Even When It’s Not on ‘The List’

scandal poster

I think Olivia Pope was wrong about herself on last night’s “Scandal.” I don’t think she wants painful love (which would also be oxymoronic love.) I think she just wants what she wants, even when it’s not on The List.

You know, The List of All the Things That Indicate A Black Woman’s Life is Perfect, and That She Is, Too. The black women who meet The List’s criteria have, among other things:

  • Beauty
  • Intelligence
  • An attractive body
  • Something sexy about them
  • Strength
  • Formal education
  • Money
  • A respected profession
  • A husband (or a good relationship with a perfect man who’s going to become her husband)
  • Children

By all accounts, Olivia Pope should want what Edison, the man whose grandmother’s ring she’s now turned down twice, wants her to have. She should want marriage, kids, tradition. She should want him.

See, there are lists within The List—the perfect woman can’t be perfect if she doesn’t have a perfect man—and Edison meets some perfect man criteria. Attractive (the California Raisin references on Twitter are accurate, but still), well-educated, powerful career, black, cares deeply about the perfect woman, wants all that traditional stuff.

The Lists assume that if you meet someone with all the qualities on The List, you’ll fall for that person. You’ll like each other, have passion for one another, get married. Who wouldn’t want to be “a senator’s wife?” (What’s up with that label, though? What about “Mrs. Olivia WhateverEdison’sLastNameIs,” but “a senator’s wife?” So women should only be after power and position? But then we would be materialistic, which would knock points off our perfection on The List.) Clearly Ms. Pope is crazy.

I love that Olivia said she could be normal and probably be happy with a quiet life. But she doesn’t want that. She couldn’t say, “I want Fitz,” but she wants the passion, fire, that I’m So In Love With You Not Being Near You Hurts kind of love that she has with him. Someone as brilliant and worldly as Olivia Pope can’t possibly believe that passion will last forever, or that it won’t shift, that it won’t sometimes quiet down or normalize. But I think she wants it for as long as she can have it.

As a Christian woman, I’ve been taught to have two things on The Perfect Man List: 1) He’s Christian, and 2) God said to marry him. Anything else is just a bonus. He doesn’t have to be what I like or had in mind. I should trust that since God made me, he knows what I like anyway, and since he loves me, he wouldn’t stiff me with someone I can’t stand to look at for the rest of my life. I also shouldn’t worry about hot sex like I see on Thursday nights on ABC, about fire, passion, or extraordinary love. But I have to admit, that sounds risky. And yet, dull.

I agree with Edison; love isn’t supposed to hurt. But is it “supposed to be” a sync of two lists? Is your quality of life limited to checkmarks on The List as well? I have to respect Olivia Pope for knowing what she wants and for not settling for what she could have, even when what she could have might make her happy and what she wants could go up in smoke. I have to respect her for breaking tradition and for knowing she’s an amazing woman worthy of the kind of love she wants, even when it’s not on the list.

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