OPINION: Knowing the ending, were the ladies’ early choices their best?
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
In a movie that started out being all about the boys, “The Best Man’s” leading ladies have emerged from the background over the years, gaining equal space onscreen and in our hearts. We’ve grown to care about their stories just as much as the guys, and 20-plus years later, we are more invested than ever.
Between eight kids, four marriages, a death and a divorce, these ladies have showcased both the beauty and sorrow that comes with living. Through the franchise’s final installment, “The Best Man: The Final Chapters,” we’ve witnessed the trajectory of their lives play out in a way that feels realistic and true to the characters’ choices from the original movie.
And with hindsight always being 20/20, it begs the question — knowing the ending, were the ladies’ early choices, their best? Did they, in fact, get to live their best lives given the choices they made?
If Robyn knew that Harper wasn’t going to change, would she still have married him? If Jordan knew she’d be successful in her career but not in love, would she have sought a balance of both?
It doesn’t matter ultimately, but we’re about to play the “what if” game anyway. And while in reality, we’re often better served staying as far away from that rabbit hole of a game as possible, since this is our last chance to sip on this The Best Man tea, let’s indulge!
First, some house rules.
No. 1, let’s acknowledge that it’s become an increasingly popular trend to dissect the choices women make for their lives by measuring them up against societal expectations and patriarchal cultural norms. This piece is not here for that.
Here, the question of whether the ladies made the best choices for their lives will be measured through the lens of what each character expressed or came to realize she wanted for her life — not what we wanted for her character or what society thinks most women would have wanted.
Rule No. 2, we will be realistic. No pie-in-the-sky, imaginary fiction of women having everything under the sun and losing nothing in the process. That’s not reality. Life always has a give-and-take balance.
And lastly, No. 3 — for the time being, Jordan (Nia Long), Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Candace (Regina Hall) and even Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), are our honorary besties, and we’ll parse through their life choices with love and honesty.
For starters, let’s begin with the one who everyone’s mama wanted to see end up with a man — Jordan.
Should Jordan have prioritized love more?
Short answer — probably not.
She could have devoted all of her energy to finding Mr. Right (not advisable) and still not have found him. Love is not some buffet that you can simply walk up to at any moment and take away exactly what you want and need. It’s largely a game of chance and luck.
Furthermore, Mr. Right was not what Jordan wanted most. She wanted a bangin’ ass career most, and she gave her energy to that priority. Every woman’s dream isn’t to be a mother and a wife first. Some people dream of being Oprah first — before they ever give thought to a hubby and a baby. And even though the idea of never having kids was a sobering reality for Jordan, her larger concern seemed to be her inability to relax and let go of life in general.
While many women desire to have children and find the right life partner, myself included — many do not mean all. So given the math, we have to recognize and make space for the women who actually desire to live independently. Why can’t a single woman with a successful career who is finally embracing self-care be a happy ending if that’s what she wants?
Jordan has been loved as an honorary auntie to Mia and Lance’s children, she stayed with a man trailing her in every movie, and she’s been gently loved throughout the years by her dear friend Harper.
Their relationship has been her ultimate “what if.” And here’s the million-dollar question: Should she have actually chosen to explore what life would have looked like with him?
Again, probably not.
For all their similarities, a romance between those two at any point prior to each “arriving” in their careers would have likely fizzled and left both without even their friendship. They liked the idea of each other, but sometimes not tasting the food makes it that much more tempting. That’s been their issue. Furthermore, with both of them giving their all to careers, that relationship would have been D.O.A.
The best version of any romantic relationship for them can only be in a hypothetical future where Jordan has learned how to slow down and practice self-care, and Harper has learned that selfishness can cost you love. Anytime before then would’ve been a waste. So, Jordan made the best choice every time she left the past in the past.
Should Robyn have said yes to Harper in the first movie?
If anyone should have turned back the hands of time, Robyn was the one. Robyn reminded me of the kind of women who silently sacrificed for others yet didn’t require the reciprocity of others sacrificing for them in return. Those situations never end well (like that I’m-going-to-overcorrect-selfishly-and-move-my-child-to-Ghana-without-her-father kind of not well).
Looking back on the first movie, the trajectory of Robyn and Harper’s marriage makes sense. While Robyn and Harper loved each other, they wanted to live different lives. From the very first scene of the first movie — we are introduced to the vast difference between Robyn’s whimsical nature and Harper’s buttoned-up style. And as the movies went on, they only became more and more of who they already were.
Wanting to live two different kinds of lives will always prove a difficult road to walk for a couple without a healthy balance of selfless compromise. Harper has many great qualities, but selflessness is not one of them, and Robyn trying to have enough selflessness for them both contributed to the very imbalance they found themselves in.
I was once told that until a man’s definition of self expands to include his woman and any children, he will not be ready for marriage. This simply means that until a man thinks about the comfort and needs of his children and wife the way he does his own and moves in a way that respects the needs of all, he will struggle with the selfless responsibilities that come with marriage.
Sometimes, there are men like this, who, despite not truly being ready for marriage, move forward anyway because situationally it seems like the appropriate next step. Harper is one of those men.
The night before he proposed to Robyn, Harper was about to “blow” another woman’s back out (his words, not mine). He is the guy who married a woman because it seemed that it was time. Because she helped him in a bind. Because others around him encouraged him to do so. He was a stark contrast to Morris Chesnut’s character, Lance, who, despite having his own “not ready for marriage” days, was clear about Mia’s importance in his life when he stepped to that altar.
There’s a difference between a man willingly walking into marriage and one who’s walking into it because it seems like the appropriate thing to do. When it simply seems appropriate, the future sacrifices will fall short. Prioritization of self will likely reign supreme. And Robyn learned the hard way that waiting for this to change is like waiting for a bus that will never come. Sometimes, you have to cut your losses and find a new bus to get to where you need to be.
While I don’t believe in right and wrong choices, just long roads and short roads, if Robyn had left Harper at that table in the first movie after he’d confessed his plans to sleep with Jordan, I wouldn’t have been mad at her.
Did Shelby and Candace make the right choices for their lives?
And last but not least, Shelby and Candace. Collectively, these ladies moved in the direction that seemed to be a good fit for both of their characters.
They both got the men they wanted. They both found success in their careers. Both ladies found themselves in family and career situations that seemed to make them happy. And absolutely everything Shelby ended up being was a comeup from who she was in the first movie, so she had a glowup for sure! All in all, their choices served them well.
Ultimately, as I said before, I don’t believe in right and wrong choices for our lives — just long roads and short ones. Life happens as it happens, and despite some of our best, most thoughtful choices, we will experience both rainy and sunny days. There’s no right choice that will make everything go as our heart desires. So, sometimes we just need to embrace that fact, relax, and enjoy the ride.
Kamaria is an attorney, poet, writer, and lover of all things created #ForTheCulture. She runs a blog, ‘Words of My Mother,’ has lived all over the DMV (heavy on the V), and enjoys skating, debating, and car karaoke. (Because, why not?!) She can be reached on Twitter at @like_tha_moon.
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