How to Make Friends if You’re an Awkward Black Girl

by Kaneisha Grayson

Issa Rae’s award-winning web series Awkward Black Girl has cast a flattering and compassionate spotlight on the world’s heretofore ignored by the media awkward Black girls. However, one thing I noticed while thoroughly enjoying the show is that J and Cece magically become friends after one too many awkward long hallway encounters. They simply recognize each other’s inelegance and become instant partners in all kinds of deliciously awkward crimes. Unfortunately, this is not how most real-life friendships begin. As a very outgoing but often awkward person, I wanted to give some real life tips from my own experience on how to make friends if you’re an awkward Black chick.

Find your fellow awkwards and commiserate

The first week of college, I made the mistake of showing up to an intermediate aerobics class with no prior experience with exercise organized fitness classes. I snuck to the back of the room, hoping to not be too noticed by my self-assured tight-bodied blonde classmates. As the routine increased in speed, intensity, and complexity (as did the male instructor’s shrill commandments to “Work it!!!”), I found myself a bumbling, shuffling mess of cardiovascular confusion. I was completely overwhelmed with the requirements of the “intermediate” class and feeling like a rhythmless, out of breath fool. Then, I looked over to my right and saw a petite, pretty Latina looking just as bewildered as I was. Once the class was over, I went over and introduced myself and we laughed at how hard the class was for us, and how crazy we must have looked falling all over ourselves. Whenever we saw each other around campus the next few weeks, we shared a knowing look. Neither Carla nor I ever went back to that class again, but our first shared awkward experience motivated us to be roommates while on study abroad in Cuba, where we once again ended up being very awkward together in salsa dance classes. We’ve been close friends ever since.

Speak up when things are awkward

In my freshman seminar, we read the book Nickel and Dimed, an account of a journalist who goes “undercover poor” and writes about what it’s like to live off a full-time Walmart salary and then work as a maid. To my astonishment, one day it became a class discussion to share how much our families paid the cleaning ladies. As my classmates said in wide-eyed hushed tones, things like, “I can’t believe Merry Maids get paid so little. We are totally never using them again, and I’m going to tell my parents to pay our maid at least $12 an hour,” I sat in silent disbelief. I had never even conceived of the idea of having a maid, much less felt rich guilt over how little my parents paid her. After class, while standing around with a group of my classmates, I blurted, “Wasn’t that so awkward when people started talking about how much they pay their maids?!” A visible look of relief passed over my classmate Shadiah’s face. “Yes it was!” she exclaimed, a bit too loudly. “I thought you silently agreed with everyone else! But you were feeling awkward too!” We then went on to talk about all the different things about college life that made us feel out of place–and poor: the nonchalant references to ski vacations that baffled us, accidentally buying knock-off purses that we just thought were cute, and not knowing what tortellini was when going through the lunch line. From that day on, the two quirky “poor” girls of Pomona College were inseparable. Awkward Shadiah went on to be awkward Carla’s roommate our senior year of college.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    I guess “awkward” is the new black now?!

  • JennWill

    Yeah for Claremont College Alums!! I’m Pitzer 02′ where I too learned all about the lives of the guilty rich-but all my peeps were bearded, dreds, didn’t wear shoes or shower, and were ‘hippies’. That is until it was time to take their seat on daddy’s board of directors, wherein they shaved, got haircuts, resumed showering and then fit right in.

    My awkward moment came when I couldn’t wrap my mind around any distinction between Jewish people and white people. Despite their efforts to explain to me otherwise, all I saw was white people. How was I to know there was some sort of difference-weren’t too many (read: any) Jewish people where I grew up.

  • mamareese

    Huh? How about being a confident black girl and making confident friends. Why in the world would you wanna be huddled up in a group of awkwardness. Chile break out and break in to find your inner you. No to this….sorry.

  • http://Ninasgoodthoughts.wordpress.com Nina

    As a recovering awkward black girl, I’ve found taking a deep breath and smiling, no matter how I feel, relieves some of that awkwardness and strengthens my confidence. Also, focusing on the environment, including the people in it, alleviates those I’m-totally-awkward-and-everyone-knows-it feelings.

  • apple

    im awkward not by choice. i hate it. i wish i was normal. but after 23 years of being awkward i have accepted that i’m going to be alone for the rest of my life.

