There are few things I enjoy more than watching love unfold on TV. From TLC’s 90 Day Fiance to Netflix’s Love Is Blind to OWN’s Ready To Love. But my running favorite for the past six years has been Lifetime’s Married At First Sight. Every season I yearn for the moment the trailer drops to reveal a whole new cast of romantic hopefuls signing up to get married to a stranger they meet at the altar.
The series first grabbed my attention when it casted unsuspecting men and women looking for love in the NY/NJ area. When season one premiered, I myself was a part-time Jersey girl, part-time New Yorker, living out my best Sex and The City fantasies and excited for the prospect of finding love following my first real breakup. Since then “The Sight” as my now-boyfriend calls it or “MAFS” as loyal watchers know it, has matched more than 30 couples. I’ve sat on my couch watching each and every one of them, weighing my bets at the start of each season for who would choose to stay together on the much talked about “decision day.”
Last Wednesday I did the same when season 11, New Orleans, premiered. The newest installment of couples includes childhood friends matched with two successful Black women, a cat-loving couple, a quirky duo, and a pair I’m still confused as to why the experts thought they would ever be a good match. If I had to put my money on any of them, I’d say just one pair has an actual chance at making it, and still, I’m going to watch every episode with hope that they’ll all cross over to the other side of the experiment without asking for a divorce.
I’d like to think it’s the hope of every unsuspecting single who signs up for the 2-month case study and I’d venture to say that the friends and family of these brave men and women would say the same. But last week, when 30-year-old Baton Rouge native Karen told her mother and aunt what she had committed to doing, what the matriarch delivered was peak Black mom vibes in a “this is not going to be good” kind of way.
“Have you lost your mind?” she asks her daughter with the energy of Claire Huxtable, Marion Gilbert, and Aunt Viv (the first one), all wrapped up in one powerful woman. In that moment I felt sad for Karen because I could see there was a level of anguish on her face, but I also acknowledged that reaction for what it was. She was a Black mom — in my head a member of The Links, who reared Karen in Jack and Jill, and was very active in her sorority’s local chapter — who was disappointed that her daughter had not found love the “organic” way and fearful of that she might be signing herself up for a situation that she could not protect her from.
As my mother always reminds me, even at 30-plus, she wants the best for me. She wants a man to sweep me off my feet, treat me kind, take me on nice dates, etc. And I’m pretty confident that Karen’s mom is similar to my own in that respect. Another way that they’re similar, after Karen chooses the dress her mom wants her to wear for the wedding day, we see the amalgamation of Claire, Marion, and Aunt Viv come around. If she is, indeed, like my Black mom, it’s because even though their chief concern is seeing us happy, they also want to have a say and, quite frankly, get their own way.
I’m looking forward to seeing how these love stories unfold, if Karen actually walks down the aisle with her match Miles, how Karen’s mom acts at the wedding and if any of these “expertly matched” couples make it past decision day.
Until then I’ll be recapping my thoughts each week on ESSENCE.com. Check back on Thursday for an all-new post, and if you haven’t watched the series premiere of Married At First Sight New Orleans, catch up before the next episode airs on Wednesday at 8 p.m., on Lifetime.