I had no idea that Angelou and I would hit it off like this. I mean, I met her in a whirlwind weekend back in 1995; she graduated law school in Florida on a Saturday, and got hitched on the Sunday. I walked around the wedding in a borrowed African caftan, hiding behind a video camera, feeling way nervous about being introduced to damn near every member of my then-boyfriend’s (now-husband’s) family, but especially his beloved little sister, who seemed so hip and worldly and fresh. Iconic, to hear Nick tell it.
Angelou put on no airs. Just opened her arms and welcomed me to the family.
And slowly, steadily, surely, she became the sister I never had—my giggle partner, my retail therapy enabler, the co-president of my “We Love Black Movies Unconditionally—Even the Bad Ones” club, my “girl you ain’t gonna believe this!” confidante, my shoulder to cry on… no questions asked. She wears my shoes; I borrow her purses. A fiercely independent businesswoman (Angelou is an environmentalist who founded Greening Youth, her own non-profit environmental education program for kids), she gives me advice on running my own company and coaxes me to get out more—I whip up coconut cakes and 11-cheese macaroni & cheese for her holiday parties and hook up her music collection with Chrisette Michelle and Notorious B.I.G. and vintage Teena Marie. Our children are the best of friends, as are our husbands.
And somehow, we never tire of one another.
I love my husband for many reasons, a big one being that he has a little sister who inspires me—to be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, and a better woman, especially to myself. Every girl deserves a bestest friend like this—the one ready to run to the wall full speed with a rocket strapped to her back, just for you. For sure, Angelou is that friend to me—not the one who would bail me out of jail, but the one who would be sitting right next to me in the jail cell, talking about, “Damn, that was fun!”
The one who is as close to a sister a sisterless girl could get.
And this is new for me. I know it sounds crazy to say it, but I’ve always been the girl who got along better with the opposite sex. A guy’s girl is what they call it. It’s not that I never had girlfriends. It’s just that when I was young, the girls in my life tended to spend way too much time figuring out ways to kiss boys and slathering their faces with make-up and pursing things I had no interest in—cheerleading, fashion, breaking rules. I was much more interested in hanging up under my brother and his friends, who always seemed to be much more cooler and funny and interesting and unemotional.
And this only deepened as I got older and got married and had kids; other mothers who judge and criticize and compare and treat the most mundane things like they’re going to feed the nations and solve world peace and make every doggone body walk on water really make me itch. And so rather than scratch, I retreat—keep to myself and keep my circle of friendship and trust really, really small.
Which is really just a fancy way of saying that I pick well. With purpose. And great meaning. And a profound understanding that the mom friends I want to spend my time with embody the characteristics I hold dear. And though each of them is her own person in her own way, they do a fine job of measuring up to the bar Angelou set when it comes to embodying what a real friend is. They’re intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded, passionate, funny, active women who get that we don’t have to be in each other’s faces or in each other’s ears every second of the day to care for one another—to be true friends.
And when we get together, Selassie and Tina and Akilah and Jamilah and Jenny and Gretchen and Joyce and Mitzi and especially Angelou and me give each other life. And in those moments, I’m grateful for their friendship, camaraderie, and, above all else, love. Each is a blessing to me.
And now, I finally know the power of true girlfriends.