As a weird Black person, I’ve found one thing to be true: though often I feel that I my issues manifest differently than many of my peers, the same rules apply when navigating them. One of the issues I have personally found hardest to maneuver is outgrowing certain friendships. While this is a difficult issue for most people across the board, it is particularly difficult for me (and in doing some research for this post, I’ve found this to be true for many weird black folk) in large part because for me, friends have always been a precious and precarious thing.
As a weird-ass Black girl, I’ve tried everything to make friends; I’ve been myself, I’ve been less than myself, I’ve been someone else, and I’ve been alone. While being alone was definitely one of the better learning lessons of my life, I have finally settled into some friendships that do not require me to alter any portion of my interests or personality, and restructured a few that did. I’m sure your mama or grandma has told you the same thing all friendless kids of color hear: “some people are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” You might not have wanted to hear it, but it is true.
These successful friendships, while I cherish them, are not the ones we are here to discuss today. It is the toxic ones that need the spotlight shined on them. At any point during your quarter life/Dirty Thirty crisis, if you have been down the toxic friend rabbit hole, this post is for you. In talking to a few different people, including two home girls and my partner, I realized that we have all, at some point, hit the toxic friend dead zone. For anecdotal purposes, names (with the exception of my partner’s) have been changed.
Best friend extraordinaire, Chicita (told you I would change names), and I were having a discussion about another of her friends. Chicita, being a tad older than me, is confounded about the lack of ambition, direction, and general maturity in a group of her friends that she befriended during her late teens and early twenties.
“Why,” she bemoans to me over some greasy pizza at happy hour, “are all the weird ones wack? They’re always trying to do some high school shit–fuck each others boyfriends and girlfriends, fight over dumb shit, start drama out of thin air.”
After looking at her like she’s crazy, I start to realize…she’s right. That is the precise reason I don’t hang out with “her” crowd, because I didn’t like that same stuff. But of all the people we know in common, they (and we) have similar backstories: no familial support; situationally broke; hobbies and interests supersede our needs sometimes (I have definitely spent my last on convention registration).
This lends itself, I would imagine, to a prolonged period of pseudo delayed development. It is one of the reasons we have such a good time, but will max out our cards to complete our cosplay. That being said, I told her to cut the friend loose. What do you have to gain when you’re trying to better yourself if you’re constantly breaking up fights on Girls Night Out or if you can only hang with certain people at cons or raves because one of your group is beefing with the girl who’s boyfriend she slept with?
Home Girl #2, Bonita told me recently that I am the only friend she can be completely herself with. “All of the girls in my PhD program think I’m childish. It affects whether or not they want to collaborate with me, and they don’t invite me out when they get together.” They make fun of her, call her names… basically high school shit. Clearly, when it comes to making friends, we’re all still juvenile. But she wants desperately to just be herself. She lost a friend recently who told her that her interest in cosplay and video games made her “weak” and that she needed to grow up.
My darling partner has been actively seeking friendships for a while. He, like I, has very particular interests and finding people to talk to is always a bit of a struggle. Often, his peers think being Otaku makes him creepy or just downright lame, and so when he has friendships that show red flags of toxicity, he has a difficult time (like Chicita) just cutting the damn cord.
One can Google and find myriad articles written by random millennials about the dangers of Toxic Friends. There are a gajillion of them: how to know if you are one, is your best friend toxic, is your mom toxic, etc etc. These are all well and good. Follow their advice. Ditch that friend. Dump that partner. Have hard talks. Don’t be afraid to be weird, Black, and alone. “Alone for now” means that you can be yourself happily, while waiting for your forever friends.
Anyways…you’re not really alone. We’re all here.