While sitting with one of my family’s matriarchs, the “main chick/side chick” conversation came about.  Well kind of, anyway.  Of course I didn’t bring up “side chicks” to a sweet and gentle woman of eighty years, who lovingly spends her days praying and saying rosaries for all of us.  We did, however, while examining old photos, discuss a distant male relative who had two wives.  Two wives, not through divorce or death, she clarified, but two women maintaining two separate households and families with the same man.  They lived in the same town, she explained; they knew of one another; the children knew that they were siblings; the “gentleman” took care of both families fully.  Picture all of this happening in the thirties in rural Louisiana.

In another conversation across town, a friend described a talk she had with her mother-in-law, who admitted to having had an affair with a married man back in the day.  Those two women also knew one another.  My friend asked, as politely as one can, I suppose, “you didn’t feel ashamed about carrying on an affair with her husband?”  She said the mother’s response was no.  She kept her distance.  She would switch sides of the road when the wife would pass.  She never went to the family’s home.  The husband was simply “a man being a man,” let his former mistress tell it.

Listen, ain’t nothing new and shiny about men having affairs and both women knowing.  We dish on “other woman” stories all the time.  And if we are really honest, and have lived long enough, many women can acknowledge that we have been on both sides of that binary.  All that to say, as I look back at the inaugural season of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, the play between Mimi and Joseline hits a bit to close to home for me, and I would garner, many of us.

What VH1 attempts to play up as some sort of polyamorous coupling may not be “new,” but our attitudes towards the representation certainly may be.  I wonder, as I watch and attempt not to break my television by cursing A LOT and throwing things at Stevie J’s virtual image, how our views on the “main chick/side chick” dynamic have changed since the days of our mothers and grandmothers?

For starters, many women, in accepting their rights to sexual freedom and choice, are far less ashamed of those choices- even when they are generally seen as indecent.  I’m not convinced that it’s a bad thing that Mimi and Joseline are at least capable of confronting one another and their issues with each other and Stevie.  Unlike yesteryear, I also don’t feel that women who are involved with men in romantic relationships with other women should be ridiculed or banished out of sight–which only allows us to gloss over this issue of “sharing” or pretend it doesn’t exist. Instead, what needs to happen, which Joseline and Mimi pull off in a very telenovela-esque way, is that we place men, who seem to benefit most from these relationships, into a space that forces accountability and honesty.

Although, as I mentioned earlier, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta presented a very twisted representation of polyamory (as real polyamorous relationships require that all parties involved not only know about, but agree to multiple-partnered relationships), it does brings about conversations on these semi-open relationships.  Actually, one can hope that by viewing the show, we can gain perspectives on the other woman’s point of view, and place blame, if there is blame to be placed, where it belongs– which in this case is with Stevie J.

Regardless of whether or not we agree that Joseline should carry on a relationship with Stevie–knowing, in the least, that he was in a relationship with another woman, or that Mimi should again try to save her terribly troubled relationship, it’s important to see how this “love triangle” plays out.  Some argue that reality TV is trash, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that shows like Love and Hip Hop Atlanta are filled with teachable moments that we can apply to our own lives.  I also can NOT believe I just wrote that.

How do you feel about how the “main chick/side chick” narrative that played out on LHHATL? Who is really to blame for these relationships?

Josie Pickens is a writer, educator and activist who blogs at www.jonubian.com. Follow her musings on twitter: @jonubian.