  • http://www.purplekeychain.blogspot.com purplekeychain

    In my experience, it’s easier to make other ABG friends in places where there are a LOT of black folk around. I grew up in the pacific northwest and, even though there are a lot of ABGs out there, there is this sense of territorialism about them. ABGs, or just awkward nerdy quirky PoC in general, in places where there are few PoC to begin with, often have this weird attitude about wanting to be the ONLY PoC in a group of friends, and don’t really want to make friends with, or include, others. Like someone is stealing their “Look at me, I’m quirky AND black at the same time, it’s so awesome because I’m such a RARE combination, which makes me special” card.

    I don’t know, I’m not articulating myself very well. As an ABG myself, I had this problem my whole life. I probably excluded other awkward PoC from my circle of friends, too, for the same reason above. But when I moved to Chicago, it was like a totally different story. It was WAY easier to see and find and even make friends with people who were just as weird as I was/am.

    Now, in DC, that territorial shit is back… or maybe it’s just people’s general hesitation to make new friends in a city like this once they’ve found a crew. Because, damn, making friends here is hard as hell!

    Anyway, so yeah. I don’t know what this article was trying to say, so I’m just rambling about random shit.

  • S.

    HA HA! I’ve been saying this forever about POC in big cities!

    I’m from California and this has been the story of my life!

    I have no problem making non-Black friends, awkward or otherwise. However, making Black friends in California, of a similar personality, is like a nomadic Lion trying to take over a Pride

    Black folks out there be crazy territorial!

    It makes me wonder if I am one of those “crazy Black folks”. I do remember instances where I was hesitant to me ‘the only other Black person’ in the group b/c I wanted to be careful there weren’t territorial…. could that make me look like one of those Black folks?

    It’s crazy complicated

    I will also say that I’ve meet most of my ABG friends through my non-Black friends ironically (why is it easier for them to find them? Idk). They tend to be just like me and became my closest of friends

  • Maria Guerrero

    I’m an awkward Latina, I’m an intelligent, smart and beautiful woman. In social situations, many times women of color [who have been socialized in a society that says that whiteness is better while having darker skin (of all the darker skin shades, from cinnamon to coffee) and other "undesired" features are seen as not beautiful] have to deal with the insecurities that come with living in a society that devalues who we are as people. Therefore unfortunately, this affects how we daily interact with people in day-to-day situations.

  • Alyssa

    ain’t it though?

  • Alyssa

    me 2. Except, I’m still enjoying life. just doing things on my own now, letting things happen, not forcing friendships or relationships just cuz.

  • Candy 1

    So, ABG is a ‘thing’ that we’re actually discussing, now? I have always been a little awkward, but more so when I was younger. I’m a little less “awkward” now that I’m older, but I’m still a little different than what people expect. I have never had a problem attracting people like me. As a matter of fact, they tend to gravitate to me. My only problem is getting close with others and forming bff-type bonds.

  • taryn

    you pretty much doomed for life until you meet an awkward dude you can spend the rest of your life with and forget everyone else.

    blacks will say your too white and have nothing in common
    whites will say your too black and despite all that you have in common you still have black skin

    that is why afropunk.com was formed. check it out. we create our counter culture

  • edub

    LOL. I guess. I long for the days when Mr.T told us to just be who were are. I hate these categories..it’s just so puerile.

  • http://method2hermadness.blogspot.com/ girlformerlyknownasgrace

    Yup, this article applies to me! It is awkward trying to find other people to be friends with as an ABG. In school I could not exactly relate to regular Black girls, who tended to be in the mainstream classes, but I could not relate to White students either. In college, I realized that it was not enough to just be Black, because a lot of Black women came with rich backgrounds: “Jack and Jill,” (I still do not know exactly what that is), legacies of divine nines, daughters of diplomats, World Bank officers, modern-day oil barons. Their experience of Black culture was just different. And you can be awkward and confident. Confidence is a personal issue, being awkward with others is interpersonal.

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    Like awkward black girl said, being awkward and black are prob the two worse things you can be lol…but seriously being awkward in general is so difficult, especially in a society that rewards “personality” and confidence. I wish I could be a little less awkward sometimes but I definitely enjoyed the tips.

  • LA, California Dreaming (Ocean Blue)

    “In school I could not exactly relate to regular Black girls”

    Neither could I. I have this issue in the workplace as well. I’m the Black woman who is reserved, doesn’t care to talk about relationships/men, fashion and gossip. I’ve noticed early on that in all of the workplaces I’ve been in, I was able to more freely talk with a non-Black person.

  • LA, California Dreaming (Ocean Blue)

    “…especially in a society that rewards “personality” and confidence.”

    Mmhmm. I our society rewards extroverted personalities.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    it’s that new new Louieboowieton shoe that I can’t afford.

