Asides

I don’t know if you’ve heard DJ Khaled’s song, “No New Friends” (okay, Drake is the one who whines the chorus, but give credit where credit is due), but I have, and I take issue with it. (And let us assume, for a few minutes, that I am not a twenty-something year old rapper with millions of dollars in disposable income.)

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Dearest Drake,

What, exactly, is the problem with acquiring new friends? Does their addition to your date book and contacts list threaten your old friends? Are they too demanding on your limited resources of affection and time? Do they chew with their mouths open or bad-mouth your profession? Are their belief systems uncomfortably challenging to your own? What is it, Drake? What?

As a professional living in a big city in her mid-twenties, the prospect of new friends is not only permissible, it is incredibly appealing. I moved out of my small hometown about a year and a half ago, and while I have met some people I would now consider friends, there are many occasions where I find myself subtly seeking even more individuals with which to share my platonic affections. If you’re reading this and shaking your head in astonished disbelief, Drake, then just hold on. Allow me to explain.

I was pretty popular in high school, if you can even qualify as ‘popular’ in a graduating class of 63 people. I considered myself friends, or acquaintances, at the very least, with the majority of my class. I made a point of being strange and silly and making people laugh – at me, or with me; the majority of the time it didn’t matter. I avoided lifetime membership to any one clique, preferring to bounce from lunch table to lunch table, identity to identity. Can’t catch me, White Preppy Girls, because now I’m rapping obnoxiously loudly with the Unfriendly Black Hotties! But don’t you worry, Sarcastic Nerds, I’ve got my copy of Half Blood Prince and my highlighter; I’ll see you in our sixth period book club (read: study hall). I had the system down. That’s what’ll happen when you attend the same school with the same people for twelve years. You become a bit comfortable.

College, therefore, paralyzed me like a shot in the back, leaving me unable to function with my previous ease. It was the classic ‘small fish in a big pond’ situation. Here’s a tip: if you’ve been accustomed to very small, nurturing environment your entire life, you probably shouldn’t hurtle headfirst into a situation where you’re a nobody in a sea of other loud, vulgar, oftentimes smelly nobodies. In other words, do not –DO NOT – attend a state school. There were so many people around me, I didn’t know how to function normally. So I threw myself into social situations with the grace of drunk hippopotamus (the main difference being I was not, in fact, a hippopotamus). Once I realized that the hangovers and residual humiliation were probably not worth a few hours of ‘fun’, I began trying to make friends in other, less sloppy ways: I auditioned for a dance group, joined a gospel choir, and began attending Classics Club meetings.

All of my attempts failed, for one reason or another, and I gave up and retreated into a shell of misery, loneliness, and boredom until my study abroad year. Life in England was brand new and exciting, and I vowed to start afresh: alluring French man staying in my hostel invites me to a party of another stranger? Why not? People at said party find me interesting and converse with me in broken English? Beautiful! Get their numbers! Try to learn to speak their languages! See, Drake, I was able to make new friends, and I could even get international with it. Rutgers may have been the bottom, but I was definitely, finally here.

…Until May, when classes ended and my Visa expired and I had to go home.

I graduated with a profound attitude of ‘good riddance’ and, beneath that, a sadder, angrier attitude of ‘wow, how much happier would I be if I had spent the past four years at a school that I liked?’ Alas, time, as is its wont, goes on, and bitterness is something that one must cope with, day to day. I knew I would never get those years back, never regain the seemingly limitless amount of time to find people you connect with and love and want to keep in your life as you mature and continue to reach memorable milestones. Don’t get me wrong: I did meet such people in college. My regret was that I could count those people on one hand.

Am I greedy, Drake, for craving a larger and more varied community of friends? Maybe I am. Maybe I should focus on maintaining the friendships I already have, you say. Pop more champagne, throw around our imaginary hundred dollar bills, you know, #justgirlythings. This is good advice, but allow me to posit that while appreciating your friend circle is important, healthy, and more than worthy of praise, it is equally important to be inclusive of potential new friends. Don’t deny them from the outset; how do you know they won’t be an amazing contribution to your life, and vice versa? This playground snobbery is beneath you, Drake. You only live once; that’s the motto. Open up and let them in (unless, of course, they’re only after you for your money and fame, in which case, have them kicked out of the club for having the audacity to breathe your air. Swag.).

