Call and Response: What Brandy and Monica can Teach Us About Randomness in Our Lives

When I was a kid, I saw my babysitter’s dad fighting her boyfriend on the street of the cul-de-sac we lived on. He was a fiery Frenchman, the father was, who was nothing but kind to me. One morning, I couldn’t get the keys out of the door lock so I ran over to his place – my babysitter was also our neighbour – to ask him for help. He needed to put his shoes on, obviously, before he could help me. He had a long-handled shoehorn, the first I’d ever seen. I had to run to school after he turned the key a full rotation before pulling it out.

What I’ve never seen, is two women fighting over a man. It’s hard for me to believe that it ever happens, but I suppose it does. Being a man myself, I can say with complete confidence that no two women have ever fought over me. It’s hard for me to even imagine, but if I try it looks like an argument centred on caution rather than acquisition:

“Are you sure you’re okay?” I can hear one ask the other.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. He’s harmless,” answers the other.

“Okay. I’ll be sitting right here,” the one says reassuringly.

“It’s just a drink and you can join us,” the other retorts.

The conversation that Brandy and Monica have in, “The Boy is Mine,” is almost as amicable. They run into each other and recognise one another. They agree that there’s some confusion that they need to clear up. So, they sit down and discuss how such a misunderstanding could come to be. We find out that they both love the boy and he has told them each that they’re special to him. In the end, we’re left wondering what the outcome of the conversation is.

There’s some noticeable tension between Brandy and Monica but that’s to be expected given the nature of their conversation. They are trying to rationalise emotions, which is never easy, if not impossible. You just feel what you feel, and that’s okay.

Their irresolvable problem would benefit from simple conflict management. First, they need to name the problem – what is this boy called? Second, they should involve him in the conversation because his viewpoint is important to the solution. I’m sure that he would appreciate the opportunity to say his piece.

These days, it’s harder to run into people. Our interactions are more manufactured. We connect before we connect; link up, as the kids would say. The randomness that was once a regular part of our lives is missing.

We need some uncertainty in our lives to keep us alert and aware. The dynamics of our environment are what help us understand who we are because it tests our resolve. When we have as much control over our participation in our lives as we do now, we lose the ability to respond. We need conflict and tension in our lives because it aligns our self-understanding. It’s how we respond to the challenges in our lives that leads to growth.

Last September, Monica and Brandy found themselves head-to-head again. This time they were going rounds with their discographies. They had to be kept six feet apart.

My babysitter ended up running off with her boyfriend, leaving me and my sister to fend for ourselves when our parents left us alone as adolescents. Years later, we ran into her and learned that she had married the guy and even had children of her own with him.

I’ve never met either Brandy or Monica so it can’t have been me they were arguing over. I sit on the floor to put on my shoes so have no need for a long-handled shoehorn. Correlation isn’t necessarily causation.

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