Throughout high school and college, I had very few brown friends. I was only peripherally part of any Indian student association and made a point to have a diverse set of friends. I did not want to be reduced to my ethnicity, and I felt that hanging out exclusively with brown people would do just that. In college, there were all these beautiful, petite Indian girls with straight black hair who seemed to have everything including the bubbly, cute personality. And I hated them (okay, strongly disliked them). They were everything I was not.
One day in graduate school, I walked into the graduate student lounge and plopped myself on the sofa. Being a part-time student in a full-time program made me an outsider. Since I did not belong to a cohort, I did not have many friends in the program. In classic Nicky style, I was venting about the class I had just had and everyone listened. Across from me was this petite, beautiful brown girl with glossy, straight black hair and a perky personality. Oh, gods, not one of these again.
She introduced herself. Sonia. Ugh, what a cutesy name.
And she was everything I was not. I figured I would just acknowledge her existence and that would be that.
But then… she complimented my eyebrows.
You don’t understand. Eyebrows are a thing. Eyebrows are incredibly important to brown people. Haven’t you noticed that most of those mall kiosks where people get their eyebrows threaded are manned by brown people? We take eyebrows seriously. And little Ms. Perfect complimented mine! Not only that, she asked me where I got them done!!!
Ah, the approval of the petite, brown girl. (Again, why the eff did I care so much?!)
Now, I’m a helpful person so I offered to take Sonia with me the next time I went to get my eyebrows done (every two-three weeks, ladies!).
And that was the beginning of our friendship.
Technically, you can only have one “best” friend. That’s what “best” means. But you know, we all have a few. She’s one of mine. Did it help that she is younger than I am? Yes. Did it help that she isn’t Indian, but Nepali? Absolutely. Did it help that she and I studied different branches within the same discipline? Oh, hell yea.
There’s a comfort in having a close friend who understands the cultural nuances that you have to grapple with. And Sonia has really helped me in getting over (okay, starting to get over) my aversion to doing brown things. She’s like me – we don’t want to bring attention to that part of ourselves, but we don’t make a point to hide it and we definitely do not overcompensate. Okay, maybe I do a little.
For more Brown Girl Doing Brown Things: BGDBT