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Kiss, Let's Do Lunch: The Frenemy Pandemic

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Elizabeth Thorp: Recently I had an educational experience with a social acquaintance whom my husband and I both really liked: he was fun, silly, and fabulous. Then the bizarre incident occurred: "Social Friend" told one of my Besties I did something totally insane and untrue. Sounds like high school, doesn't it?

two woman kissing

The crafty Social Friend even called me to chat and thank me for being a good friend, just before the crazy call to my BFRIE ... Was Social Friend cuckoo for cocoa puffs? While trying to do damage control with Bestie, I confided in another good friend, who said, "Not cuckoo, honey, you just have a very formidable frenemy." I shivered ... would there be a boiling bunny on my front porch later?

After the discovery of my first frenemy, I wanted to know more about this faux friend phenomenon ... here's the scoop:

1. Frenemies are everywhere.
2. Frenemy is in the Oxford and Wikipedia dictionaries.
3. Frenemies are typically women (or, in my case, a gay man -- snap!) because men have lower thresholds for complications in friendships.
4. Frenemies are typically highly friendly, complimentary, all up in your business.
5. Frenemies like to be "faux friends" to have a sense of control and learn your weaknesses.

A friendly, pretty mom of three is friendly with a mom "who feigns to be very laid-back but will announce that her son is -- at too early ages -- doing basic addition or reading or whatever the latest advancement is. Then she'll pointedly look at your child and say, 'and what is he doing?' My response now is to simply say 'playing.' I don't hang out with her much anymore."

"A frenemy in your life can be very toxic because you may be sharing personal and vulnerable information with someone that simply does not have your best interest at heart," explains Dr. Michelle Golland, a psychologist and momlogic expert. "My advice is if you have identified a frenemy, cut them loose from the friendship circle. They will not be happy for your successes and will be threatened by any goodness that comes to you because of their insecurity, envy, and inability to form true authentic relationships."

My first foray into frenemy territory, although we didn't have the moniker yet, was my college roommate's friend trauma. Her closest friend (and mutual friend of the couple) slept with her steady boyfriend. Oh, the betrayal! Especially since the close friend had been a confidante regarding relationship issues ...

A pretty, smart, young journalist with a major daily publication told me she was invited to a party with "friends," who then disinvited her because there "wasn't room in the car." This pretty young lady is no longer friends with these poisonous pals.

Yes, I have been a frenemy -- in business settings with colleagues I just couldn't stomach. I politely laughed at their jokes, participated in light banter about family, current client work, the weather, and hated every minute of it. Job security = faux friendliness. I am a 40-year-old mom of three young children with a small business to run. I am tired. I don't see my close, supportive friends enough. I don't have the time or desire to experience middle-aged, muffin-topped "Mean Girls" -- do you?

next: Suspended for Taking Fast Food to School
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sarah H November 18, 2009, 5:00 PM

I’m with you — seriously — who has the time to waste on haters??? I much rather catch up with my real, supportive friends than try to tolerate people I don’t like or who don’t like me!!!

momto3angels November 18, 2009, 5:42 PM

I have a horrible frienemy — she is trying to get cosy with my closest friend and is always dropping passive aggressive “joking” comments about how chubby my son is, how I can’t seem to stop with my iphone (I work FT, she doesn’t!), my shoes, hair, whatever fancies her…I just laugh and brush it off but it does annoy me. Also, I can’t help but wonder why my close friend doesn’t see what a brat she can be!!! Under all the jokey, smiley, comments is a very angry woman…oh well, at least I’m prettier :)

tennmom November 18, 2009, 8:15 PM

It took years, but I’ve learned to turn the tables on those people.
Looking at them with no expression and not verbally responding; asking “What do you mean by that?” or “why do you ask?” or saying “I’m SURE you didn’t mean that in a BAD way” really freaks them out.

Just Sayin' November 19, 2009, 2:07 PM

TennMom - THANKS - I will use those, that is a neat idea. Totally deadpan poker face look and then *zing*.

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