For years there were many television shows that featured impressive groups of women navigating their lives. I’d watch them and daydream about what my reality would look like in my 20s and 30s. The characters' lives felt admirable but somehow unrealistic since those shows never featured characters that were reflective of my friends or me. But how times have changed. Now that I’m in my 30s, there are quite a few shows that feel familiar and authentic. One of my faves is Tracy Oliver’s Harlem, of which the second season makes its emergence on February 3, 2023. But just in case you’re like me and need a refresher, we got you.
Spoilers are ahead.
First, let’s recap the crew. The show stars Camille (Meagan Good), Quinn (Grace Byers), Tye (Jerrie Johnson), and Angie (Shoniqua Shandai), four fabulous yet flawed Black women living in Harlem. In season one’s last episode, Camille asked a crucial question: "Do I go after my fresh start or do I follow my heart?” It was a quick moment, but it defined much of the season. Although the women’s issues vary, they are all battling with that decision. From work struggles to dating, they’re trying to decide if they should take a safe route or do what fulfills them. I think that’s something we can all relate to. This is why I am so happy the Amazon Prime series is making its return.
So, let’s relive what’s going on in our new favorite girl gang’s lives before season two premieres.
CamilleAmazon Studios What GIF by HarlemGiphy
Camille is a bit off-center, overly focused, loveable, and appears to have everything together – except she doesn’t. No matter how much we root for her, she makes the wrong decisions. For example, when Dr. Pruitt, played by Whoopi Goldberg, announces that she’s granting the new coveted associate professor position to another Black professional, Camille feels understandably discouraged and vents about it to her former bae (more on that soon, chile). Later, Camille decides to quit her current adjunct role and give Dr. Pruitt a piece of her mind. She shares how much of an asset she is to the university and why her social media presence and teaching style deserve recognition. That makes sense, right? Except she does this by showing up at the professor’s house late at night after drinking way too much and almost falling down the steps. All bad, sis.
Then there’s her love life. She has two beautiful men who desire her attention. She met Jamison (Sullivan Jones) after they both spoke on a panel for the university. He is supportive, fine, and serious about his intentions with her. So much so that once they're official, he invites her to move with him to Chicago. Unfortunately for him, Camille’s heart belongs to her engaged ex Ian, played by the handsome Tyler Lepley – who coincidentally, she broke up with before they planned to live in Paris together. (Clearly, leaving Harlem is a trigger for her. It could be because she grew up a latchkey kid and has some unresolved issues with her mom.) Anyway, Ian and Camille have a special bond that is still very much alive.
Their back-and-forth sparks a lot of crazy moments throughout the season. From Camille almost sleeping with one of her former students to a crazily dangerous Uber ride, Ian fuels a lot of her madness. One of the most memorable moments happened early in the season when they shared a passionate kiss only moments after Camille met his “why is she so perfect” fiancée. But love always wins because, in the end, Camille calls it quits with Jamison and shows up a day before Ian’s wedding to finally express how she feels and kiss him again.
I get it. They care for each other, but seriously? They couldn't figure that out before the wedding announcements went out and Camille broke Jamison’s heart? Oh, and Ian's fiancée saw the kiss. Yikes.
QuinnNo Way Prime Video GIF by HarlemGiphy
Then there’s Quinn. You know the nice girl who tries so hard and it just doesn’t work out for her? That’s Quinn. For most of the season, her dating life is in shambles. From her purse getting stolen after a date abandons her at the club to showing up to a “dinner” that was actually a pyramid scheme meeting, you start to feel pretty bad for her. Still, she holds onto her idea of love and what it should look like. That’s until she decides to try something or someone new at a strip club. His name is Shawn, played by Robert Ri’chard, and he takes her out of her element. He’s different from her usual checklist; he’s a stripper and a dad. Although there’s a clear interest there, they deal with a few hiccups.
Initially, Quinn tries to tuck away her feelings and keep it casual. Luckily, that doesn’t last long because, well, she’s her. But still breaking free of her usual “rules'' presents some problems. She even lies about his career and where he went to college when chatting with peers at a fundraiser, making Shawn understandably uncomfortable. Eventually, they work it out, and a budding relationship seems to be in the works. That is until she spends a fun-filled day with Isabela, a hopeful politician and potential mentor turned friend she met through her mother, and her magnetic personality and dedication make Quinn rethink her life and sexuality. In the season one finale, Quinn drunkenly walks into Isabela’s office and invites her on a date. When she agrees, we find ourselves cheering for Quinn’s boldness yet hoping she doesn’t slip into her unhealthy ways.
