Unless you are Trey, Jaden or Willow Smith, Will and Jada are not your parents. So please stand down. Come off the ledge. Put away that tub of Pinkberry and get a grip. Your world will not tear asunder should the power couple shut down standard operations and cease to be the poster pair of black love. Your world as it is will keep turning, despite what the "East Coast earthquake" has to say about it.
And I get it. I really do. Will and Jada — no last name necessary — are more than just scrumptious nuptial eye candy. They are at once fairy-tale and modern at a time when the media spend an inordinate amount of column space on the alleged pathetic state of African-American matrimony. Their Architectural Digest spread made me smile, too. Black people! In a big ole house!
"For Will and me this home was always a spiritual endeavor," Jada told the design industry's bible. "We're very earthy, organic people. We wanted to create a family retreat, something made by hand and as natural as possible, something that ties back to the land."
Immediately after reading that, I decided to make it one of my life goals to get invited over to their house for a sweat lodge or something equally spiritual and slightly dangerous. See, the Smiths have a sort of Leave It to Beaver edge about them, wholesome with a side of (alleged) swinger. But then I put that magazine away and got back to the business of breathing oxygen and otherwise living my normal life.
This week, there has been tabloid speculation that Will and Jada are headed toward divorce. Will's older son, Trey, took to Twitter: "Will and Jada getting a DIVORCE … NOT TRUE AT ALL!! RETWEET." Despite thinking it's weird to refer to your dad and stepmom by their first names, I thought Trey's protective instincts sweet. Later, the head honchos of the Smith clan released a statement of their own, refuting all the anonymously sourced reports of marriage trouble.
The tacit thread tying together all the comments and Web-page views concerning the Smiths is the impact their alleged split will have on the collective confidence in black marriage — much like how the split of J. Lo and Marc Anthony (whom Jada is not having an affair with, according to her rep) shattered faith in Latino love. And how the end of Arnold and Maria's 25-year marriage is a terrible omen for all political partnerships.
Oh, wait, none of that happened, because most groups don't practice selective synecdoche — the sexy parts do not always represent the boring whole. If, as most of us can agree, the couples on Maury aren't a legitimate cross section of the black community, then neither are the celebrities on the covers of magazines.
Also, last time I looked, a "strong black couple" still lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington. That isn't to say we should weigh the Obamas down with the hopes and dreams of a statistic-fatigued demographic. But if we're steering clear of negative media images (here's looking at you, Nivea), perhaps we should go easy on the positive media images, too. At least when it comes to forming a creation story around people we do not know.
This past weekend, my good friend came to visit from New York. She brought her husband, their two daughters and my godson. We spent the rainy Saturday doing Zumba, teaching "the girls" card games and drinking hot chocolate made with whole milk. My friend never pulls punches with me, and for all the family bliss I get in snippets, she makes sure to mention the real work that goes in. "This ___ is tough, girl," she said beyond earshot of the kiddies. Monday was her eighth wedding anniversary.
I look up to my friend the way some folks look up to Will and Jada, but even that has its pitfalls. Her family is no more representative of what can and will happen some day for me or any other single than the Smiths are. According to Gloria Steinem, "Women's total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage." It's all a crapshoot, right? And if that's the case, then my strategy is to forget what the high rollers are doing and stick to what I know.