“Mating difficulties do not end among those successful enough to attract a partner. Mate value discrepancies open a Pandora’s box of problems. An omnipresent challenge within romantic relationships derives from mate value discrepancies—when an 8 mistakenly pairs up with a 6, when one member of an initially matched couple plummets in mate value, or even when one ascends more rapidly professionally than the other. Jennifer Aniston’s hold on Brad Pitt proved tenuous.”
-David Buss, “The Mating Wars”
The proverbial ink had barely a chance to dry on my two-part column series on “respectable brothas” when the bombshell of an announcement was heard ’round the world: heart throb actor and self-styled activist Jesse Williams – better known to his adoring (Black female) fans as “Dr. Jackson Avery” from the hugely popular teledrama “Grey’s Anatomy” – was not only divorcing his wife of five years; but he was seen out and about with another lady on his arm.
A very White, very stunning, lady.
When I got the word, I merely chuckled, because I knew exactly what was going on, even though I’ve never met, much less chatted with, Williams; I said as much in the aforementioned column series:
“What, do I mean, when I say “respectable brothas”? I mean the kinds of Black men Edgar rubbed shoulders with during her time at Harvard Law School: highly formally educated and credentialed, white-collar professional Black men, who often also tend to be conspicuously handsome – like the aforementioned Hill Harper, for instance. These are the “dreamboat” brothas that Black women like Edgar literally dream about, as she noted in her piece “The Grooming” (and which I copiously quoted in my last column). Black men like Harper, Obama and Banks, know and understand that to get along in their world, i.e., the white collar world of Big Law, Academia, Politics, Entertainment and the like, they have to “play the game” – say all the right things, never be an “asshole”, and so on. Because the white collar professions at at just about every level is permeated with women in general and for purposes of today’s discussion Black women in particular, Black men like the aforementioned understand very well that if they want to be successful in their chosen fields, it makes good sense to be very nice to Black women like Edgar – at the very least, not to get on their bad sides.”
Barely a year ago, Williams – who, if you didn’t catch on by now, would definitely fit my profile of a “respectable brotha” – gave a speech for his acceptance of BET’s “humanitarian award” during its entertainment awards show last summer. Although Williams’ address was ostensibly about “Black Lives Matter” themes and the usual flogging of White folks for a legacy of slavery, in truth his speech was little more than a whink-and-nod pep talk to the Sistahood – and they lapped it up, like kittens lapping up so much milk from a bowl. Williams was seen as a “down brotha” – one who, despite his leading man looks, worldly success and well-spoken manner, was joined at the hip with the “sista” Aryn Drake Lee – who, by the way, is virtually the same skin tone as Williams himself. The Sistahood was able to conveniently overlook this fact because complexion aside, Aryn comes a lot closer to the looks of the rank and file among the Black Female Collective, than not. Black women could be seen and heard all across the hinterland praising Williams for his undying love for a dowdy, homely and rotund lady as Aryn.
And then came along Minka.
Minka Kelly, an actress in her own right and perhaps best known for her role in the televison adaptation of the film “Friday Night Lights”, has been seen out and about with Williams of late; it’s been reported that they got together as a result of meeting on a film set (as the above quotation alludes to, Brad Pitt would leave his first actress wife Jennifer Aniston for second actress wife Angelina Jolie, whom he met while filming “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”). At present no public declarations of their association has been made known, but I think it’s fair to say that this juncture, everyone knows the deal.
The Sistahood didn’t hesitate to accuse Williams of treason – first to Aryn, then to Black women on a whole, for betraying the “politics of Black love”. Which is a notion that I find utterly laughable in light of the fact that there is no “Black agenda”, let along “Black politics” – as Eugene Robinson so keenly observed in his excellent work “Disintegration: The Spintering of Black America”, there is no one “Black” fill-in-the-blank. Black America, such as it is, in the 21st century, is simply too variegated today. Moreover, it’s hard to see how anyone could accuse Williams of “dating/mating out” when his mama White.
Still, in fairness to my sistas, they do have a point – kinda. After all, Williams, as so many respectable brothas so often do, told Black women want they want to hear – not what is necessarily the truth. Even more to the point, respectable brothas like Williams, say one thing and do something quite different. To be sure, all respectable brothas don’t wind up in the arms of a “Becky”, but what is clear that men of status, fame, power and/or wealth – and almost to a man, this is a big part of the definition of a respectable brotha – DO wind up, sooner or later, with the better off ladies of the world, regardless of color.
That brings me back to the lead-off quotation above. It’s an excerpt of a larger piece written for the Edge organization by David Buss, about what he saw as one of the big problems of the modern age: the shortage of desirable mates. Among other things, Buss talks about the often harsh reality of “mate value” and how those with less of it in the eyes of the opposite sex must lower their own standards, if they wish to mate at all. For those who hope against hope to “shoot out of their league”, things are almost guaranteed to end badly – like it did with Jennifer Aniston. Like it did with Carolyn Edgar.
And like it did with Jesse’s soon to be ex, Aryn Drake Lee.
In my previous column on the topic, I noted the fact that in Black America especially, it is not at all unsual to see “odd couples” like Jesse and Aryn together – not only odd due to the bleedingly obvious “mismatch” in terms of mate value (c’mon, let’s be honest – he’s easily a solid 9 or more – while she’s at best, a 5) – but also due to the equally obvious “success gap” between them. What is so often not openly stated in Black American “mating discussion circles” is that the otherwise frumpy sistas (like the aforementioned Carolyn Edgar) who are nonetheless smart, industrious and successful (read: have formidable amounts of disposable income), can, for a time at least, partner with the conspicuously handsome brothas who, for whatever reason, haven’t hit their stride. In an interesting role reversal, these sistas are in a position to “be the man” while the reverse is true for their Adonis partners. And for awhile, it can work.
The problem, of course, is as Buss points out above – that invariably, especially if the guy in the union has anything going for him – his stock will raise to the point, that it makes the Frumpy Sistas of the world’s hold on them tenuous. Sooner or later, he’s likely to defect from the relationship – as Jesse did with Aryn. Either that, or guys like Jesse wind up being serial cheaters on their less than comely other halves.
At this point, it’s completely understandable to lambaste me, or Buss, or whoever else, for peddling in bottomfeeding shallowness and superficiality. Knock yourself out, if this is your view. But as anyone with one good eye can attest to, it will change nothing. The simple, cold, hard truth of life, is not only are “leagues” real, but, as I’ve said in the previous article, water seeks its own level – there is no escape. Wherever you go, there you are. Men, Black, White or otherwise, seem to accept this truism, more or less. Women – in this case, especially Black, on the other hand, do not.
Like it or not, Jesse Williams, the former “starving artist/activist” public school teacher, is now famous and successful and has upgraded to a woman who is truly on his level. Aryn’s hold on him – “Black Love” and all – proved tenuous.
Anyone wanna take odds that she will now seekout a fellow 4.5?