Ever Have a ‘Waiting to Exhale’ Moment?

Ask Demetria: It's better to fantasize about revenge than to actually do something you'll regret later.

Angela Bassett as Bernadine in Waiting to Exhale (Screengrab from the film)
Angela Bassett as Bernadine in Waiting to Exhale (Screengrab from the film)

(The Root) —

“Have you ever had a ‘Carrie Underwood, Jazmine Sullivan or Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale’ moment in a relationship? LOL.” –R.T.

If you’re out of the loop about the pop-culture references above, RT is asking if, in a fit of brokenhearted, bruised-ego anger, I’ve ever damaged someone’s property as revenge. My answer is, no, I have not, don’t think it’s funny and would not because it’s illegal. That, and there are way more productive ways to manage anger and disappointment (like just fantasizing about revenge) than destroying someone else’s property.  

In “Before He Cheats,” a revenge-fantasy song about one-upping a cheating boyfriend, Underwood sings of scratching up her soon-to-be ex’s car, taking a bat to the headlights, slashing his tires and using a knife to carve her name into his leather seats.

Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows” covers similar terrain. The lyrics detail Sullivan catching her significant other with another woman and thus feeling justified in, well, busting the windows out of her boyfriend’s car and banging her initials into the body with a crowbar.

“You see, you can’t just play with people’s feelings,” Sullivan sings. “Tell them you love them and don’t mean it.” After she destroys his property, she claims that she feels better. “You’ll probably say that it was juvenile/But I think that I deserve to smile/You should feel lucky that that’s all I did.”

It’s been a while since Bassett delivered the now infamous Waiting to Exhale turn as Bernadine, the wife whose husband tells her on New Year’s Eve that he is leaving her for his white secretary. In a fit of rage, Bernie snatches all his clothes from the closet, loads them into his luxury car and lights a match. She smokes a cigarette as she watches the heap burn.

These songs and the movie scene are popular because they speak to the totally normal revenge fantasies that most of us entertain when we have been wronged or scorned by a significant other. (My favorite revenge fantasy is in This Christmas, when Regina King pours baby oil on a bathroom floor and lashes her husband with a belt as he slides around on the floor trying to get up.) Wanting to get back at someone is “a very natural human urge,” according to Psychology Today. And revenge fantasies have psychological benefits, including improved mood and less — not more — aggression.

Fantasizing is fine and helpful, but when you cross the line into actually acting on those fantasies to play out the scenarios described by Underwood and Sullivan and depicted by Bassett, you’re crossing the line into illegal and unstable behavior. That is not OK.