Whether you’re a fan of “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Cosby Show” or “Modern Family,” this is a story about a rolling stone and “family man” who gathered no moss.
It’s also a story about one man and 17 women learning the difference between relations and relationships.
I discovered the story while channel-surfing and doing house chores this weekend, when I ran across a riveting real-life tale of a man named Jay Williams. Granted the show, “Iyanla Fix My Life,” is reality TV on Oprah Winfrey’s network, the kind of shows that give old-school traditional programming a run for high viewership numbers. Anyway, the story reminded of an old Temptations song, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” whose chorus goes “Momma I’m depending on you to tell me the truth.”
I’ve got to give it to Iyanla Vanzant, a mom, lawyer, best-selling author, life coach and former welfare recipient: She sought the truth and exposed it.
See, Jay, a 44-year-old video producer, has 34 biological children by 17 women, and several he claims as his because of current or past relationships with their mothers.
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In three parts, Iyanla “explodes” Jay’s life: We learn that Jay never felt love from his mom and dad after their abusive marriage ended in divorce, that at only 15 Jay was practically trying to raise himself on the streets and that Jay says he loves all his children.
Thing is, Jay is a liar and irresponsible, and he admitted as much. He led the 17 mothers to believe he’ll be there for them and their children. He led his 34 children to believe he’ll be there for them. Most important of all, he led himself to believe he can handle that and more.
He can’t, and it didn’t help that some of the women lied to themselves about their relationship with Jay.
On the show, Iyanla had Jay hold 34 dolls representing his children. Overwhelmed, he dropped a few and tossed others aside. The mothers, meanwhile, each held dolls representing the number of children they had by Jay. They weren’t overwhelmed, but they were a sad lot when some of them learned they were pregnant at the same time.
That’s hardly a surprise. We hear-tell stories all the time about “Baby Daddies” and “Baby Mamas” — and the punch line by a black male character in the 2008 Tina Fey film “Baby Mama” got it wrong. You can read it here.)
There’s nothing funny about Jay’s story, and certainly nothing humorous about the men and women we come to label “parents” of children who likely become as broken as their mothers and fathers.
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We try to “fix” their lives with government programs that often leave them and their “parents” broken.
Like them, Jay and his children’s mothers may never be whole, but acknowledging the truth and reality is a good start: Jay had relations with those 17 women, but he only has an actual relationship with a few. Most of his older children don’t really know him or want to know him.
The Grammy-winning “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” of 1972 was released during a time of renewed social consciousness, when a spade was called a spade.
These days, our anything-goes society glosses over wrong as if there is no such thing as right.
Part of the chorus of “Papa” strikes the perfect chords: “Folks say Papa never was much on thinking, Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking
“Momma I’m depending on you, to tell me the truth. Momma looked up with a tear in her eye and said, son
“Momma I’m depending on you, to tell me the truth. Momma just hung her head and said, son, Papa was a rolling stone, (my son), Where ever he laid his hat was his home.”
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.