Friday, March 26, 2010

You Had Me at “Pootie” or, How "Jerry Maguire" Ruined Dating for Single Mothers

Name one man who didn’t love the 1996 film "Jerry Maguire," I challenge you. Hell, women loved it , too. It had a little something for everyone, didn’t it? It was the quintessential American movie. It was about football, unlikely professional success (based on a moral premise) and naturally, it was a love story. And it was our favorite kind, too. The story of the commitment-phobe who eventually falls for the woman who shows him undying devotion, yet is the kind he would’ve never pursued in his pre-rock-bottom days. In the end, the protagonist, Jerry Maguire, mans up, sees the good woman before his eyes and does right by her. Oh yeah…and he realizes he can’t live without her.

Hey, that’s all fine and good, but I want to talk about why the movie Jerry Maguire ruined dating for single mothers. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays the captivating Rod Tidwell, the stubborn, cocky, wide receiver and sole client of the gone-solo sports agent, Maguire. We love him for being a pain in the ass but also for the way he is a major catalyst for the development of Maguire’s fledgling character. Tidwell is just the challenge Maguire needs professionally and personally, and he surprises us with the wisdom he bestows in his unique way, always at the right time.

But…at one point in the movie, he imparts a piece of said wisdom to Maguire that I’m afraid that the millions of male viewers took in and took to heart… in fact, all I have to do is say “shoplift the pootie,” and countless men could name the film, the scene, and probably recite the lines. Let’s just say I’m sure this has permeated the consciousness of the audience, and has subsequently influenced them to believe that they now have the dating single mother FIGURED OUT.

Oh, you know the scene! Rod and Jerry (we’re on a first-name basis now) are walking along outside after Rod quit a commercial. Because Rod is a happily married man (and presumably experienced with women – HOT!) Jerry decides to ask him for dating advice. It goes something like this:

Jerry- Can I ask you a personal question?

Rod- Are we gonna be friends now?

Jerry - Have you dated any single mothers?

Rod - I was raised by a single mother.

Jerry- -I think, after this, she's gonna have to take that job in San Diego.

Rod --First of all, single mothers don't date. They've been to the puppet show and they've seen the strings. Do you love her...? Don't tell me you don't know.

Jerry --I don't want her to go. We've been hanging out a lot.

Rod --That's bullshit! You've got to be fair to her. Single mothers are a sacred thing. You've got to have the talk. She loves you. If you don't love her, you've got to tell her.

Jerry -- The kid's amazing. He...

Rod --I feel you... But a real man wouldn't shoplift the pootie from a single mother.

Jerry --I didn't shoplift the pootie.

(Rob gives him the look).

Jerry --All right, I shoplifted the pootie.

Here’s the video – I could only find this short clip:

Shoplifting the Pootie

How many of you said, “awww!” or were genuinely touched by Tidwell’s speech? Yeah, me too, many years before I became a single mother.
Do you realize what this has done to us?
This translates into every man thinking that the only noble thing to do is to avoid us if he doesn’t want to fill the husband/father role. Now, that’s not to say that many of us don’t eventually want to find that. But I’ll tell you a little something that no longer should be a secret in the single mother enclave! We don’t want that from any or all men that we want to date! There, I said it!
Yes, it’s true. Sometimes we are attracted to, and genuinely interested in men that we either know don’t want to or won’t fit into that role, or that we don’t want for that role. Sometimes, we still want a man’s attention, a sexual relationship, or an authentic emotional connection with a man. It isn’t as though we immediately want to exclude or discard any man who isn’t going to join our happy family.

And if you are said man, this presumption on your part – as moral or ethical as you might see it – is in fact a smidge arrogant. Why must you assume that we are trying to find any old body to take that on (or that we want to take you on for that)? Yes, you know you better than I know you, but a single mother has pretty good radar for “the marrying type.” But I will say this – if you’re involved with a single mother and you don’t want to go for the home stretch, don’t expect her to commit or be exclusive with you, either. You get what you give.
A little piece of advice before I part…if there is any confusion on your part as to what her intentions or desires are... dare I suggest that you simply ask her…instead of just buying into another “Hollywood Truth?”

Posted by: Jennifer


  1. This perspective seem predicated on the idea what all women want is marriage. Also, I think, that women are looking for providers...that if you aren't willing to step into the "provider-bringing-home-the-bacon" role, you should step off.

    Not only does this, yes, narrowly define the sorts of relationships single mother can (and, presumably, SHOULD) have, it's a continuation of the view that women cannot be self-sufficient. Ahem. Bullshit.

  2. Kinda reminds me of the whole Cinderella complex.