After The Aisle

The internet has been ablaze with hot takes after Ayesha Curry's appearance on Red Table Talk. The 30-minute web series, hosted by Jada Pinkett-Smith on Facebook Watch, aired on May 6 and featured an interview the "First Ladies of the NBA;" also known as Sonya Curry, Ayesha Curry, Sydel Curry, and newly engaged Callie Rivers.

If you're not familiar with the legendary Curry family, I can direct you to a better-informed sportswriter, but I'm here to focus on the Black Twitterstorm surrounding Ayesha's candid confession on the insecurity she feels from the lack of admiration she faces in comparison to her husband, Steph Curry, and the larger topic of female and male desire as a millennial love expert.

We All Have An Ayesha Curry Inside Of Us, Here's How You Handle It

Contrary to what you may believe a relationship editor covering weddings and marriage is supposed to say, monogamy is not as simple or as natural as it seems to be, and romantic love is still a rather new concept. Going back 300,000 years ago to our closest human ancestors and even possibly earlier upright-walking species, there is a slim chance their relationships would fit the bill of what we call love now. Early humans lived in harsh conditions where unyielding dedication to a single person would not only be unwise, but it could very well be a threat to survival. In other words, procreation was and still is the name of the game, because let's face it, we all die someday, but the act of passing on our genes is one way we can live on forever. This fact coupled with the idea of natural selection is what plays such a big role in the instincts of women and men.  

Though, it's a common talking point that women generally have an innate urge for security and protection while men generally have an innate urge to fertilize eggs, this is an oversimplified telling of sexual evolution. Research has shown early humans and other species, regardless of sex, have an equal goal to reproduce and continue a lineage. According to Dr. Kimberly Russell in an interview with Psychology Today, "In most monogamously breeding species that have been studied, animals adopt a mixed strategy of social monogamy without pure sexual monogamy. That is, both males and females engage in discreet copulations outside the socially monogamous relationship to defray the cost of missed mating opportunities." Russell goes on to explain how competition is a natural result of the sexes having multiple mating partners, and how human psychology has evolved to shape the culture and behavior of most societies.

In her own words, "A male raising another male's child means complete reproductive failure, the evolutionary cost of having a cheating wife is far greater than having a cheating husband. We expect, then, to have much stronger evolutionary pressures for males to prevent female infidelity than for females to prevent male infidelity." This hypothesis appears to make sense if you take it at surface value, especially when you factor in that some research suggests that human male genitalia may have evolved to remove rival seed out of a female's reproductive tract.

Circling back to the Ayesha Curry situation, we also have to acknowledge how women are treated in American society particularly. There's no denying that pretty privilege is very real and that women are valued for their looks. A 2017 Pew research study On Gender Differences, No Consensus on Nature vs. Nurture revealed that 35 percent of the 4,573 polled feel that physical attractiveness is what society values most in women, which is significantly higher than the 11 percent who think men are most valued for their physical attractiveness. These responses are driven further with the Pew Research Center's accompanying data visualization graphic that shows 100 percent of respondents associated women and beauty as a positive trait.

Now, this isn't a personal rant that goes line by line on how these views are detrimental, but it is important that we objectively consider the impact of the ingrained self-objectification many women battle with during this Instagram era we live in. Famous or not, those who have a post-baby snapback and appear youthful well after their 20s are praised and put on a pedestal while those who aren't able to achieve such feats are tossed to the side to be forgotten or overlooked. It's the whole reason why women-focused editorials thrive in 2019 with content centered around get fit quick schemes and anti-aging secrets.

If you think the black community is immune to such ideals, just examine how the motto "black don't crack" is highly celebrated while the likes of Halle Berry, Angela Bassett and Taraji P. Henson are surrounded by constant media coverage that uses shock to describe their beauty--almost as if it's unbelievable for a woman to be desirable after motherhood or over the age of 40.

How does this all tie in with Ayesha Curry? Well, she's a 30-year-old mother of three who runs a successful business and has a highly public relationship with an NBA star. Add in the fact that she's an actress, a television personality and a Cover Girl spokesperson, and it's safe to say she's in tune with the Hollywood standard of beauty and all the pressure that comes with it. Her comments at the 13-minute mark of the Red Table Talk interview provide insight on how one's self-esteem can wane in the absence of attention from the opposite sex.

