I remember as a young girl. I was incredibly unpopular and occasionally bullied in school. I was a black girl in a predominately white school who looked phenotypically black, who refused to code switch, and did not subscribe to whatever stereotypes and perceptions my peers had of black people. Which they learned from television.
Here I was unapologetically me, and also alone.
I had one friend in school. Whom really wasn’t my friend. She always put me down and was on average very mean to me and I had wanted to so badly to end that friendship because she didn’t feel like a friend and I wanted to have a friendship where we both uplifted each other.
I expressed this to my oldest sister. Who is very beautiful and also was very popular. “No. You should stick with her. She’s your only friend and do you want to be alone?”. I don’t know why but those words stuck to me. So, I endured our friendship for another school year. Although, my sister was looking out for me in her own strange way. I realize now that she was only mirroring our upbringing. The motto “Something is beter than nothing!”. Our grandma was/is a drug addict, our aunts drug addicts, our father a drug addict, our uncles drug dealers often times in jail, and our grandfather a pedophile.
Our mother could not afford a baby sitter and often times we were babysat by our aunts or grandma. Although, they never did drugs directly in front of us we knew what they were. In this case something was better than nothing because society condemned black women for attempting to make something of themselves As my mother work 2-3 jobs to get and stay off welfare. There are still limited resources for single mothers working hard to deliver themselves out of poverty. So, we were stuck with unfit babysitters. We basked in our fathers doting attention however limited and conditional. We locked the doors after he left and made sure he didn’t have a key to our home because we knew he may steal our clothes, furniture, or TV. And sure we knew he wasn’t much, but at least we had a father. Right? We hug our grandfather even though he gave creepy back rubs and secretly feared him. Why? because we were afraid we’d become his latest victim. Sure, he only really knew our names and didn’t care to talk to us but we had a grandfather. Right?
Wrong.Wrong. and Wrong.
When my sister suggested I stayed friends with this girl. I first felt ashamed. After all, I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t pretty, and I wasn’t smart enough for the “nerds”. I should feel fortunate that someone wanted to be friend even if it was abusive. This thought process continued to carry into my adulthood. It made me stay in friendships and relationships that weren’t healthy for me and discredits my thoughts as being invalid because I should again feel fortunate.. I wasn’t the baddest bitch, I didn’t have the most prestigious job, I didn’t have the nicest place to live, or had any trait that made men or friends want to show me off. I should feel fortunate..
The other day a coworker and I joked about our sad love lives. She started to talk about a guy that she had been in love with since she was nineteen. This guy from what she describes is a total jerk that owes her a HUUUUGEE sum of money. She talks about borrowing him money again and hoping he pays her back. I started asking questions which led to more questions and those questions caused her to explain. That she felt like he was “the one” no matter how badly he treated her! she always welcomed him back with open arms. While I sat there listening to her story. I couldn’t help but think..”Is this what I sound like?” because how she was explaining her feelings for a man who mistreats her and defending him. It hit too close to home. I asked her something I wished someone would have asked me “Would you really want to marry someone that is irresponsible? Someone that you would have to take care of or constantly bail out from things they got themselves into? She replied. “No, but I’m sure he’ll get it together by the time he’s 35”. He’s 27 right now.
I wanted to hug her and let her know she’s a gorgeous girl, smart, nice, and a great mother and that sometimes something isn’t always better than nothing..but I figured she would call me a hater or think I’m bat shit crazy. So, I contained myself.
The next day, I went to my second job. Listened to one of the residents tell me a story about a man that she was madly in love with since she was 17. She was in love with him despite getting married, having children, and even through old age madly in love. After her husband died and she moved into the nursing home the very first person she saw was the guy she loved so keenly from a distance. She walked right up to him and said “Toby?” and he said “Jenny?” and then she said to me very loudly.. “Can you believe that I was in love with this man for over 50 years and he didn’t even know my name or that I exist?” She didn’t correct him or try to refresh his memory. She simply let go all of the could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve’s and moved on.
I laughed so hard because this rang true to me. When it comes to love, friendships, and hell even family. Something is not better than nothing.