For a long time I believed that the camaraderie and loyalty that existed between characters on shows like Girlfriends and Living Single didn’t exist in the real lives of African-American women. Jealousy and competition were always the kryptonite to my companionship. And what I especially hated was the covert cattiness of it all: the backhanded compliments, the fake admiration as they secretly plotted my downfall, the desire to have a friend only when it was convenient for them. I always felt like guys pulled no punches and just put all their issues out on the table. Only in undergrad did I come across a roommate who was confident enough in herself to not need to use a friendship solely as a crutch for any confidence she was lacking. She became the first girl that I wasn’t related to that I actually looked forward to spending time with. I began to learn to let go of resentment of the past and stop taking out that hurt on all women.
Just like romantic relationships, all friendships are different. While some friends may talk everyday and meet once a week at the gym, others can go for months without contact and feel like they haven’t missed a day when they finally reconnect. The last thing I learned is that if you bring a group of women together who are confident and self-assured it lessens the chance for jealousy and competition.
I still prefer to keep my circle close and I don’t foresee a future where my social life is overflowing with quality friendships. It still takes me a lot of time to break down barriers and invest time, energy or emotion into other women. At one point I even vowed that I wouldn’t actively go seeking any new friendships, but if fate brought them into my life I wouldn’t protest. I’m committed to keeping that vow instead of dismissing or being suspicious of every unexpected gesture of friendship. I’ve also gained a better understanding of the fact that every argument or disagreement doesn’t have to end with totally breaking ties.
And although I wouldn’t consider myself to be THAT girl without any girlfriends anymore, I can still understand why some girls choose to roll solo or bust it up with the boys. The important thing is that friendships, regardless of the genders you maintain them with are hard work, but they’re well worth the reward because your friendships (or lack of them) have the ability to teach you a whole lot about yourself.
How did you meet your bestie(s) and what have they taught you about
Toya Sharee is a community health educator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee.