TLC asked us one of the most complex questions in ‘92: “What about your friends?”
What T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili were trying to tell us is that our true friends are a forever fixture in our lives. They are the women who celebrate and sustain us in good times and support us in the bad. For most of us, our friendships are a combination of affection, loyalty, love, respect, and trust, but according to reality tv and media, Black female friendships are also problematic. Story after story of fights, disagreements, arguments, and toxic behaviors infiltrate our weekly viewing, making it seem as if Black women just can’t get along. While this isn’t the whole truth, I think all the honest individuals here can admit to having our share of friendships that played out like the ones on tv. Maybe not as dramatic, but damn near close.
As a mature Black woman (Where’s my 35 and over crew?!), over the years I’ve noticed a shift in the way I approach my relationships with my friends. I’ve become more aware of who I am as a friend, my tolerance level, and what my own capabilities are. One of the lessons I’ve mastered recently is the art of compartmentalizing. I assess my friends and place them in different “compartments” in my life where I feel they belong. My personal categories are a little complex (Y’all don’t even want to know how this brain works!), so to simplify things, I borrowed four identities from author Geoffrey Grief to better show you what I mean.
And let me put this disclaimer out there – the people in these compartments are subject to change and demotions; promotions can happen at ANY TIME! So now that we’ve gotten that out the way…
The four main friend compartments are:
The MUST Friend
Sis is the BEST friend! She’s your #2, ride or die, woadie, ace boon coon. She’s the one you can count on when all the chips are down or when something major happens in your life. This friend is clutch because she’s the one you’ll experience the highest level of frientimacy with. Over time, (if done correctly) you both learn to trust and respect each other’s boundaries, allowing you to show up as emotionally healthy people for yourself and others. The biggest misconception about this role is how many people can hold this space. My motto is “Quality over quantity” so whether it’s one person or ten, this special bond takes time to build, but once established she’s proven that she’s a keeper!
The TRUST Friend
Sis is the confidante. She’s the one with the shoulder and (most importantly) sound advice to help you through some of the toughest moments in life. This friend is probably one of the most important people in your life because she holds something that many may not – your trust. You trust her with your dreams, your story, and your heart. She may or may not show up to every single event of your life (like your Must Friend), but whenever you need her she makes room for you. Her presence makes you feel safe and vulnerable because you can tell her anything – and you do. Sis has even mastered the art of not taking on your problems as her own, allowing her to share from a clear, but discerning place.
The RUST Friend
You know sis. She’s the “legacy” friend. Y’all likely grew up together or possibly experienced something that bonded y’all together “for life”, but the connection stops there. In most cases, a fragment of energy and time is invested in this relationship and although the love is there, the friendship could go either way as far as you’re concerned. This type of relationship is important because sis (without knowing) teaches you about boundaries and capacity. Through this relationship, you learn how to recognize your emotional response to others (paying attention to how you feel when they’re around) and who you should hold space for in your life (‘Quality over quantity’, remember?). Having a Rust Friend isn’t all bad, because there is a familiarity that comes with having them there, but if you’re looking for relationships that are more impactful and engaging, then sis ain’t it. This isn’t to say that she is a bad person, it just means that the relationship is unrewarding.
The JUST Friend
You see her at the gym. Maybe you guys have chatted at a few social gatherings. You all may even work for the same company in the same department! Whatever the case, sis is cooler than a fan and you enjoy talking to her. However, you have no desire or reason to get to know her better. Not in a cocky “I’m too good to be your friend” kind of way but from more of an “I enjoy you in this space – and that’s it!” type of vibe. Now, sis is a gem because she gives you the companionship that’s fun and free. She’s one you can share a good “kiki” with from time to time, go to the club or grab a drink with, and maybe even share some hot “tea.” Sis creates a vibe that allows you some good, innocent fun without the investment of feelings or energy that comes with a deemed friendship.
As you can see, female friendships can be challenging or rewarding depending on who you’re dealing with and how you segment your friends. But once you find your stride with your tribe, you’ll experience one of the dopest, most beautiful connections ever created.
What type of friend are you and why? Share below and let me know!