In theory, a frenemy would be easy to spot by females of any age. This is a friend who seduces you at the outset, compliments you on your smarts, your achievements, your style, then spills your secrets and uses you.
The worst part about it is that what she admires about you, she also despises about you. Just when you think you cant tolerate another minute, she acts caring and empathetic. No wonder were so confused, since females at every age and stage are in search of successful same sex friendships. And when you are linked to a frenemy, it can feel very promising.
In reality, the frenemy is not always readily identifiable—so at first you feel close, even secure, in her company. Who can predict, with certainty, that this is the friend who wont return your favorite article of clothing that you reluctantly loaned her, the friend who will steal your ideas and pass them off as her own, or worse, steal your new squeeze—until it actually happens.
We seem to have a perverse fascination with the frenemy, ratcheted up by the media and celebrity culture. This trap catches young girls as well as mature women—who doesnt flip through the pages of US Weekly, while sitting at a nail salon or getting a blow out, and not glimpse the feature, “Who Wore it Best?“ What a relief to know that female competition and jealousy exists among women who appear to have it all, as well as every day women like us. For any of us on the outside, looking in, gossip about celebrity friendships gone sour (think Paris and Nicole) or female rivalry (with frenemy behavior as part of the story) only drives home how common it is. The issues become murky and this keeps us there, despite our intuition telling us that this isnt a healthy bond.
Sometimes were just too blindsided by our neediness—girls and women alike are in search of support and openness with their friends, and the frenemy is good at playing the part. Underneath, the frenemy is often an unhappy person, uncomfortable in her own skin. When all this finally dawns on us and there is no return on all weve invested in this friendship, its time to come clean. This is about taking stock of yourself, recognizing the toxic nature of the friendship—yours or your daughters and cutting loose.
As mothers, we have a responsibility to our daughters to point out their frenemys m.o.—as well as to discern our own frenemys agenda, and to reconsider the relationships. It takes courage, but ultimately, who needs all that backstabbing and negativity? The best part of letting go of your frenemy is reclaiming yourself in the process and having the chance to search for authentic friends.