Episode 08: Broken as F**k

OP-ED: THE UNSELFISHNESS OF REALITY

The truest danger of insecurity is that it leads to selfishness. When it has been allowed to manifest and take hold, selfishness is like silent, poison gas. Uncertainty about self or space (especially within couples) will only lead to resentment. When you resent someone, it’s easy to lash out and hurt them. Insults usually fly when someone in the room is upset and can’t say how they feel. More often than not, this behavior goes both ways, and the isolation of one’s thoughts and feelings is maintained by a lack of communication. In the Season 1 finale of Insecure, Issa’s chickens finally come home to roost, and she and Lawrence must face the only cure for insecurity and selfishness: reality.

For a week the internet has raged about Issa’s betrayal. Viewers have spent the better part of the last seven days—between Issa’s final confession and the explosive season finale—railing against the actress for her deceit, taking out their frustrations on actress Issa Rae for the transgressions of the character she plays. People ran to defend Lawrence and how undeserving he was of such behavior… but that is a lie. Cheating—an inherently selfish act—is rarely ever done as the last step or even the first step. It’s mid behavior. We spent the better part of the season silently egging Issa on to sleep with Daniel. When we first met Lawrence he was confined to the couch, bombing interviews, and hitting Rite Aid for Issa’s birthday. His minimal effort to get a job after Tasha with the tatas strokes his ego was so productive it’s hard to believe anything was ever really holding him back. Obviously the issue was all mental, which in many ways makes it even harder to overcome, but we were introduced to a couple that had stopped communicating for a long time.

The oldest couples will tell you that once you stop communicating you are doomed. Maybe it’s a much less popular sentiment, but how could you root for a couple that didn’t even talk to each other? Where could you find the intimacy in that? We often see relationships as labor, and though they do require tremendous effort, it’s not like clocking into a 9 to 5. Sure, there will be days when you wander around before going home or crashing on someone else’s couch. There are all the pitfalls and hells of being attached to someone else, but the point of the effort is for pleasure. Someone to make you feel happy, loved, brilliant, safe, etc. Someone that makes you certain of yourself. Someone you can talk to.

But what happens when all that disintegrates? When that person makes you feel so unsure about yourself that you can’t even talk to them anymore? Issa’s biggest discomfort was always the way Lawrence was making her feel, think, and act. She wanted it to be easy again, but watching him give up on himself made her feel like her entire world might be wrong. This is where the resentment comes in; it’s not called stewing for nothing. It takes so long to say what you need to say, you hate the person for making you say it. You resist it. It becomes easier to lash out at the person than to accept that you are unable to communicate, or accept that you can feel insecure about someone who is not acting like themselves. Accepting that doesn’t mean you’ve given up on them. It means you are calling them out, calling them (and yourself) to action.

Meanwhile, Lawrence’s world was also completely wrong. Being unemployed is not just a man’s issue—it’s a human issue. Nobody feels like themselves when they are worrying about how they are going to survive. It is no different for a woman: the feeling of worthlessness, of impending doom, of self-pity. It’s a dangerous cocktail that keeps you on the couch in silence for months, unable to explain how you just want to be able to go outside and buy something… but you’re not sure that you’ll ever be able to do that again. Made worse by the look in your lover’s eyes when they come home and find that nothing has changed.

Talking through those times is the only way we can make it. Remembering that the moment is temporary is the only way to come out of it. Reaching out to others who are not in the dark cloud is the tether that saves so many.In those times, a fresh perspective will often feel more intimate, but Lawrence was only honest with Tasha because he had nothing to lose. He could tell her anything. There was a 50 percent chance she would think it was a good idea, but a zero percent chance that it could hurt him. That his gamble paid off is not wholly innocent: someone who is thirsting for intimacy and adoration will recognize it immediately. His pride and subsequent anger comes from his resentment at denying himself the selfish act. He said no and Issa said yes, but the reality is they’d both been faking it for quite a while. His grand gesture to suddenly buy a ring after getting a gig feels like a very heavy “I’m sorry,” but they didn’t even talk about why they ended up in a Rite Aid just weeks before. The answer to a complete shutdown in communication is not a double down on commitment. You’re not going to love someone back into talking to you by distracting them (When will people finally learn this?!!!).

The real question everyone should ask is, “how did they not see this coming?” But that’s really easy—ignorance is fake bliss. Pretend nothing is wrong and nothing will be wrong…for a time. The punishment for pretending is a reality check. The cure for selfishness is a wakeup call. Both Lawrence and Issa were forced to take stock in what they were really holding onto: garbage at the curb. They’d grown apart so much that they weren’t even speaking the same language. One flirting with the idea of change and one lashing out for it. There is a moment when we come out of a relationship—whether mutually or by surprise—where you realize what you did wrong. Maybe it’s as simple as “why did I even talk to this person,” but you retrace your steps and suddenly the picture comes into focus. This is your reality check. It is the moment meant for you to quell uncertainties and let go of the emotions. Some people call it “closure,” though that term is fraught with endless spirals into thoughts we don’t need. However, that moment is always characterized by the same things: you stop feeling angry that the person wasted your time because your time was always your own (resentment); you start to see outside of yourself and your situation (selfishness and self-pity); and you begin to communicate because you see things as they are and not as you’ve projected them to be.

Issa’s fairytale was smashed to pieces by her own hand, mostly—but not without—the help and support of her partner. Her concrete act might feel like the perfect scapegoat because it was the call to action or calamity—however you see it. But a catalyst can only cause a reaction if the space has all the triggers. Selfishness is not just actions, it’s a state of mind. At its worst it’s a weapon used for destruction. It is brought on by so many emotions—rarely ever the single-minded decision to be hurtful—but it is not compulsion. You can choose to do the “right” thing but remember the right thing is whatever helps you get back to reality. To destroy is to rebuild.

Share this article: