“We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of Black women for each other.” — Audre Lorde
I want to date the lesbian version of my best friend.
She is the one friend that I have remained close to since adolescence. I grew up moving around a lot; it was very hard for me to make friends. I was shy, quiet, and a people-pleaser. She was outspoken, confident, and ready to fight any boy that came incorrect –the way she molly-whopped that boy on the back of the bus will live in our minds for eternity. She gave no fucks. I loved her fiercely from the start, but we didn’t really become close until we found ourselves caught in a typical high school scandal: I was accused of sleeping with her boyfriend. There were lots of tears, hurt feelings and sleepless nights, until we caught the perjurer in a good old-fashioned secret three-way call. From then on, we were inseparable. I taught her how to drive, she taught me how to apply makeup and do my hair (when she wasn’t treating me as her guinea pig and doing it herself). When she had her first son, I loved him like he was mine. And when I had my daughter, she helped me adjust to the Bruce Lee fist to the gut that is young motherhood.
She taught me how to be confident and stand up for myself. I taught her to choose her battles and that not every insult needs a response. She taught me the power of my words; I taught her the power of silence. We raise our children completely different. She is a traditional, hands-on, mama-don’t-take-no-mess kind of mother to her three boys, and when it comes to my two girls, I am a free spirit, let the kids wear mismatched clothes type of Life’s tour guide. We have different views about what is most important for our children. For her, it’s a strong religious foundation. For me, it’s an in-depth knowledge of our history and royalty as Black women. Our dissimilarities allow us to teach one another alternative ways of parenting. She has been married for over 10 years, and as my one example of a long-lasting successful marriage, I look to them for all things love-related. When she needs to vent about her husband, she knows she can call me and I will hold her temporary grievances against neither of them.
My coming out story, as it relates to her, is the only thing I wish I could change. She called, pissed; not because I was dating women, but because she had to hear about it through the grapevine. She was hurt that I would think she would stop being my friend, stop loving me because of who I choose to date. She gave me a thorough cussing out, paused, then made a joke about it, knowing my sensitive ass can’t stand to be admonished. I knew then, more than ever before, that no matter who I became, she would be there for me. For a woman who was used to the most important people in her life leaving at a whim, this meant everything.
Because women in general – and Black women specifically – are socialized to tear each other down, always compete and never trust each other, our friendship is militant. Our love is queer. We stand defiantly on the margins, together. People have misunderstood, been resentful and envious of our relationship. At times, we don’t even understand each other. We disagree, we live our lives in entirely different ways, but we have always had each other’s backs. There were times in the past when I was afraid that our friendship would end, because we were both becoming so different. But it turned into a relationship of strength, one to stand the test of change, time, and now that I have left Louisville, distance. We have never given up on one another. We have simply allowed ourselves to grow. We give each other the space we need, knowing that our love for one another supports whatever changes we experience. Even today, after 17 years, we still have the ability to surprise one another. When she went natural two years ago after being addicted to the creamy crack, you could have knocked me over with a feather. And she still calls and says “I can’t believe you haven’t gone back to men yet.” Not because she doesn’t respect my journey, but because she knows – through her being there for all my phases: the Pan African militant, the peaceful, soft-spoken yogi, the 2-week vegetarian, and the endless changes with my hairstyles – I get bored easily and change my mind more than Lil Wayne changes baby mamas. She understands, accepts and loves me for all of the Me(s) that I am. Because of her, I am a better mother, friend and woman.
She is strong and silly, authentic and kind. She’s a cold bitch and she’s compassionate. She is a healer, a mother of all, the physical, hood-goddess manifestation of Isis. She is an amazing wife and mother, and if I can find a woman that has half of her attributes, I will live the rest of my life in bliss. I honestly don’t know who I’d be had we never been placed into each other’s lives. Every day – but especially today, her birthday – I am grateful for her. We are not really affectionate toward one another. I don’t like being perceived as “mushy”, and as a mother of three Black boys, her hard shell is necessary. To everyone else, I give hugs freely and profess my love enthusiastically, but with her it is simply understood, and that for me is freedom. But just in case, I hope she accepts this as my 17-year-strong hug.