Fact: Jeremy Meeks is fine. OK, technically that’s an opinion, but it seems the vast majority of people—including a couple of modeling agencies—share it, so let’s just say it’s close to fact.
Meeks—the convicted felon with chiseled features, eyes the color of a Caribbean ocean and a café au lait complexion who has drawn the “likes” of upwards of 120,000 appreciative women, and men, on the Internet—landed on our radar last week via an unlikely source: his mug shot. The police department in Stockton, Calif., makes a habit of posting its alleged criminals on Facebook, and Meeks, an alleged gang member who landed in jail with five felony weapons charges, fit the bill.
The massive e-fawning for Meeks has ticked off his brother, his wife and various men around the Internet who just don’t get how women can get riled up over a man with a criminal past bearing the “thug” trappings of neck tattoos and a teardrop under his eye.
Somehow, being attracted to a picture of an attractive man has become the latest example of black women having screwed-up priorities, and yet another way to blame black women for the downfall of black relationships (and everything else). As the most popular theory goes, if black women—all black women, no exceptions—were less superficial and could actually pick a decent, nonthug mate, the world would be a better place.
To which I say: Stop. It’s not that serious. Men, we might not like it, but we understand why you watch videos, flip through King and Complex magazines, and scroll through Instagram to ogle random women with extraordinary backsides. Their husbands or children, their virtue, morals or criminal leanings don’t even cross your minds. From your seat on the bus, from your cubicle at the office or sprawled on the couch, you fantasize about that ass and what you would like to do with it if you had the chance, which you don’t. The same applies for Meeks and the women who adore him.
Meeks, aka #PrisonBae, has a face to rival Tyson Beckford’s. Women—and men—find him attractive despite his seeming fondness for trap life, not so much because of it. At best, the fantasy for most women is about one night only, on vacation, so no one will know. It’s only his wife and the crazies, by far the minority, who actually want to contribute to his commissary and donate to his bail. Everybody else is passing the day looking and “liking.” Next.
I’d like to offer a tough love, “get out of your feelings” directive here for menfolk who are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. But your feelings run too deep for that to work. I’ll address them instead.
You know this isn’t about women liking a so-called thug, right? A whole lot of men get sour every time black women like anyone. Earlier this year, there was that whole “I’m Sorry I’m Not Idris Elba” poem that men were passing around like it was a 65 percent Polo discount. Elba is nobody’s thug (playing one on The Wire does not make him one). In fact, by most accounts, he’s a pretty great bloke who spends his downtime on daddy duty and in a DJ booth. And yet “regular” men were passive aggressively upset that he got to be a #ManCrushMonday on social media and not them. Apparently a woman liking a movie star was a sign of “disrespect.”
You know the same thing happens every time Scandal airs on TV and women go gaga for white guys Jake and Fitz and not the nice but kinda corny black guy. (Somehow the adoration for black Harrison and his attainable nerd-gingham gets overlooked.) If only we could fawn over the “regular” black guy on the screen, in life and in our fantasies, all would be right with the world.
The men who feel it will never admit it, but women going wild for a man with looks they will never attain makes them jealous. That’s what all the attacks are about. But men, you’re in luck. It’s not personal, it’s just attraction, and Meeks and Elba and Fitz and Jake aren’t the big, bad threat you think they are.
You so-called regular guys make up the majority of men whom women pass in the street, work with in the office and actually have a chance of meeting in real life. You are the men women date and have sex with and marry and have babies with (though not always in that order). Yes, women fawn over you, too, even if you don’t notice that “regular” girl who wants your attention because you’re too distracted by blaming her for all that’s wrong in the world or too busy fawning over some chick on Instagram.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.