While Lisa doesn’t want to seem to want to grow up, as we learn from the stories of the remaining two ladies in the house, TJ and Christina, they’re struggling to find what was lost when they grew up. Christina’s story is quite shocking and TJ’s story is just … uncomfortable, like everyone keeps accusing her of being.
AS TJ is in the waiting room, Allison is discussing the infection in her right breast with Dr. Weissman, her doctor from her initial stay in the Starting Over house. He tells her it’s not uncommon for this to happen after her type of reconstruction. Instead of getting implants, Allison had two breasts “made” from her stomach.
On the long drive back to the Starting Over house, TJ tries to compare her smaller breasts to the fact that Allison had hers removed because of cancer. Allison tries to explain that while hers are bigger, they’re fake; at least TJ’s are real. TJ just doesn’t get it, though, and keeps talking about her “mosquito mounds.” After they return home, Allison talks to the other ladies about being trapped in a car with TJ for three to four hours.
As everyone orders in pizza, Jill isn’t too happy about being stuck eating her Jenny Craig meal. She says they may as well have ordered a dagger and stuck it in her heart. As they’re all sitting down for their meal, the doorbell rings, but the only thing there is a small gift bag.
Inside the gift bag the housemates find their last assignment of the day, a “game.” There is an “uncomfortable” card in there for each of them. They are to hand them to the one person that makes them feel uncomfortable. TJ is the only one that receives any of the cards. All of the women share with her that what they feel uncomfortable about is the part of TJ that reminds them of themselves, such as Jill doesn’t like the “loud” part of TJ, and Lisa doesn’t like the way she dominates. TJ acknowledges she does all this and says she feels like a trainwreck where everyone can’t help but watch.
After the “game”, everyone disperses. The others gather to talk more about TJ behind her back as TJ sits alone. She says she feels helpless like she may be the only one in Starting Over history that can’t be helped. Later they all gather in the kitchen having a good time, and TJ continues to sit alone and stares at all the uncomfortable cards. I understand they all told TJ the truth, and that she needed to hear it, but it seems they could be lending her a little support after letting her know their feelings.
The next morning in Group, Rhonda busts Lisa right away for not wearing her baby outfit since Rhonda had never told her the assignment was done. Realizing it is only proving her lack of follow-through once again, Lisa decides to go back upstairs to change. It’s just another incompletion for her like massage school and becoming a flight attendant.
While waiting for Lisa to return, the talk moves to the “game” last night. TJ tells Rhonda she wasn’t surprised as she’s heard it before. She points to an endless cycle of herself initially being uncomfortable, then making others uncomfortable, leaving her even more uncomfortable. Jessica admits to feeling attacked by her, and Iyanla urges Jessica and the others to see that TJ is giving them valuable information that is needed, and that is why they are uncomfortable.
TJ says she doesn’t want to be that person anymore and says she feels helpless. Encouraged to tell how she feels, she says abandoned and starts hyperventilating. Rhonda points out she’s an athlete and should be stronger. TJ abruptly stops her hyperventilating, causing Rhonda to inquire why she’s able to turn if off like that.
This is, of course, all leading up to the telling of TJ’s story. She shows a picture of herself as a young girl, looking quite different with short dark hair, glasses and crooked teeth. Despite the difference in appearances, Jessica thinks in many ways TJ is still that awkward little girl.
Another picture is shown of TJ as a young woman in a graduation cap and gown. She explains that was her brother’s outfit as she dropped out before graduation. She always felt stupid and wanted her dad to see the picture of her and be proud. She normally only got a check from him on her birthday or holidays.
Switching pictures, we now see her looking gorgeous in her wedding dress. But called on it, she refuses to accept how gorgeous she looks. Iyanla says she’s never seen a bride with a checkbook before, as the picture is of TJ paying for her own wedding during her wedding. Rhonda thinks it was purposeful to embarrass and shame everyone else for having to do that herself. TJ admits to being terrified that day. The more she heard, “I love you,” the more it scared her. Seeing a picture of her and her husband together, she calls him gorgeous (he is!) and says he is the only safe place for her.
TJ’s self-potrait shows a wall in the middle with her feelings written on it. Allison says she’s speechless, as one of the things the wall is separating is an empty heart with an electric plug underneath it, like she feels if she would be plugged in or connected she would be loved. TJ admits to feeling disconnected. Lisa says she originally wanted to say if she had what TJ had she’d be happy, but now realizes those things don’t make you happy. TJ’s goal will be to “learn to connect.”
Rhonda meets with Lisa to discuss the baby outfit misunderstanding. She admits to feeling “totally weird” wearing it out in public the day before. Rhonda explains this is how she misrepresents herself to men, showing them the adult Lisa, but being the dependent Lisa on the inside. Her assignment will be to wear her baby outfit while interviewing men as adult Lisa and ask how they feel about dependent women. She is looking forward to finally accomplishing something.
Yet when Rhonda walks in the house a few minutes later, she finds Lisa wearing a full face of makeup and Allison’s wig. This would mean she’s not going out as herself. Lisa realizes her mistake and Rhonda asks how many more chances she’s supposed to give her. Lisa goes upstairs once more to do it the right way.
Rhonda moves on to meet with TJ, and TJ starts writing down her steps as Rhonda dictates. TJ admits she’ll need help with spelling. The reason she always felt stupid is that she is dyslexic and also has ADHD. Her first step will be giving up control. By the time she gets to her fourth step, TJ says she’s pissed because her steps board doesn’t look perfect with her spelling errors.
TJ’s assignment will be to learn to connect through her flaws. She will wear a belt with electric plugs on it and her roommates will each wear a plug. She is to remain “connected” to someone else at all times unless in the bathroom or in her bed. TJ thanks Rhonda for seeing her in a “most genuine way.”
Iyanla and Jill meet to talk about Jill’s new diet and exercise plan initiated by Jenny Craig and good ole Marcus. Jill talks about the pizza incident the day before calling her housemates her saboteurs. Iyanla wonders at this point if part of Jill’s personality is a reaction to deprivation. Jill agrees and says she thinks that holds true in every level of her life.
Asked what she is being deprived of, Jill starts to say, “I would never admit …” then breaks down crying. Iyanla pulls her over to the grass and invites Jill to lay her head in her lap while she rocks her. Jill sobs and tells Iyanla she wants to be able to be feminine and soft, and refuses to see there have been men that have loved her and found her beautiful. Iyanla believes Jill did experience that; she just didn’t know what it felt like because she was raised without a father. Iyanla then instructs Jill to forgive herself for being unwanted by her father and to admit she’s worthy of love.
Lisa conducts her interviews on the street and finds the majority of men do not want a totally dependent woman that can’t hold down a job. Later, meeting with Rhonda, she says she realizes now she could find herself a rich man and have all her needs met, but she would still feel suffocated. Making her feel a little better, though, is that she has completed her first assignment, finally, and feels some sense of accomplishment. She says it’s the difference between the illusion of freedom and real freedom. She has now finally earned the right to dress like an adult again.
Some of the housemates are outside later at night. Jessica says that the Sunday after 9/11 her family was on the cover of the Boston Globe. She shares that she began to feel responsible like a spokesperson for the whole 9/11 tragedy. TJ opens by saying she’s so sheltered in Denver, and then goes one major step too far, saying she would have immediately been on the phone calling her mother, saying she’s coming home. Jessica’s eyes well up as she says that’s the problem; she couldn’t do that. Suddenly TJ clasps her hands over her mouth when she realizes her faux pas.
Jessica admits she really did try to call her mom. Jill says TJ’s next exercise will be to get that shoe out of her mouth. TJ just can’t stop, though, and says it needed to happen. Jessica starts crying even more, tells TJ she just doesn’t get it, and leaves saying she’s not in a place to hear this right now.
Once inside Jessica calls Rhonda who tells her it’s okay to be pissed at TJ. She suspects Jessica is really angry at more than just TJ. Rhonda ends the conversation saying if Jessica would allow herself to get angry, she would start to heal.
Talking to Jill, TJ blames the episode on her dyslexia and ADHD. Jill won’t hear of it, though, and says TJ cut Jessica up with that comment, and asks what she was thinking. TJ says her pain of people telling her she’s annoying is just as painful as Jessica losing her mom.
Despite all this, everyone is still “plugged” into TJ the next day at Group. It’s finally the day to hear Christina’s story. She tries to plead innocent, saying she’s not sure why she’s at the Starting Over house, but Iyanla won’t hear of it and forces her to tell her story.
Begrudgingly, Christina begins. She was born and raised in North Carolina. At eleven, she had dreams of becoming a model; then her parents divorced. Her mom was supportive of her desires to be a model, but she believes her father didn’t care. It doesn’t take Freud to figure out this is somehow related to Christina leaving home at sixteen, marrying her boyfriend and moving to Las Vegas. She says she talked her mom into signing the papers to allow her to quit school and get married.
Christina and her husband decided to have a baby right away, leading to the birth of Jackson. After this, her husband was only making $1200 a month and they “needed to eat.” He convinced her to get a job “dancing.” And yes, it would be “that” kind of dancing – stripping.
Feeling she had something to prove, Christina went home to North Carolina with Jackson to show off how well she was doing. When she returned, she found her husband cheating on her. They both agreed to get divorced. Through this, her bosses found out she wasn’t 21, and she was fired. Not having any skills or a high school diploma, Christina had a hard time finding employment. She became an “entrepreneur,” adopting dogs at the animal shelter for $15, getting them shots, cleaning them up, and reselling them for $150.
