I’m on my way back from visiting a good friend of mine. One of the 4 who inspired this blog, actually. It’s been a fabulous weekend. Although we became firm friends some time ago, this is the 1st time either of us have visited the other’s home; we live in different parts of the country. Our kids met for the 1st time and got on famously (a huge relief!) and we spent time catching up and getting to know each other. An interesting dynamic in making new friends at this age is that short-hand or fast-tracking of the essential information about ourselves which tell people who we are and how we arrived at this point. In sharing these intimate stores, we often see a different self reflected in the other person’s eyes; or a tale that you have told many times takes on a different perspective.
Anyway, despite knowing each other for some time, we have not done this level of revelation. Previous partners, disastrous relationships, childhood humiliations (I’m thinking of a short back and sides mto a 13 year old girl!). These are the tales we share to form a bond. In telling these stories over the weekend, we both discovered we were both Awkward Black Girl’s (if you have not discovered this hilarious on-line show by Issa Rae then you are in for a treat!). As we swapped storied about our teen crushes (Andrew McCarthy, Keither Sutherland) and fav Brat Pack movies (St Elmo’s Fire), we understood that we shared similar experiences of being slightly odd, teenage girls in the 80s. I’ve just sent her this link and she has sent me a message back ;
Loved that guy!! That’s the moment I was 100% convinced we should have been nerdy black teen buddies!!
Having both grown up in large urban cities (although at opposite ends of the country), we were Odd Bods in a sea of Black kids who were like ‘WTF?!’
I will never forget one of the girls in my class asking to listen to my Walkman (remember those??) on a school trip when I was about 12. I was listening to Led Zepplin and had a studded bracelets on my wrist. She put the headphones on and almost threw them back at me. That sealed my fate as the weird not very black, black girl at my school. I didn’t mind that, I’ve never minded being different or standing out. It was a difficult journey for me though. During my teen years, I had little, if any of the external culturally acceptable indicators that said I ‘belonged’ and this was in some ways hard to accept. It has meant that there has been a forging of my own path and a strong sense that ‘being Black’ was more than food you ate, people you like, men you fancy and music you listen to.
Now as an adult, I’m far more comfortable in my skin. But I often think back to my 12 year old self who in many ways felt she had to ‘learn to be Black’. The 12 year old girl didn’t realise that all her experiences would be shaped by her Blackness, whether consciously or subconsciously. She didn’t realise that one day she would come to a deeper understanding on what her Blackness meant to her and the journey it would take her on.
Most of all, she didn’t know that other Black, nerdy kids existed! So me and my Nerdy Nigerian Friend are left wondering what might have been had we met in our teens when we were struggling to get a grip of ourselves. We’re convinced we would’ve been great friends and co-conspirators, as we are now.
We have a date with St Elmo’s Fire with our names written all over it! Embrace the nerdiness!