or Bonding While Black
I grew up in a time when the idea of “best friends” reigned supreme. Bonds on shows like the Golden Girls, A Different World, Perfect Strangers (don’t judge me), and even Scooby-Doo demonstrated the kind of friendship that meant standing by each other’s side no matter what. It meant staying up late to talk or listen to a recent complaint or heartbreak. In college, my best friend, Dina, would strap her twin mattress to the top of my car for sleep overs. I had this crazy metal frame I found at a thrift store. The frame was machined such that two twin beds could become a queen. A top frame held one mattress, and another frame that slid underneath could be rolled out and lifted up to make a queen sized platform. Great for sharing blankets, or just for late night jabber that turned into actual slumber. One night on a sleepover at my aunt’s house, who I lived with at the time, Dina and I snuck downstairs to eat whipped cream from the canister. Aunt Faye was none too pleased and shamed us back upstairs. Nothing seals a friendship with glue like sharing the load of parental disapproval.
For me, these types of friendships forged familial bonds; so precious and unbreakable that when you finally reunite it’s like no time has passed. Fast forward almost 30 years and I am a middle-aged woman in a world forced into social anxiety and self-help via Netflix. Now, instead of being down to clown, I am learning to have boundaries. It feels like cutting off a toe. I can overcome the absence, but I’m stumbling a bit on my way to centered. I don’t think black girls grow up learning how to put ourselves first. We don’t learn how to say no without guilt; how to relax without a hard GO; and certainly not how to consider our own boundaries when anybody needs us. It is not that my loved ones didn’t encourage me to love myself, to pursue my dreams, and to say no when I felt uncomfortable. I just could never figure out how to ascend via my own agency without expecting other black femmes to hold the ladder.
Honestly, I don’t even have time to be a “ride or die” friend anymore. Working on the COVID response since March 2020 has legitimately exhausted me. On top of that my relationships, personal pursuits, and burgeoning spiritual paths are competing with chores for the bit of energy I have left. I am so exhausted that when I finally go on a “real” vacation, I am refusing to do anything that doesn’t make me so excited I might pee. I listened to this amazing podcast and it enlivened my spirit and also echoed some recent advice. Why not just believe that I am who I want to be? Some call it “act as if”. In my house, it was “Fake it till you make it”. Either way, recognizing and asserting my personal power in the world still isn’t second nature. Being someone who can love deeply without allowing my vulnerability to call all the shots is my work now. I admit relief in this past year or so, as non-Black POC and white/white-presenting folks take up a bit more of the responsibility of eradicating anti-Blackness. I have felt conflicted, albeit exhilarated to see Black femmes deciding to rest. Lord knows, we deserve all the seats.
Dina and I didn’t have an entire four years at college to get into more shenanigans. I fucked everything up by transferring to UC Santa Cruz from UCLA in my sophomore year. Then I pointlessly came out to her via voicemail because I was so afraid to tell her about my bisexuality. Luckily, over time, we were able to mend the broken parts and are still in touch. We don’t have much FaceTime (IRL or virtually) these days, but any time we do land in the same place at the same time, it’s like being 18-year-old weirdos all over again.