Chances are if you’re a person of color of any age you’ve heard your mama retort your sassy, hand on the hip having, colorful language toting, stayed out too late, talking back, grown-butt with the dysphemism, “I’m not one of your little friends”. A dysphemism is an expression with connotations that are derogatory either about the subject matter or to the audience. Let’s break it down. You (the audience) tried your mama and so she had no choice but to sharpen her tongue, and when she wielded the sword that is her tongue, she made your friends the subject matter. Your mama is not only implying that she’s not to be played with by saying, “I’m not”…she’s also saying that your, “little friends”… ain’t shit. Which let’s be honest and admit since we’re grown now reflects poorer on you than it does little Tasha, Tevin, and them. So was your mama playing you? Or were you really playing yourself by being around folks you know you really had no business with? I’ll let you decide.
You were met with your first doses of what you thought was disrespect, but was really accountability. Oof, yet again your mama was right. But what now? Aside from calling her to thank her in person or as an ancestor in prayer or a well-placed vase of flowers or her favorite perfume on your altar you should re-tool her wise musings to strengthen and honor your (hopefully better) friendships as an adult.
Recently I had one of those little friends, against my better discernment. Which, yes means that I’m not above my own reproach, I’m disappointed in us…we deserve better. As I minister to you, I minister to myself. This friend was a guy and no, not the brotherly love kind. The kind with undefined romantic involvement induced blurry lines, you know the kind.
Our friendship had been on and off for the better part of five years. That timing and history piece is where a lot of us get honoring friendships wrong. Just because you’ve been friends with them since the Spice Girls were making collectible lollipops and stickers in the 90s, doesn’t mean the friendship deserves the honor of your continued friendship or celebration. History can be just that, history! Having a really beautiful series of past events connected to someone or someplace can make really beautiful memories, nothing lasts forever. Especially unhealthy, icky friendships cobbled together on a commitment to time spent together. Sounds more like a jail sentence than a friendship to me, free my homegirls & boys.
Friendships worth honoring should be rooted in freedom, understanding, truth, and patience. When I say freedom I don’t mean freedom to treat each other any old kind of way but freedom as in giving each other the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Don’t be a hater, if your friend has a new boo and she loves to gush about him, or maybe your friend thinks plaid leggings and polka dots are fashionable – it may be hard but let them be them, let them be free. They are grown and much like your angsty younger self, being corrected for your choices by your mama, nobody wants to be under your scrutiny all the time.It doesn’t feel good. When absolutely necessary let your nudges, reprimands, and judgments of your friends be with love and gentle in tone and infrequent.
Which is where understanding comes in. Our ability to understand one another is seeded in our compatibility and being able to exist together with other humans without problems or conflict is no easy feat as I’m sure we’ve all learned along the way. Don’t be one of those little friends who hold onto grudges. Realize that as adults we all have busy schedules, folk to tend to, and dreams to bring to fruition. Be the big friend who supports your friends, understands that unanswered calls or texts aren’t a reflection on the state of the friendship. When it’s really real there tends to be mutual understanding and respect. Yes, akin to the respect your mama expects.
As we’ve gotten older and in some instances gotten to know our mama’s or guardians, adult, to adult on a more intimate wavelength and even as friends in more liberal families we also come to an understanding that respect is earned. Respect can also amass attrition and grow smaller in output based on someone wanting to try you all the time or choosing to belittle or dedicate themselves to misunderstanding you. This goes for friends too. Which is just one of the reasons why truth or honesty is so important. Do you want to know one of the biggest reasons your mama called them your little friends? It’s because she always saw the conflict whether brewing or full-blown between you or that you’d get into and whoever that was, maybe it was snarky comments, a side-eye, or just a woman of colors intuition but she saw it. When you’re not honest or truthful with yourself or your friends about how you feel about them, or what’s going on with you (even when it’s good), you stand the risk of losing them completely, sometimes it’s for the better. But other times you’re doing yourself and them a disservice by letting that brewing conflict, however small to bubble over. The truth will always simmer a situation but like most things will take patience.
Many of us lack the capacity to accept or tolerate delay in this high paced, fast reward society. But building a friend group with folks who aren’t little as your mama would say takes time. Even if you apply everything your mama has taught you plus experience you won’t conjure a clique of big friends worthy of your freedom, understanding, truth, and patience overnight.
Use your intuition, you know who you feel good around and who you don’t. Get around folks who don’t accept little traits either. Invest in the folks who at face value feel good and go from there. All you need is one, one big friend will ward off the others. If you’re starting from scratch and you have to be a big friend to yourself first and then to others, start there. Take yourself to a socially distanced solo friend dates, make time for you, and be understanding and honest when you can’t make that time. Exercise patience with yourself. A good friend-to-self practice will reflect well once you begin to invite others along.
Life goes in cycles and sometimes friends do too. You may have lost some along the way or maybe you’re scared to dive back in because you’ve been bruised by little friends in the past but rest assured that patience, the very same patience your mama exercised with your sassy, hand on the hip having, colorful language toting, stayed out too late, talking back, grown-butt will carry you into the promised land of not so little friends. Thanks, mama.