Professionally she’s in a unique space. After leaving her VP Corporate position she opened Quinn Jacob, a sustainable boutique. It’s still in the beginning stages but she is very devoted to growing it. She even designed Mila’s [Ian’s fiancée] wedding dress. (I know – wild.) Moving on, Quinn comes from a wealthy family who has consistently supported her. But it took a while for her to figure out what she wanted to do, which created a tense relationship between her and her hilariously shady mother, played by the legendary Jasmine Guy. Hopefully, this dream and new relationship are here to stay because I think we all wanna see Quinn win.
TyeIm Fine Amazon Studios GIF by HarlemGiphy
I’d describe Tye as confident, ambitious, loyal, and guarded. She is the creator of Q, a successful queer dating app for people of color. It made her very successful and even landed her a spread in Forbes magazine. Also, unlike the other ladies, she has no issues in the dating department. Her problem is relationships. She likes to be the brains and the boss in her situations and that rarely leads to something promising. When the girls call her out on it, she tries to venture out and date outside of her usual type. This allows us to be a fly on the wall as she explores a few short-lived hilarious situations.
But everything comes to a head when she arrives at her Forbes interview and learns that the interviewer is a woman she had a one-night stand with. I should point out that she’s a white woman and Tye prefers not to date outside of her race. As her storyline with the journalist continues, the show explores interracial dating and preferences.
Another element I appreciate Harlem highlighting through Tye’s character is women’s health. In multiple episodes, Tye complains of intense period pain. However, like many of us, she shrugs it off. It takes her passing out on the subway to get help. The doctor ignores most of her complaints and says she’s anemic. A few days pass and Tye is preparing to be the keynote speaker at AfroTech. However, she’s hospitalized again and learns she has a ruptured ovarian cyst, polyps, and fibroids; this time the doctor says she may need a hysterectomy. As he continues to give feedback he reveals that the surgery’s approval was made by her husband, who surprisingly walks in with flowers.
Thanks to a flashback episode and a heated discussion, we learn that Tye abandoned her hometown to start a new life and live in her truth. That means she walked away from her former friends, family, and apparently a husband and never looked back. This background made it a lot clearer why she has trouble moving on because she never fully let go of her past.
AngiePrime Video Laughing GIF by HarlemGiphy
Finally, there’s Angie, the free-spirited, hilarious, and creative that every friend group needs. We learn pretty early on that she is a talented singer and once had a record deal. Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way she planned and now she’s living on Quinn’s couch. While it’s clear that the two have a beautiful friendship, there’s an uneasiness there. Angie has a bit of resentment toward Quinn for her wealthy upbringing. And Quinn wishes Angie would be a bit more realistic in her search for a job, especially after she turns down a paid gig.
Still, when Angie meets up with her Uber driver bae who she feels is her soulmate, only to learn after sex that he lives in his car, she takes the new gig. Because this can’t be it. The gig in question is Get Out: the Musical. Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds. But the production leads to a lot of funny moments and a bomb scene where Angie beautifully addresses white fragility. While she’s chasing her dreams you’ll see her pursuing a few dating options, like her bisexual cast mate and friend with benefits, Eric, to Uberbae and more, it’s a good time. While Angie provides a lot of laughs in the first season, it’s clear she’s working through her issues as well.
I love TV shows that are relatable yet fun to watch. Harlem is definitely at the top of my list this month. Make sure y'all check it out too. Season 2 airs on Friday, February 3, 2023, on Amazon Prime.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Amy Sussman/ Getty Images
- ‘Harlem’ Star Jerrie Johnson On The Act Of Self-Choosing & Following Her Desires ›
- Meagan Good's Looks Almost Cost Her The Starring Role In Her New Series 'Harlem' ›
- Meagan Good Stars In New Comedy About Best Friends In Their Thirties Still Trying To Figure It Out ›
- 'Harlem' Presents A Refreshing, New Take On Black Male Bisexuality ›
Kirby Carroll grew up in VA but now calls Atlanta, GA home. She has a passion for creating content and helping brands grow through storytelling and public relations. When not immersed in work, you can find her sipping a mimosa at brunch or bingeing a new TV drama on Netflix. Keep up with her on social media at @askKirbyCarroll.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
6 Signs You're About To Make A Huge Mistake In Making Them A Close Friend
If there’s one thing that people who know me can say for sure (andonly I can say that they do), it's that I don’t use the word “friend” lightly. Not by a long shot. It’s its own article about why, yet the main reason is that life has taught me that the word is used far too loosely — and I think it mostly has to do with the fact that we tend to forget that there is A LOT of space in between “friend” and “enemy.”
