In honor of Oprah Winfrey's departure from daytime TV (whatever shall we do?), I thought I'd take a minute to think about her oft-invisible life partner: Sir Stedman.
Stedman Graham, contrary to popular belief, was (and is) his own man prior to (and since) meeting La Winfrey. He is double-degreed, has authored 10 books and runs two educational foundations in addition to owning a marketing and public relations firm. But in spite of his resume, over the years he has gotten the reputation for fading into the background and riding Oprah's skirt-tails. (Do any of us think he could command $15,000 per speaking engagement without her?) Let's take a look at being "Mr. Winfrey."
Stedman is in the uncomfortable situation of perennially standing in the shadow of his more famous, more wealthy, more successful significant other. No matter what he accomplishes the rest of his days, he will be best known for his relationship with Oprah. I recall her interviewing Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow recently and they discussed how hard it is to find a man who is cool with the "superwoman" thing. They are "superstars" jetting off in private planes while the male significant other waves good-bye and says, "Have a nice trip, honey." It can't be easy to be the man behind The Woman. The house-husband.
There was an incident a few weeks ago when I made a dinner reservation in my pen name. When 3N and I walked in and announced ourselves they said, "Right this way Mr. Grant." He looked at me, shook his head and said, "Lawd, I'm Stedman."
We thought it was funny and believe me, 3N has ego enough to step back and hold my purse when and if the occasion calls for it. Not that I would let the situation call for it that often. But it did spark a discussion - What's it like to be the "Stedman" in a relationship and how many men could do it? 3N said he has no issues if I take over the world and become a cultural icon... as long as he gets to come with.
But I've definitely dated a person (or two) who would not have been amused to be called Mr. Grant. In fact, those might have been fightin' words. I wonder if this is what happened to Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe. (among others) When they started out, they were both up and coming actors. Then she took off (Oscars and whatnot) and he was still guest starring on random TV shows. That had to kinda suck.
I imagine Stedman is an enormous source of strength for Miss Oprah. He's been with her since before her ascension to media mogul, he's hung around through all her ups and downs (physical and emotional) and he seems to genuinely have her back. That combination is worth more than gold.
So the questions for today's BougieLand: As women, how do we feel about the Stedmans of the world? Can we let "a man be the man" when we have the financial and popularity power? And as men, could you be Stedmen? Have we moved beyond the "balance of power" thing where a man needs more status and money than his woman to know he wears the pants? What do you think? Does a man have to be really strong and secure to stand in that shadow and stay? Dying to hear your thoughts on this one.