They have been around for a while now. Almost everyone you know, including you, has had them in his or her life at some point or the other. Maybe you were one yourself, but just didn’t realise it. It was actress Gwyneth Paltrow, however, who recently made the term fashionable when she detailed on her website her experience of this malign breed of acquaintance. I am talking about the ‘Frenemy’ —slang for an enemy masquerading as a friend.
The term ‘Frenemy’ is being increasingly used to describe two or more people who are apparently friends, but are actually enemies. As we all realise, at some point of time or the other, friendships are not always friendly. Nor are they as simple as they seem on the surface. I guess Frenemies become friends because both desire to keep a close eye on the actions of the other, following the quote, ‘Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies even closer’, very literally. This may be because in a friendship, people feel the need to keep up appearances, or because they do not want to lose mutual friends. Often, both people know they are in a Frenemy-style relationship, while sometimes, only one person feels that way.
Devil in disguise
So, how do you recognise a Frenemy? A Frenemy criticises your loyal partner, turns her nose up at your favourite outfits and induces feelings of paranoia and self-doubt—all this under the guise of ‘friendly’ advice. Your first instinct when you run into this person is to slap her, but somehow you always manage to stick around with a giant fake smile, and kick yourself for doing so later. You may vow to drop the Frenemy at the next given opportunity but a volte-face by them, when questioned or confronted, usually leaves you feeling guilty for doubting them in the first place. You immediately flagellate yourself, mentally, of course! And so your life and times spent with the Frenemy soon starts resembling a soap opera with a new twist and turn in each episode.
The Frenemy fad
By now, you may have correctly assumed that any sensible person would immediately disassociate herself from a Frenemy as soon as s/he is identified, right? Wrong! Having a Frenemy, or a few, has become such a fashion statement that women seem to have stopped coveting the latest designer shoes, bags and whatnots. They desperately wish to have their very own personal Frenemy instead. Why? Because having a Frenemy, or a few, seems to be the latest status symbol [You can close your mouth now].
It’s like this. Having a Frenemy apparently signals to the world that you are popular enough to have lots of friends and naive enough to not realise that some of them are enemies in disguise. So, women hope, wait, and pray for a Frenemy to materialise at their next tea party, lunch or let’s-max-our-credit-cards shopping spree. And after all the hoping, waiting and praying they remain Frenemy-less, they start looking at their friends and their motives with a magnifying glass, hoping to triumphantly unearth a Frenemy among the home team.
The hunt continues…
Reading between the lines becomes frequent. ‘Wonder why she backed out from joining me for the art film I was dying to see. Learning more about mourners would be so educating and enlightening, wouldn’t it?’ Friendly advice gets minutely analysed, ‘Why did she not let me buy the purple dress with the fluorescent yellow and pink flowers on it? Did it really look like I had wrapped myself in a curtain, like she pointed out?’ Every move of the friends gets monitored, much like a spy in a Bond movie. ‘She urged me to try the restaurant’s trademark cocktail but she herself ordered the iced tea! Does she want me to gain weight, even as she loses hers?’
In the process of the foolish desire to acquire a Frenemy, there is a chance that keeping tabs and questioning motives unnecessarily may cause some serious, really well-meaning friendships to end. When a friend lets you down or acts insensitively at times, it doesn’t necessarily qualify him or her for Frenemy status, much as you may wish it to. Let’s keep Frenemies a fad and not let it turn into an archetype. Let’s not become one or let our craze to acquire one rip our genuine friendships apart.
So if you’re confused about your friends and friendships ask your self this: ‘Do I love my friend[s]? Do I hate them? or Do I love to hate them?’ The answer then will make things easy, cause the first one’s a friend, second is an enemy, and third is a Frenemy.