Do You Have Love for Roberta Muldoon?

Do you have that one friend? The one you've known for years, the one you love to death -- who calls you up in the middle of the night whenever one of their relationships crashes and burns? Their voice cracked, relaying the sad details through sobs and heartbreaking pauses, punctuating sentence after sentence with phrases like "I'm horrible, no one will ever love me," "How could I be so stupid?" and "I really thought this was the one?"
I do -- her name is Tiffany Pollard.
Tiffany (better known to the rest of the world as "New York") first appeared into my life as the love-hungry, cigarette puffing, screechy voiced, fight starting 24-year old self anointed princess character on VH1's Flavor of Love, where she and a bevy of other gold diggers lovely ladies jockeyed and competed for the hand of then 47-year old rapper/reality show star Flavor Flav.

Like so many other people who watched that show, I didn't come there for New York. I was there for Flavor Flav, who I had loved during his years as part of rap group Public Enemy, and couldn't help but be curious about as he waylaid that former fame into an unexpected career as the romantic lead in a series of VH1 reality shows -- culminating in Strange Love, -- a show that ended with the Brigitte Nielsen essentially leaving Flav at an altar, having lots of love to give -- but no one real he could offer it to.

You know how it is, you have a buddy who you've known for years. He dives headlong into a relationship that he thinks is great, but everyone around him knows won't last -- and when that inevitable blowup occurs it's the friends who are there for moral support, and then the eventual prodding back into the dating scene in the hopes that he will get back on his feet and meet someone good.
Thus, Flavor of Love.
Taken at face value, Flavor of Love was just another spin on what at that point was quickly becoming a tired reality show formula -- the 20 people vying for the undying "true" love of one person -- a trend made popular by shows like The Bachelor, Joe Millionaire, and Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? -- But if you looked at it another way (especially considering the public nature of all the reality-show romances that led directly to it's birth), Flavor of Love was a lot like watching a buddy of yours going through the trials and tribulations of casually dating a series of strangers/rebounds while looking for someone real to have in their life.

The odd thing is that when we first met New York, it was absolutely clear that she was in all possible ways wrong for our good buddy Flavor Flav. She was crass, belligerent, instantly clingy and mental -- the kind of thing that most dudes consider red flags and would immediately warn their buddy about, especially when (like in the case of Flav) it was a quality about the woman that he was apparently blind to given the fact that she was more of less naked and ready to throw down any time they got to hang out together.

Even though I don't know Flavor Flav personally, the thing that made that show work for me was that I'd been in plenty of situations myself where a friend of mine was involved in a relationship that was clearly built around passion, but was sure to be disastrous once it moved past that point. Hell, I've been in relationships like that myself -- the ones where your friends pull you aside and say "So what's up with this girl you're seeing? Because I gotta tell you, I think she's bad news." and I'd be the one saying "Ah, you just don't know her the way I do."
Only to come crawling back to them months later, dragging your tail
between your legs because you'd discovered they were right all along.
So at the end of that first season when a teary-eyed Flavor Flav told New York that he was going with the someone else, I think a lot of viewers took it with a sigh of relief, because we were kinda in the show for him -- and as much as it seemed that they liked each other on some level, it was impossible to ignore the fact that any relationship between the two of them would make the damage that Brigitte Nielsen inflicted look like a paper cut.

So when the inevitable happened, and the girl he did pick turned out to be a dud (or the producers convinced him to keep the cash cow going), it was only natural given the success of the previous version to try the whole thing over again. 20 new women -- 20 new chances for "love." And so the cycle repeats itself -- as we watch our buddy Flav, (having just come out of a relationship he wanted to believe was real) get all revved up to jump back into the "dating scene" again, because as we all know
..This time will be different.
Think about the mistakes you've made as a single person. The bad dates. The times you were thinking with your crotch instead of your brain. But most importantly, the way that after you get burned a few times you occasionally lean on your friends to help you avoid the same sort of pratfalls in the future. Which is exactly what the producers Flav did when during one episode he called on his "friend" New York to help him decide which of his 20 new prospective girlfriends were really there for love.
Ask an ex for relationship advice? You know, now that you're past all the drama and can be "friends" again?
..Yeah, that's always a good plan.
So it was no real surprise to viewers that during the day or so that Flav and New York hung out under that premise, the sparks between them rekindled, and realizing he might have made a mistake the last time around --she was asked to re-join the competition. Of course, several weeks later once the passion died down it became apparent to Flav that New York was not only still crazy, but possibly even crazier than she had been the first time.

