When my best friend Tikeisha and I started hanging out together, really solidifying that joined-at-the-hip thing that elevates pals to sistagirls, we would regularly spot rainbows and point them out to each other. It was more than just awe at earth science phenomenon, though we loved spotting whiffs of color bowed across the backdrop of blue sky. We were both going through our first, and to this day, our worst breakups—she with her fiancé, me with the father of my child—and in the midst of the tears and the long talks and tears and the question-asking and tears and the personal revelation you can only glean from having your heart percolated on, those rainbows symbolized hope in an entirely different context than what it meant to Noah and them. She supported me through my many bouts with crazy, sometimes cajoling me to my senses, sometimes showing up with a jar of Vaseline, a ponytail holder and sneakers, just in case. Some 13 years later, she is still my ride or die chick.
I get so tired of Black women being portrayed in a constant state of antagonism with somebody, everybody, anybody, but especially with each other. A simple Google search in preparation to write this post produced hits that, for the most part, made us seem about as lovable as wolverines: can Black women really be friends? Can we be trusted? Do we even make good companions for one another?
The uncertainty about our ability to have—maybe even fool around and enjoy—close-knit, intimate relationship is another poke in the cage. I already feel like we’re the universe’s favorite sociological subject. Folks have gone to great lengths and executed plenty of studies to prove we ain’t getting married, especially not to a Black man, we lead the pack in a bevy of unfortunate diseases, we’re overachievers in education and career but struggling with our health, our spirituality and our self-image, we don’t work out because it messes up our hair. On paper, it sounds pretty sucky to be a sister. Now we can’t even have friends, particularly with women who look like us. Dayum.
The reality TV machine does nothing but fan the flames of monolithic characterization that paint us all in one Tamar-and-Nene stroke of color and sensationalize the stereotypical backstabbing, cattiness and general mistrust that’s supposed to seethe between us. My experience has been nothing like that. At all. I’ve never had a regrettable meltdown with any Black woman, sans one scuzzy girl who tried to steal my boyfriend and two grimy heffas who got ahold of my credit card in college, way before “identity theft” became a convictable buzzword, and ran it up buying Victoria’s Secret and Coach bags. Even then, I didn’t assign their trifling behavior to a problem with all Black women. I chalked it up to the obvious conclusion that their mamas had raised some thieves and moved on.
On the same HBCU campus where they were hatching their criminal master plans, I met beautiful, authentic, kind-hearted young ladies. I was born and raised an only child, but when I came out of school I had not only sweated and studied my way to finishing a degree—insert my church lady shout right here—I had an amazing circle of friends who have been like sisters, and had the nerve to find others to add along the way.
There’s an intrinsic intimacy about our relationships, born from a connection that ties us culturally and has created, even on the most basic of levels, a shared experience. It’s the reason I can go into the store to buy tires and come out with the cashier’s phone number because we’d spent the last 15 minutes talking about lace fronts. It’s the reason the Verizon customer service rep and I were on the phone talking about an issue with my bill and chatting casually about Christmas shopping for our kids. It’s the reason why I went to two parties over the weekend where I knew only one person each and ended up dishing out hugs to other attendees I’d hit it off with. It’s the reason why me and a girl in my apartment building, who have just about nothing in common, can talk while she smokes weed and hocks rockets of spit outside. We’re all part of a sisterhood. That’s not to say that we can’t have deep, meaningful friendships with women of other races, and certainly being Black and a woman doesn’t obligate anybody to hit it off. I just feel like something special unfolds when we do.
Today my best friend turns 33—yep, I told it—and I’m reflecting on how much she’s grown, how much she’s changed from that know-it-all girl I knew in college to a young lady trying to figure out what she wanted to do with the days stretched in front of her to a gifted woman called into a life of service to fix some of the issues that bother her about the world. She’s so passionate about so many things—she will launch into a monologue about fair trade or foreign policy at the sound of the wind—that it inspires the people around her to be more concerned, more involved, more dedicated. But she’s also, as one of our other friends pointed out, a dream pusher not content to live out her own goals. She’ll brainstorm and idea you to death until you live out yours, too. She’s the kind of friend we all need, at least at some point. I’ve just been blessed to have her for 13 years. We’ve gone from spotting rainbows to chasing them. And to me, she is the definition of what real sistagirl friendship looks like.