That Something Special Between Sistagirls

by Janelle Harris

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.

  • Fa

    It always makes me suspicious when a woman says she “doesn’t have female friends”. Every girl needs a homegirl and mine are my rocks!

  • kendra

    amen, sistagirl!

  • DownSouth Transplant

    It does not make me suspicious, just Sad, real Sad, i wonder who they confide in their fears & dreams without judgement, who tells them that everything will be ok, who picks them up when they are in the “i am so sad my life is crap” mood, where you stay in your PJ’s for days on end in bed, until that one friend/sista shows up with help (sometimes your mama) to make you take a shower & brush your teeth.*Sigh*

  • fergy

    thanks for writing this.

  • Queenpatricia

    I think it may be more sad than suspicious. Some women may have had some traumatic experiences with other women.

  • T. Johnson

    All of my girls ‘got my back’ and they have been lifelong friends… yes, we Black women can get along. The women who are featured as anything otherwise are the exception, not the rule!

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  • Verity Reign

    LOVE IT! Janelle is without a doubt my fave Clutch writer!!! She’s real and her way with even the simplest words is captivating!

  • MK

    I love my girls and they love me

  • kylie

    I’m sorry to say but I have an aversion to other black women. In my experience they are mean, bullying, superficial, biotches. I don’t really have girl friends but of the ones I have, none are black. I will admit that it makes me sad but I just rather keep to myself though in general when it comes to other women, especially black ones.

  • The Artist

    Friends are whomever you mesh with….

  • EST. 1986

    If a woman said that she didn’t have any male friends, what would you think then?

  • Joy

    Great girlfriends are indeed a gift. Most people will not have more than one (1), or two (2) REAL girlfriends in their lifetime. Someone you can confide in, someone you can share your hopes, and dreams with, and someone that can keep a secret. True girlfriends are a blessing. I’ve never understood people who say that Oprah, and Gayle are gay just because they are great friends. How ludicrous is that

  • Jo Sparks

    I have some really awesome sister friends, some since high school. I met my closest girlfriend in college in 1995…love her dearly. If I don’t hear from her in a week or so I send her a text and tell her…you’re about to get your Gayle King wing cut out in my new house, that’s our running joke. We’ve shared the most intimate secrets, but never once judged each other. On the other side of that…I’ve had some very heartbreaking incidents with other black women. My first incident occurred when I was about 20, these two sisters in their 40′s were working with me at BP Oil, they gave me fits…the only thing I could come up with was because I was younger and one of them mentioned that I shouldn’t be dating a white guy! My last incident was a 50+ year old woman threatened by my presence in the office. I befriended her when she moved here from TX, taken her to lunch, I’d supported her career and everything, after she came to my office, she was made my supervision, which I welcomed…this chick went crazy. She would not respond to my reports, didn’t take me to meetings as promised, she just shut me out. I still have some heartburn over it, but I know God will do the vindicating. I left that job and now how the most incredible position ever…more pay and I work from home with greater responsibility, upward mobility and I’m respected.

    So, although I agree that for the most part we can get along, I also know that it’s not all peaches and creme, particularly as I travel around the country for business. There are those sisters you can hit it off with in an instant, but then some others look at you with their noses turned up. Truth is truth, some of us do have issues…that is the same for any group of people…not just us.

  • EST. 1986

    I am genuinely interested in knowing what one would think about that.

  • Marisa

    I don’t know this world of throwing drinks and hopping off tables and slapping people that are supposedly your friends. I’ve had a few childhood friends that have been around most of my life and the school and work friends and do we always agree on everything no but, we are mature women. I have never had a physical fight as a grown woman and I’m 35 if I got an issue with somebody then I take it to them if its that important, not run my mouth on social networking sites which further creates more drama. In the same van anybody got issue with me knows my phone number and address which is not Facebook or Twitter. I got friends who are proud of me and I of them although there is the occasional hey motherhood is fun when you gonna join annoyance, which I don’t take serious we all love our own lives in the best manner possible and leave it at that. Its the younger girls who seem influenced heavily by these shows and the twitter facebook antics, that they have no clue of real friendship and that its possible it exist.

  • RenJennM

    I agree. There are the amazing Black women that we can click with in an instant, and then there are the… *ahem* anyway…

    I can think of some very positive moments of friendship that I’ve shared with sistahs, and I can also think of many negative moments that hurt my feelings and broke my heart. Some sistahs can be cold-blooded, and some can be just flat-out mean and nasty with the mouth. But there are many women, Black or otherwise, who are good souls and wonderful spirits. And I have to admit that there’s nothing like having a powerful sister bond with another Black woman.

    My best friend is Black. We’ve been friends for 12 years now, and we’re only 23 (which means we’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of middle school, high school, AND college, yet we’re still friends). We are so close, we call each other “sisters” and even introduce each other to strangers as such. She is truly my ride-or-die, even though we’ve had some big WTF-type falling-outs over the years. To keep it 100 with ya’ll, I can be a bit weird and off-beat, and she’s MUCH cooler than I am. But she accepts me for me, even if her other homegirls turn their noses up at me.

    Which brings me to another point: Black women need to stop judging each other. We’re already hated on by everybody else, including by our men sometimes. We really need to get back to showing each other more love, especially these young girls who have no clue what true friendship is. Our strength is unmatched when we bond together as sisters. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’d like to see more of it.

  • mahoganypepper1

    This piece was absolutely beautiful. You articulated exactly how I feel about my closest female friends. Go love!

  • Tiara Burns

    i love this story! my best friend of over 10 years is white… but my sister girlfriend ive know since freshman year of college. I simply dont see how we werent friends. She lives in a completely different state but talk everyday whether we have men or not.

  • Elizabeth

    Great article,your writing style is amazing.

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