Given the pervasiveness of rape culture, misogyny, and especially misogynoir, I’ve come to believe that we women need more safe spaces that are just for us. Let’s face it, sometimes, regardless of our relationship or marital status (or even because of it), “we’re all we got”!
So we need each other to keep us sane, keep us grounded and more often than not, keep us from catching a case! The powerful energy that a good group of women friends produces can be transformative. I know this firsthand because I’m blessed with the most amazing and supportive girlfriend village, ever!
That’s why I decided to celebrate the power of close friendships between Black women. Socially and culturally, our society seems to be at a crossroads between progress and regression. On the one hand, the rise of the #metoo movement has caused a dramatic shift in how we view the treatment of women, especially in the workplace. On the other hand, the fact that R. Kelly is still a free man with a musical career is just one example of how entrenched rape culture is in our society. It also illustrates a general lack of regard for Black girls and women.
There is still so much to do for women, especially Black women, to attain equal status. Being at the intersection of racism and sexism leaves us especially vulnerable in a world where the powers-that-be (namely white men) have dug in their heels to maintain their power. And the reality is, we don’t have a lot of support out there.
Sure, there are some allies in our fight, but non-Black women tend to focus on issues that center them rather than us; and Black men tend to center their activism around racial issues alone, without any regard for the Black women in their ranks. This has been true since the 19th century, in both the early feminist movement and the early Civil Rights movement. And not much has changed, despite the Black woman’s tireless efforts on behalf of both gender and racial equality.
So today, I celebrate the power of friendships between Black women. I do so for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because there’s no way I could have made it this far without my girlfriends.
Full disclosure: I adore men, and my village is filled with them. I’ve never bought into the notion that men and women can’t be friends. I have several close male friends who mean the world to me. Most of them are married with families, now. So of course the dynamics of those relationships have changed. But the friendships are still true and strong. And I wouldn’t trade any of them for all the riches in the world.
But I can’t imagine my life without my girls. I have friends I’ve known since before we lost our baby teeth, wore bras, had our first periods or experienced our first kisses. Girls I went to grade school, high school and college with are still my closest “homies”. And I’ve even made some very dear friends as an adult.
These women are my rocks, my beacons of light during my life’s storms. They’re my comfort when I’m down and the first ones I call when I’m happy. They’ve seen me through every failed relationship and heartbreak. They’ve been by my side for every victory and triumph.
My close friends propped me up when I’ve faltered and lifted me when I’ve fallen. They prayed for me when I lacked the faith to pray for myself. My girlfriends have celebrated my greatest moments with me, like the birth of my son. And when I lost most of my immediate family in the span of just a few years, my girls were the ones who literally held me up when I couldn’t stand on my own.
When I’m in a hole of despair, I have friends who will climb right in there with me, wrap their arms around me and hold me. Then, when they know I’m ready, they’ll gently help me find my way home.
My girls don’t judge me for my quirks and oddness. They get that I’m more than a little nuts. My many mistakes haven’t driven them away yet, and they continue to put up with my insane misadventures. For some reason that I just can’t fathom, they love me despite all my faults.
Sure, we’ve had our fights. We’ve fought over stupid stuff like lipstick and who’s going to bring the ice to the next party. We’ve bickered. We’ve bitched. And we’ve gone months and even years without speaking. But the reunions were always joyous and somehow, despite the time and/or distance between us, we managed to pick up right where we left off.
None of this comes easy, though. Like any relationship, friendships between women take work. We have to be willing to deal with each other’s crap. If one friend is always late, you have to swallow those snarky remarks when she finally gets there, because you know you love her anyway. And if you know your other friend is going to spend over an hour complaining about a guy she should’ve dumped three years ago, you listen anyway. After all, she’s done the same for you.
It’s also important that we accept each other where we are, which isn’t always easy. As our lives change, so do our relationships with each other. We’re always growing and changing, and our friendships have to follow suit.
We have to be understanding when one of us needs space, and present when one of us needs comfort. We have to listen when we really want to talk, and hold our tongues when we want to say “I told you so”. And at the core of these and any successful relationships, is mutual respect.
Not every friendship is the same. You know what I mean. You have those friends to whom you can turn for career or financial advice and they’ll never steer you wrong. Then there are the “good time” girls who turn every outing into an adventure. You never know where you’ll end up by the end of the night, but you know you’ll have fun getting there.
Of course there are the friends with whom you can talk for hours about anything, happily picking apart any manner of subjects, no matter how trivial. And there are the sounding boards, the ones you bounce ideas off or just generally bitch to. They’re always willing to listen, to let you spill your guts.
And there are the girlfriends who will always tell you the truth, even when it hurts. They’re the “straight shooter” friends and everyone needs at least one. Who else will stop you from leaving the house looking a hot mess? She’ll take one look at you, and lovingly but firmly tell you that you need to completely re-think your outfit or hairstyle or shoes.
I don’t know where I’d be without my spiritual guides, always ready with the perfect Bible verse for any situation. They remind you to keep God first, which is probably why you’ve made it as far as you have. And they will pray for you even when you don’t think you deserve it.
Oh, and we can’t forget the friend with whom you can share every dirty little secret. You already have a pact with her that if you die first, she must immediately empty your “secret” drawer and erase your browser history before telling anyone the bad news. Phew! I’m so glad I have me one of these! And she knows I’d do the same for her!
And of course, no group of friends is complete without that ride-or-die friend. She’s the one who’s got your back no matter what. If you call her upset and ready to crack some heads, her only question is “Your car or mine?” She’s always on your side, even when you’re dead wrong. She’s the A.C. to your O.J., willing to drive the white Bronco as you run from the police.
I know girlfriends can never replace a spouse or a life partner. They’re not supposed to. But they can enhance your life is so many beautiful ways.
Yes, I love my family deeply. But God chose my family for me. I chose my friends, and they chose me. That makes our bond truly remarkable. It’s a bond of choice. We’re here for each other because we want to be. And I wouldn’t be anywhere else!
Pictures from Pixabay, onyxtruth.com, and financialjuneteenth.com