Webster’s defines Strength as “The power to resist strain or stress; durability” and Weakness as “A personal defect or failing,” yet ask any one of us what it means, and we will all have an entirely different answer, just as the women on Starting Over do. they have come here seeking help; that in itself personifies strength to me.
Rhonda brings a basket of goodies to today’s Group session. She passes it around and everyone pulls out Chinese handcuffs, and slips them on their two forefingers, locking them together. Rhonda asks them to pull their fingers apart, and as they do, they only become tighter. When tugged at gently, they loosen and come off. Rhonda explains when we try to be strong, we are actually being weak, but in allowing ourselves to be seen as weak, we are actually being strong. All the women nod, knowing Rhonda is right.
First thing in the morning, the women hear salsa music coming from the front of the house. They gather, open the door, and find a man and woman salsa dancing. Cassie spontaneously grabs Candy and starts to dance with her. The dancers call out to Candy and present her with flowers and a note from Iyanla. Candy had talked her first day about her boyfriend being upset the last time they danced, as she kept trying to lead. The flowers are an obvious reminder of her goal to “Feel Like A Woman.”
Rhonda tells Cassie in a one-on-one she thinks it’s great she is progressing so well in her goal to obtain her GED, but she thinks it’s now time to also concentrate on her other goal – reconnecting with the son she gave up for adoption. Cassie emphatically agrees. Asked if she is still wanting her GED to prove to her son she is a good person, Cassie says no; she’s doing it for herself. Rhonda has a hard time containing her excitement for Cassie. We didn’t have to hear these words from Cassie, though; we can all see it every time we look at her that she is becoming stronger and stronger.
Later, Cassie meets with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to discuss her next step in searching for her son. Cassie tells her she last contacted the adoptive parents four years ago, and found he was never told he was adopted, and the adoptive parents didn’t feel then was a good time, as he had ADD. The social worker suggests Cassie write a letter to the adoptive parents, asking if he has been told yet, and to use an intermediary to set up a discussion with them.
Cassie pours her heart out in a letter, asking if her birth son has been told, and vowing not to come between him and the the adoptive parents. She reads the letter to Rhonda who approves. Cassie also adds her idea for intermediary is Rhonda, who is very flattered. They will set up a meeting between the Social Worker, Rhonda and Cassie to explore possibilities. Strength seems to be pouring out of Cassie today, as she is feeling every bit of her success so far.
A large box is delivered for Candy. It is from Iyanla, and includes a pair of dancing shoes with a note telling her to shop with Renee for a dress to wearing dancing tonight. She is very excited about the dancing, but not so much the dress. Denise says she is happy Candy has more shoes now, as she’s the only woman she knows with less shoes than her husband. She adds that Cassie’s sneakers look like elf shoes because of the curled toes.
Candy likes the store she and Renee go to, as it is for full-figured women like herself. It seems she tries on nearly every dress and skirt in the place. Renee has just the right amount of discriminating taste to help Candy with the choices, as far as not the right color or too matronly. Finally Candy and Renee both settle on a shirt/top/blouse combo, and everyone is happy. After purchasing, the clerk gives Candy an envelope from Iyanla that says she shouldn’t open it until she is at home with the other Starting Over women. Once everyone is collected, they find a small audio tape player, that when played, says all the women are going dancing tonight.
Still searching for a way to humanize her abusive father, Denise realizes she created some of the monster in her mind. She says in a one-on-one discussion with Rhonda that she doesn’t really “know” her father that well. Rhonda instructs her to call three people to get more information. She starts with her Aunt Arlene and Uncle Alan. Arlene is her father’s sister, but isn’t home, so she talks to Alan. He tells Denise he never had a problem with her father, and that they always got along.
Denise calls her mom and gets more information than she bargained for. She finds out he used to be quite the playboy and a great dancer, quite different than the other men her mom had dated. They had nothing in common. Her mom then drops the bombshell. He had another woman pregnant at the same time as Denise’s mom. His parents forced him to marry Denise’s mom because she was a better catch. It was then that he began being verbally abusive.
Denise has another one-on-one with Rhonda and shares the information she has learned. She has so many memories now flooding back to her. She only now remembers being in the Bahamas as a family, and being mesmerized watching them dance together. When her aunts told her he was always getting letters of paternity suits, she wonders if he never stopped being a playboy. She was told he had problems in school, and now remembers she and her sister helping their dad read the paper and write, and thinks maybe he had been dyslexic. Now when she helps her Italian-born husband she realizes she is doing the same thing. He was never abusive until he was forced to get married. Rhonda urges Denise to now compare notes with the best source … her sister. Denise, not having a good relationship at all with her sister, is not delighted at this prospect.
Finally the women are all dressed to the nines and go to an Arthur Murray dance school for some group lessons in salsa dancing. Candy is paired with the instructor, and the other women in the house are paired with male students. At the end, the instructor asks for a special dance with Candy, and she is enjoying every moment of feeling like a woman and letting the man lead. After this, he also asks for a special dance with Denise. He asks if she has done this before, as she is quite good, and she says no, but her father was a good dancer. For the first time, she sees him as a person and not horrible.
Candy, Cassie and Denise all allowed themselves to be seen as weak today, and are all now that much stronger in the process. Candy allowed herself to be led, and had quite a good time. Cassie now knows she doesn’t have to be the perfect person to reconnect with her son, and Denise allowed herself the vulnerability to see her father as anybody but a monster. They came into the house clinging to that little bit of hope they had to change their situations around as strength, and now are bolding facing things they had never dreamed of.
I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com