This essay contains spoilers from the premiere of Insecure, and also ample use of the word “fuck.”
At the camp where I work for a week each summer, we play this cute little game called “warm fuzzies” that’s supposed to demonstrate the endless amount of love and positivity and warmth and all that bullshit each person can give to one another if they just keep paying those things forward. The kids get little fuzzy balls and they continually pass them to each other while saying something nice, which is a terrible thing to teach teenagers to do with fuzzy balls, but a great thing to teach them to do with their love if you don’t want them to grow up and be as fucked up as me.
Apparently, my love is finite. I say this because there inevitably comes a point while I’m dating someone, where I feel the need to choose whether to prioritize my romantic interest or my friends. It’s as if a restricted portion of my energy has been sanctioned for platonic relationships, and the rest, a severely disproportionate amount, afforded for the fuckboy of the moment to suck up like a vacuum.
This is a world where millennials have ample reason to feel like our time and energy is spread so thin, that we have to make sacrifices in our relationships. In one of the closing scenes of “Insecure as Fuck,” the first episode of Issa Rae’s new HBO sitcom Insecure, Issa’s character hilariously demonstrates this far too common reality. After working up the courage to spit a verse at an open mic to impress a guy she “just happened to run into,” Daniel, the spare-time rhyme queen raps something she wrote about her best friend Molly’s “broken pussy.”
It’s a one of its kind song, for sure, almost as great as an earlier quotable she delivers as she’s running through pickup line options, “Let me sprinkle some pussy parmesan on you,” and a real crowd pleaser. Except of course to Molly, whom Issa brought along to the club as cover for bumping into the person she hopes will be her new boy-toy. Molly is understandably upset the dirty laundry that covers her lower region malfunction has been aired, and Issa is forced to try and explain that she really does care about her friend and didn’t mean to hurt her.
When Molly accuses Issa of only ever thinking about herself, Issa gives the kind of sincere apology that I’ve given my own friends so many times when I’ve shafted them for the sake of a guy. Though I’ve only discussed my friends’ “broken” genitals when they are not present, I’m pretty sure I’ve said verbatim, “Girl, I’m sorry… [insert fuckboy I’m dating] dared me to do it,” or [insert fuckboy I’m dating] made it seem like it was something they wanted. And so, at the expense of my friendships, I made some bad decisions to try to make the romance that was not working and had no promise of ever working, work.
What makes this scene so effective is that we believe all the bullshit Issa says about how much she cares about her friend, because she does care. I get it. Just like her, I truly don’t want my friends to feel second place to my dating partners, but I have such a messed up relationship with romance as a millennial trying to find love in New York City that it just seems to happen [I’m working on it, promise]. And though we can feel that Issa really does love Molly, two seconds later, in the middle of her apology, Daniel texts her to come over and she complies instead of comforting her friend. Because she’s fucked up. Like me. And like some of you.
Issa’s character and the show itself is sure to draw comparisons to HBO’s more melanin-deficient, female-centered sitcom, Girls, and its central character, Hannah, as the show similarly attempted to explore the self-obsession of flawed, driven millennials in a world not set up for them. It’s also sure to be compared to FX’s new hit Atlanta, and its likewise self-unaware central character, Earn.
What Insecure might do better than both, though, is provide a more compelling dynamic to the protagonist, despite their self-absorption. As one of the children says while Issa is giving a presentation in a classroom at the beginning of the episode, “Ain’t nobody checkin’ for bitter ass black women anymore,” and Issa lives in a sexist, anti-Black world where that ascription is assigned to any Black woman with a personality. And while the self-absorption of the straight Black guy and privileged white girl in Atlanta and Girls can often get annoying, Issa’s flaws feel more like those of a human working through an antagonistic world than douchebaggery—more like [how we would like to imagine] our own. Because sometimes, in trying to affirm our worth when lovers aren’t checking for us, even good people overlook the friends who have been checking for us since day one.
And while being unchecked for is no excuse for being a fuck-friend, romance is the flaw many young people are genuinely struggling with. But good friends work through those things with us. And hopefully we learn how to be less fuck-friendy in the future.
Because who is going to be there when Daniel tells us he’s not looking for a relationship after we’ve done all that bullshit to win his attention? Molly—just like she was for Issa at the end of the episode, passing back that silly fucking warm fuzzy ball we need.
Hari Ziyad is a Brooklyn-based storyteller and the Editor-in-Chief of RaceBaitR. Their work has been featured on Gawker, Out, Ebony, Mic, The Guardian, Colorlines, Black Girl Dangerous, Young Colored and Angry, The Feminist Wire and The Each Other Project. They are also an assistant editor for Vinyl Poetry & Prose and a contributing writer for Everyday Feminism.