The Beauty of Being Understood
One of my best friends recently came in town for an event, and as soon as I picked her up we dropped into the familiar rhythm of banter, jokes, and sarcasm. Her cutting her eyes at me and saying “I hate you” after I clowned her didn’t phase me because we’ve known each other long enough to know what the other means or is thinking. That’s what makes our relationship easy, and the ease is what has kept it going this long.
I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people. It’s not that I don’t care, and it’s not that I don’t think about my friends. I just get so bogged down in the day-to-day that if I don’t send a text right when I was thinking of someone, I will forget. That cycle goes on for days. Months. Then maybe even years. My longest lasting friendships are ones where I may not talk to the person for months or years, but when we do talk or see each other, it’s as if no time has passed. My close friends know that even if we don’t talk, I’ll make an effort to travel to see them or write to them. I understand them, and they understand me.
Some of my friends know me to the point where someone can ask a question, and my friends will know my answer before I give it and interject on my behalf, like human versions of Google autofill. It makes me smile because while I don’t admit it, it’s nice to be heard. By predicting what I would say, my friends are showing that they have paid attention to and remembered how I think and what I like and dislike.
Understanding can be shown in many ways and it’s often the little things — like saying goodbye to my friend after church and her telling me to have a good nap because she knows that’s my favorite Sunday activity besides brunch. Or, when another friend jokes that she’ll feed my future kids Cheerios and bananas and then take them bird watching because they know I hate all those things. Or, when my friend catches my eye and comments on something, and I say “Girl, you’re reading my mind! Why was I going to say the same thing?” Or, a friend recommending books or TV shows that I actually end up enjoying (I realized I can’t take recommendations from just anybody). It’s my friends giving me space when West African music comes on in the club because they know I’m about to be in my zone on the dance floor.
The first chapter of a book I’m reading in my book club mentioned platonic intimacy, and I realized that’s what I value the most in my friendships (which are actually nothing like the superficial, judgmental friendship in the book, by the way). I don’t open up easily or often, so I don’t usually talk about intimacy. But that’s what I’ve achieved with certain friends, and it’s not just because of the time I’ve known them. There are friends I’ve known for several years who don’t quite get me, yet people I’ve known for a year or two that do.
When I was younger and watched shows like “Girlfriends” and “Living Single,” I would think about how cool it would be to have a crew of close homegirls, all of us taking on the world in our various industries. The characters on those shows used their friend groups as a refuge when they experienced trouble with work, family, or relationships. Now that I’m older in this 21st century kind of world, I’m glad I’ve got my girls. They create a safe space for me, too, because of how well they know me. With all of the stereotypes society puts on me as a black woman, it’s a relief to have people in my life who understand and accept me. The platonic intimacy I’ve developed with my friends is a beautiful thing.