the same run of polar emotions, with the added anguish of having seen or held their child at least once, and possibly having known that young little personality for all too brief a time in reality, as opposed to the abstract connection I feel with my unborn child—or children, as the doctor was never able to confirm whether or not my pregnancy was a multiple. And a surprising number of them are pro-choice in spite of what they’ve been through—or at least pro-choice for the woman that choice directly affects. The majority all agreed that this was a subject that required more understanding and sensitivity and less judgment, so that women wouldn’t have to feel defensive or put up a façade when talking about it. They all thought that we as women should be able to have open and honest dialogue amongst ourselves so that the treacherous emotional waters would not be quite as hard to navigate, or need to be dealt with alone. (Or even to some extent ignored or unacknowledged, as outside of this post my circumstances have not been approached by or discussed or with anyone close to the situation.)
Subsequent episodes have the remaining ladies talking to both Jessica and Mayté about what happened and trying to dissolve the tension; not knowing each other’s full story and dealing with their own pain, both are reluctant until finally on one group outing Jessica tentatively approaches Mayté and suggests they schedule some one-on-one time to really talk it out with each other and clear the air. The magic of television edits down a lot, but it seems that once they finally have that lunch everything is put out on the table and Jessica has come to the realization that her response may have come across as insensitive, while Mayté accepts that what seemed like indifference was a self-protective front.
I was concerned that despite the positive resolution of other difficult conflicts that this particular one would continue to cause tension with the ladies; while excellent for ratings and promotion, not only would this not be helpful to either Jessica or Mayté’s private pain or interpersonal interactions, but it would eventually put a strain on all of the other ladies and deteriorate the group dynamic. As one of the few “fantasy reality” shows that has adults women actually behaving as such and solving their problem in a manner befitting that status, I was glad to see the intelligent and genial resolution to a weighty encounter. It also helped ease a few heartaches of my own in the process. If we have to look to celebrity women as role models, these ladies offer a very reassuring example.