Dear Will and Jada:
I owe you both an apology. A big one. But this is all your fault as much as it’s mine. Let me explain.
It’s that damn Batman suit! But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Will, let’s start with you. I’ve adored you since “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” You came along at the perfect time—I was struggling to figure out my place in hip-hop while still being true to the fact that I lived on the “good side” of a rough city. You were cute, funny and goofy. I’ve been unapologetically #TeamWill since 1986.
And Jada? When you came across the screen as Lena on A Different World, I did a double-take. Your acting was a little iffy. But there was clearly something there. You were adorable yet scrappy. And you had that sexy-in-baggy-clothes thing going on. It was clear you were going places. #TeamJada since 1991.
That infamous scene when Will cries when talking about his dad on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? That scene in Set It Off when Jada smacked the mess out of Queen Latifah? I watched you both grow in good roles (Ali, Menace II Society); so-so roles (Men in Black, A Low Down Dirty Shame); and a few what-were-you-thinking roles (Wild Wild West, Woo). I’ve been here for all of it.
And then you guys had the nerve to join forces? I love the story about how Jada auditioned to be Will’s girl on The Fresh Prince and didn’t get the role. Love the story about you two being just friends while both of you were still in other relationships, and then helping each other through breakups and finding love.
Jada, that wedding dress? Divine. The few grainy pictures that made it into the media just made me love you guys more. There was no pictorial in People. No 10-part series leading to the big day. All I got was a pic of the both of you smiling bright as you walked up the aisle after saying your vows. I swooned. #TeamWillAndJada since 1997.
Every nugget of info that dropped down from the Hollywood stratosphere to my little corner of the world fueled my fire for your family. You guys went hard to represent blended families! You had a boy named for the wife and followed up with a daughter named for the husband. You guys! It was just too much!
Why? Why couldn’t you be less… likeable? Why did the kids have to be that cute? Why did your red carpet appearances have to be flawless? Why did your coupled-up magazine cover shoots have to exude that much hotness? You couldn’t see what you were doing?
Remember the commercial you made when you guys hosted the BET Awards back in ’05? And when the cameras stopped rolling, you guys pretended to show your “true” selves and the kids were talking back and being sassy? It was endearing. Because of course it couldn’t be true. Or maybe it could? Who knew? We weren’t privy to the inner-workings of your lives. I’d never even heard Willow and Jaden speak a full sentence before that commercial.
So, the last couple of years, as you guys have opened up a bit, the rumors began to swell. I’ve rolled my eyes at all of them.
Scientologists? Don’t know. Don’t care.
Will’s gay? Don’t know. Don’t care.
Open marriage? Don’t know. Don’t care.
Jada’s gay? Don’t know. Don’t care.
Divorcing? I cover my ears with my hands and chant la la la until the rumors die down.
Now, I’m not a Stan. I admire you guys from afar. I don’t comment on the Internets about you. Don’t see all your films or appearances. But I smile when I see you. (And Jada, I suck in my gut and my butt when I see you frolicking on the beach in dental floss.)
And I’ll admit: both of you have said things I carry around with me at all times.
Will: You were asked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show how you and Jada approach marriage. You said you and Jada just decided that divorce was not an option: “We just removed the other options, and we’re like, listen: we're going to be together one way or the other, so we might as well try to be happy.”
That quote hit me like an anvil. It was so simple. But it made so much sense. My new husband and I adopted the mantra: divorce is not an option. When shit gets ugly (and it does and it has), you might as well figure it out, ’cause what else are you going to do if the D-word is not and never will be on the table?
And Jada, a few months later, I interviewed you for a magazine. Like you, I’d gained an awesome bonus daughter when I married my husband and was then pregnant with my first bio-kid.
We got a little off track during the interview while talking about Trey, your bonus son. I confessed I was worried about my stepdaughter feeling left out when I gave birth.
“Don’t even put that in the universe,” you told me, your voice sharp and stern. “Don’t speak it into existence. You just have to tell your bonus daughter that there is nothing more important than being first!”
I took your advice, and think of it often as my relationship with both of my girls has deepened and grown.
So yeah, you two? I made you my patron saints of modern marriage and parenthood.
Well, then came that damn Batman suit.
I don’t care that you let Willow do whatever she wants with her hair. Y’all know in our community, a girl younger than 30 cutting off more than an inch of her hair is a high crime. But Will, I loved what you said about making sure Willow knows her body (and her hair) belongs to her not you.
The kids are home-schooled? Go for it. Willow gets a hit single out of the clear blue sky and immediately goes on tour? Why not? Jaden possibly dating a Kardashian? What do we expect? He ain’t from Philly or Baltimore! He was born into and raised with immense wealth in L.A.!
That whole kerfuffle over Willow “in bed” with a 20-year old friend? I rolled my eyes and forced myself not to comment when my Facebook friends were outraged.
But the Batman suit.
Few weeks back, the photos of Kimye’s wedding surfaced. There was Kimye, in their wedding-day splendor, strutting down the aisle after saying there I dos. The guests can be seen standing and clapping. But wait. What’s this? Is that a young person wearing… an all-white Batman suit?
Why, yes it is. At the reception, folks are in the photo booth wearing appropriate wedding-gear and your son Jaden… Well. You know. You saw it. He’s wearing a white Batman suit. With a mask. Did you guys know about this? Jada, did you pack his stuff? Will, did you take him to get a mask fitting? How does this work exactly? How does a 15-year-old get from mom and dad’s house in California to Italy for a wedding with a white Batman suit in his carry-on?
And that’s when I realized that I did you both a grave disservice. Years ago, I helped you guys up to a steep pedestal and made you stay there. I craned my neck to absorb your perfectness.
And then I saw your son at that wedding and it hit me. You guys are human. You’re regular folks with kids who think it makes sense to wear white Batman costumes to weddings.
Okay, so here, you guys take my hand. Watch your step now. Don’t trip as you come down. You got it? Are you both off? Good. Let me go ahead and move that pedestal out of the way. There. That’s better. Well, what do you know? You’re right here on the same level as me and my husband and our kids who do ridiculous things that folks would criticize like crazy if we were famous; right here on the same level of my own parents, married 42 years; right here with every other married couple on the planet trying to make sense of it all. You’re human: flawed, mortal, and the parents of a teenager.
Sorry about that whole patron saint status. I won’t let it happen again. Do you. I’ll watch from afar and continue to smile when I see you.
Please tell Jaden to put the Batman costume away. Permanently.
Aliya S. King is the author of two novels and three non-fiction books, including the New York Times Bestseller, Keep the Faith, with recording artist Faith Evans. Find her at aliyasking.com and on Twitter @aliyasking.