"Something that really bothers me, and honestly has given me a sense of a little bit of an insecurity, is the fact that -- yeah, there are all these women, like, throwing themselves, but me, like, the past 10 years, I don't have any of that," she said on the Facebook Watch show. "I have zero -- this sounds weird -- but, like, male attention, and so then I begin to internalize it, and I'm like, 'Is something wrong with me?'" In response to the women at the table that tried to reassure her that men still find her attractive, Ayesha added, "I don't want it, but it'd be nice to know that, like, someone's looking."

With the strict standards of idealistic, modern-day monogamy at the forefront of many people's minds, Ayesha's admission can certainly be viewed as disconcerting or ungrateful, but the sentiment is real and raw for both women and men. This is even more apparent when there is an imbalance in a relationship. Her husband, Steph, is a well-liked basketball player with a net worth of $76.9 million. When compared to Ayesha's $16 million, with certainty we can say he's the breadwinner. In no way should marriage be a competition, but it's not hard to see how insecurities can fester when one spouse is highly revered and brings in a significant amount of family assets. Not to mention, with Steph being a professional athlete whose whole career centers around being in peak physical condition, there is a sense of power that "groupies" will always gravitate towards. The height and strength are primal signifiers of health while the million-dollar contract is a promise of provision--all of which, can be seductive to outsiders who are looking to secure a livelihood for themselves and potential children.

Although, Ayesha's success and self-built empire are impressive, let's face it, there are far more beautiful women surrounding athletes than there are handsome men running to department stores for Ayesha Curry cookware in hopes of shooting their shot. And why is this so? Well, men aren't typically conditioned to chase sufficient women who are off-the-market and have children. Does it happen sometimes? Sure. But, for the most part, men aren't tripping over each other to get involved or take the responsibility that comes with someone who has dependents. There's also a common belief that men respect other men, or at least successful men that they admire, and with Steph's status in the NBA, it'd be difficult to take a risk that'd make a man public enemy number one. Maybe if sporting entertainment was a penniless profession in America, there'd be a chance that the relationship would be tilted in the opposite direction, but that is not the case here.

Another factor we need to consider is that there is a loss of agency when a woman marries and pursues motherhood. Ayesha, though she was probably happy to take her husband's last name, men are often unaware of the existential crisis a woman can go through in changing her name. It's a loss of individuality, a loss of identity. Ayesha spent a significant portion of her life as Ayesha Alexander, and that all went away with a quick sign on the dotted line. As a result of that decision, the world knows and mainly cares about her as Steph Curry's wife, which is something that can very well make her or any other woman in a similar situation question their value in this world.

The questioning can definitely be taken further when children are added to the mix because motherhood is often seen through the lens of living for your kids. In the same interview, Ayesha shared her concern and the guilt she feels when she's working, and that she wonders if she should stop in order to spend more time with Riley, Canon and Ryan. Ayesha has also publicly said that she put her acting career on hold and it's something that she struggled with.

Family life aside, Ayesha and Steph are high school sweethearts. Although that term sounds very fairytale-esque, the reality of this relationship type usually comes with its own baggage. The pair have grown up together, they've seen each other at their best and worst. And it's not unheard of that one party may wonder if they still have some "mojo" left after settling down so young. Meeting at the age of 15 and marrying seven years later doesn't leave much room for exploration, at least when compared to those who wed later in life. And only three of those years Ayesha and Steph spent dating. This doesn't mean either one has done anything wrong or that they've made a mistake--with over eight years under their belt, they've been doing a great job in their marriage. However, hardship comes with longevity. This can be seen with Ayesha and Steph's matching arrow tattoos that they say, "signifies the past is behind us and the future is in front of us, so we stay in the middle, in the moment. I smack my tattoo and she does the same."