Add to that the fact that (if the show is to be believed) he'd gotten her in the sack before the final elimination took place, the news of him dumping her on her butt again in favor of yet another less crazy person seemed almost a foregone conclusion.
But that's when a weird thing happened -- a lot of us began to sorta sympathize with her.
Yes, Flavor Flav was doing himself a huge favor by not picking her either time, because it seemed clear that the two of them could only end in disaster -- but now that we'd sorta known her for two years (and it was clear that Flav only liked her for a certain purpose, and didn't have any problems professing his undying love for her to get it), it was hard not to feel bad that she wasn't able to see the way he'd sharked her.

Next thing you know, she's the girl your buddy used to date that you still keep in touch with -- even if she is kinda psycho.

And so -- as things always do in television, a new show was born. This time New York herself would get to choose between 20 men vying for her affections. Now it would be New York who, having washed that man right out of her hair would be on the prowl for a rebound. Now it was her that we were rooting for, especially because (even though we'd never tell her this personally) she's clearly too bonkers to do these things without support.

And so began the trek we're on now -- where a woman we know and care about/feel sorry for despite (and perhaps in some ways because of) her flaws careens through the dating scene in the hopes of finding true love. And just like that one friend of yours that calls crying in the middle of the night when their relationship falls down and goes boom, we've gotten to the point where all we really want for the poor girl is to finally realize what it is that she really wants and stop throwing all of her eggs (ovaries?) into the wrong basket.

Which of course she always does -- as last season went from bad match to bad match, culminating in her deciding to not go with the fiery thug who was probably wrong for her in favor of the older dude who seemed to have his shit together -- a guy who proposed to her once she chose him,
Only to dump her a few weeks later when he decided she was "unstable."
Seriously, I can almost picture the scene -- somewhere in the middle of the night, interrupted from a deep sleep by the incessant ringing of a cell phone, noticing who the person calling was -- at which point you immediately consider not taking the call, because you know what it's gonna be about, but at the same time you know that a good friend wouldn't do that -- so you pick it up and say "Hello?" -- only to hear silence and the sounds of quiet crying on the other side.

Maybe that sounds mean, but it's like that sometimes. There's a difference between the person you know who laments the fact that they can't get in a decent relationship and the one who somehow can't stop themselves from getting into bad ones and then wondering what happened when the gloves finally come off and things turn to crap.

So what do we tell her? What advice can you offer to the girl who made what seemed like the right choice and still can't find the happiness she is looking for? I mean, what else can you say but -- get back out there. Try it again. Stop jumping at a pretty face or a certain attitude, and think about what you really want instead of just going for the flavor of the month, so to speak.
Which is where we are now.
The reason I think following New York's dating life makes such compelling television is that even though the show's premise suggests that she's the one in control of the situation and uses all the wacky challenges and competitions to help her make the best choice -- it's become clear that after nearly 4 seasons of watching dudes telling her whatever they thought she wanted to hear so they could get closer to her cookies she's still playing the part of the underdog.

Not just because she can't seem to get it right. But because the reason she can't seem to get it right is that she keeps making the same mistakes over and over.

Which is something we can all probably identify with to some extent.

She has attractive qualities, but New York is one of those women who looks bad in certain lighting. She also tends to dress skanky when she's on the hunt, perhaps in an effort to divert her potential suitors attention away from the qualities about her personality that she's self conscious about -- like her voice, her lack of worldly experience, or the levels of success (or lack thereof) she's had so far in her attempts to land a husband.

It's almost like she's a ball of teenage sensibilities wrapped up in a Hooter girl's body -- a combination that attracts specific kinds of attention without effort, which seems to heighten her sense of jealousy when other women are around yet leaves her open to disappointment in her hopes for a relationship with any kind of depth.

As a viewer, I want her to be happy. I want her to find what she's looking for. Maybe not so much because I care about her happiness, but more because after watching literally years of her romantic missteps and screwups it's like I just want to throttle her every time she does something stupid.

From choosing looks over heart, to the boob job, to choosing of clothes that change the boob job from something accentuating her looks to something utterly ridiculous, to her continual practice getting mad at the guys who as a result just see her as a boob job instead of a woman who got one (especially after she's been wearing a skimpy bikini), to letting her gargoyle of a mother push her around and continually make her feel guilty for not being perfect, to the fact that she continually finds fault with people who come on her TV show who she discovers are only there to be on television (unlike her?), to constantly eating herself happy whenever things go wrong -- it's like you wish you could just jump through the TV and say:

"THIS! This is what you keep doing wrong!
Can't you see what a dumbass you're being?"
But of course we can't do that, and so week after week we watch her steer the Titanic into the iceberg field knowing full well that it's only a matter of time before she hits one and the whole thing sinks all over again.

