Frenemies – a term we usually associate with the rich and famous, whether it’s Paris and Nicole, Nadine and Cheryl, or SJP and Kim. Friends who spend all their time together, but don’t really like each other. I’m not doubting that they don’t enjoy one another’s company at times, that they don’t have things in common or have fun together, but there is the underlying motive within the relationship which is always to be better than the other. Whether it’s who parties the hardest or dresses the most provocatively the main thing is to be the most famous, they’ll stop at nothing to outdo each other.
Being 30 this year, I grew up in the era where Girl Power was the mantra. I went through the teens quoting the phrase “friendship never ends” and shouting about individuality and standing up for who you are. At the time, the term “Frenemy” wasn’t one that would even be considered. Girls stuck together. Well, in theory we did. We’d focus on honing our own individual style, which just happened to reflect the style of two of the most popular UK girl bands. We’d strut about clad in combats and vest tops by day, and by night we’d wobble in platforms and baby doll dresses, pointing, pouting and loudly asserting ourselves, hugging each other, hanging around in rowdy groups hoping to get away with underage drinking and dancing in the local clubs.
Nevertheless, when it came to putting our chosen motto into practice, it never really happened. We often shunned our friends to “walk around the field” with our best friends number one crush, or we tried to ensure that the current girl who was the least popular in the group looked foolish for the school disco, we weren’t there for each other, we were there for ourselves. Clawing our way up the social ladder in life, pretending to be individuals and confident, when really, being the same was the thing that kept you safe.
You assume that this is where it stops though. After all the social life of the stars appear to be all about playground politics, that in real life we are far more sophisticated. However, when I look at day to day life, I see frenemies wherever I look. Think about it, who are yours? Is it that gym buddy? The mummy you go on regular play dates with? Or perhaps that work mate with a mutual dislike for another colleague? Friends you probably wouldn’t have if you didn’t have that miniscule nugget in common. How do you deal with them when they frustrate you?
Being a quite cynical person, I’m aware of my close friends versus my fake friends (my less glamorous version of a frenemy). I have had a few in the past, the best friend who pretends not to revise for exams, the work mate who is going for the same promotion, but you don’t mind WHO got it, because you both are amazing and deserve it (whilst you are both secretly scurrying away in the background), and most recently, the friend where every day is a competition to keep up with the Jones’s.
I watch the most recent fake friend closely. I watch her compete, to try and drag others down, she often goes in for the kill when her self confidence is at a low point. My personal favourite time was the time she told a new mum that people still thought she was pregnant, hours after the new mum had voiced her frustrations with her frumpy post pregnancy body. It turned out the underlying reason was that the new mum had got into her pre-pregnancy jeans a whole three days before the frenemy had the year before.
On hindsight, you can laugh about these things, it’s almost funny the lengths things go to. However, my concern is, there is an underlying edge to the frenemy which leads to a more serious side of things. This is a situation, which like so many of the celeb relationships could spiral out of control, without the protection of the A list lifestyle when it all inevitably blows up in somebody’s face.
Not only do people get hurt, confidence wounded, there’s the underlying competitiveness which could cause long term damage. Whilst it’s tempting to play games with the competitive fake friend, to tell them you’re buying the latest designer handbag, or that you’re a size 6 then sit back and see what they get up to in order to go one better, the lengths they’re willing to go during this power struggle of a friendship is scary.
In quiet suburbier I’m witnessing everything from new boobs, to new cars, to “accidental” pregnancies. It wouldn’t do to not have the most children on the street. To not have the newest car. Sod the loans and the cost. Sod the friends, the feelings and people’s lives. Winning is key.
When did friendships become so aggressive? Why do we surround ourselves with people who cause us to question our integrity? Why, in our 20s, 30s and even 40s do we still feel the competitive urge to have as may friends as possible, even if sometimes, they’re only as close as a Facebook status “like” or a Retweet? Are we ashamed to admit that actually, the people we really like and trust we could count on one hand? Shouldn’t we focus our efforts on those we love and care about? Or is it all about how many people will be in the room at that big birthday party? Have they always been like this?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I’m as guilty as anyone for having a mass of facebook “friends” who I haven’t spoken to in 12 years. I threaten on a weekly basis to cut ties with a frenemy who drives me up the wall, but always reel myself back in before I do. Perhaps it’s for my own amusement, or perhaps I’m taking heed of the old saying keep your enemies close and your friends closer. Maybe we don’t want to admit it, but maybe it’s just the fear of ending up alone.