 

This post appeared on The Penny Ledger on October 2, 2013.

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If you know anything about me, or, less dramatically, if you have come into contact with me at least three times, you know that I often change my hair. I grow bored and dissatisfied very quickly and convince myself that if I don’t do something to remedy my boredom and dissatisfaction I will most surely perish. This has led to more hairstyles than I care to count, paid for with amounts of money I don’t care to remember.

(No, seriously, whenever I’ve stopped to think about how much money I’ve spent on my hair over the course of my life I just want to lay down in a dark room for a long time.)

I made the decision to go natural for the first time when I was 13, after a braid removal process gone horribly wrong (basically, I took my extensions out and didn’t detangle my hair before washing it, resulting in knots so resolute my mother had to cut off all of my hair). This was a lot less traumatic than it could have been, because my mother chattered constantly about how I’d have a whole new look; I could stop perming my hair and allow my hair to be curly and beautifully healthy. I was totally on board until frustration set in about three years later and I permed it again.

The second time I went natural was while I was studying abroad in England my junior year, and this time, I promised myself, would be the last time. I began researching natural hair blogs and Youtube videos and, as anyone who has followed the natural hair movement knows, this led me down a never-ending bunny hole of oils and pomades and lotions and twist techniques that I ate up greedily. I wanted to know it all. I couldn’t wait for my hair to finally embrace the coils and kinks I had denied it for so long. When I touched down on American soil, I gleefully cut off all the permed hair that was left and proudly rocked my TWA (for those not in the know, that is naturalese for ‘teeny weeny afro’).

I was true to myself; I haven’t permed my hair since then, although I have certainly gotten irritated with the upkeep and surrendered to the alluring call of braids and twists in the meantime. Battling with my hair every day just grew wearisome and I needed a break, although I knew I was damaging my scalp with the constant tugging that comes with tightly installed extensions. I knew I needed to either choose to stop getting them or deal with a funky/nonexistent hairline for the rest of my life, but the cycle was hard to break.

I had always viewed locs as natural hair nirvana; a level one could only reach through devotion and total obeisance to the ideal of eschewing all detriments to black hair. I loved the idea of locs. Whenever I pictured myself as an adult, it was with locs. With every New Year and the self-reflection that accompanies it, I would regret not having started them that year. But it was the commitment that terrified me. If I got tired of any other hairstyle, I could simply change it. Locs, not so much. They’re forever. The idea both charmed me and frightened me.

However, after years of flip-flopping, I finally decided it was time to do it. Get locs. Commit myself to healthy, growing hair, free of the torturous pulling and manipulating that I had subjected it to for so long. So I made the appointment and went.

I’m really happy with the salon I chose. It’s only 15 minutes away from where I live and my loctician is a little odd, but charming. She used these amazing oils to moisturize my scalp (I had never even heard of honeysuckle oil but I am now its number one fan) and hummed and fretted while she separated my hair into the individual sections, not satisfied until they were evenly parted. She was firm but friendly with my naivete, and offered me a bowl of delicious kale salad while I baked underneath the dryer. Before I left, she scheduled me to come back for my first re-twisting for a month from now.

I know what you’re wondering now. “So how do you like your new locs??” To be perfectly honest, I’m planning on buying a couple of hats and scarves this week. My baby locs are tiny and crinkled and completely immune to gravity. I knew this would be the case going in, however. The first couple months are going to be the worst, until my hair actually begins to lock and the locs thicken and lengthen. I’m not thrilled that I have to wait so long to feel comfortable with my hair, but I chose this, and I’m excited for the result.

That said, don’t ask me for pictures until at least around month six because you won’t be getting them.

loc journey: day 2 and yes I am definitely counting.