OK, I’m just going to say it: Being in love is being used while using somebody else.
It’s getting what you need in a person while giving them what they desire. It’s reciprocal, but love is, in fact, a user.
When I went back to grad school, it was all-encompassing, and I was stressed all of the time. I desperately needed a release, so when I met a guy who was really laid back and a lot of fun, it was what I needed: carefree companionship. He needed the same thing, and our relationship lasted as long as we both gave what the other person craved.
But, love shouldn’t use you up. And that’s something Nuri is acutely aware of when she asks Yasir in episode 3 if he was using her. It was an honest question from a person who was given no answers and no details.
Nuri has worked hard and hustled to get what she has, and although she’s ready to give and give and give to Yasir (inspiration, career help, the lessons she’s learned in the business), she is smart and aware enough to know that some people are out to just be users. And that’s just something people have to look out for.
Yasir may be down on his luck, but he’s not used to relying on other people. He’s fallen into using Ruby out of necessity. When Ruby first moved to LA, Yasir took care of her, but now, the situation is flipped. And it doesn’t feel good.
He doesn’t want physical things from Nuri. What he wants more of is how she inspires him to be better and believes he’ll be great. Now, he’s trying to balance giving Ruby what he feels she deserves in her emotionally hard times while still being there for Nuri before he loses her completely.
Episode 4 of Love Is___ dives deeper into what the show’s characters want, and not-so-spoiler alert: everybody is using everybody. The question is, who is getting what they need in return?
‘Like a penny with a hole in it’
Both Nuri and Yasir are sleeping alone, dreaming about each other. They’re miserable.
Nuri perks up when she hears the doorbell. (Yes! Gotta be Yasir!) But nope, it’s not the love of her life but super irritating Keith. He’s there to pick her up for the ski trip she doesn’t want to go to. She’d forgotten to call him and cancel, so he’s there, extra geeked, ready to “not ski anyway.” Ugh.
Nuri’s boss, Norman, calls at the perfect time, telling her to come into the office on a Saturday. Nuri uses it to shoo away Keith, who says he’ll wait for her. Go away, bruh!
A woman’s point of view
The reason Nuri (and Angela) are called into the office is a good one: Norman wants to work on the role of the show’s female character to appeal to its black female audience. The person over the show, probably the executive producer, is there and he wants to meet them. He’s a white guy who’s there with his dog and then touches Angela’s braids.
Really, he pets her — like you pet a dog. What in the entire hell? Although cringing, she doesn’t go off.
“On behalf of myself and all the ancestors,” Norman says when the guy leaves, “we’d like to thank you for keeping your cool.”
The scenes here give an interesting look at women in the workplace in the ‘90s when executives were starting to realize black women’s essential places both at the job and as consumers. But like many men, Norman just doesn’t understand either group.
A mess of a Yasir
Yasir runs to Nuri’s house and misses her by a hair as she drives off to the studio to go to work. Outside her home are pieces of a program from their jazz concert date that Nuri tore up and threw in the street.
Later, Yasir is trying to tape up the program when Sean tells him that he doesn’t have all the pieces. He doesn’t. At this point, he’s missing a lot of the key things he’ll need to patch up things with Nuri: openness, a willingness to share information, a whole lot.
Yasir convinces Sean to drive him back by Nuri’s house. If she’s not there, he says he’ll just leave her a note saying how much he loves her.
‘A man who could become a king’
Nuri’s not home when they get there, and Yasir is leaving her a note when he notices Sean trying to sneak in her house to use the bathroom. Before he can be stopped, he’s in, and so Yasir notices remnants of happier times with Nuri like the wallpaper they were tearing down together.
And, he sees the ski clothes Keith bought Nuri in a bag on her floor. She must’ve gone on the trip anyway, he thinks. Sean tells him to just give her some time and she’ll probably come around.
Yasir is really exhausted with things not going well. Nuri had given him the hope he thought he’d needed to keep pressing forward in LA, but with her gone, he’s giving up.
“It’s hard being a man in the world and feeling like you have no trinkets to prove it,” an older Yasir says, recalling the time. “When Nuri looked into my eyes, I saw the real me: a man who could become a king.”
Yasir tells Ruby that he’s going back to their hometown after his last unemployment checks come. Ruby and Yasir agree to a fresh start. She doesn’t want her parents to worry about her being in LA if Yasir goes home and could use some help herself. She offers him her couch until he can get on his feet.
- It’s the first time we really see the pressures of life get Yasir down. His car was towed and costs more to get out than it’s actually worth, his girl is gone, and he’s in a weird space with Ruby.
- It’s the first time we see Ruby show some compassion and acknowledge that yes, although Yasir has been using her, she also has used him when she wants to, especially when she knows it’ll be hard for him to say no to her. Now, she’s giving Yasir a second chance to do what he wants to do: chase both his dream and Nuri.
The myth of the good guy
Angela convinces Nuri to give Keith a chance and go skiing with him, but she’s not really into it. She goes to the bathroom and tries to talk herself into it, because, well, she doesn’t even like Dude.
Look, Keith may be many things, but he’s not a good guy. He’s persistent in taking Nuri skiing because he wants to have sex with her and he can afford the trip. He doesn’t even see her as an equal, which is what we see in a previous episode when he’s angry she got into an exclusive restaurant that wouldn’t let him in.
He’s an executive using his bank account to buy his way into what he wants, but none of that (yells: NONE OF THAT) amounts to him being a good guy. He’s just a well-off one. And that, friends, is the leg-up he has over Yasir. But that’s the only one.
Yasir shows up at Nuri’s house all hopeful and determined to get his woman back. He giddily writes “I love you” in the condensation on Nuri’s window, and when she opens the door, he hands her the program he’d taped back together.
He opens up and rattles off answers to all the questions she had at Ruby’s door in episode 3: He’s been married and divorced, has a 6-year-old son, Ruby is just a friend who he’ll always love and will live with for six more weeks, he’s not perfect, and he smokes too much.
And, he’s using her. “I’m using you to make me a better person,” he says. “Nuri, you’re my fresh start.”
When Keith, knocks on the door, Yasir gets seriously angry and doesn’t let Nuri explain how she thought Yasir was gone. She asks him to let her fix this, and he goes off about why she’s going on a ski trip with Keith anyway. (When they talked about it before, Yasir told Nuri that she shouldn’t go on trips with men because they’re expecting to just have sex with them.) He says he thought she was different — what men say when their feelings are hurt.
He opens the door for Keith and shakes his hand. “I know you two have some skiing to do, so I’mma let you get to it,” he says, not giving Nuri the opportunity to say much else, and wipes away the “I love you” he wrote just minutes before. Petty!
But hold up, playboy. Nuri hadn’t seen Yasir in days and didn’t even know him long enough (or have enough answers) to know if she should wait for him to come back around. Not only is it not fair to put those kinds of expectations on her, but Yasir didn’t even extend the same kind of grace she’d just given him. He’d literally closed a door in her face before, and she still listened to him and believed him. When the tables quickly turned, he didn’t even give her the chance to say anything.
Who’s right in this situation: Should Nuri have even planned to go on the trip with Keith? Let me know what you think!