"You know if you leave it too long, you'll tear when he enters you – you'll need stitches!"
"Well, thank God for the NHS then, innit!"
Barely ten minutes into the first episode of Chewing Gum and I was cackling, and I didn’t stop for two seasons of the award-winning sitcom. What made this line so funny to me was the fact that it was so true. The conversation between Tracey, the naïve virgin star of Chewing Gum, and her more sexually experienced best friend Candice could have been taken word for word from a real life conversation between friends. Chewing Gum – created and written by Michaela Coel, who also starred as Tracey – felt like a raucous journey into the collective experience of many black British women, myself definitely included.
Watching it felt like a letter from Michaela to us. Each episode had that knowing look that often passes between black women across the room that says: ‘I feel you, I see you,’ and while everyone – and I mean everyone – found Chewing Gum absolutely hilarious, there were layers of subtext that you felt on a particularly intimate level if you are a black woman. In the first episode Tracey goes through an eurocentric makeover, but eventually ends up wiping off the mismatched lipstick, taking out the blue contact lenses and whipping off the ill-fitting wig. Afterwards, when she looked despondently at her reflection without her Barbie doll adornments, I released an audible sigh and wanted to hug her – because I felt it. In the second season when she found herself on a date with a white man with a colonial fetish for black women, I heard the sirens sound in my spirit from the get go and wanted to yell “Get out!”