Frenemies: Why Girls Who Hate Each Other Call Themselves ‘Best Friends’
While rummaging through my childhood trunks filled with crinkled camp letters and middle school yearbooks, I found my old diaries spanning from age eleven to fourteen. As I poured over cringe-worthy memories of being rejected by my first crush, wanting to fit-in and wishing for clearer skin, I noticed there was one underlying theme that stood out amongst the rest: my trouble with frenemies.
Every woman has had a relationship in which they pretended to like their so-called “best friend,” but in reality these two girls not-so-secretly hate each other’s guts. I remember my tween friend, Whitney, who I fiercely clung to on the playground, yet constantly argued with and bad-mouthed her once the recess bell rang. In my diary, I’d write about our terrible fights that left me fearing the next day at school, but I’d also confess how I desperately wanted for us to be inseparable forever friends.
Huh? What was wrong with me? Why do we females feel the need to ‘fake like’ each other and yet the moment the other person is out of the room, we denounce the friendship and slander the girl? Are we friends or are we enemies? Our Facebook pictures depicting us hugging each other while making kissy faces belie the fact that we actually despise one another. And what’s more perplexing is that this faux-friendship is apparent to everyone else but the women involved.
What “Mean Girls” did really well was point out the absurdity of frenemies — that Gretchen Weiners and the rest of “The Plastics” (side note: remember your adolescent group name? Why?!) could hate Regina George but still want to be her best friend was the epitome of this toxic relationship. It’s a “can’t live with her, can’t live without her” mentality perpetuating the friendship.
Luckily I learned early on that Whitney and I weren’t meant for each other as I once hoped. Eventually the tears and the arguments outweighed the good times, and she and I slowly began to distance ourselves. However, there are many women (even myself) who still to some extent maintain these phony friendships. It’s almost like we believe we have something to gain from this other person, and so we keep her around and kiss her ass in hopes of one day benefiting from her.
Men might be physically tough, but women are mentally tough. (Relax, I’m not saying that women aren’t as strong as men, I’m saying that we just mindf*ck everything a lot more.) “Orange Is The New Black” is a great example of this. In a women’s prison, the inmates break each other down with psychological abuse and emotional roughness; in a men’s prison, they go straight to physical violence and beat each other up. If you ask me, the former is way more excruciating and long-lasting than the latter.
Sometimes we keep our frenemies around because we know that keeping enemies closer is more lucrative. We’re better able to manipulate our foes if they trust us as friends. But other times the explanation for two girls pretending to like each other is not as clear cut. Perhaps one is using the other to get ahead or to move up in the social ladder.
Or maybe each girl individually sucks, but together they believe they are the better people. There could be an underlying competitive force that is keeping these females close instead of tearing them apart (which will eventually happen).
Regardless of the reasons we uphold these ridiculous relationships, it behooves us to recognize that these types of friendships will never be genuine. Both people involved (whether they know it or not) feel like they are profiting from the other one — it’s like a less formal business arrangement. There’s nothing of real substance or honest likeability that makes these two women friends, which is evident in the way they talk about each other.
If we find ourselves holding on to such pernicious alliances, we need to ask why we’re still involved and how it’s truly affecting us. For all the smack I talked about Whitney, I know she was saying the same malicious things about me. Somehow, I believed this cancelled out. But do we really want to keep a friend who we know is saying hurtful things about us? Furthermore, do we want to engage in that activity as well?
I closed my diary and shelved my memories along with the trunk. I know I’ll reopen the chest sometime in the future and reminisce all over again. But for now, I’m happy they’re part of my past.