What I mean by that is, I think a lot of times, we give folks the honor and privilege of having the title “friend” in our lives because we like them and/or we have certain things in common and/or we have similar goals and values when it comes to different areas of life; therefore, we don’t want to offend them by not saying that they are a friend. Oh, but listen here — I would rather find words that are better suited for the dynamic (acquaintance, work buddies, cool people, etc.) than to say you’re a friend only for one or both of us to end up being severely disappointed (if not flat-out pissed), all because our expectations via the word didn’t pan out.
Expectations. Although some people think that the key to life is to walk through it without having any at all, I couldn’t disagree more. To me, the realistic key is to know what your expectations are beforehand, to make sure that they are realistic, and then to convey them to another person as you give them the respect and space to do the same. If both of you are on the same page about meeting each other’s needs (and there is a clear purpose behind why the two of you should be friends, to begin with), go forth. If not, it really is okay to understand and accept that you can still be in each other’s space without partaking in all of the privileges that come with a friendship — especially a close friendship.
Because real talk, if a friendship is special, you had best believe that a close one is all the more sacred. That’s why I thought it would be important — critical even — to tackle what you should look out for before actually calling someone a close friend of yours. Because if someone is going to move into that special part of your life, it’s important that you don’t end up getting blindsided.
So with all of that being said, let’s tackle six signs that if you’re considering making someone a close friend, you probably…shouldn’t.
1. You’re Already Doing Most of the WorkGiphy
Live long enough on this earth, and you’ll realize that oftentimes, it’s selfish people who can see the most of what you have to offer. In a cryptic and ironic way, that’s kind of their job — to peep out who has what they can benefit the most from.
This is something that I very much learned the hard way. In fact, it wasn’t until I reached my 40s that I realized just how often I was doing most of the giving in most of my relationships — across the board too. And because it also took me years to understand what narcissism and narcissistic abuse looks like (listen, I’ve been around the entertainment industry basically all of my life; it comes with the territory), I didn’t get that some people are so full of themselves that they actually think that all they should really bring to the friendship table is their presence and you being able to say that you know them personally (chile, it’s so wild out here!).
If your self-esteem is low, if you come from a toxic take-only and/or boundaries-violating family, if most of your past friendships have been so unhealthy that you don’t really know what a good one looks like at this point— sometimes people’s egomania will do a real number on you; especially if the individuals you’re dealing with also have a master’s degree in gaslighting and manipulation. Oh, you know the kind I’m talking about too — the moment you mention that you feel like they are not contributing as much as you are, here they come with, “Then you must not be doing ALL of what you’re doing for the right reasons.”
Please stop. A person who values you won’t even come at you that way. They will be more on the tip of, “Sis, my bad. I didn’t pick that up,” or “Let’s talk about what your needs are because I want you to feel seen in this friendship too”…something of that nature. Instead, if you do find yourself keeping tabs, what I say often is that’s typically a sign that there is an imbalance in the relational dynamic — oftentimes a severe one where your friend is reaping all of the rewards of being connected to you while you are famished on a billion different levels in the process.
I have shared on this platform before that when it comes to a person who I once considered to be a close friend for many years, after I tallied our monetary/tangible exchanges, while I had spent thousands on her (and her family), she came up with a five-dollar ring from a local museum and a packet of lip gloss that she ended up losing. Even on the media tip, I hooked her up countless times, and not once did she offer any of her contacts (oh, and she had them) to benefit my career. Not once.
My relationships these days? I’ll be honest, on the professional tip, I still end up being the bigger giver out of my friends; however, what I’m not doing is being the only big and consistent supporter. My friends claim that it can be challenging to figure out how to help me now with their billions of contacts because I’m always up to something new (that’s fair). At the same time, though, not one of them is comfortable with my giving to them and them not trying to figure out how to extend reciprocity in return — no real friend is.
You know what? If any of this triggered you — good. You absolutely should not be going above and beyond for people because you consider them to be a close friend if they are not doing the same thing for you in return. Like I oftentimes say, giving to a friend is investing; giving to someone who is a fake friend is spending — and more times than not, that ends up being a complete and total waste…of time, effort, and energy.
