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On Issuing Pink Slips to Friends

One of my interesting childhood memories was this routine occurrence in elementary school. I was popular for reasons I never understood. Every morning while eating breakfast in the school cafeteria, certain kids would yell out, "I'm sitting by Lex at lunch!" And everyday, before we lined up in the hallway, I knew exactly who was going to sit next to me - who would be on my right side, who would be on my left and who would sit in front of me. It was weird, but I never questioned it. There was this one girl, however, who always asked, “why y’all fighting to sit next to her?”

I made her my best friend.

That became a very bad pattern of mine – dismissing my cheerleaders, and cozying up to folks who affirmed what I felt deep down about myself – “Lex, you ain’t shit.”

As I’ve gotten older and been able to spot that pattern in my life, I now swiftly handle anyone who is not #TeamLex - graciously, but swiftly. A few years ago, I was featured in an event for black storytellers. It was the inaugural gathering for this quarterly live event series. I was the first one on the mic that night. The audience laughed, cheered and celebrated my story all the way through. But there was a white woman in the audience who, the following week, told one of my colleagues that the show was just "alright", that none of the stories were "that strong." The only reason my colleague gave me this information was because I made the “old Lex” mistake of dismissing the cheerleaders in the audience and making room for the one critic who said, “Lex ain’t shit.“

I took 24 hours to practice my response so that I didn’t end up cussing nobody out and talking ‘bout they mama. The next day, I met with my colleague. As we walked to the employee garage, I said, “I need to correct something I said to you. Remember when I told you the only valid opinion about last week's show was that of your friend, the ‘critic’? I was wrong. The cheers from the crowd was proof that we were killing it on the mic, and that everyone was having a good time. Your friend was invited into an unapologetically black space to hear the whole story of the lived realities of black people. She was our guest in that space, that's all, an invited guest.” (New Lex didn’t have time for that bullshit. I got important things to do.)

People always have really good reasons for why they are dismissive. I‘m blessed to know what it’s like to have people cheer, affirm, and believe the absolute best about me. So I've cleared my stable of the “Lex, you ain’t shit, but we’re still cool” friends to make room for the cheerleaders, the riders. Life is too short to keep company with people who don’t see you the same way God does, people who don’t smile at the thought of you, who don’t see the very best in you, even when what’s being imaged is your worst. Find your riders.💕💕💕

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