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Jada, Will and the Open Marriage?

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Professor Jada Pinkett Smith is back in the building, and class is in session. Continuing her online university-esque lecture series disguised as Facebook posts on everything from haters and bullying to goddess energy and last-resort lesbianism, Pinkett Smith recently sort of addressed the persistent rumors of her alleged open marriage to fellow actor Will Smith.


"Do we believe loving someone means owning them? Do we believe that ownership is the reason someone should 'behave'? Do we believe that all the expectations, conditions and underlying threats of 'you better act right or else' keep one honest and true?" asked Pinkett Smith in true Socratic method form, attempting to school folks through pointed debate and questioning.

She continued, "Here is how I will change my statement … Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship … this means we have a GROWN one," then signed off with a simple, "Siempre, J." For some, the actress-director's post led to more questions than it answered.


But does she have to answer any at all?

Back in August 2011, Jada and Will released a joint statement affirming their togetherness after rumors of an impending split reached critical tabloid mass. They described their marriage then as "intact," a methodical adjective if there ever was one. Married since 1997, the Smiths, with their children straight from central casting and enviably long-lasting careers, have become iconographic.

Beyond the cost of celebrity, the scrutiny the Smiths' marriage has received seems amplified within the black community. It was during a recent interview with HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hill that Pinkett Smith had to address the "open marriage" question once again.

"I've always told Will, 'You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be OK,' " she told Hill during an interview that was supposed to be about her new film, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners.


"Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I'm here as his partner, but he is his own man. He has to decide who he wants to be, and that's not for me to do for him. Or vice versa."

Apparently thirsty for more hetero-normative heroes, we repeatedly demand to know exactly what's going on in a marriage that has survived for more than 16 years. But why? Are we hoping to follow the Smith blueprint? Will they single-handedly break us of the media fervor surrounding the black-marriage crisis? Is theirs the marriage that cannot consider divorce because the Obamas are not enough?


Even after posting her Facebook address, which, to be fair, neither directly confirmed nor denied the rumors, Pinkett Smith will most likely never shut down the gossip mill. The freaky alternative is just too juicy a tidbit of beauty-shop fodder for anyone to let go.

This week, even ABC's The View jumped into the debate. Guest host La La Anthony applauded Pinkett Smith, saying, "I think what her message is, is that she trusts her husband. She trusts him to make the right decisions." And comedian Whoopi Goldberg echoed that idea, saying, "The only thing you can control is you."


So what exactly did Pinkett Smith accomplish with her latest social media lecture? I'm honestly not entirely sure.

After reading her take on love versus trust and the illusion of ownership in a relationship, I had to admit that Pinkett Smith has one very prescient point. In the age of constant digital contact, most of us have been unconsciously called upon to trust our significant others beyond the traditional metrics of what's appropriate. Just ask Huma Abedin and her tweeting husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner.


In this new marketplace of oversharing, aren't we all in relationships more open than ever before? Strangers with an Internet connection can know more about your day-to-day life than the person with whom you spend most of it. And doesn't that require more from all of us? More trust, more understanding, more of our own integrity?

Perhaps Pinkett Smith just made me a convert. I still don't know (or care) if she's in an open relationship, but maybe that was precisely her point.


Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black , a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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