2. They Lean Towards Negativity a LotGiphy
Before tackling this one, let me just say that there are plenty of studies to support that social media is creating more and more narcissists by the day (you can read more about it here, here, here, here, and here). And since folks like to toss around the word “narcissist” like it’s confetti (heads up, just because someone doesn’t like you or breaks up with you, that doesn’t mean they are narcissistic), let’s review some science-based traits of narcissistic behavior (which, for the record is not the same thing as being a clinically diagnosed narcissist):
- Lack of empathy
- Constantly preoccupied with self
- Disrespects others’ boundaries
- Needs lots of attention
- Is profoundly insecure
- Acts entitled
- Isn’t self-accountable/constantly deflects
- Can’t take criticism (oh, but can dish plenty of it out)
- Has an agenda with everything that they do (i.e., there are usually strings attached)
And these kinds of people? They suck at being told about themselves because, unless it’s praise, they don’t want to hear it. This is why I oftentimes say that a lot of people don’t want a partner; they want an audience — but that, too, is another message for another time.
What does all of this possibly have to do with this particular point? Good question. Here’s the thing — someone calling you out on your ish, holding you accountable, and using discernment…these are not negative individuals, although we live in a culture that may say otherwise. No, what I mean by “they lean on negativity” is — they give backhanded compliments; they don’t celebrate your reached goals and triumphs; they are constantly reaching out to unload burdens and bad news on you (and not much else); they are hypercritical about everyone and everything; they are chronically pessimistic; they drain your energy; their skin is super thin (which makes them hypersensitive); they have excuses for everything; they constantly have you questioning yourself and/or they are worry warts.
There are some family members who I had to release because they are these types of people. It’s almost like they enjoy swimming in the cesspool of negativity. That’s on them, but there are tons of studies to support the fact that negativity not only takes a toll on our mental and emotional state, but it can also lead to a weakened immune system which can wreak all kinds of health-related havoc — why would you want that kind of toxicity in your intimate space when life is too short to fight the kinds of battles that can honestly be avoided? Ones like being close to negative people.
Yeah, a negative person shouldn’t be a close friend. Your health can’t handle it/them.
3. It Feels Like They Are Low-Key Competing with YouGiphy
Next point: Please watch the kinds of people who make it a mission to become your friend. I’ve had more than a handful of those in my own life, and it never ended well because 1) I always felt uncomfortable with their flattery and relentlessness to try and get close to me and 2) it oftentimes seemed like whenever I would do something, here they would come with either asking me a ton of questions about how I pulled it off or I would look up and see them at least attempting to do something very similar.
Listen, I know how the saying goes about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, yet I personally can’t stand it (to me, please learn to just get your own), and I absolutely don’t mind feeling that way considering the fact that the Good Book isn’t fond of flattery either (like Job 17:5[NKJV], for example: “He who speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children will fail.”).
These days, all of my close friends are highly accomplished and while I’m sure that a part of what keeps us from even having to deal with competitiveness, even on a very basic level, is most of us aren’t in the same fields, another reason why it’s not a problem is because our friendships grew from an organic space. There were no agendas. There were no “let me see what I can get here” strategies. Things also weren’t rushed or forced; they happened very easily and over the course of time. And because of that, time taught us that we could trust each other, that there were no strings involved, and that neither was threatened by the other individual.
Once you hit your 30s, it can be common to cultivate some friendships out of professional scenarios and situations. When both people are confident and secure, that can be beneficial. Just make sure that both of you check both of those boxes because you don’t want to look up and realize that while you were being a friend, the other person was more in the lane of “keep your enemies close” because all they were doing the entire time was copying your entire game plan or using your sources to their advantage even if it was at your expense. Y’all, it happens more than you might think. Please stay hyper-vigilant.
4. They Suck at ListeningGiphy
There is no way that you can feel heard and respected or build something of real value without being involved with people who will actually listen to you. And y’all, so many folks are poor listeners. LAWD. In fact, it’s getting to the point that good listening is moving so high up on the endangered species list that I think now is as good of a time as any to break down what good listening consists of.
A good listener:
- Listens to your complete thoughts
- Doesn’t cut you off
- Isn’t distracted while you’re expressing yourself
- Seeks to understand where you are coming from
- Retains your needs AND boundaries
- Validates your feelings
- Are intentional about being caring, empathetic, attentive, patient, and objective
Like I said, a good listener isn’t the easiest thing in the world to come by, yet if someone is a good friend to you, they definitely will be one. And why is this of so much importance? Because when you decide to let someone get intimately close to you, this means that you are willing to share with them your innermost thoughts, feelings, and concerns — and if they don’t respect you enough to not only take in that information but hold it close and dear, they are not appreciating the special space that you are extending to them.
I used to consider certain people to be my friend who really didn’t listen to me much at all. I could tell by how they would be dismissive of my requests, only call me to hear their own selves talk (some of y’all will catch that later), and/or would try and tell me what I was thinking instead of actually listening to the words that were coming out of my mouth — and all that did was frustrate me to no end and cause me to feel disrespected on so many different levels.
