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Ready To Feel Old? 'Girlfriends' Turns 20 This Year. (Wow, Sis)

Take a moment and ask yourself: Where would Joan, Mya, Lynn and Toni be now?

Culture & Entertainment

Charge it to my daddy when I say that I adore accumulating random bits of information. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to look around to see what movies had anniversaries this year (you know, being that 2000 was the end of a millennium and all; you can verify that it was the end and not the beginning here and here). Anyway, I was already trippin' when I saw that, in 2020, movies like Inception and The Social Network are 10; Crash, Hustle & Flow and The 40-Year-Old Virgin are 15; Love & Basketball, Bring It On and Bamboozled are 20, and Bad Boys, Braveheart, Clueless, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Usual Suspects, Seven, Toy Story and Friday (its official anniversary is actually Sunday, April 26) are all 25. What in the world?!

As I kept going down the rabbit hole of entertainment nostalgia, what caught me totally off guard was the fact that on September 11, 2000, the very first episode of Girlfriends premiered.

Girlfriends. I mean, that fact threw me so much that I actually went to some of the cast member's social media pages, just to make sure that Google wasn't trippin'. It wasn't.

Wow. Just wow. Back in 2000, I was 25 (26, by the time of the actual premiere date). Matter of fact, I didn't even start watching Girlfriends until I was like 28-29. It started out because people would tell me that I reminded them of Toni on the show. Yeah, I didn't believe that either until one day, back when I was on social media, Facebook had a day when we all were supposed to put up our celebrity doppelgänger. I posted a picture of Jill Marie Jones (who played Toni Childs on the show) with short hair. No one noticed that it wasn't me for two weeks (hilarious).

Anyway, that's just one of the many things that makes me smile when I think back to the sitcom that featured four women doing their thing in Los Angeles. Like so many other Black shows, Girlfriends paved the way and set the tone, on so many levels.

Black-ish Season 6 "Girlfriends Reunion" Featurettewww.youtube.com

I remember last year, back when Joan, Mya, Toni and Lynn made an appearance on Black-ish. As they were doing their press tour for it, the cast addressed two questions that a lot of us have had for years. One, no Jill Marie did not fall out with everyone else when she left the show; she simply wanted to move on and that happened to be the season before Girlfriends came to an end.

And two, just like when it came to Living Single (and I want to say the "spin-off" from Girlfriends, The Game as well), they didn't get a proper series finale. The final episode was "Stand and Deliver", where Joan read a letter to her fiancé Aaron's class, letting him know that he was coming home from his stint in Iraq. (Yes, ya'll. The CW totally left us hangin'.)

In a particular article I read that referenced all of this, Tracee Ellis Ross said that, in regards to a reboot, that would probably be unrealistic, but the cast was open to doing a movie:

"People will literally come up to us and say, 'Why don't you guys get on Netflix,' but what they don't realize is we literally have no power over that. We weren't executive producers or showrunners, we were just actresses, so we have no say in none of that."

So that gave me an idea. Rather than wait until the fall to write a piece celebrating the show's 20-year anniversary, I thought it would be a good idea to get this out now. For one thing, it'll give us five months to (hopefully) create a buzz that just might get Netflix (or somebody) to take seriously that, not only is a Girlfriends movie something that we want but it's something that the creator (Mara Brock Akil) and cast truly deserve. And secondly, it gives me the opportunity to do a little dreaming in the meantime about what I think life for the ladies would actually look like right now. Are you ready to brainstorm a bit with me?

Joan Carol Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross)

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I'm gonna be honest. A part of me wonders if the writer who created Joan Clayton drew their inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw on Sex & the City. They both were accomplished, they both were one who others went to for advice and they both were pretty erratic and intense; especially when it came to their own matters of the heart. Anyway, anyone who watched even a season of Girlfriends knows that, at the end of the day, what Joan wanted more than anything was a HUSBAND (that's in all caps on purpose) and children. Although I think that my favorite boyfriend of hers was actually Brock (played by Malik Yoba), while the one who I believe brought out the absolute worst in her was Ellis (played by Adrian Lester), I get why she ended up with Aaron (played by Richard T. Jones). One day, I'm gonna write a piece on here about the difference between choosing a man who is good to you vs. choosing a man who is good for you. Brock was probably the former and Aaron was the latter.

That said, in my mind, Aaron did come back and they did get married. Joan had the wedding of her dreams although maturity brought her to a place of wanting to marry the groom more than the actual wedding (if you catch my drift). She did get pregnant and have a child of her own, but she and Aaron also decided to adopt a couple of other kids (not babies but youth).

The house that they renovated, they turned into a home for underprivileged Black youth and with Joan's law degree, she started a non-profit for Black kids as well. Oh, and even though she and Toni did fall out, 20 years brought forth some healing and Toni is actually the godmother to one of Joan's little ones. In fact, all of Joan's girlfriends are.

