Thought for the Day:
“We never lose friends. We simply learn who the real ones are.”
Question for the Day:
Do you entertain fake friendships?
If you’re a fan of old school hip hop, then you might appreciate the fact that Whodini’s classic jam “Friends” is playing in the recesses of my mind as I begin this post.
“Friends, how many of us have them?
Friends, ones we can depend on?
Before we go any further, lets be friends.
Friends is a word we use everyday
Most of the time we use it in the wrong way
Now you can look the word up, again and again
But the dictionary doesn’t know the meaning of friends…”
The song goes on to explain that “friends” shouldn’t be a catch-all term. All of us, at some point, will have to determine whether our friendships are genuine or if the people we call “friends” are simply users, or worse yet, haters in disguise. The older I get, the more I realize just how difficult it is to classify someone as a true friend. I’ve always heard my mother say that if a person is lucky, they will find one or two faithful friends in their lifetime who will always be there when it counts. Up until this point in my life, I’ve not found making friends to be particularly difficult. Yet, now that I’m a full grown woman with full grown challenges, I am understanding more and more what she meant.
It was 1984 when “Friends” dropped and I was probably in the fourth or fifth grade. When it came to making friends in elementary school, it was ridiculously straight-forward. We pretty much clicked with anyone who was willing to play with us at recess and if you had above par rope-turning skills in double dutch, you could easily be bestie material. In high school, most of us were searching for a sense of personal identity and validation for that identity, so we generally liked anyone who liked us. For me as a Black girl going to a predominately White high school, all the other Black kids were my friends. Sure, I didn’t really like them all, but we related to each other’s insecurities and I knew that with them, I was at least preliminarily accepted and acceptance at this stage is paramount. From there, it was on to Howard University which also presented few hurdles to facilitating friendships. College, in general, is a natural breeding ground for effortless connection because everyone is away from home for the first time and scared to death while simultaneously itching to test the limits of their newfound freedom. Our college friends kept us safe while being willing accomplices in our shenanigans.
After graduation, I still had few issues. There’s a certain comradarie between women who are young and unattached. There’s the unifying desire for a husband and accompanying fear that one may never materialize which makes young single females an automatic sorority of sorts. There’s the sense that we’re all in this together (until someone gets a husband, of course). When you’re in your prime and not tied down, it’s easy to be available for spur of the moment escapades and all-nighters at the club. It’s never hard to find a buddy who’s down for a little “puff puff give” followed by 4 am Taco Bell binges. Without the stress of a demanding career or growing family responsibilities, you can be more hands on and involved in your friendships in young adulthood. Life has generally not gotten too deep yet, and there’s little consequence for dealing with the irritating aspects of a friend’s personality. If at the end of the day, you can throw back a couple of shots and forget about how badly your homegirl gets on your nerves, then who cares what kind of person she truly is if all you want is a sidekick on Ladies Night?
Yet, now that I’ve moved into my forties, I’m realizing that my cool quotient must have drastically declined because I’m finding it much harder to make new connections. Back in the day, having fun was at the top of my list where spiritual development, marriage, raising my family, career, and maintaining sanity are easily today’s Top Five. Making friends has to somehow be squeezed into the cracks of my life which provides limited opportunity to establish a new crew. Granted, I live in Mississippi now, but the struggle is most definitely real, and my closest friends are still the ones who’ve stuck with me throughout my life and already know what I’m about.
But to keep it real, another huge part of what has changed is that I have a lot less patience for BS. The older I get, the more honest I’ve become. I no longer have the energy to pretend to be something I’m not and I was never one to keep up with the Joneses. I’m not interested in impressing anyone with the material items I’ve accumulated (maybe because I haven’t accumulated much), but I absolutely despise pretending to like people for the sake of having someone around. I know the fact that I’m busy is partly to blame for my dismal friendship skills, but this growing culture of fake friendships with its two-faces, air kisses, insincere compliments, back stabbing, gossip , hateration, shade and side eyes seems to not just be fodder for the Real Housewives but something many of the people I meet subscribe to. People only seem interested if they think you have something to offer. Every conversation seems to resemble a carefully worded social media post in which everything is wonderful and it’s all coming up roses. I almost feel like something is wrong with me when I try to have a genuine conversation with someone new. I don’t want to have to pretend to have it all together in order to make friends. People might give me the screwface if I dare admit that I’m struggling financially or that I don’t always juggle all the balls in my life successfully. Some days I feel like I deserve an award just for catching up the laundry or making a meal that doesn’t involve a box. What I long for most at this juncture is to be real with God, myself and everyone else. If I’ve got to put up a front or perform for you in order to appear cool enough for your companionship then I’d rather not bother. This is why, in my opinion, an ability to be fully transparent is what I would call the mark of authentic friendship. Yet as we get older and the stakes get higher, there’s so much more to our image to protect. Instead of recognizing the need for more support, we put up more walls and wear masks that will keep others at a safe distance.
Are we really friends if all I see is the polished image you put forth? Are we really friends if I can’t come to you when I’m in crisis? Are we really friends if I’m embarrassed for you to see my house when it’s dirty or my hair when it’s a mess? Are we really friends when you cannot be trusted with my truth? My answer is no, but just in case you’re unsure, here are five clues that may help you determine if your bestie is really a friend or nah.
- They Only Come Around When You Have Something to Offer
I have personal experience with this one. If you’ve been reading me from the beginning, I may have mentioned somewhere that I graduated with a degree in Radio, Television and Film and worked in Hollywood after I graduated from Howard. I was actually a producer’s and writers’ assistant on television shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Jamie Foxx Show. Now, I’d love to tell y’all that I used to shoot the breeze with Jamie Foxx between takes but the truth is I was more familiar with the computer I typed scripts on, the mailbox, the coffee maker, and the telephone I was expected to answer. Yet, anybody that knew what I did for a living seemed to think I was living the highlife. Not only did I have struggling comedians and aspiring actors trying to date me, but I suddenly had a ton of girlfriends. I guess they thought I had the hook up and they weren’t always subtle about asking me to slide their headshot to the producers, but I still believed they liked me for me. Well, when my Hollywood career hit a snag and I started to feel God calling me in a different direction, I decided to take a teaching job in Compton, CA. Despite being satisfied with my decision, it wasn’t long before I was straight outta friends! Take it from me, if your friend only wants to hang when you have money, status, and connections but then disappears when the perks dry up, she’s not your girl. A real friend enjoys your company and values you for who you are. Real friends just want you to bring yourself to the table, but fake friends are always looking around for the hot sauce.
2. They Don’t Celebrate Your Successes
Ever notice that your girl is always there when you’re having an argument with your man or when you’re on the brink of losing it, but is strangely absent when things take a turn for the better? They’re all up in your business when your situation is not as good as there’s but suddenly go mute when they’re no longer a step ahead. These are the friends that say they support your dreams but then ignore the invites to like your business’ Facebook page. (Commence rant) How much time and energy could it possibly require to take a millisecond to tap your finger on a button? You take ten times as long to pick your nose, but can’t find the time to do something so simple which could actually propel someone’s dream forward. I mean seriously, IT’S JUST A FREAKIN’ CLICK!!!!! (Conclude Rant) Anyway, I’ve found that a real friend is there to cheer you on every step of the way and they want to see you succeed. They are eager to throw your bridal shower, pass out flyers for your salon, or be your accountability partner in the gym. Yet, if your girl always seems to choke when a well-deserved congratulations is in order, she’s probably running low on Haterade.
3. Being Around Them is Hard Work
Hanging with a friend is not supposed to be a chore. If I’m really in a funky mood, but have to work overtime to put on a fake smile, do my make-up, make sure my house is on point, and prep my husband on what he is and isn’t allowed to say in your presence then a friendship with you will feel more like a political campaign than a genuine bond. A real friend will allow you to be yourself. I can’t be worried about whether or not you believe I “slayed” today so just go ahead and eliminate me now because like Fantasia says, I got no time for it.
4. It’s All About Them
Friendship should be a two-way street and there should be a mutual benefit for both parties. However, I’ve known people who act as if life is their own independent movie and they’ve cast themselves in the starring role. The rest of us are just bit players. If they’re in trouble, you are expected to drop everything and rush to their side. If they reach a milestone, you’re supposed to organize a ticker tape parade in their honor. Every conversation is about them and they usually don’t even think to inquire about what goes on in your world. I’ve had “friends” where I could literally just answer a call and hold the phone to my ear. An occasional “uh huh” or “what?” can be enough to somehow participate in an hour long conversation. The one-up game is also always in effect. They will always manage to find a way to overshadow your accomplishments. If you get a promotion, they’ve got a better one. If you’ve met a new guy, they’re suddenly madly in love with their soul mate. Your progression is always minimized but they might pat you on the back occasionally for your “lil’ job” or your “‘lil’ relationship.” When it comes to life with a self-absorbed person, the world is their stage and those cast as “friends” are supposed to feel lucky they’ve even gotten a speaking part.
5. Secret Shade
Passive aggressive comments (If you weren’t my friend, I’d knock you out), sarcasm (Sure, you’ll find a man girl. Keep hope alive like Jessie Jackson), insults that are passed off as jokes (Girl, your natural is cute but you look like Buckwheat’s little sister from behind), insensitive jabs (Don’t be late or I might divorce you like Mike did), unnecessary criticism (You want to start a blog? Everybody and their mama has a blog), or negativity (I don’t know why you’re auditioning for that role again. You’re probably too old for that part).
These covert attacks are all tools the fake friend uses to undermine your confidence and ensure that she maintains the upper hand in the relationship. If she can keep you feeling insecure, you might just feel lucky to have her and remain committed to moving her life’s agenda forward. Yet, real friends build you up. They want you to feel good about yourself and empower you with positive encouragement. A fake friend hates to see you feeling yourself and will throw just enough shade to make sure you don’t start loving yourself more than you love being her friend.
I’ll conclude by saying that it’s up to all of us to be good stewards of the mind, body, and spirit God has given us by being more careful about who we choose to do life with. The same way a true friend can enhance your life is the same way a fake one can undermine it. Personally, I’m no longer willing to betray myself for the sake of being down with anyone. I’ll continue to trust God to send like-minded people my way who will support me in fulfilling His purpose for my life. So, if all you have for me is shade, girl bye! I can’t have you blocking my light.
“A friend loves at all times…”