Being in Las Vegas, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Christina got a fake ID, hit the casinos, and started chip hustling. She never says why it progressed further, but she then became a paid escort, in every sense of the word. She did this for a year and eight months. Her last time was just one month ago. Iyanla gives her the goal of becoming a woman of honor.
Christina’s roommates just can’t believe any of this. TJ had figured Christina was a cheerleader and the popular girl in school. To her face, Lisa calls Christina a survivor and resourceful, especially considering the dog-selling scheme she engineered. But privately to TJ, Lisa says she would never do things like that. Christina says she was nervous about being judged, but now feels she can admit to anything.
Rhonda meets with Jessica to talk about her altercation with TJ the night before. Rhonda sees it as a good thing, as it’s forcing Jessica to see she has needs, and is strong and cares about herself. Up until now she has felt to honor her mom she needed to deny her needs. In the steps of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – she’s still stuck on the first one.
Jessica says she has been denying her needs as she doesn’t want to appear selfish. To move past this, Rhonda wants her to have a conversation with her mother, the first since a week after her mother’s death, tonight. To get her juices flowing, Rhonda shows Jessica a videotape of her family on their last Christmas together. Admitting to her first need, Jessica tells Rhonda she needs to be held.
Meeting privately with Christina, Iyanla wants to know how she got from there to here. Christina says she realized that’s not what she wanted. What made it okay then was she wanted to take care of her son. Iyanla puts it all together and sees she has a gift for hustling and manipulation, even going back to when she convinced her mom to let her move to Las Vegas, quit school and get married.
Christina’s first step will be to “end the hustle.” Iyanla says this is a particular challenge for her as she’s seeing a different person than the hustler. She wants to meet the one from the street. Today Christina’s assignment will be dress for success, and con people on the street out of $250. She will then give the money back and say can’t accept it as she just conned them.
Wearing heels, tight jeans and a skimpy spaghetti strap top, it’s amazing to watch Christina work her hustle. Initially she only has limited success with the men, she stops and thinks, then begins asking women, having more success. She tells them all she had her purse stolen and needs money for a cab. These people all look genuinely hurt when she tells them she just conned them.
Returning from her big con, Christina tells Iyanla it was demeaning lying to people, and she felt mean, yet it didn’t feel mean to do it before. Iyanla tells her the only difference is that today she is sorry. She follows this by saying she doesn’t know whether she should be shaking Christina or rocking her. Christina opts for the rocking.
TJ meets with Dr. Stan for the first time and explains she’s on Starting Over to change her toxic behavior; people always end up running away. She starts to feel she is a burden which causes the disconnect. TJ also feels she doesn’t know how to approach people in a positive way. Dr. Stan urges her to remember whenever you try to be something you’re not, you’ll always lose.
As Rhonda holds a picture of Jessica’s mom, Jessica holds two roses and reads what she wants to finally tell her mother. She says she wants to be strong, and that she has lost touch with who she was. People always say her mother was a hero the way she died, and not the way she lived. Jessica is sad, is pissed, and is jealous. She’s finally allowed the anger of what happened to her and her family come out.
Jill and Lisa are looking something up on the computer while Christina sits nearby. It ends up they are looking up the definition to the word prostitution. Finding it to say “… devoting one’s talent to an unworthy use or cause,” Lisa jumps for joy and says she’s a prostitute, not a manipulator. Christina feels this is very insensitive. She says she wouldn’t look up fat person or girl who needs to grow up with Jill and Lisa nearby.
All the housemates plus Rhonda and Iyanla meet to discuss the obstacles surrounding TJ. Asked if TJ is a burden, Allison says she is, because it makes her withdraw. She likes to be with her, but finds she is not present and it becomes inauthentic. This is all making TJ feel inadequate. Lisa says she is used to her and just cuts her off when she starts to say something inappropriate. TJ believes it is Lisa, Jessica and Jill that want to be her friend, and Jill does believe everyone in the house is fighting for TJ. Christina tries hard but says TJ makes it hard for her. Rhonda tells the women that this is going to remain to be harder for TJ’s roommates than for TJ.
But of course, TJ still thinks her obstacles are as tough as the others. And sure, she is living through some nightmares of her own, but no one can believe she feels as bad about them saying they are uncomfortable as Jessica did watching the towers burn that day, knowing her mother was in one of the exploding airplanes. Once you get on the dangerous road, though, of comparing pain, there’s never a good solution. Every woman in the house is in pain. That’s what brings them there, willing to open up their lives to the whole viewing public, just for the chance that their pain might finally go away.
What do you think of the new chicks? Email me at LauraBelle@realityshack.com