Sometimes I act a little dramatic. Earlier this week, after an eyeroll-worthy email exchange, I stopped harboring feelings for the crush I held onto for the past eight months. Afterward, I thought well, if this seemingly beautiful well-read social justice-oriented hunk of a man turned out to be awful and an emotionally stunted communicator, I will literally never ever trust or date a man on this planet. On top of that update, one of my good friends, who I still care about and respect, has started prioritizing her boyfriend in her life, and I thought well, if this is happening to a person who identifies as a feminist and used to rant with me about people who over-prioritize their boyfriends, I might as well never make new friends because they’ll all eventually prioritize their boyfriends. For a day or two I felt the urge to stop eating. I thought to myself, hm, if I cannot control the quality of men that exist in a patriarchal society and I cannot control the prioritization of men and romance in a patriarchal society, then I might as well control the prominence of my ribcage. I literally felt my heart freeze up, like someone sprayed an icy mist into my chest and made my insides all cold and untrusting.
But after feeling my feelings while playing tennis at 7:30 this morning and then waiting for my tuberculosis screening in a nearby CVS, I thought to myself, wait a f-ing second, this is not who I am, I am not a fundamentally cold and untrusting person. As I guzzled a Blue Machine Naked Juice while in line at the CVS and then an Orange Fanta in my apartment, I thought I’m Thomas, who values warmth, vulnerability, and over-disclosing about my personal life on the internet, I’m not going to let some random man on the internet and the patriarchy turn me into someone I’m not.
So I did what I hope we all can do: I cared for myself. I got dinner with my cousin at Cheesecake Factory where we talked about our lives and how women and femmes often have to teach men how to communicate emotions. I reminded myself that though losing my crush on this man hurts, I lost my weekly meetings with my therapist L after I left undergrad as well as my grandmother who raised me all my life, so if I survived and thrived after those losses, I can survive losing my naïve crush on a man who never gave me much anyway. I texted a few friends and got a lot of support from my friend Natasha who may have literally taken one of my former crush’s emails and turned it into a meme compilation about trash cans, are your friends that iconic?
I also watched a movie I have saved for a long time, Girlhood. It’s a coming of age film about a black girl named Marieme who lives in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris. I recognize that it’s problematic for a white woman to have directed this film about black girlhood, and at the same time, I so appreciated this movie’s understated feminist messages about the power of friendship and the intersections of race, gender, and class. As someone who turned to his friends when I experienced abuse in my household, I related to Marieme even though we have different social identities.
One scene in particular warmed my heart. At the beginning of the film, Marieme joins a local girl gang of three other black girls, and they all empower and comfort one another throughout the movie. In one scene, they all dance and sing to “Diamonds” by Rihanna while wearing shoplifted dresses in a hotel room bathed in blue light. I loved this scene so much – these four black girls calling themselves “beautiful, like diamonds in the sky” with not a single man in sight – that I watched it at least 10 times on repeat after I finished the movie.
This scene resonated with me so much because it reminded me of what healthy relationships look like: people who support and care about one another who both put in the effort. As I watched Marieme, Lady, Fily, and Adiatou sing and dance with one another, I thought about how they loved each other just for the sake of it, none of them trying to coerce the other or beg the other to show up and put in the work. This scene from Girlhood, as well as the girls’ friendship overall, reminded me that at its best, friendship serves as a radical space outside of the heteronormative nuclear family or the patriarchal wedding and romance industry – in friendship, you care about someone because you care, because this person matters to you, full stop. This beautiful scene reminded me that no matter how much a man gets me down or a friend drifts away, I can still put in effort into the friends I feel closest to, the ones who I trust will reciprocate.
This iconic scene reminded me of some of my favorite friendship moments: when Bri and I sat on a couch in her aunt’s apartment right before the Fourth of July and talked for five hours straight about life and relationships and society, when Natasha and I got drunk off our butts and walked to get Jeni’s ice cream and plotted the downfall of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump the whole way there, when J and I danced to the Pussycat Dolls and BlackPink on top of tables in classrooms at my old undergrad institution. I want to create more of these moments with my friends, memories I will cherish forever even if the friendships themselves may fade.
What do you do to cope with your emotions and stress and troublesome social norms? What will it take you to watch Girlhood, the best movie of all time? How does it feel for me to finally be over this guy I’ve literally written about for the past eight months, whew thank got past that. Other reactions to this post in terms of feelings about friendship, dating, connecting to movies, etc. are appreciated! See you all next post.