It's like you feel bad for her at the exact same time that you can't believe how myopic she can be. And somehow (even if she's just a character on some TV show) your sympathy interferes with your anger and eventually undercuts them both.

Or to put it another way, I didn't think ANY of the three guys she had pared the competition down to were actually any good for her, but of all those losers -- I can't believe she cut the only one who wasn't completely full of shit. Especially now that she returned to her patented "insane in love" face that she had previously only used with Flavor Flav anytime she looks at the domineering yet handsome bully, leaving our only hope to save the day (and finally get this hen a rooster so she'll stop calling us with her problems) in the hands of the smarmy token white boy who's only apparent appeal to her is the fact that he continually showers her with expensive gifts.
Just because someones been around the longest doesn't mean they're right for you.
Just because someone has lots of money doesn't mean they can provide what you need.
And I bet a lot of you're out there saying, "Eh, it's just a TV show -- the whole thing's fake," or "She's too crazy for me to take seriously, I can't see why anyone would want to be with her anyways," but to me the show has sort of gotten beyond that. It's almost like the people on the TV have become caricatures of the things all of us do in some form or another that make it seem so hard to find what we're looking for.

I mean look at last week's elimination. The educated, soft-mannered character (Punk) was dismissed because he wasn't "dangerous enough." But the dangerous guy (Buddha) has been portrayed throughout the show as a manipulative bully, who clearly knows that New York's not smart enough to see or match him in any the games he's playing with her emotions.

It's gotten so bad lately on the show that it appears that she's become so utterly conflicted between the realization that she finds this guy so disarmingly attractive and the fact that he condescends her and essentially treats her like a child in every conversation they have -- That she's actually mistaken that feeling of confusion for the belief that she's actually head over heels in love with him.

A reaction that those of us sitting at home are all to familiar with by now.

In other words, as her concerned friend who's seen her burned before -- it's becoming more and more clear that while Buddha might be the guy she likes the most out of all the losers she's been dating lately, it seems like he doesn’t see her (or the show) as anything more than another conquest (a suspicion that's only reinforced by the fact that if she should choose Buddha he would have the most reason to dump her in some grandiose fashion -- laying the perfect groundwork for the inevitable season 3 to happen).

But if that's the case, then what is New York supposed to do? Pick the spineless rich guy who's clearly intimidated by the bully (especially given the fact that earlier in the season he got his ass kicked by him) -- who if he wins would only serve as someone to cater to her materialistic needs and cower in defeat whenever conflict comes along (especially if said conflict took the forms of arguments with her)?

I don't know -- maybe I've experienced more than my share of relationship and family drama over the years, but I honestly can't imagine that I'm the only one who finds some of these things to be frighteningly familiar.

In the end it seems like the only way this works out in New York's favor is if the wuss raises up and either exposes the bully for who he is, or somehow figures out a way to beat him and win the day -- and even if that were to work, that still doesn't solve the overall problem that started all this back in the first season of Flavor of Love all those years ago -- wherein Tiffany Pollard hopes to land a man that her mother despises so much that she'll finally release her from the guilt-trip that she's had her pinned under for so many years, even if that release comes in the form of turning the back on her own daughter.

And even if that was to happen, how long do you think that man would hang around once he realized that his only purpose in the relationship was to fight her family battles for her?

It reminds me of this recent post mspuddin' did over on her blog where she put the internet comment cliche' "I'd hit it" to the test by posting pictures of some of the craziest, most whacked out women in pop culture right now (a list that included New York, btw), laid out specific reasons why most people find them unattractive (or too crazy to consider despite their looks) and then asked the questions -- "Would you still hit it?"
Which of course, almost all her commenters said they would.
What would you put up with for "love?" What could you look the other way on? And is that really the only way people out there can navigate the turbulent waters of relationships these days -- by comprimising between the things they want and someone who's "close enough?"

I know she's an exaggerated character. I know she's the craziest of all crazy black women to ever grace a reality show, and that in the end none of this will really make that much difference in the grand scheme of life.

But when you get right down to it -- what I'm saying is that seeing the bad decisions she's made along the way and the two losers she's left herself to choose between; if I were her close friend she looked to for advice or consolation when things go wrong -- I would get my cell phone ear ready -- because that late night crying call is not too far away.
It's like I said all along -- she shoulda stayed with the midget.

[Listening to:    Nonpoint"Breathe" ]