With Friends Like These...
The more time I spend adding to this blog library (my “blibrary,” if you will), the more adept I become at tapping into the music that so often accompanies my words. It’s a chicken-or-the-egg situation: Does the music inspire the post, or does the post bring about the music? Not sure. But this process has helped me realize that thoughts, indeed, have soundtracks. With that in mind, the theme song for today’s mental musings is “Friends.” That classic joint by Whodini:
“Frieeeeends… How many of us have them?
Frieeeeends… Ones we can depend on?
Frieeeeends… Before we go any further, let’s be FRIENDS!”
Whether you were hiding behind the sofa at your parents’ party or break dancing to it your damn self, there was something strangely endearing about that song. It signified a time when a brutha could climb on stage in some tight shorts and a Bolero, and ask folks to be his friend. Would Future or Fetty Wap ever allow themselves to be so vulnerable (cuz those Larry Bird shorts alone left bruh pretty exposed…)? Nope. That’s an era gone by. What we had then, we will never have again.
I realize now that the same can be said for friendships themselves. Just when you think it’s safe to let your guard down; just when you think you’ve found your forever-tribe, you look around and realize you’re standing in a room full of strangers with your nuts hanging out (cuz, again, those Solid Gold short-shorts leave little room for error).
Until I was about 35, friendships seemed pretty simple. As a chick with a quick wit and a penchant for F-bombs, I’d meandered through the various phases of my life, collecting countless women whom I’d come to call friends. Regardless of when or how we’d met, our unspoken sister oaths were always the same: "I pledge to hold you down, prop you up, watch your back, and never, ever eye your man. AMEN."
No doubt, you, too, have known some of these women. The ride or dies. The ones who’d neeeeever be featured on a Dateline episode, trying to explain how they wound up at the after-party while you wound up on a milk carton. For years, I’d been fortunate enough to connect with women who’d seemed happy to dot the landscape of my life. Want to go for drinks? HOW SOON? Want to grab dinner? WHAT TIME? Want to hit that party? WHICH ONE? Want to meet my new man? GIRL, HE AINT SHIT, BUT, UNTIL YOU REALIZE THAT, TELL HIM HE BUYIN'. Regardless of the situation, I just knew that my chicks were the truth. So, 10 years ago, if you’d asked me, “How many of us have them?” I’d say, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got friends for days. They’re going to walk down the aisle at my wedding; be the Godmommies to my babies; and join me in ratchet-reminiscing when we’re 75.
And, then, I woke up and got woke.
I’d love to say that I made the realization all on my own. That, after aging and maturing a bit, I began to examine my relationships and realized that not everyone in my circle was there in my best interest. But, nooooo. That’s not how any of this works.
Instead, when I hit my mid-30s, many of the chicks who I thought were in it for liiiiiiiiiife, began to boldly and coldy proclaim otherwise. Perhaps you, too, have had some similarly rude awakenings. Maybe there was the…
Ungrateful “friend”: The one you rode hard for. Went above and beyond for. Only to have her act unappreciative AF. You may have taken her under your wing; welcomed her into your professional circle; gotten her a job. But, rather than erect a shrine to you at your old desk (which, thanks to you, she now occupies), this bitch be talkin mad shit. As if insisting that she’s the best who’s ever done it will cause folks to forget that she’d never be doing it at all without your blessing. To this chick, we say: Thou doth definitely protest too much, but go ‘head, silly rabbit. Go ‘head.
MIA “friend”: The one who was always front and center when she needed something, but when the tables turned, was nowhere to be found. Say, for example, you’re hit with a tragedy. You are heartbroken. You are overwhelmed. You pull the Break In Case of Emergencies Sistah Siren (the one that sounds like: Regulatoooors! Mount up!). But she’s got oh-so-much going, she just needs you to give her a little time. She’ll get right back to you. Still waiting on that call? Yeah… me too. Find someone else to help you get through that funeral, son. You’ve been MIA’d.
And God help you if there was the…
Sex In the City “friend”: Named that, not because she’s so supa dupa HBO fly (though you sure thought she was), but because she broke up with you. Via text. After years of love, laughter, and what you thought was a deep “us never part” kind of friendship. Carrie thought Berger breaking up with her on a post-it was bad? I guarantee you - had Miranda done that shit, it would’ve been a whole ‘nother storyline.
So what do you do when your squad goes south? Well, if you’re like me, your reactions ran the gamut -- from the shoulder shrug to the fetal position ugly cry. You may have fought the air. You may have fought the urge to blame yourself. Hell, you may have fought the chick (not my thing, but do you, Boo). Regardless of the response (and the number of community service hours you were sentenced to for it), there’s one thing that, without even knowing your situation, I know: You Moved On. Like I Did. And because progression is both life and power, with time, we either learned to appreciate that which those sisters brought into our lives, or we learned to spot the red flags that we not-gonna-miss-next-time-around. All the while, giving thanks and praise to our true sister circles – filled with the ones who wiped our tears, poured our wine, and stayed the course. They the real MVPs.
While painful, this process is less about loss than it is about growth. In my 20s, rolling with a crew was proof of my popularity; my worth. Now, at 44, nothing makes me feel more loved than a couple of girlfriends and a bottomless brunch. We get older, we get wiser. We shed skins and people. We learn to value our time and ourselves. We begin to place a premium on compassion and connection. And, in the end, we recognize that quality over quantity is what it's all about.
So just like the cute Asian chick in the car commercial who thinks she’ll “never be able to replace Brad”? We may never be able to replace Bradishianna. But we can certainly thank her for the miles, bid her farewell, and upgrade her ass to a more reliable model.