“Real queens fix each other’s crowns” ~ Unknown
Girls Trip, the movie, was probably the most hilarious film I have ever watched. I mean, there are classics that made me laugh really hard when they first came out and still make me laugh every time I watch them, but I do not remember ever laughing this hard from beginning to end. I went with a group of my close friends on day three of opening weekend and so I had read reviews, formal ones in online publications, and informal ones on social media, and I knew it was funny. I don’t know about you but something in my brain happens when a movie or an album comes out and everybody raves about it, talking about how amazing it is or in the case of this movie, how funny it is, I immediately go into “staying objective” mode so that I don’t let others’ opinions cloud mine. So, I expected to laugh, if nothing else because the trailer was funny and the four leading actresses know how to generate laughs, especially Regina Hall, who was able to go toe-to-toe with Kevin Hart in About Last Night for instance, and Tiffany Haddish, whose humor I had fallen in love with since the first time I saw her perform stand up comedy on TV and every time I tuned in to watch The Carmichael Show. They are known for their comedy skills so obviously I expected to have a good time. Jada Pinkett-Smith and Queen Latifah have played roles in both comedies and dramas and so I know they could do both very well and they delivered. The combination of the four of them and the writing made me laugh so hard, I cried. For the first time in my life, I actually hollered in a movie theatre. I had to restrain myself not to have full blown conversations with the screen; that’s how invested I was. Not to mention that Larenz Tate and Kofi Siriboe are in it. Hello!
Girls Trip was also the love letter I have been thinking about writing to my sisters. I don’t have any blood sisters but I have lovesisters or heartsisters, that I call my sisterfriends, which includes my sistahfriends, in my life who might as well have come out of the same womb as I did. From birth, I was blessed with a built-in best friend in the form of my big brother born two years before me. I am sure – actually, I know – I was annoying as hell at times as a little sister, when we were kids, but we always had each other’s back and as we grew older we became closer and closer. We had our own language, our own inside jokes, we spent as much time together as possible without even planning it. In high school, we even hung out during breaks when we had a class on the same floor and we always found our way to each other during recess. We both played basketball. We went clubbing together. We had parties of two in his bedroom too many times to count. Our parties were so loud our mom thought at times that we had snuck people in. She would open the door and find the two of us laughing really hard at whatever we were watching at the time. We just loved being together. We still do; it’s just harder when you live on separate continents. We still feel like twins, though. That will never change. We could and still can talk about pretty much anything. He couldn’t do my hair, however, even though he once attempted to do one single braid on me, and I guess that’s when I realized that it would have been cool to also have a sister.
This is where the sisterfriends in my life come in. I didn’t make a conscious decision to have an army of sisters around me to make up for the fact that I wasn’t blessed with a blood one, but it happened. Throughout my thirty-plus years of existence on this earth, amazing girls and women have crossed my path and we chose one another on a level that cannot be explained with words.
These sisterfriends are my blood cousins, community cousins (our parents are from the same country and we grew up together), family friends’ daughters, childhood friends, friends met later in life, the wives of some of my brothers/cousins… They came into my life in different ways and for different reasons but what all these individual relationships have in common is that we ended up choosing one another. We met and regardless of the circumstances, our hearts recognized one another and knew, then and there, that we were meant to be sisters, rain or shine, through thick and thin, in good times and bad times. We found one another when we needed to, which meant that we were both ready to welcome the other at that moment and to meet the other where she was.
Each of them has brought something to my life. Something that cannot be quantified or priced. There is nothing like the love and support you get from women who have your best interest at heart, who cheer you on from the sidelines to keep you going, who wait for you at the finish line to show you how proud they are, who cry and laugh with you through all that makes life the roller-coaster that it is, who sit with you in silence when words are neither needed nor required, who have your back and go to battle with you and for you, sometimes literally, who call you out on your bullcrap out of love, who tell you when your skirt is stuck in your panties or stockings when you come out of the bathroom in case you hadn’t felt the fresh breeze from behind, who tell you when the lipstick stain on your teeth is threatening to prevent you from being great, who come to movie night at your place knowing full well we won’t be watching any movie, who randomly check on you to let you know they are thinking about you, who show up on your doorstep with bags of fresh groceries when they know you are not well and even after you told them you didn’t need anything, who are strong for you in times when you cannot carry your own, who know your mind and heart enough to recognize what your buttons are and never push them on purpose. Nothing like it.