Mya Denise Wilkes (Golden Brooks)

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Mya, boy. First, let's address another question that I always had, that I recently looked up. Some of you might recall that, during the first season, her husband Darnell was actually played by Flex Alexander. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, fine ass Khalil Kain filled the role. From what I read, Flex left, not due to any bad blood, but because he got a lead role in One on One (I think her son, Jabari might've changed from Tanner Scott Richards to Kendre Berry simply because they needed someone much older in a shorter period of time).

With that out of the way, one of my favorite storylines for Mya was when she had an emotional affair (including a kiss where her lip got bit while she tasted pieces of pickles) with Stan (played by Don Franklin). It ultimately cost Mya her marriage, and also caused her to grow up a bit. Since I'm a marriage life coach whose niche is reconciling divorces, I dig that she and Darnell ended up getting married again and making things work.

By now, I'm thinking that Mya has turned a couple of her books into movies (even though she would probably prefer a one-woman show), she had a baby girl and she's also a grandmother. What? It is 20 years later, which means that Jabari would be what—mid-30s at this point? Darnell runs a franchise auto shop business with Peanut 'n them while Mya has an assistant who is just as sneaky, shady and late to work as she was.

Lynn Ann Searcy (Persia White)

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I got my start as a writer by being a house poet at a local venue here in Nashville. So, I was aware of the spoken word artist Saul Williams for a while and was thrilled when he played Lynn's man Savid on the show (fun fact: Saul and Persia were actually married in real life, once upon a time).

Even though Vasco (played by John L. Adams) and Lynn probably had the most endearing relationship, in my mind, she and Savid found their way back to each other once Lynn actually found more than sex to keep her happy—or at least, focused (although I doubt she's married; she probably had a commitment ceremony on a beach in Bali, tatted some rings on her finger and called it a day).

These days, it's not uncommon to see her at Sundance festivals whenever she's not public speaking at universities across the country. And while Lynn still sings, she has finally found the beauty and benefits in not always mooching off of other people. So, she writes more than she performs so that she can collect that publishing check. She does still live in Joan's old house. Only difference is that now, the deed is actually in her name. She's hardly ever in it, though because she's always getting new stamps on her passport. Oh, and she has her own sex toy line. It too is called Indigo Sky (diehard fans will know why I threw the "too" in there).

Antoinette Marie Childress Garrett (Jill Marie Jones)

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Toni. Before there was Molly (on Insecure), there was Toni Childs. Both women are chocolate and beautiful. Both women are super accomplished. Both women are fun to be around. And, both women are self-absorbed and semi-petty as all get out. By now, Toni and Dr. Todd Garrett's daughter, Morgan is (wow) in college herself.

Although Toni never saw it coming, she is quite the helicopter mom, and so she actually first moved from New York to Atlanta while Morgan attended her first year at Spelman. But since Toni is now a business consultant, she can pretty much live anywhere. So, she spends time in three places—New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. She and Dr. Garrett peacefully co-parented, but she came to the conclusion a long time ago that marriage isn't really her thing. That doesn't mean she isn't seeing anyone, though.

Believe it or not, for a couple of years, she and my favorite boyfriend of hers, Greg (played by Chuma Gault) got back together; they still rendezvous from time to time. While he's always been the man who has had the most of her heart, for now, Toni enjoys not sharing, spending all of her money with no accountability and spending time with her girlfriends. Being a mom has brought some balance and perspective, so she does anonymously give to others, including to Joan's non-profit every year. She has no intention of ever letting Joan know that, though.

William Jerome Dent (Reggie Hayes)

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Who didn't adore William? Now his choices in women were another story. Monica Charles Brooks-Dent (played by Keesha Sharp) couldn't have been more pretentious (I'm thinking that she's now a housewife on a reality series somewhere). Before her, there was the cop, Yvonne Blackwell (played by Cee Cee Michaela) who left him at the altar. Although he and Joan tried to make it work, I thought it was super realistic that the love was there, but the sex was wack. It's a reminder that sometimes platonic love is all that's meant to be between a man and a woman—and that's totally OK.

Yeah, William's love resume had much to be desired (remember when he and Lynn were cutty buddies and then had the nerve to get married? Uh-uh). Bless his heart.

While I secretly wish that he and Donna (played by Jill Scott) got back together, for some reason, I feel like William is still enjoying the bachelor life, even now. He's still a lawyer but he runs his own firm. He's still super tight with his nephew-son (who interns for him during the summertime), and he still has dinner with the girls on a consistent basis. He's actually godfather to one of Joan's children too.

I know. A lot of this sounds super idealistic, but a sistah can dream, can't she? Besides, I don't care how the actual movie script turns out, so long as there is one (le sigh). Either way, on behalf of the entire xoTribe, I just wanted to take out a little time to say—Joan, Mya, Lynn and Toni, we see you, we appreciate you—hell, we still watch you (Tracee, Golden, Persia and Jill Marie, what them syndication checks be lookin' like?!). Here's to 20 years now and the 20 years of more reruns—with prayerfully a movie too—to come! Take a bow. You've earned it.

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Featured image by Black Film

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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