  • apple

    i dont think you need to find an awkward guy, my guy friend likes my awkwardness, actually he thinks its adorable! but i had no idea afropunk was for that, for some reason i just thought it was for tattoos! def joining now!

  • Nic

    Confident does not mean you’re awkward. You can be confident and have poor social skills, you can be confident and be eccentric, you can be confident and have little to no fashion sense/common sense/street sense, etc. Awkward has to do with how you relate to others, not your sense of self-esteem or self-pride.

  • Nic

    *Having confidence does not mean you are NOT awkward.

  • Mya

    What’s up with the use of “regular black girls”? Kind of assy.

  • Daria

    I’m not Pitzer alum but my older sis is (class of ’97). I used to visit her often and even interviewed with admissions to transfer there. It was just a little too “free-spirited” for my tastes. I guess I’m awkward and older sis is not. She graduated wearing no shoes. I may have been intimidated by the rich kids. I do remember meeting Mel Brooks’ daughter, Jenny Craig’s kid, and the daughter of a man who owned several hospitals in Chicago.

  • Nire

    Recently moved to Florida. Hoping to meet some new awkward people. It’s always nice to have someone around to relate to.

  • Alexandra

    Haha. This sounds just like me; cool. Now that I’m an adult, I can handle certain situations much better than I could when I was a child too. My problem now since entering college, is making lasting friendships. I do think my ‘rush-like’ personality is partly to blame, but I haven’t changed, only matured? But clearly I’m not alone in this. I also find that in the past few years I’ve made more friends with awkward men than women.

  • lulu

    well i’m not awkward, but one thing i liked about this article is hanging with people you have something have in common with. not saying jocks have to hang with jocks, snobs with snobs, but what i’m saying if you’re a nerd and you are not fitting in with the populars – dont try to fit in with them, fit in with people who like you.
    passed that phase years ago and i learned make friends by hanging around people i click with. if you if try to make nice with a person and you dont click then dont keep trying to click with them. move on to someone who likes you.
    what i like about the awkward girl is that it breaks the stereotype that all black girls are loud wear, weaves, and have fake nails.. heck.. i know some black girls who wear weaves and who are nerds. i know black girls are loud and ghetto acting and act awkward, i just say be your self- hey woody allen is an awkward white guy who embrassed it and made a career out of it – so there you go

  • LuvIt289

    I stopped caring about it.

  • LuvIt289

    Agreed@Taryn

  • JessicaMercedes

    @apple I used to feel the same way. I don’t want to be awkward. I don’t feel awkward when I’m going about my business, but people who I hang around always remind me that I’m the awky one. Some people like that about me, others find it annoying. Its not something I’m ashamed of, and I don’t feel doomed to be awky, but I do want to find more people that I can closely relate to.

  • LadyBee

    What part of FL? I’m in Tampa! :)

  • binks

    Lol right! What is a “regular black girl”? I never knew they had irregular black girls walking around. I like the message of the article but at the same time one should remember that variety is the spice of life when it comes to friendships. There is nothing wrong with attracting someone similar to you for friendship in the hopes of having something in common instantly but at the same time you want to remember to attract and be open to other’s people friendships, who happen not to be awkward because you can learn new things and get different perspectives, it almost seems high schoolish with awkward hanging out with awkward people, nerds with nerds, etc.

  • LA, California Dreaming (Ocean Blue)

    In a social context, a ‘regular Black girl/woman’ would be someone whose character epitomizes the stereotypes of Black girls/women.

    Just think about it. When a non-Black person is very animated and/or loud when they talk, they are considered to be ‘acting Black’.

    If one is to talk using a lot of slang and Ebonics, they are considered to be ‘acting Black’.

  • Eri

    @ S. – I live in California too, and completely agree. But I just haven’t had a lot of luck making friends with other ABG/ALG (or other Black women and Latinas) no matter where I’ve lived.

    And no, I don’t want to be awkward, just have always felt that way. Among my cooler brethren, I’ve been a social outcast at worst and uncomfortably tolerated at best. I latched onto the term ABG and the web series like a lifeline, ’cause honestly, it’s nice to hear that you aren’t the only Black person that feels a little out of the loop.

  • http://codeemphasis.blobspot.com Clarity Jane

    I love the ABG series, it’s funny, clever and refreshing to see the alternative to the loud mouth, neck twisting, over-sexualiszed, materialistic African American woman the mainstream media often portrays. However in saying that, I cannot relate to being an ABG because I don’t have those problems.

