If over the weekend you were one of the thousands of people who passionately weighed in on the salacious love story of newlyweds ‘Keith and Tameka” on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, there’s something you should know: Keith and Tameka are not real. I know this because that happy bride and groom kissing in the meme that was plastered all over your timelines this weekend, are actually me and my husband of five years, Gibran.
I repost, comment on and share relationship memes (that don’t include other people’s photos) all the time—as the Relationships Editor here at ESSENCE.com it’s sort of my job—but I never, ever thought my husband and I would be one of them. Without our permission, a complete stranger used our personal wedding photo to illustrate the fictional life of Keith and Tameka… and now it’s everywhere.
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Although I know now that this meme began some time back in December, I didn’t learn about it until Friday night when the shares really began to multiply online. My cousin spotted it on Facebook and tagged me with a message that read, “Looks like someone jacked your wedding photo…lol.” I didn’t flinch because I assumed some wedding blogger or website had merely reposted an old photo for wedding inspiration. (After all, my wedding had been featured online once upon a time.)
Wrong. I was not prepared for what I saw next. A wedding photo that I couldn’t remember ever sharing online had in fact been hijacked and paired with a random picture of a Lexus and a big brown house, and posted alongside an intricate (and completely made up) backstory, complete with fake names and jobs. And worse, it was all over Facebook.
#Roommates what would you do? via: @shadekinge
A photo posted by The Shade Room (@theshaderoominc) on
In total disbelief, I started to do some digging online. My mind was racing. Please don’t let this be everywhere. Do people think this is real? Who did this? How did they get this photo? I felt like I was starring in one of the news stories I always read about. Only in this case, it was our portrait being shared by the minute online, but not our names or story. Someone has used our personal wedding photo like a stock image. Now it’s all over the Internet, and there’s nothing we can do about it. It sucks.
Seriously, I thought, who would do this? Was it personal? Couldn’t be. Were they bored? Names or no names, it still felt like a major invasion of privacy.
I was determined to find the source of this all, and I did: Unbeknownst to us, back in late 2015, some complete stranger (who I’ve since found online, but refuse to publicly credit or give attention to) made up the entire story and then used our photo to illustrate it on their Facebook page.
The story immediately hit a nerve, so of course, the Internet began to respond, share and repost like crazy. You see, “Tameka” is a neurosurgeon who makes 400K a year, and her new husband “Keith” is a shoe store manager bringing home $44,000 a year. Because Tameka loves Keith, and Keith loves Tameka, she upgrades his Honda Accord to a Lexus, pays for their wedding and a two-week honeymoon to Jamaica, then he moves into her home. The question posed at the end of the story was whether the men or women reading could ever see themselves in Keith or Tameka’s position.
This was only the beginning. People began spreading it across every platform. By the time I started to search on Friday night, it appeared that someone new was sharing it every few minutes on Twitter, Facebook and the ‘gram.
My husband and I went through a lot of different emotions. First we sort of laughed in disbelief. This can’t be real, we thought. Next we felt relieved because when someone says “your photos all over the internet,” usually the outcome is way worse. Our names and the real details of our life have not gone viral; just our wedding photo. The more we saw it shared over the weekend, the angrier we became because neither of us have any connection to the person who originally shared the photograph, and the photo was buried in a private (welp, so much for that) Facebook album from way back in 2010.
I admit, I also felt some guilt, because, like so many of you, we do share a lot of our lives online all the while carelessly assuming that we won’t ever actually have to see our photos stolen and used in an inappropriate way. Sure people warn you about posting your photos online because they can be taken and used without your permission, but let’s be honest for a minute here: everyone does it! And, we enjoy doing it too. Instagram wouldn’t matter if we didn’t. Ultimately, after a weekend long roller coaster ride, we decided it was creepy, click-bait for sure, and super awkward, but ultimately not something worth losing any sleep over.
Once popular Instagram gossip accounts like The Shade Room started reposting it, I knew this was really happening. No arm pinching. No take backs. The meme was officially Internet famous. So, instead I sat back and browsed some of the thousands (and thousands) of comments between Team Tameka and Team Keith fans.
I honestly don’t know what’s more fascinating: the fact that this actually happened to us or that so many people still take issue with the idea of women as breadwinners. This is, without question, the new normal for so many couples today.
While we may never be okay with idea that someone got away with this, and legally there’s most likely nothing we can actually do about it either, as a woman who has built a career on writing about healthy love, marriage and relationships, I take comfort in knowing that something so fake amplified and furthered a very real and much-needed conversation about women who earn more money than their man and provide for their family, just as many men have so proudly done for centuries.
Alas, Monday’s here, and I’m not going to sweat this anymore, even though my heart does go out to poor Keith and Tameka. No couple—made up or otherwise—should ever be judged as much as these two were in the last 72 hours. Enough, world. Let’s all move on. Shout out to the real Tamekas and Keiths everywhere, putting love before money and embracing all of the many forms love and marriage come in today.
Charli Penn is the Relationships and Lifestyle Editor for ESSENCE.com. Follow her (real) love story and stories about life and love on Instagram or her blog.