Dear Joan, Maya, Toni and Lynn,
What’s up, ladies? Monday nights just ain’t been the same since we stopped getting together, y’all. Folks—particularly sistas—have been asking about you like crazy, why you left in the first place but more importantly, when you’re coming back. I feel like no one really gets me like you did before you went off and I’ll never find friends—a little neurotic like Joan, a little free-spirited like Lynn, a little around-the-way like Maya, a lot self-absorbed like Toni—quite like you ladies…my girlfriends.
When it comes to TV shows that were near and dear to us, there aren’t many that hit home as often and as deeply as Girlfriends did. None that focused specifically on the lives and experiences of sistas, anyway—and no we ain’t countin’ Mary, Rose and Pearl on the stoop of 227 or Whitley, Jaleesa and Freddie on the campus A Different World. We’re talking well-thought out characters that changed and grew and reacted and thought and felt and rebelled like we might have our own darn selves in the same situations. That was my favorite thing about Girlfriends. Aside from the fact that it was executive produced by Frasier himself, it was a glimpse of who we are as young, professional Black women searching for love and stability and our own individualized versions of success. It was reality remixed, like looking into one of the funny mirrors at a local carnival and finding humor in the distortions but recognizing the familiarity in the reflections.
If nothing else, Girlfriends made me play ongoing games of “what would I do if…?” If I found myself attracted to a white man? If I met a brotha who handled the emotional needs my husband was faltering on? If I had awesome adoptive parents but felt the nagging desire to develop a relationship with my biological family? If I had to admit my own self-doubts and shortcomings to myself under the professional direction of a psychiatrist because I had managed to drive my own fool self that crazy? For some it was just lighthearted comedy and that was fine. They took away as many laughs and snickers as Mara Brock Akil and the show’s writers presumably hoped they would. But for some others—like me—it breathed life into the characterization of African-American women beyond the static, one-sided figures we had been habitually force-fed. Under the direction of the show’s creative team, those girlfriends jumped off the screen into our conversations and thoughts.
So forgive us for wanting that old thing back, that connection with a show that for eight years was part of our regularly scheduled programming, our own must-see TV. It’s kind of hard to let go despite BET’s streaming reruns and almost two years to have sucked it up and gotten over it already. It ain’t like network television is really giving us anything else worth mentioning. Lord in heaven knows the misadventures of Oprah and her trusty Gayle King ain’t cutting the mustard. Besides, like a quirky college roommate or ride or die bestie, you don’t just forget girlfriends like that.