It Was Never About the Cuties
Call me sensitive, but words have always cut deeper for me than physical injuries — and I'm a really clumsy person. I've never once believed in adages like "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," because, let's be honest, words can make you feel like sh*t. And they can replay in your head over and over again.
That's why I have no problem understanding where Zanab Jaffrey is coming from. If you've finished season three of "Love is Blind," then you know Jaffrey, and you know that she and her ex-fiancé Cole Barnett have had some serious words with each other, all of which came to a head at the recent "LIB" finale. There, Jaffrey accused Barnett of food shaming and tearing apart her self-confidence and mentioned she was especially hurt by the now-infamous Cuties conversation.
If you didn't catch the gist of the Cuties conversation, it happened earlier in the season. Barnett and Jaffrey were having a conversation in the kitchen when she reached for two Cuties to eat. As she began peeling the small mandarins, Barnett asked, "Are you about to eat two of those?" and Jaffrey replied, "Maybe. That's a serving. You OK with that?" Then Barnett encouraged her to save her "appetito," and Jaffrey revealed that she had only had a banana and a scoop of peanut butter the whole day. He then reminded his fiancé that he offered her a poke bowl earlier that she turned down. "Are you getting wedding dress bod [ready]?" Barnett asked, gesturing with his hands the outline of a woman's figure. "Yeah, something like that," Jaffrey responded.
At the finale, she revealed that she had actually "stopped eating" around her fiancé because of comments like this. But her decision not to marry Barnett wasn't solely about the Cuties. In fact, her standoffish demeanor throughout the Cuties conversation has little to do with him actually asking her if she's going to eat the mandarins. Her reaction to the conversation was the culmination of repeated put-downs being thrown her way. Because let's not forget that her fiancé rated her a nine out of 10 on national television, told her he was more attracted to other women, hit on another woman, called her bipolar, and was just an overall insensitive human being.
Now that's not to say that Jaffrey didn't have her own flaws. At times, she was callous, sarcastic, and talked down to Barnett many times throughout the show (who can forget the stemmed- wineglass lecture?). None of which are OK. But I do think some of it was a defense mechanism to help heal the verbal wounds she had endured and stitched back together her self-confidence after her deepest insecurities had been nipped at.
Her ruthless and unexpected altar monologue was filled with hurt and rage. It was undeniably cruel. But it was her way of saying that she'd had enough.
"I fought for us until I couldn't anymore. I know you know that. I know you know why I said what I said. I know you know what you did. It's OK if you aren't ready to talk about that yet," Jaffrey wrote in a recent instagram post on Nov. 10 after the finale.
She also included an apology to the internet, writing: "I am sorry. I'm sorry you weren't in that relationship. I'm sorry you didn't feel what I felt. I'm sorry we don't have the same triggers. I'm sorry me standing up for myself, offended you so greatly. I'm sorry you didn't see all the reasons for what I said. I'm sorry you didn't live that with me. I'm sorry that you don't know me. I'm sorry your insecurities are different than my own."
But isn't this the problem with this entire show? These two people simply don't know each other — and really, they're strangers. They don't know each other's insecurities, what makes them feel put down, or how they like to be spoken to, and shown love. We have to remember that they met and got engaged behind a wall without ever seeing each other and got married in a month.
So yes, I blame Barnett for his insensitive comments and naiveté when it comes to the impact of words. I blame Jaffrey for letting her insecurities get the best of her and being crueler than necessary. But I also blame the show and its unrealistic expectation of these people. They hadn't done the emotional work necessary as a couple, let alone as individuals, to come on this show and have a successful relationship.