A close friend is going to honor you by listening to you. That person who you’re thinking about “friend promoting,” how well do they rank in the listening department?
5. Something Feels “Unsafe” About ThemGiphy
I'm pretty sure that, for the rest of my life, if there is one book that I will be recommending, on repeat, it'sSafe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't (Cloud/Townsend). I was just sharing with a close friend that something that I've taken away from a nonviolent communication class that I'm currently in is if you want to be certain that you are not being violent in your conversations with others (and also if you want to be certain that people are not being violent with you), make sure that you are coming at them from a place of safety, respect, and understanding — if one of those things are missing, there is some unnecessary aggression going down, whether you realize it or not. And that? That is unsafe.
Speaking of safety in relationships…when I first read the Safe People book, it was good for me, not just because I was able to detect some of the unsafe people in my own world, but honestly, I was able to see where I was an unsafe person too. To be safe is to be peaceful. To be safe is to be a space where someone knows that you will respect their thoughts and feelings. To be safe is to hold things in confidentiality. To be safe is to be consistent in your moods and energy (you're not out here "switching up" all of the time). To be safe is to be someone who your crew doesn't have to second-guess.
Safe people apologize/take ownership/make amends for wrongdoings. Safe people also tell the truth — not in a brutal way, but in a way that is respectful of your being. Safe people are also loyal to you, both in and out of your presence. Safe people operate from a place of humility. Safe people don't hold you to a standard that they don't even hold their own selves to. Safe people seek to understand where you are coming from. Safe people don't bring more stress into your life. Safe people are…safe.
Unfortunately, since "safe" is not a word that a lot of us either grow up seeing being displayed and/or is not a word that was thoroughly explained to us (especially as it relates to relationships), we constantly find ourselves either displaying characteristics of being unsafe and/or drawing unsafe people into our world. Listen, I'm currently working on my third book, and when I tell you that there is one person, in particular, who was so unsafe that, in hindsight, I wonder if they were low-key trying to destroy me? Whew, chile.
So, why would someone consciously choose an unsafe individual to be friends with? Well, the thing about unsafe folks is they tend to be super charismatic, a lot of fun to be around, and master chameleons — otherwise, they wouldn't be able to trap people into their webs as well as they (seem to) do. That's why I thought it was important to share all of what I just said because now that you know what a safe person looks like if someone who you're considering making a close friend doesn't check off these boxes — now you know to leave them right where they are…if not to leave them alone…TOTALLY.
6. They Don’t Feel Like a Breath of Fresh Air/Recharge YouGiphy
I can't tell you how many times I'll be in a session, and a wife will say that she's triggered by how often her husband will be, let's go with the word "sluggish," about responding to her calls and texts. I have been in this counseling thing long enough to (usually) follow that vent up with, "So husband, when you do pick up, what do you usually hear on the other end?" Please know that I'm not shocked when he says something along the lines of constant berating, complaining, dictating, or interrogating — no one in their right mind is in a rush to take in that kind of energy.
Same thing with friendships. Listen, I'm not gonna brag, but when I tell you that I am proud of all of my close friends because they are out here doin' the damn thing, that is absolutely no exaggeration. And yet, no matter how full their lives are, if I call, they either pick up or call right back. I've talked about this before with them (both directions), and we agree that we are readily available to each other, not just because we are committed to the friendship but because we actually ENJOY talking to each other. 8.5 times out of 10, there is no stress (I mean, no one is perfect, right?). We bring good energy, perspectives, and insights to each other. We laugh together. We usually don't want anything from each other. Bottom line, we tend to give each other a much-needed break from the roller coaster of life, even if it's only for a few moments.
And y'all, you need to be able to say the same thing about your own close friends. Yes, there will be times when life is hard, money is tight, and trials are abundant, so you will need your friends to be there to support you. Yet most of the time, your friends should give you a laugh, make things lighter and reduce your stress levels. If the person you're thinking about making a close friend doesn't qualify in this way — you're grown. I'll just say that life is sometimes too long and other times too short to be out here constantly seeing someone's name pop up on your phone, and you already know it's gonna be more burdensome than uplifting.
If there's one thing that we all need in life, it's at least one close friend. And if there's one thing that can really knock you on your back, it's picking the wrong kind. Hopefully, this cheat sheet will help you to avoid some of the pain and nonsense I've been through before — all because I didn't know the things to avoid when it comes to choosing the ideal one(s) for my own life.Friends can be gems or junk jewelry. Please, for your own sake and sanity, choose wisely.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Tim Robberts/Getty Images