“(Wellbeing &) Pleasure Play by Play”: Half & Half vs. The Game

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Somehow, many of us have lived most of our lives under the impression that “having it together” is the determining factor of adulthood. We’ve lived our lives under the guise that our relationships need to be perfect, too – without any confusion or grey area. Although, if this time apart from one another has taught us anything, it’s that we’re in control of nothing and that room for error/growth has become particularly essential. Thankfully, we’ve had time to revisit some of our favorite sitcoms, and they remind us that—while uncomfortable—learning to navigate difficult situations is always worth it.

Between Half & Half and The Game, we learn this lesson time and time again – that compromise and forgiveness are essential to wellbeing. Let’s do a quick recap, shall we? 

Main characters Mona & Lil’ Dee Dee share the same father, but have different mothers. Their father (let’s call him…Daddy Warbucks) and Mona’s mother (Phyllis) divorced when Mona was young: after Phyllis refused to support his dream of going into real estate. Warbucks then moved on to Lil’ Dee Dee’s mother (Big Dee Dee) who he’s still married to when Mona & DeeDee move into one of his many apartments. As kids, Mona & Lil’ Dee Dee often celebrated their birthdays together and their parties put on display the differences between how Mona and Lil’ Dee Dee were treated. This put a damper on all of the relationships involved: between Mona & Lil’ Dee Dee, Phyllis & Big Dee Dee, Phyllis and Warbucks, etc. And, it’s once they move into the same apartment building that everything really starts to hit the fan. 

As we know, while Mona & Lil’ Dee Dee share DNA, they don’t necessarily have anything else in common. Mona’s closest relationships were actually with her mother and her best friend, Spencer. She and Phyllis were so close that Mona would call her after sexcapades to discuss the juicy details. Mona & Spencer were also tight knit, often hanging out on weekends after working together all week – that is, when one of them didn’t have a hot date. In the first season, we don’t see much tension or awkwardness between Mona & Spencer – besides when Phyllis taunts them about giving her beautiful grandchildren. Because of the closeness Mona shares with her mother and Spencer, and how committed she is to her work, she finds it hard to establish a deeper relationship with Lil’ Dee Dee or anyone else for that matter. 

I don’t know about you, but it sounds familiar for me. Being family oriented can cause us to feel guilty about exploring relationships with others, let alone ourselves. It can ask more of us than we’re truly able to give— and it’s in those moments that we must remember that we can only pour from a cup that’s already full. We can dodge feeling overwhelmed or undervalued by simply saying no and setting boundaries. However, boundaries don’t mean tapping into our egos or searching for control. Mona’s lack of control in her own life leads her to monitoring the relationship that’s developing between Spencer and Lil’ Dee Dee.  

In spending more time with the two sisters, Spencer becomes quite vocal about his attraction to Lil’ Dee Dee, pinpointing how she takes charge (of her sexuality) as the main reason. Mona notices their chemistry and instantly becomes possessive of Spencer, voicing that she refuses to lose him as a friend. Although, this moment speaks to a much larger conversation around what’s portrayed as sexy or attractive in Season 1 and throughout the series. Mona is very seldom at the center of the sexy portrayals— except for when she made a joke about sitting on the dryer with a bucket of quarters. It’s one of the few references to self-pleasure, which we know shouldn’t be centered in pity, right? Right. However, there are other moments in the show when the writing takes jabs at Mona’s deeper skin tone and curlier hair. She even develops a complex around it, saying that there are two types of women in the world: the Monas and the Dee Dees. Dee Dees are the women who are afforded opportunities (at a young age), whose beauty and charm are widely-accepted. Monas seem to be the women who make do with what they have and are underestimated to the point of second-guessing themselves. 

As for The Game, every relationship that’s explored throughout the seasons is impacted by money and trust: Melanie & Derwin, Tasha & Malik, Jason & Kelly, etc. So how do the women featured in these series experience wellbeing + pleasure? I’m glad you asked. Melanie & Derwin are the “rookie couple” with Derwin being the newest player on the team and Melanie not yet being a wife. Their battles are rooted in a lack of trust around Derwin’s fidelity now that he’s a professional athlete, and around Melanie’s unwillingness to make time for Derwin once she’s a doctor. Jason & Kelly share the same tension because of the nature of Jason’s profession. 

Also a professional athlete, he’s a veteran and one of the most talented/depended upon players on the team. Making a good portion of the team’s money as well, but pinches every penny that he can. Lastly, Tasha & Malik have a completely different bond from the other couples. As mother and son, they come from a place of love, respect and blind trust. However, several situations arise where each duo is tested in how far they’re willing to go for themselves and the people that they love. In this series, boundaries are established and revisited. Melanie & Derwin are forced to decide whether they can survive her commitment to medicine while Derwin navigates his newfound status. 

Melanie reluctantly joins the Sunbeams and begins to develop an appreciation for them as they help her understand the ins and outs of dating an athlete. Some of the Sunbeams resorted to following their spouses even when they were on the road and Melanie thought she was above it until she found herself in Derwin’s hotel room. Thankfully they were able to get past Melanie’s lapse in judgement. Breakdowns in communication happen to the best of us. For a long time, life was getting in the way of many of us expressing ourselves honestly. One thing this pandemic has given us is time to reflect on our decisions, sacrifices, relationships, goals, etc. 

A point came where Derwin asked Melanie to marry him and she said yes while meaning no. For those of us who are familiar with the episodes to follow, we know that their relationship was never quite the same, especially after Derwin’s infidelity. Derwin needed to feel wanted and Melanie needed to feel independent, but neither of them were saying what they truly needed. Compromise works when we communicate. Like for Jason & Kelly, Jason had no problems communicating his needs or having them met for that matter. It was Kelly who didn’t feel worthy/supported in expressing her needs, especially if they were monetary. 

Money makes us do strange things: like pretending it doesn’t matter, living beyond or below our means to the point of detriment, or even pretending to be people that we’re not. When it comes to Malik & Tasha, money didn’t have a significant impact on their relationship. Trust ,however, was broken and restored in regards to Malik’s career. Tasha and one of Malik’s coaches wanted to explore their attraction for one another, but Tasha was asked to shut it down or to walk away from managing him. To keep her job and, more importantly, the tone of her relationship with her son, she chose him and not herself. How often do mothers choose their children or not see compromise as an option?. Too often if you ask me, especially with the amount of women that Malik was able to entertain while still being his mother’s son. 

As for Malik’s career, money, and wellbeing, it was clear that he had moments of not being able to trust himself. He grew to care for a curvy, sportscaster and wouldn’t entertain the idea of dating her in public because of her size – that was, until she showed him that she could be without him. Sometimes it takes our backs being against the wall for us to react in ways that suit us and the people that we love. It’s not always pretty and doesn’t guarantee that things will end well, but it’s human to not see things for what they are the first or even second time around. 

Stretching back to Half & Half, it took Spencer a while to realize he had real love for Mona and to see past how he’d seen her before (as off limits and unappealing). And realizations like this are sometimes sparked by wanting people to be certain things for us whether the relationships are platonic or romantic. If we moved through the world without checklists, and actually saw people for how beautiful they really are, we’d be able to have more meaningful relationships. Trust and vulnerability are essential to wellbeing, and both of these series teach us that wellbeing depends on navigating grey areas in our adulthood with love and forgiveness.

What are some of your favorite wellness or pleasure-centered scenes from the series’? Share with us!

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