Sadly, dating show enthusiasts like myself are not in the practice of seeing love come easily for black women.
It does exist, of course – but more often than not, the narratives we see on reality TV rarely show black women being treated with open devotion.
When I first heard about Love Is Blind, Netflix’s latest reality show, where hopeful singletons get engaged to each other before they have ever met in person, I wasn’t expecting anything radically different.
However, while Love Is Blind served up all the usual drama and GIF-able moments, I was blindsided by how fully invested I became in one of its love stories. So much so that I tuned into the finale as soon as it was released, first thing in the morning, to discover whether they finally made it down the aisle.
Lauren Speed, an online content creator, and scientist and occasional rapper, Cameron Hamilton, had a strong connection from the start. They said ‘I love you’ after three days of dating and were engaged after four, all before knowing what each other looked like.
Despite the fact that this is a wildly far-fetched concept, and their union was incredibly rushed, this pairing captured the hearts of the reality TV-watching world nearly as quickly as they fell for each other.
Lauren, with her wit, relatability and contagious smile is perfect for television, and the more reserved Cameron is smart and handsome. Lauren, who is black, has never dated a white man before; Cameron, who is white, has dated black women in the past. Despite their differences, they’re incredibly well suited – it’s no surprise that they’ve gained thousands of fans in the short space of a few weeks.
But the thing that really has so many of us abandoning our usual layers of skepticism and common sense is the way Cameron loves Lauren, and how it’s a vastly different story to what we usually see.
They don’t just love each other; through Cameron, there’s a rare display of a cisgender, heterosexual man displaying his affections so openly that it is – unfortunately – quite shocking.
‘This just feels like nothing I’ve ever experienced, because I’ve never had a man so willing to show me how much he loves me,’ admits Lauren herself, soon after they meet in person. And while I’m sure that plenty of women who date men can attest to that, this sentiment is something that, for black women, resonates even deeper.
Years of reality TV shows about dating has perpetuated the stereotype that being doted on, and pursued without contest is often a story reserved for blondes, while black women, no matter how beautiful, are sidelined.
Love Island, a similarly addictive dating show here in the UK, has seen an increasing amount of black women find romantic success in recent seasons, but the endless partner swapping as central to the programme still provides that uneasy element of tension that can see a black woman discarded at the drop of a hat.
However, with Love Is Blind, the viewers got to see something quite different. Put simply: Cameron really, really loves Lauren. That’s all there is to it.
The final episode shows the hopeful groom questioning how long it’d take for him to feel alright if Lauren were to ultimately say no to him at the altar – nay, whether he’d ever feel alright again.
Cameron’s intense expressions of love throughout the series do occasionally veer into the space of being a touch uncomfortable, such as his near-constant stroking of her arm, or his confusion when Lauren suggests that she might keep her own apartment for a while after they marry. But one thing we can say for sure is that there’s no doubt in his mind about his hopes for their relationship.
Cameron is all in, while Lauren is the party with more hesitance. For once, we see a black woman in the driving seat of her romantic future. Rather than having to ‘prove’ herself to secure her place in his heart, he loves her exactly how she is, and it feels beautiful – and right – to see.
Does a part of me hate myself for unwittingly subscribing to this dreadfully dated concept of a woman being ‘chosen’ by a man, with marriage as the literal endpoint? Absolutely. And let me be clear: in no way do I consider having a man’s love as the prize of a lifetime.
However, this doesn’t mean that black women can’t have a moment of celebration for seeing a fellow sis getting the fairytale ending she deserves. The more we see of black women being loved and getting their happily ever afters, the better!
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