Frenemy: Urban Dictionary: An enemy disguised as a friend. The type of "friend" whose words or actions bring you down (whether you realize it as intentional or not) The type of friend you ought to cut off but don't cuz...they're nice... good ...you've had good times with them. U know...they're good people that you can count on to bring you down again sometime in the near future. The friend you may or may not have cornered about their quicksand like ways and keep around because "its in the past"...and so was one minute ago. The person that will continue to bring you down until you demand better for yourself.
I had a particularly cruel and public humiliation in sixth grade, prompted by the actions of one of my “best friends”. I’ll never forget that moment in front of a classroom of peers. Her standing up and pointing at me, laughing and making fun while the rest of the class joined in. I’ll never forget the feeling of shame and mortification as my face turned hot coal burning red and there was no place to escape. And the betrayal. At 12, my heart was still very innocent and I couldn’t understand why someone I cared about could be so mean.
There are scores of teen movies about “mean girls” and while they may not be the headliners, mean boys have always been around…the bullies, the prodders, the show off’s, and the arrogant.
One of the things I looked forward to in adulthood was the belief that grown-ups wouldn’t have the need to resort to the pettiness, the cattiness, or the competition so common in youth.
I was so wrong. In my 30’s, my former and I made a decision to move from California to Colorado. I was a young stay-at-home mother deeply entrenched in being a good and kind Christian. We found a church and I made friends with another woman who had recently moved to the area. My husband and I had a lot in common with her and her husband and I was happy knowing we were beginning to make solid and reliable friendships.
But as time went on, this friend was really no friend. She felt she was “closer to God” than me and would throw Scripture verses as admonitions like the coins that were tossed into the passing tithing basket on Sunday mornings at church. She believed herself to be a prophet and her job was to straighten the rest of us poor sycophants out. She lost many friends but I was the one that hung in there the longest. Surely that was the good Christian thing to do.
Being that I was of the “trouper” variety and my mother had seared her daily mantra, “peace at any cost” into my psyche, I tried for several years to be a good friend to this woman, the woman who thought nothing of pointing out my many faults that she was quite sure the Lord wanted me to be aware of.
Thank God for a secular therapist who helped me see the poison hidden in the pie. I finally ended the friendship, much to her shock and chagrin, “Mary, people just don’t do this!” Oh, but I did. It took me some years to release the guilt and perceived act of selfishness I had committed by ending the friendship, but my relief and joy at not being around this woman made me eventually forget the inner taunts and judgments.
Frenemies are not confined to women. Men are quite adept at being frenemies themselves and I can already see the heads of men who are reading this nodding vehemently in agreement. The competition in the work force, the drive for status and recognition, the “keeping up with the Joneses”, the subtle sport challenges are all examples of how many men live with the underlying current of one up-manship with those they trust and care about.
What would a soap opera or a reality TV show be without the presence of frenemies? They can certainly make our lives interesting. But there comes a time where we have to ask ourselves, “Why am I in this friendship when most of the time I’m gutting my way through any time spent with this person? Am I that trained to be so nicey nicey that I’m in essence willing to throw my pearls to swine on a regular basis?"
The comedian Dane Cook has a routine where he talks about that friend that everyone puts up with but nobody likes. He says, “Think of the group of people you’ve hung out with the most, and this is what I’ve realized: There is one person in every group of friends that nobody likes.” He continues, “If you’re sitting here, saying, ‘No, we don’t have a person like that in our group’, it’s because YOU’RE that person!”
Frenemies are usually quite narcissistic and would never recognize themselves as being THAT person.
Having a frenemy means that you’re prone to walking on eggshells because the ironic thing about the average frenemy is that they’re really good at dishing it out, but the first to disintegrate into a tearful mess at anything remotely resembling confrontation. They are insensitive to others but hypersensitive when it comes to themselves.
So hence the dilemma when you have a frenemy in your life. They usually don’t come solo, they come in a package: They’re in your workplace, the neighborhood, church, or married to someone you love.
Several years ago I met a man I had the highest respect for. He is a man full of life and joy and passion and I asked him what his secret was. He said, “It’s simple, Mary. I made a rule for myself a long time ago that I wouldn’t spend a minute of my day with anyone I didn’t want to. Not one minute. Life goes by quickly enough without spending time with anyone I don’t like.”
That man became my role model. Imagine it. To make that kind of rule and act of self-love for yourself…to only spend time with those you know love you and you love them.
One of my wise sisters recently said, "Sometimes we just have to sift through the people in our lives, eliminating those who just really don't like us or have our best interests at heart."
I now have a higher standard for who I call friend. I don’t care what their political association is, what religion they are or aren’t, what job they have, whether they recycle or don’t…my only criteria is this. If they like me, if they love me, that’s good enough for me.
At this point in my life, I’ve learned. Really learned. I don’t like everyone that comes my way and, whoa, surprise of all surprise, some of them don’t like me! And it’s finally OK, really more than fine to only surround myself with those I love and care about and that there is reciprocation in similar ways.
Peace at any cost? No thank you. Life is just too damn short.