Last night on Oprah’s Next Chapter, Oprah summoned her patronus and cast a powerful hex on Rihanna that made her tearfully spill her guts to her (as predicted). Like any object of a successful lugubriousum, Rihanna wasn’t totally sure what was happening, even remarking at one point, “I am not a cryer, man, what is this?” But even more troubling than the hex itself were the truths that it brought forth from her mouth, which were at once admirably honest (hex notwithstanding) and horribly depressing.
The quote that’s already the most bandied about is this one, about how she was primarily worried about Chris Brown (and not herself) after he put her in the hospital:
As angry as I was, I just felt like, he made that mistake because he needed help and who’s gonna help him? Noone’s gonna say ‘he needed help’ and everyone would say he was a monster without looking at the source, and I was more concerned about him.
This is a very normal emotion for someone who’s in an abusive relationship to feel, when they are still with, or only recently away from, their abuser. More upsetting to me were her admissions that she still, four years later, is in love with him, and was able to forgive him for hitting her after she forgave her dad for hitting her mom:
We’ve built a trust again. We love each other and we probably always will. That’s not something you can shut off if you’ve ever been in love. He’s in a relationship of his own, I’m single, but we have maintained a close friendship since the restraining order has been dropped….[Seeing him is] awkward because I still love him. My stomach drops and I have to maintain this poker face and not let it get to the outer part of me.
Oprah: How did you forgive him?
Rihanna: I repaired my relationship with my dad. I was so angry at him. I was angry at a lot of things from my childhood. I witnessed a lot of things in my household [confirms violence]…my family broke up because of his addiction. Why can’t I come to a place where I can let somebody in? Why can’t I love? I wanted to know why and I thought, what is my idea of what supposed to happen?
The minute I was able to realize my father was probably one of the best fathers in the world…he taught me everything. And as awful as he was to my mom at times, it didn’t compare to how he was as a father. And I had to come to terms with that, and I was able to close that gap with him, and all kinds of emotions started happening after that. I thought I hated Chris and I realized it was love that was tarnished. I realized that I had to forgive him, and the minute I let go of that I started living again.
On the one hand, it’s good that she let all those negative emotions go, because forgiving one’s abusers is part of getting over past trauma. But that doesn’t mean you need to be friends with them! I don’t care what anyone says, a father who abuses the mother of his children is not “one of the best fathers in the world.” He is a fatally flawed father, and makes his kids exponentially more likely to think that being in an abusive relationship is normal. Where some fathers would have been seeing red, he has shrugged off Chris’s abuse as just something that happens, as well as policing his daughter’s body. He does not sound like someone who deserves a second chance. And how does her mom feel about it? “Hey mom, I’m sorry dad hit you, but that’s not really my problem, and I have to forgive him so I can forgive my own abusive partner for hitting me. Priorities!” That does not sound like progress.
And the part about still being in love with Chris is equally troubling. It’s one thing to say you’ve moved on from something bad that happened to you. It’s another to think there is value in being friends with the person who did it to you, and another still to still be resigned to being in love with him. “That’s not something you can shut off if you’ve ever been in love” is such an incorrect statement. I was hopelessly in love with my Bad College Boyfriend and thought I would NEVER RECOVER when he dumped me, because everything feels like the end of the world when you’re 21. But guess what? I did. I’m 27 now, and I have no idea what younger me was thinking. And I have loved one or two terrible people since then, and I’ve gotten over them, too. Sometimes, your brain needs to strong arm your dumb, stupid heart. You can’t consciously decide to stop loving someone, but there are things you can do to speed the process along, like never talking to that person again. You consciously decide to do that, because the alternative is to feel like shit forever, and/or stay in a bad relationship forever. And your brain knows that’s a bad idea, even if your heart doesn’t.
I sincerely hope Rihanna starts seeing a good therapist, because it sounds like she’s going about the healing process in a somewhat backwards way. But more than anything, I’m mad that Chris Brown still has her heart after beating her up on the regs and acting like a total douche ever since, because he does not in any way, shape, or form deserve it.