I’ve always desired a circle of girlfriends that loved, challenged, supported, and laughed with me. You know—that Joan and Toni, Pam and Gina, Khadijah James and Maxine Shaw kind of friendship. Many form that bond with sisters, neighbors, cousins, and school friends at younger ages and into their adolescence. Well, that’s not my story.
Growing up, I had three older half-sisters who lived across the country, each of them more than a decade older than me. The kids my age in my neighborhood were boys, and they were rough and tumble. Even my first cousins are closer in age to my mom than me. And making friends at school? Well, let’s get into that.
In junior high, I tried to fit in with the popular girls. I pretended to be richer than I really was, lied about fake boyfriends, and gossiped. Essentially, everything that prevents you from making real girlfriends. And we all know when you’re faking being someone you’re not, you usually talk even more to prove it. In hindsight, I was probably obnoxious.
By the time I began high school, I was confident I’d be popular! It didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, high school was great. I was on the step team, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, active at church, and more. All of this should have led to having great self-esteem, but it didn’t. I was trying to fit in everywhere, and I was a different person in each setting, pretending to be who I thought people wanted me to be. I made and kept friends—some of whom are still my friends even in adulthood, but for the most part, I didn’t fit in with any group. I still felt like an outsider.
Senior year, I was accepted to Florida A&M University. A Texas girl headed off to Florida where no one knew me. I could be anyone I wanted. Plus, college is where you meet your forever friends, your future bridesmaids. By the time I entered college, I should have figured out pretending to be someone else doesn’t work, but I hadn’t quite learned that lesson yet. Here I was at FAMU attempting to make friends and failing. But, why? I mean, I’m fun. I’m smart. I’m going to be successful. Why wouldn’t everyone want to be friends with me? Well, at almost 40, I can answer young Dana’s question: I was busy looking at everyone around me and imitating them. Just like high school, I made friends, but I didn’t have a core group that I fit in with.
After college, I moved back to Dallas. Soon after, I was introduced to Lauren, a woman my age who had just graduated from Howard University. Two recent HBCU grads—we were sure to hit it off, right? Now, if the pattern of my attempts to create friendships persisted, you’re likely thinking Lauren was another person who I didn’t click with despite fake efforts. Well, thankfully, this is where my story changes!
Lauren was fun, outgoing, and unapologetic. One night we were out, and I was ready to go. She asked me if I was going to go home, and I said, “No, girl, I’m having fun!”
Lauren looked at me, “Girl, you are not having fun! You can go home! I’ll call you tomorrow. We can go to brunch.” So, I did what I always wanted to do around 11:30 at a club: I left. I can’t explain it, but something through my friendship with Lauren matured me. Maybe it was divine timing. Maybe it was her calling out my obvious “fakery.” Maybe I was just tired of not being me.
At 22, the timing and friendship with Lauren ended up being one of my life’s greatest blessings.
Lauren introduced me to Shelby, another Howard graduate. Shelby and I became immediate best friends. Yes, it happened, I finally got a best friend who loved, challenged, supported, and laughed with me. Heck, she even traveled, studied, read books, and ate at overpriced restaurants with me. She was my Toni. My Gina. My Maxine Shaw.
Shelby introduced me to Yuri, a Tennessee State University grad who understood style like no one I had ever met. Even though we are complete style opposites, she’s become my style mentor and a sister-friend.
At 22, my life changed. Not because of Lauren, Shelby, or Yuri, but because I became confident and able to be unapologetically Dana. I slowly learned that I am funny, conservative, talkative, private, stylish, adventurous, laid back, Christian, a home body, and a little bougie—with a slightly naughty sense of humor! Oddly enough, I even became closer to some of my high school friends as an adult. Over time, as the real, authentic Dana emerged, they were able to understand who I was and love and accept every part of me that I once thought should be masked.
It took almost two decades to learn that I was not meant to fit in or be part of any group. Being uniquely Dana is who God called me to be. And I love this girl better than anyone I ever pretended to be. I have the bonus of my sister-friends Lauren, Shelby, Yuri, Launa, Ashley, Jasmine, Tiffany, Brandy and more. But, Dana? I love this girl and I’m blessed I found her.Leave a Comment