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Girlfriends: The Mirror Of Myself I See In Joan Clayton

The most intimate relationship starts with you and ends with you.

Her Voice

The all-time best Black women show in the early 2000s defiantly goes to UPN's Girlfriends! If you weren't a confrontational Maya, maybe you were a materialistic Toni or a free spirit with no responsibilities Lynn or a super accomplished Joan. After the eight-season series relaunched on Netflix in October, I had to rewatch the series over to fully dissect their experiences–as a grown woman and not as a child (like I was back when it came out, and I shouldn't have been watching it).

I saw a bit of myself in all of the women on that show. I am the unapologetic spicy part of Maya, the comical aspect of Toni, and I am a Black bi-racial woman like Lynn; I know the struggle very well of not feeling Black enough. But the character that hits home the most was the mirrored perspective I seein Joan. She had such a big heart, but so little boundaries that she wasn't aware was dishonoring herself more than anything else. Here's what I mean by that.

Joan was the prize and the problem.

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Joan was every Black woman's goal; she was an accomplished lawyer, she rocked her natural curly fro hair like it was nobody's business, was stunningly beautiful from head to toe, and owned a home before 30–all by herself, no man needed! She was the muse, but she didn't know it. Countless times throughout the series, she has bent over backwards for almost every man stepping into her life.

Joan was a serial dater because she feared being alone and feared that she would be unable to have a family of her own because of her biological clock. One of her deepest insecurities was not being able to achieve her fairytale in the timeframe she saw for herself. She went from date to date with minimal breaks without seeing the necessity of reflecting on who and why she involved herself with the men she chose. As I was rewatching the series, I thought this woman is doing too much, and then I sat in my bed thinking, damn, that used to be me.

As women, we stretch ourselves too often, selling ourselves short and falling in love with potential and not thoroughly looking at what this partner can contribute to the partnership. Just like Joan, I didn't see the beauty in solitude or even understand how other people did; I just knew I had a void to be filled. I had long-time abandonment issues due to my biological father being in and out of my life, and I entertained countless amounts of the wrong people to fill that void.

But over the last two years, I learned that no one could fill that void; but me.

A love letter to my younger self.

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If I could write a letter to my younger self, I'd embrace her tightly and tell her I see you trying, but you're putting all that energy in the wrong places. To experience a lasting long-term relationship, you will have to know your worth fully and hold others to the standards you put in place.

Once you know your worth, you're not afraid to be alone, you simply accept that you will be handing out a lot of no's because everyone doesn't deserve access to you.

During Charlamagne's interview with the Girlfriends cast, he asked all the women where they would see all the characters now based on their growth as individuals. Joan a.k.a. Tracee Ellis Ross mentioned she doesn't think Joan got married:

"I think Joan is happy in herself, I don't think she's had a child or gotten married, and I think it sets the example that the happy ending does not mean that you ride off with a man on a horse."

The bigger problem is how society perceives women's worth based on marriage and children and not for their individuality–as their male counterparts. Women are whole people, not just a fraction of a person on a man's arm; we have to hold other women and men that belittle women's worth based on their patriarchal views accountable.

I understand where Joan was coming from why she did what she did, but it's a toxic cycle, and she couldn't find meaningful love until she knew what she was looking for and not just accepting a bunch of nobodies masquerading as her somebody. There is beauty in solitude and digging deeper to know ourselves as women.

Self-reflection is a journey, not a destination, so if you're playing victim, throw that mindset out; you play a part in every relationship you involve yourself in–platonic or romantic.
Slow and steady wins the race; stop trying to jumpstart a super intimate relationship with someone that most likely doesn't even know your last name and is probably wearing a mask for the first six to twelve months of the relationship just to please you. Let people show you who they are; pay attention to how people treat you. Words are easy, but actions show you where someone's heart is.

Partner or no partner, the most sacred relationship is with yourself. The most intimate relationship starts with you and ends with you.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image via Giphy

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