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December 2012

Problematic Platonic Predicaments

In a previous post, I mentioned how my closest friends throughout my lifetime have been Black women. I know some truly amazing ones and I’m lucky. But…I also mentioned how 2 friendships with Black women fell apart in the last 10-12 years and that it was rather hideous. Here are those stories:

I was friends with a Black woman in undergrad (‘97-‘01) who tried to destroy my friendships with other people, of any race/gender. She stopped speaking to me whenever I had a boyfriend or even a crush. She called me a traitor anytime I dated anyone Black. (You read that correctly.) She, not me, decided that we should only like White men. (I’ve never had a White boyfriend [I did go on 2 dates with one in undergrad] but I have dated and had interest in men who aren’t Black either.) She stopped speaking to me for long periods of time, then reappeared in my life with some lame excuse about why she was gone for 3-4 months. She would privilege her friendships with Latina or Indian women over ours, despite the fact that we had known each other since middle school. She would flirt with any man who showed me attention. All of this hideousness is maybe only 10% of all of the terrible things that occurred between us. It was that horrific. (I haven’t spoken to her since 2002.)

I was friends with a Black woman from the start of my Master’s degree (2005) and a few years after that, through early 2011. I discussed her before…the one who ONLY chased (literally…like even physically…hopping planes and whatnot…) Black men who specifically only wanted White women, or non-Black men who did not date Black women. She made random men she barely knew (such as someone who simply said “hi” on a dating website) her computer screensaver, often. Normally this wouldn’t impact me except she expected to discuss these men for 4-5 hours a day and got angry when I didn’t agree with her views of them. She used my skills and knowledge in certain areas to benefit herself but was not a supportive friend in return. She was one of those Black people who privileged light skin and hair length over anything else, so she seemed perplexed when anyone found me attractive versus her. She showed resentment and anger towards any woman who didn’t consistently chase men. Seriously. After my best friend and I did some traveling in Asia, she decided that she was going to chase Asian men since it was ludicrous that any find the bestie and I attractive, versus her. (As if I travel for men. Please…) This became her hobby. Our friendship ended in a very callous and cruel way (on her part) that honestly tops anything any boyfriend (actually, I haven’t have any majorly bad boyfriends; as I mentioned before, men at jobs/strangers/one male relative/some amidst social media are the HELL in my life; not my dad or any exes) has ever done to me, for which I won’t even describe here. This is maybe 15% of the problems that got in the way of having a friendship with her. It was truly horrific. (I haven’t spoken to her in almost two years.)

I knew how TERRIBLE both of these friendships were yet I took YEARS to end them. Years.

I write about this because I simply never tolerate this outlandish range of bullshit from men. I’ve opened the door to quite a bit of abuse on a platonic level with women that no way in high hell I would allow with men on a romantic level. I’ve always processed allowing social and interpersonal abuse from men as a “failure” of mine and took pride in not allowing it (a sort of internal victim-blaming that I’ve now learned to reject).

However, I’ve now learned that regardless of the type of relationship, interpersonal abuse is unacceptable. I’m not doing myself or my womanist beliefs and values any favors by allowing women to hurt me but holding men to a reasonable standard. Instead, I’ve decided that I’m worthy of respect in any type of relationship.

Women who privilege romantic relationships over platonic ones definitely shouldn’t allow social/interpersonal abuse (or any other form common to romantic relationships). However, women who don’t buy into heteronormative coupling biases still have to be careful not to allow abuse in same gender friendships under the meme of gender solidarity. Every relationship, regardless of type, needs respect, healthy communication and a commitment to problem solving. Otherwise, it’s still abusive. No abuse is acceptable.

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