A criticism of Ayesha's revelation in 2019 is that it's in conflict with comments she's made in the past. From her 2011, now deleted Tweet that read, "At the auto bell getting a much needed car wash. Don't really need the men trying to holla though. I'm engaged!!! Geez! Off the market! :)" to her public declarations of preferred modesty that has subsequently fueled shameful memes, Ayesha is a victim of not realizing the internet lives forever. Despite the fact that her messaging seems to have a different tone now, it's important that we allow each other to evolve and change instead of resorting to cyberbullying for the sake of online clout and likes.

The ridicule dedicated to Ayesha is very much so unequal when compared to Sonya Curry's admission that she had to nip Dell Curry's potentially wandering eye in the bud before anything could become of it.

"Say we're at the club. And some girl is all up in his face, I kind of liked it because to me it was kind of like, 'That's my man and you ought to be attracted to my man and I'm OK with that as long as my man stands beside me and is making me feel good.' But if my man turns around and goes ha-dah-dah-dah, which has happened a couple of times, I'd be like, 'Hold up, now wait.' I'd solve it. I was the one, I'm always the one to solve things right then and there. You need to back up and you need to make her back up," Sonya explained.

The soundbite is just as honest and somewhat uncomfortable as Ayesha's quote about not having male groupies, but there is virtually no outrage surrounding the sanctity of marriage focused on Sonya and Dell. It definitely wasn't Sonya's responsibility to keep women away from her husband, but it is what it is, and she did what she had to do to secure her family. It doesn't make their love or 31 years of marriage any less valid, it just took some work and conversation for them to figure out how monogamy works in their relationship. And that's the beauty of choosing to be with one person, folks. A monogamous marriage based on romantic love represents a coupling that has overcome primeval urges for a deeper, meaningful relationship.

Steph has gone on to praise and support his wife after her comments on Red Table Talk, which on a surface level makes it appear that he is secure in himself and their relationship as a whole. Now, we don't know if they had a discussion in private, but publicly they are speaking out as a united front. Critics are using the opportunity to clown the couple, of course, but laughter aside, it seems that a number of black women and men ascribe to a very rigid standard of monogamy that doesn't allow for individuals to want to be seen as attractive while in a relationship. Therapist Esther Perel said it best in her 2015 TED Talk when she summarized how modern relationships view love, "We have a romantic ideal in which we turn to one person to fulfill an endless list of needs: to be my greatest lover, my best friend, the best parent, my trusted confidant, my emotional companion, my intellectual equal. And I am it: I'm chosen, I'm unique, I'm indispensable, I'm irreplaceable, I'm the one." This isn't inherently a bad thing to believe, but if left unchecked, it can cause harm in a relationship because it's very utopian.

To be fair though, we can ask ourselves as a community as to why we are fiercely protective of our significant others. Could it be the remnant leftover from American slavery that makes us want to ensure the partner we've chosen doesn't go anywhere? Is this subconscious knowledge that our ancestors weren't granted the privilege we have today what polarizes the interactions black women and men have? The answer isn't clear, but it's on all of us to show a level of understanding and compassion.

So, what's the takeaway here? 

One, don't take a soundbite at face value, especially when it's from a conversation that probably took hours of discussion and was edited down to 30 minutes. Two, be careful of what you put out for the court of public opinion and make sure you don't disrespect or embarrass your spouse. Three, stop damning each other and focusing so much energy on a "women versus men" oppression Olympics (at least when it comes to frivolous issues); it's also not cool to weaponize a person's insecurities simply because you were hurt before. Four, just work hard on being a good person and being good to your spouse, and if you choose monogamy, have that honest conversation on what it means to you and stick to it. Five, know that you're not a bad person if you wonder whether you're attractive to other people so long as you stand by your spouse, honor your vows and don't let those outside opinions drive you.

With these key tips in mind, couples who are married, engaged or dating will thrive in their relationships. The sooner it's learned, the better. Millennial couples are already credited with driving down the divorce rate, and the more we understand about each other, the better future generations of black love will be.

What do you think about the Ayesha Curry situation on Red Table Talk? Do you think she made valid points in her confession, or do you think she should've stayed hush-hush or not felt this way at all? Let us know in the comments below. Also, feel free to leave a question or topic you want us to cover next!