Many married couples out there certainly wouldn’t argue with the thought that there’s a difference between listening and hearing. Especially when I tell my husband what currently needs fixing in our house. I’m pretty sure he’s doing more hearing than listening.
Rhonda comes for a visit with Cassie and is introduced to Cassie’s birth mother, Nancy. As Rhonda asks if she notices anything different about her daughter, Nancy says she looks “too skinny” and “awfully sad.” Cassie moves on to join the others in Group, and Rhonda talks one-one-one with Nancy.
Nancy fills Rhonda in on some of the family history she had told to Cassie the previous evening. She tells of living in an orphanage from the time she was three months to fourteen-years-old. When Rhonda asks why her mom gave her up, Nancy says she didn’t. The police had removed her and her siblings from the home. Her mother was thirteen and her father forty-something when they had their first child. Nancy also adds that her father was an alcoholic. Rhonda presses and asks what kind of role model Cassie’s dad was. Nancy insists he was a good man except when he was drinking. She tries explaining something else about her marriages, but the only thing I can make out is, “Mean to dogs; mean to people.” That certainly doesn’t sound good, whatever it was supposed to apply to.
In Group, Iyanla wants to discuss the difference between hearing and listening and passes out pads of paper for a quick test. Iyanla tells the famous logic problem of “you are a bus driver…” with the bus traveling all sorts of directions and picking up and dropping off different numbers of passengers at each stop. At the end, she asks how old the bus driver is. Denise admits to tuning out once she feared it was a math problem. Iyanla repeats the story again, and Denise makes sure she really listens and understands the the answer.
By no surprise to Iyanla, Renee is the last one to get it. After it is repeated again and broken down for her, she realizes she herself is the bus driver and her age of twenty-eight is the answer.Iyanla believes this is why Renee has been mislabeled a bad listener. Renee heard it so involved in math, she couldn’t get to the obvious answer. But unlike Denise, she didn’t just need to pay more attention, she needed to hear it several times and have it broken down for her.
Asked who she feels doesn’t listen to her in the house, Denise answers Candy, and Candy … Denise. Cassie feels Renee doesn’t listen very well to her, and Bethany says while Rachael has helped her out many times, she doesn’t feel she really understands her. Iyanla points out that they have come from such different family circumstances, although the same age, it will lead to them having problems communicating.
The most interesting assignment is in store for Candy and Rachael. With Rachael’s ex-boyfriend coming for a visit this day, Iyanla wants Candy to operate as chaperone. Rachael and Jamai will not be allowed to be alone for more than fifteen minutes without checking in with Candy. Rachael objects, calling Iyanla crazy, to which she replies, “Crazy may I be; Crazy as I am.” Rachael objects again, saying she is a grown twenty-one-year-old. Iyanla asks who told her she is grown. Iyanla says all twenty-one-year-olds are watched still, prompting twenty-one-year-old Bethany to agree.
Cassie leaves Group and joins the conversation with Nancy and Rhonda. Nancy launches into a story about the fictitious world Cassie used to live in. She tells of receiving a call from Cassie, holed up with a man in a hotel in Omaha. Cassie made up some story about being a flight attendant and needing to get home to a sick aunt. Nancy thought in those days Cassie was a hooker. As Cassie tries to explain, Nancy tells her she wasn’t smart enough for that. We can literally see the new courageous Cassie crumbling before our eyes.Rhonda asks what the difference is between that twenty-two-year-old Cassie and the present forty-one-year-old Cassie. She says she doesn’t do that anymore because she is sober and not crazy. Nancy admits committing her to an institution a few times as they didn’t know what to do with her.
Asked why she is here, Nancy says because she wanted to see the daughter she hadn’t seen since Christmas ’93. Asked why she hadn’t seen her mother in over ten years, Cassie says she was sober, yet still afraid. Cassie admits the more she hears, the more she is overwhelmed by the sadness of their family life. Rhonda see that Cassie has watched the fantasy of recreating a relationship with Nancy disappear before her and needs time to grieve that fantasy. Nancy is sent away early, and as Cassie says good-bye, she closes a huge door behind her. Something tells me there is a metaphor somewhere there.
Iyanla and Renee meet to talk about Renee not being a good listener. Iyanla suggests maybe she has a learning disability. Renee definitely agrees this is a good possibility. Asked why she never investigated that, Renee says she was afraid of being stupid. Iyanla retorts that stupidity has nothing to do with the ability to digest information. Between this disability and her brother’s good grades, she felt stupid and that no one cared.
Iyanla sends Renee to conduct a survey with people on the street to see if they get along with their mother and father, and in the end if they feel Renee was a good listener. Renee brings back her findings to Iyanla, and is asked for three things she appreciated bout herself today. Renee learned she could engage and feel connected to people and how to control her mouth. Most of all, she was told she was a good listener. Iyanla points out she wasn’t treated stupid and that was because she didn’t present herself that way.
Jamai arrives for his visit with Rachael, and everyone is shocked at how shy he is. Rachael does as told and checks in constantly with Candy, the chaperone. It’s Denise, though, that is acting protective and grilling Jamai on his intentions. She asks him what he is studying (underwater basketweaving, he jokes). Denise realizes Rachael is very controlling of Jamai, and won’t even let him answer questions for himself. Denise jokes that Rachael needs a muzzle for heir next conversation.
Cassie meets with Rhonda again, and Rhonda sees how badly Cassie is awfulizing and unraveling. Cassie admits to trying very hard to let go, but says the more she hears of her awful family life, the harder it gets. It’s like a movie she doesn’t want to watch anymore, she ays. About Nancy, she was upset that her mother wouldn’t answer her questions. Cassie and Rhonda agree Nancy can’t face her own realty, and that they will never have the relationship Cassie desires.
Bethany is preparing for her trip home and tells Cassie she wants to know her past, but is also afraid of what she’ll learn. Cassie understands more than Bethany could ever know.
Jamai and Rachael steal some moments alone in the jacuzzi. Rachael figures the “day” is over, and she doesn’t need a chaperone any longer. Just as they begin making out, Candy appears in her swimsuit for a dip in the pool. When Candy mentions seeing bubbles in the jacuzzi, Rachael jokes, “Yeah, I’m farting.” Candy entertains Jamai with her stories of her work as a correctional officer at the men’s prison, totally killing any romantic mood Rachael was feeling.
Cassie is sinking further and further. She questions staying in the house, then locks herself in the bathroom. The other women follow her there to talk to her. She is worried the shame of her family’s life will make her son disown her. She says, “I’m destroying others’ lives to help m own,” through tears. She says she is trying not to run, but she wants to end it.
I hope Cassie learns that she isn’t bound to repeat the full history of her mother and grandmother. Cassie was the first to stand up, admit the lifestyle was wrong, and attempt to change it. Rachael says at one point during the show her heart was breaking for Cassie, and I think most Starting Over viewers feel the same.
I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com