Black Women Can't Be Frenemies
A Black woman's struggle shouldn't be her friendships.
I remember being around 14 years old, in a "fight" with some friends and saying to my mom, "Who needs friends anyway?" She laughed at me and said "Girl, every woman needs a good group of girlfriends. You'll see." At 38 years old, that was probably the truest thing I've been told. I have always been what you could call a "serial friend audition-er"; meaning anyone could get a shot, but the likelihood of survival was slim. My personality is complex and thus requires connections with simple but varying personalities that share, well, anything in common with one of the people living in my head.
As a child, I struggled to fit-in. I was socially awkward because I was trying to make friends based off what they liked instead of the things we had in common. By the end of my sophomore year in high school, I had begun to form what would be my current worldview and it consisted of sincerity, empathy and bare bones truths. I had come to the conclusion that I was not cut out for faux friendships. Memories of being uncomfortable around a group of girls that weren't genuine with each other take me back as far as 9 years old. As I matured, my inner Champion would not allow me to sit idly by and participate in girls being fake with each other. Unpopular? Absolutely, but I never cared much for the pressures of teenage popularity.
After moving away from home, I sought out similar connections in my new city over and over again. My first new friend, *Kay, ended up being a jealous alcoholic that couldn't hear about herself. The next friend, *Meli stuck for a while, but she was my boss and couldn't check the employee thing at the store door. Following that one was a seemingly sweet white girl, *Fancy that gravitated toward my big sister vibe; her family has a Black issue that she couldn't seem to defend me against. Next to last was *Rica who was a good friend sometimes, but drained me emotionally. The final nail in the "new friend" coffin for me was having to sever a connection that should have lasted a lifetime. With similar situations, traumas, triumphs and more, this woman repetitively couldn't be there for me in my times of need or acknowledge her crap and it broke something in me.
As a Black woman, in this country, facing all of the things we already face as women with the added bonus of being viewed as "less than" for our skin, I need a support system. I need to cry about my kids and husband to a woman that is sick of hers too. I need to hi-five and hip bump my girl when she makes her first business sale and know that she would return the favor wholeheartedly. A friend that I can count on to tell me when I'm wrong, to champion me when I'm the underdog, to check anyone speaking ill on my name in my absence, to be ready to "ride down on my baby's daddy" and his people if he does something out of pocket, one that would ride out a tank of gas helping me look for my unruly teenager and cuss him out like he came from her.
The importance of being able to pick up my phone, log into my email and connect with another woman who shares my struggles of getting my professional respect, my fears of letting the men in my life leave my sight, my wins and feel supported in an authentic way is indescribable. In a world that has made "worry-free" living a pipe dream for Black women, we count on our crew, our girls, our sisters to have our backs, fronts and sides. My gratitude for my sisters is endless. On my worst day, I can send a text, call, picture to those special ladies and practically feel the support hitting me in waves. My friends are real (sometimes painfully so), never jealous, allow me to love them, keep me straight (even when I'm swerving) and are supportive without being judgy. They are what my mama was talking about.
So if you're a melanated beauty and you're struggling with friendships, you are transitioning into being clear on exactly what you need in a Black woman's friend. You need support, encouragement, love, honesty, a rider, a defense attorney and sincerity. If your friends don't check off each one of those boxes, the angst you feel might be because you've got frenemies and not real friends.
About the author
There's just so much swirling around in here.
Nearing official middle age, I am respectful of the lessons I have learned and confident that someone can learn something from every one of my stories.
No nonsense personal truth in every word.