When I made the decision to move to Toronto almost a decade ago, I knew that one of the biggest tests would be the effect of distance on the relationships I valued the most. I was never naive enough to believe that nothing would change because that is not how life works and relationships are meant to evolve. The key is whether the two people in the relationship will evolve together in the same direction or in different directions. Also, not everybody that enters your life is meant to stay in it forever. That’s just a fact. It is hard to let go of people, especially when you have had a long history and beautiful memories but it can be necessary, if not even vital, at times. It doesn’t have to be dramatic either. With distance, things, situations and people tend to show themselves in a different light, allowing you to see what and who really matters and then it is up to you to decide what, if anything, you are going to do about it. In my case, the shift started happening before I left, though, and those who had started fading away from my life then, continued to fade after that and that’s ok. To be fair, in some instances I was the one who faded away, usually because the relationship was surviving on life support and it was just time to let it go. These people will always have a place in my heart and I cherish the memories we shared together but trying to force feelings that are no longer there and taking away from time that could be used catering to relationships and things that have a bigger place now was useless, pointless and unfair to both parties. As difficult as it can be to admit to ourselves and to others, life is too short to keep pretending that someone means as much as they used to when they don’t. Our ego doesn’t like dealing with these types of realities and so it is easier to hide and keep the numbers high whether we are talking about the number of people in your contact list or the number of “friends” on your Facebook page. As I was preparing to leave I knew that nothing would ever be the same and I made peace with it. Yes, some relationships fizzled but others grew even stronger because of the distance.
Although I did not come here – a place where I didn’t know anybody but who is more home than any other I have ever lived in – to make new friends, I was definitely open to it and as it happened I got a whole village of caring people who met me at a different time in my life and welcomed and loved me for who I was at that moment, without knowing much, if anything, of who I had been up until that point. The best and most unexpected part about it is that I got to meet myself through their eyes and it is fascinating. They met me before knowing anything about the previous twenty-something years of my life. I was not so and so’s daughter, sister, cousin, I was just me, and for the first time ever, I realized how much it mattered and how good it felt. I love my family and I am proud of who they are and of who I am as a part of this family, the nuclear one and the extended one. Period. I also love and am proud of who I am outside of their orbit. It is one of those things in life that you don’t know you need until you experience it. This makes the bonds I have with my tribe here a little different from the one I have with my tribe on the other side of the ocean. Not better or worse, just different.
I need to spend some time talking about my sistahs because, within my sisterhood, the relationship I have with the sistahfriends in my life feels like a separate entity. With the obstacles society has placed before us, constantly telling us that our beauty is not the standard, that nobody wants us, that there isn’t enough room for all of us, that we should be at each other’s throats, it is amazing to see what happens when we come together and support one another. We are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to appreciation and respect but we have never let these facts stop us from not only surviving but thriving. Our very existence is challenged and threatened at every turn, our life feels like a constant battle, even within our own community, and as much beating as we take, in the words of Dr Maya Angelou, still we rise. There is nothing like it. For all the things we have in common, there are as many things that set us apart from one another, which is one of the best things about the rich nature of our relationship, but the commonalities we share are exceptionally deep. We can vibe with each other as strangers with a simple nod and glance that says: “I see you, sis!” There is no word to describe that experience and do it justice.
If you are one of my sisterfriends, and that includes those of you I have yet to meet in person, please know that I love you dearly, I cherish every conversation we had and every moment spent in your company and I am looking forward to sharing even more with you and travelling this journey together. We don’t take the time to let people know how much they mean to us so this is one of the ways I chose to tell all of you how much richer and better my life is because you are in it. How we met, when we met and whether we ever met in person, doesn’t really matter. The connections we made, the bonds we formed and the love we share: this is all that matters.
Being a woman, especially a black woman, in this world, has its challenges but this is all I know and I love every bit of it. Given the opportunity to do this life thing all over again, I wouldn’t want to be anything other than this very black woman. I didn’t need a movie to tell me or even remind me of how much I love these women and the bond we have, but it took this movie for me to write this piece and actually post it. Girls Trip, the movie, is about an actual trip these ladies take together to reconnect. Girls Trip, the piece you just read, is about the metaphorical trip I take every single day with my sisterfriends. A trip that is filled with laughter, tears, joy, pain and most of all love.
P.S.: I have major love for the men in my life as well and some of the things I shared here could apply to the relationships I have with them but this one was really about the ladies. So, fellas, if you read this, I haven’t forgotten about you and I love you, too.