    At the begining of the series Issa’s character suggested that being self conscious, having poor social skills and having an ‘us and them’ mentality’ meant that the only way to have a sense of self was to define yourself as ‘awkward’ and with that being the bottom of the black girl food chain …ordinarily that’s fine because I’m sure there are many awkward black girls out there with the same jarring issues but things that make people awkward are often to do with them and how they feel about themselves and not yet being secure enough to just BE which I’m sure most awkward people want to change for the better.

    I take the web series for what it is and that’s entertainment but as the show got popular the whole ABG thing became like a badge of honor with no room for wanting to change. It seems like the term ‘awkward’ has become trendy and any and anyone is adopting it just be on a bandwagon…just like the whole Geek/Nerdy thing was cool not too long ago. The ABG exists but most of those people are not wearing it as a badge of honor and don’t actually want to be that way.

    I applaud Issa for influencing a part of popular culture and helping real ABGs feel empowered but all those women rocking the ABG T-shirt cuz it’s cool all of a sudden is as tired as someone claiming to be a geek or a nerd cuz they happen to read a couple books and watch an episode of star trek from time to time.

    My advice for any actual ABG trying to make new friends is to:
    Lose the label – It will become a self fulfilling prophecy which wont help you when there is a new cool box someone creates to stick people in.

    Accept who you are and own it and do not differentiate yourself from the ‘regular black girl’ (whatever that is) becuase that’s where the problem lies…the inability to accept that all women are special and unique and if you’re slightly more unique than the next, it just makes you more special.

    Don’t assume you lack something in common with the next person – make more of an effort to get to know it for sure, then you can make a decision to pursue but if you don’t try you will never know. Like minded people tend to gravitate towards each other but people with good social skills have very little problems making friends, those who have trouble socialising have to try a bit harder..that’s the reality so put in the work and don’t wallow in the ‘awkwardness’ of it all.

  • Eve

    Thank you for your comments, they are spot on. I’m going to a party tomorrow that I’ve been dreading but will definitely take your advice!

  • Eve

    Your comments couldn’t be more wrong. I have always felt awkward in social situations. However, my boyfriend is a social butterfly and can relate to all types of people. We are on two different ends of the spectrum, which is what attracted me to him. He does not see me as awkward and always praises me! While I may focus on my shortcomings, he does not.

    Don’t know anything about afropunk so i can’t speak to that.

  • Eve

    @Taryn

  • Hushpuppies

    Also in California (Northern) and I feel the same way. I have not met my ABG soul mate/bff. But I am lucky enough to have a group of friends who understand my introverted mannerisms and sense of humor.

  • So Over This Ish

    @ mamareese…I respect your opinion, but not everyone has the ability to do that.

    Some people (including myself) are painfully shy and it can be difficult to open up to others. Some people have extreme social anxiety. Some people have had experiences that make them unable to trust others.

    There are lots of confident Black girls and there are also those who aren’t so confident. We all have our differences.

    I agree with Maria 100%. I also believe she nailed it when she said that it can be even more difficult for some Black women to be more confident because of stereotypes, being devalued for our looks, etc.

    But I guess it also depends on where a person’s environment and how they were socialized too.

  • So Over This Ish

    Sorry…I meant to say it depends on a person’s environment.

  • So Over This Ish

    I feel you, Apple…I’m nearly 30 and still awkward. You’re not alone, lol!

    But I really like Alyssa’s approach. Sometimes it is better to just chill and go with the flow of life. Do what makes YOU happy. I know it can be lonely but lately I’m trying to have a more relaxed outlook about it.

    I wish we could form a club or support group or some ish, LMAO!

  • So Over This Ish

    No, Purple, I understand where you’re coming from.

    I think that for some Black folks who consider themselves to be “quirky”, they can fall into 3 types: the person who is thirsty for acceptance from non-blacks and wants to feel special/unique; the person who has had unpleasant experiences with being judged by other blacks for their appearance or interests so they shun potential friendships; the person who just doesn’t want any more friends because they have enough.

    I’m biracial, I’m awkward, and I’ve only met a handful of awkward Black girls/women where I live. They aren’t too common here. I see plenty on Youtube, though. There is one called xxpandafacexx. She is from Michigan and I dig her channel. She seems to be a very interesting person. She has lots of piercings (including a septum piercing), natural hair, and she designs cool clothes…including a dress made from Starburst candy wrappers! Not to mention her sense of humor.

    I wish there were a meetup for all of us or something.

  • So Over This Ish

    Yes, what part of FL? I’m in Miami.

