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.

  • 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.

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