The first time I officially met somebody’s mother, it was a scorching hot summer day in Harlem. My boyfriend at the time had beckoned me Uptown, eager to introduce me to his mom, father and brother visiting from Rochester. The meetup point between his place in Brooklyn and my spot in the suburbs of North Jersey was ideal for the casual vibe I was hoping to embrace, but my nerves, coupled with the heat emitting from those city streets, had deprived me of any composure I planned on having when I arrived. I reached Amy Ruth’s on 116th a good 15 minutes late, hair out of place and too exhausted to even care. It was time to meet the parents.
I thought about that dinner nearly a decade ago as I watched the newlyweds meet their in-laws on Married at First Sight. While the optimist in me hoped they would each make a good impression, I certainly had more than a few doubts. The truth is, despite what anybody says, opinions do matter. And when it comes to romantic relationships, family opinions reign supreme.
With that in mind, I was most concerned about 26-year-old Miles. I had seen enough of Karen’s mom, Ms. Kathy, to know he had no room to fool around. Oddly enough, Miles probably did the best out of the cast. On a pass/fail scale, he aced the test with flying colors. Once we met Miles’s mom, it made complete sense.
Now, I don’t mind a man who loves his mom, cares for her well-being and calls her once a day, but Miles and his mom—yeah, we might have a small problem. I thought his mother’s question about submission was ehhh, but her protection of Miles is what took it over the top. “I get really mama-bearish. I get over the top a little bit,” Ms. Monica admits. “But it’s very important to me that he is treated with the utmost respect and love and honor.”
I’m cool with that. I would say the same of my child, but then Ms. Monica hit us with the “And.”
“And,” she told Karen looking dead in her eye, “If you feel you can’t do it, jut bring him back and I’ll pick up the rest. I’ll pick up the slack.”
See that’s where Ms. Monica lost me. Because if I were Karen I’d be asking, “Bring him back where?”
There comes a time when a man must leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. I didn’t make that up, the good book did. And while I understand Ms. Monica wants to protect her son, I do think it’s time for her to cut the cord. Whether or not Karen ends up being the longtime love Miles hoped for, or just an eight-week experiment he’ll want to forget, I hope Miles will use this experience to help grow up on his own. (By the look on his dad’s face at brunch, I believe he wants that too.)
It’s not that Ms. Monica is wrong for advocating for her son, or for advising Karen on the way he should be treated. It’s just that she’s done her part, did a really great job (we all love Miles) and, speaking from the perspective of a partner, it’s time she begin to let go.
One thing I learned from that hot summer day in Harlem sitting around that table at Amy Ruth’s is, you can tell a lot about a man when you meet his mom. Most of the time, moms drop clues about the men that they raised. Every woman hopes what they’re dropping is worth picking up.
Catch all-new episodes of Married At First Sight every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.
Tanya A. Christian is a News & Politics editor at ESSENCE.