For all of my issues with Mary Jane this season, there is one thing she does get right: You can’t fake fire.
In the final minutes of Tuesday night’s “Feeling Hashtagged” episode, Mary Jane has to explain to her mother why she chose to leave the man she introduced her family to, whom she made love to in the back of a pickup truck in Atlanta, and was working to start a family with, for Justin. He, as opposed to Lee, is a guy she barely knows much about other than he used to be her nemesis, he knows how to play dirty to get what he wants and that they have strong sexual tension.
“Mom, Justin lit a fire in me in a way that Lee just didn’t,” she says over the phone in the scene. “And I know you told me not to go mucking things up with Lee because he’s loyal and husband material and yada, yada, yada, and I agree. But when push comes to shove, I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life with someone who doesn’t light that fire in me. And besides, I just kind of feel like Justin and I are more compatible. He’s –”
“Complicated,” Helen interjects. “Like you.”
That, these two characters definitely are.
I’ll admit that when she basically told Lee that she owed it to herself to explore the feelings she had for Justin, I wasn’t surprised (things are pretty predictable at this point), but rather, disappointed. Here Mary Jane was, always talking about how she wanted to settle down, meet the right guy, have children and all those other things society says is a must for assured happiness. And just like that, she was back to her old ways — running after the seemingly unavailable bad boys, regressing instead of progressing. But what she couldn’t seem to explain to Lee in that ugly breakup (instead, screaming at him about lying in the new bed she was clearly saving for Justin) was what she was finally able to sensibly explain to her nosy mama: Being a sweet, loving person is a necessity in a relationship, but sometimes, that’s just not enough.
Lee might have been “the greatest man” MJ ever met, but I think we can all admit that there was something missing. And no, it wasn’t a physical thing for me. Instead, it was that fire Mary Jane speaks of. That nerve. That backbone. Lee spent a lot of time trying to be everything to MJ too soon. She told him to tell her that he loved her the first time they had sex (the night they met by the way), and he did. Despite her hesitance to take him seriously, he showed up at her job, he popped up at her work events — even when she was leaving the building with another man. She wanted to have kids and despite his initial reservations (and already having two kids from a previous marriage), he budged. He was even slowly reconsidering marriage.
Lee was too eager to please someone who from the jump, didn’t seem to feel the same way. Mary Jane, instead, seemed to be going through the motions. In Lee, she finally had the possible husband and father she had been waiting for, all at a time when she was about to break through professionally. So she went with the flow until someone who is, as Helen put it, just as complicated as Mary Jane, came along and came off like the irresistible guy she couldn’t have because Lee was in the way. The taboo nature of Justin, similar to the taboo nature of past suitors like Andre (Omari Hardwick) and Sheldon (Gary Dourdan), who she had a connection with but not full access to for one reason or another (marriage, disinterest in commitment), made him worth risking her relationship for to her. Granted, she went about things terribly, and I can’t say as a longtime viewer that I really see Justin and Mary Jane lasting much longer, but MJ is right for not settling for something just because, on paper, it should work.
It’s like the conversations I have with my husband and his single friends. There is a perception that women of a certain age shouldn’t go in with such high standards. That they should be nicer to the men who show interest in them, even if the behavior of these men raise all sorts of red flags. At a certain point, if you want to meet this alleged deadline to have love and happiness, you better straighten up and fly right. Aka, you better take what you can get. But if you don’t feel it, why force it? Why waste time?
As Mary Jane shows, you can only fake the funk for so long. There is indeed a sense of fire, passion within that is truly what makes relationships go. And while it makes sense for that fire to wane in some ways as a relationship goes on for years and the love itself grows stronger, if it was never really there, you’re forcing feelings because you’re more comfortable than anything else.
So for all of MJ’s slip-ups and issues, you have to respect her for not leading Lee on any longer than necessary and for following that fire with Justin. Now let’s hope it’s not just lust. Or gas…