Episode 06: Guilty as F**k

OP-ED: REGRET SHOULD PUSH YOU

We’ve all dealt with regret. It is the sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs as soon as we realize we’ve made a mistake. Regret is the frog in our throats when we recognize that hindsight is, in fact, 20/20. Regret is the mirror that reflects our deepest and darkest missteps, ones that we wish we could erase from our life’s timeline. Regret exposes us, makes us vulnerable, extracts our strength, and leaves us stripped down to our weaknesses.

Both Issa and Molly grappled with the stain of regret on the “Guilty as F**k” episode of Insecure.

Both women are navigating situations that are familiar to most adults, especially those who’ve made it through their early twenties, with emotional scars and battle wounds to prove it. Intimate relationships are fertile terrain for regret, as Issa discovered this week. Her one-night-stand with her ex-beau, Daniel, is haunting her stale relationship with Lawrence.

When Issa arrives at the apartment she shares with Lawrence, she’s immediately overwhelmed by her decision to cheat. She perceives it as a mistake, so she’s brought to tears as soon as she sees her boyfriend’s face. “I just love you so much,” she tells Lawrence as she cries. “I really love you, and I appreciate you, and I never want to forget that.” Her appreciation of her partner is mired in her deep awareness of how her decision could wreck him emotionally and destroy their relationship.

That understanding drives her closer to the man she no longer wants. It appears in flashbacks — as they lock lips, as they look at marquee diamond rings at a jewelry store, and as she cooks him a breakfast fit for a king. Issa is frozen by regret, which keeps her from confessing her sin to Lawrence, though a text from Daniel may reveal her infidelity before she’s able and willing to.

We’ve all been besieged by regret, especially in our intimate relationships with our chosen partners. However, Issa’s secret tryst is simply doing what she’s unwilling to: take risks that will afford her the opportunities she needs to move forward — without Lawrence.

Need we forget, Issa’s been with Lawrence for a long time. They’ve spent the majority of their fundamental twenties together. Their lives are intertwined. She’s supported him as he’s searched for a job that fulfills him. Yet, she’s bored. She’s unhappy. She’s seeking a shift in the safe normalcy of her life. Getting ensnared in the “but he’s comfortable” trap may not be what’s best for her, though she seems to think it is.

Regret increases gratefulness. Issa cooks a meal suited for a king, as if her deception should push her back into normalcy, instead of toward the next phase of her life. That’s the sneaky thing about regret. It illuminates far more than we’d like it to.

Like Issa, I once made a mistake. We’d been together for almost three years. He loved me deeply, showed up when I needed him to, and offered me the stability women are socialized to desire. I wasn’t satisfied. He’d become complacent. He’d begun to believe that doing the minimum would keep me. That’s when I stepped out.

The other man excited me. He complimented me. He ignited a spark I didn’t realize I’d been lacking. His lust, and later his love, helped me realize that I’d settled. I deserved better. Two years later, the other man and I are together. The stable, comfortable, and unexciting man is long gone. While regret haunted me at first, personal happiness outweighed the scarlet letter. It didn’t halt me from placing myself, my desires, and my needs first.

Even though Lawrence tells Issa “thanks for just being there for me baby,” after he earns an interview with a tech company in Santa Monica, she also needs to show up for herself. Awakening her need for disruption is important, even if she doesn’t end up reigniting her flame with Daniel.

Molly, on the other hand, is regretting awaking at Jared’s house. After chasing men who are uninterested for five episodes, she’s finally connected with a man who reciprocates her interest, but one confession may drive them apart. After their second sex session, Jared confesses to having sex with another man at the age of 20, which completely throws Molly off.

Though Jared only slept with another man, immediately knew he wasn’t into other men, and has exclusively slept with women since, Molly labels him gay.

“Sweetie, you have to dump him. He’s gay,” one of her friends tells her. This conversation alters Molly’s perception of Jared, and forces regret to encroach on the sudden bliss she’s cultivated. Yet, Issa, who can’t see past her own regret, encourages Molly to see his experimentation differently. She tells Molly that Jared “doesn’t subscribe to the heteronormative rejection of sexual fluidity” and that Black men should be able to explore their sexuality without being labeled.

Men, like women, are entitled to be sexually attracted to whomever they please without being considered gay, bisexual, or any other label. While Molly is perfectly comfortable confessing that she experimented with a woman while admitting that she’s heterosexual. This sends the message that it’s acceptable for a woman to have female partners, but isn’t OK when done by men.

Jared’s admission fills Molly up with regret. She regrets falling for Jared. She regrets opening herself up to him. She regrets being intimate with him. She regrets being flexible in her standards when considering him as a partner. She is regretful of everything involving Jared.

She, like Issa, is crippled by regret. Regret stops her mid-action. She stops Jared from performing oral sex on her and breaks it off with him because she can’t see past his intimacy with another man. That is not how regret should function. It should not be a caution sign that prevents us from moving forward.

So, as these ladies move forward, they must continue prioritizing what makes them happiest — regret be damned.

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