Waiting To Explode
So did the woman who wrote the book on players get played?
The divorce proceedings of a best-selling author wouldn't normally spill out of the gossip columns, but Terry McMillan is different. For one thing, her oeuvre -- which includes the mega-selling "Waiting to Exhale" -- has done more than entertain, providing a frame of reference for African Americans, especially women, to think about modern relationships. For another, the man she's divorcing, Jonathan Plummer, is the young, buff Jamaican whose energetic attentions inspired McMillan's "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," the you-go-girl novel that cheered middle-aged women everywhere.
And, finally, there's the reason for the divorce: Plummer says he recently discovered he is gay. This can't help but fuel anxiety over the "down low" phenomenon -- black men who date or marry women while secretly having sex with men.
From the divorce filings, we can gather that McMillan, 53, is feeling some understandable anger. She has kicked Plummer, 30, out of her San Francisco area house, intends to enforce a prenuptial agreement that gives him essentially nothing and throws in the allegation that he embezzled $200,000 from her accounts. A judge awarded Plummer $2,000 a month in spousal support, despite the prenup, but that's just provisional and might not last.
McMillan's fiction describes a catalogue of slick, predatory, no-good players. In the movie version of "Waiting to Exhale," think of the preening bad boys who obliterate Lela Rochon's self-esteem. Or the smooth-talking married man who strings along poor Whitney Houston. Or the smug, wealthy cad who cheats on Angela Bassett, and unforgettably gets his car torched in return.
Is Plummer just a type of player that the sharp-eyed McMillan somehow missed?
He claims he only recently discovered his homosexuality, and while that's certainly not impossible, there's considerable reason to be skeptical. They met 10 years ago -- she was vacationing in Negril, Jamaica, and he worked at the hotel. He was just 20; okay, maybe he was still confused.
But maybe he wasn't. Homophobia is common enough in Jamaica that a dance-hall star like Beenie Man can rap in a hit song about killing gays; if Plummer knew he was gay, he probably wouldn't have advertised it. And once he had hooked up with McMillan, he had every reason to hide the truth because she was his ticket to America. Even if he didn't know she was a millionaire author, as he claims, the mere fact that she could afford to stay at a fancy resort in Negril meant she had more money than he did.
And anyhow, by the time they married he was 24. In his mid-twenties, he still didn't have the slightest inkling that he liked guys? Then he moves to the San Francisco area, not exactly Taliban territory when it comes to gay sexuality, and doesn't feel a tingle? So yes, I'm skeptical of Plummer -- I think this might, indeed, be a "down low" scenario.
But what about McMillan? Would any of her savvy heroines have been so blind?
First of all, I'm thinking that an educated, accomplished, professional woman in her forties, even while joyfully regaining her groove with a Jamaican cabana boy less than half her age, would have to be thinking in the back of her mind that this probably wouldn't turn into forever.
Maybe McMillan made that calculation and decided to bring him home anyway. I hear that men have been known to bring home hot, young, empty-headed things, and she did have the foresight to make him sign that prenup. But if it were all calculated, she wouldn't be so angry. The betrayal isn't just that he's lost interest in her; it's that his new interest is in men.
Here's where I get myself in trouble (if I haven't already): In 10 years with this guy she didn't have a clue? In the bathroom cabinet, no stock of overly metrosexual hair products? No hint when the business he got her to finance turned out to be a dog-grooming salon? Terry McMillan, such a keen observer of love and war between the sexes, and nothing ever showed up on her "gaydar''?
In any event, there's nothing to be gained from "hateration," as Mary J. Blige might say. The courts should enforce the cut-and-dried prenup; Plummer will find a way to survive. Since I assume he's been exploring his newfound sexuality, everyone should get tested for STDs -- not because he's gay, but because he's presumably been fiddling around outside of his marriage -- and if he's given his wife anything more serious than a cold, I take back every semi-reasonable thing I've said about him.
If not, then everyone moves on. McMillan has already gotten one best-selling book out of this relationship. Now maybe two.