  • So Over This Ish

    I agree 110%.

  • La, California Dreaming (Ocean Blue)

    “Some people (including myself) are painfully shy and it can be difficult to open up to others. Some people have extreme social anxiety. Some people have had experiences that make them unable to trust others.” – This sounds like me, to the tee

  • modern lady

    Issa has scratched on the surface of an underground movement-I think! I’ve found myself awkwardly trying to relate to some of my Black friends for years. It’s funny how people think that Black women can’t be socially awkward. I guess years of neck popping stereotypes have made people believe we all are overly confident and sassy by nature.

  • df

    i remember when afropunk first started, very cool. I’m not so much into punk and rock or the whole lifestylse so I would probably feel even more awkward there now

  • df

    la i’m an awkward black girl but are you kidding? i agree people are drawing lines by mentioning “regular black girls”. The girl you THINK is regular might actually be awkward and vice versa…we aren’t in high school anymore, people need to stop drawing lines to make themselves feel better.

    I’m awkward yes but I don’t see myself as an awkward black girl in COMPARISON to “regular black girls” or people that aren’t like me. I’m just awkward period. And I happen to be black.

  • df

    i’m all for black girls breaking molds. This includes girls who you THINK are regular or alternative or different, surprising social norms for what they should be and just being THEMSELVES. People are so complex, putting them in neat little boxes is convenient for the lazy and makes life that much less interesting.

  • df

    great post!

  • df

    this post and the discussions are really, really interesting…

  • binks

    Preach!

  • binks

    @La California Dreaming I love your comments but I can’t dig this one though the logic just seems flawed because 1) we are placing other black women in a box but hate when other people do it to us…i.e. the Kevin Hart drawing fiasco and 2) we are letting other people preconceived notions categorized what a “regular” black girl is when there is no such thing as a regular black girl/woman because we as a whole are more complex for such a simplistic “offhand” view point. I don’t know but this discussion reminds me of the older post “regular black” vs. “exotic black”

  • La, California Dreaming (Ocean Blue)

    Binks

    Yes, I *hear* what you are saying. The definition I provided is based on what I have seen and my own experiences, the reactions and words by other Black people when they come across someone who isn’t acting out stereotypes. Those of us who don’t act out stereotypes are always seen as ‘other’. I don’t agree with it though. And yes, it is similar to the ‘regular black’ vs. ‘exotic black’ argument, which I omitted from my comment.

  • minna k.

    …”women of color [who have been socialized in a society that says that whiteness is better while having darker skin (of all the darker skin shades, from cinnamon to coffee) and other "undesired" features are seen as not beautiful] have to deal with the insecurities that come with living in a society that devalues who we are as people.”

    Ok, i believe this is 2 things, and not to attack you at all.

    1. tired meme
    2. an illusion/lie that we can choose to continue to accept as our reality that only serves as an obstacle that is unnecessary and does more harm than good when trying to navigate our own human experience.

    When most HUMAN BEINGS are woman of color, how can you be awkward for that reason?

  • Brooklynista

    Naw, awkwardness and blackness have both been around forever.

  • D

    Sometimes the inner you of a person is awkward. It’s a possibility. And an image projected onto you doesn’t allow you to be that. So, if you are an awkward person, maybe owning that and being it can be freeing, and, in J’s case, charming.

  • D

    “As a very outgoing but often awkward person”

    Hehehe. Me, too. Really friendly, but REALLY awkward, so, yeah.

  • C. Amanda

    This article made my day a little easier because I am sitting in my room at Pomona College, taking a break from homework (read:procrastinating) and counting the days until I go home to DC and it was just heart-warming to have that little moment of recognition almost as if the article was written for me. Thank you!

  • Blue

    Why do people have to constantly put labels on themselves. Who cares if your socially awarkward & black. Stop whinning about it & love yourself.

  • golden_girl

    I understand ur comment. However we operated in a label based world. If I knew I was an ‘awkward black’ teen, I would have had a better understanding of why I was overwhelming rejected by an entire black middle school. Years of wasted wondering could have been averted. To think that I got dissed by some ignent clones should have been a badge of honor not something to loathe.

    Lables are good. Just words to describe how you exist in that moment of time.

  • Pingback: Natural hair and a stash of “awkward black girl” memories | Execumama.com

  • Deja

    This article really helped me today! I’m a freshman in college and I’m an incredibly awkward black girl and trying to be super confident and cool to make friends makes me even more awkward. Now I know…embrace the awkwardness and awkward friends will appear :) thanks!!

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