The Frenemy Within

In focusing on what makes a BFF, it might also be helpful to consider what most certainly does not. Last month, I wrote about a dilemma involving my bikini waxer—specifically, the conflict between my desire to befriend her and my fear that our professional “closeness” might preclude a real friendship.  In the comments on that post, I was particularly struck by something Jackie wrote about befriending her personal trainer: “Although when we hung out the convo was still great, she really kept me in check about what I was eating and drinking in relation to my fitness goals. Unsolicited! On girls nights! It got to be too much after a while. Who wants to be told they have to do 100 sit-ups for each G&T they have?”

The truth behind this statement made me laugh. No one wants to be reminded of everything she shouldn’t be doing. It’s impossible to embrace the devil on your shoulder when the angel is staring you in the face.  And isn’t one of the unwritten rules of friendship that you won’t make a BFF feel guilty when she’s knee-deep in Ben and Jerry’s?

It got me thinking about the sentences that should never escape the mouth of a BFF. Because any friend who says the following is no friend at all:

“Are you really going to eat that?”

“You look tired.”

“I’m so glad you broke up with that asshole. I never liked him.” (If you speak these words, know that it is a virtual guarantee they will get back together. And I assure you: She. Will. Not. Forget.)

“It’s so cute how you take [insert your passion here] so seriously.”

“You wouldn’t understand.” (Um, ok. Explain it to me.)

“Don’t try on mine, you’ll stretch it out.”

“I’d appreciate it if you’d be more considerate next time. :)” (This would be fine, sans smiley face. Emoticons  = passive aggressive = are you kidding me??)

“He’s totally not my type but you might like him.”

“I’d kill myself if I had your job, but I’m so glad you’re happy.”

“Your son’s not reading yet? Little Betsy’s already on The Prisoner of Azkaban and has memorized the Gettysburg address… but he’ll catch up. It’s not a race.” (This isn’t one I know from personal experience, obviously, but I’m confident it’s been uttered in Mommy & Me’s around the world.)

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been on the delivery end of some of these (I learned the “never tell a friend you never liked her ex” lesson the hard way), and I’ve certainly been the recipient (most recently in the form of “wow! You really take the blogging thing seriously…”). But I know there are more frenemy-identifiers out there… What did I miss?


Filed under The Search

27 responses to “The Frenemy Within

  1. Andrea

    Don’t forget about the one that only calls when she needs something.

  2. I’ve gotten the blogging comment before with variations…like, “you must spend all day on the computer”, etc.

  3. Said after you’ve just finished up a bad stomach flu, “Well, at least you lost some weight.”

  4. Lisa Z.

    I feel like I was a frenemy this weekend because I told my BFF after a few drinks that while she prides herself on being open minded, she was actually the most closed minded person that I know, (true) when it comes to food, men, meeting men and music. How awful of me.

    • That’s funny, because the thing I value most in my friends is their ability to tell the truth, even if it’s not what I want to hear that very moment. If what you told her is true, it *may* open up her eyes — or it may not. Sometimes I do stupid things that I think are going to achieve a certain end and I admit sometimes I go about things the wrong way. The worst feeling is when you do something that blows up in your face and your “friends” all knew it would end badly, but they didn’t say anything. True friends want to spare you the pain and embarrassment. Well, unless you’re just so hard headed that you never listen to advice, but I’m not one of those people; I love and solicit advice from others.

      Bottom line: if what you told your friend is true, and you told her those things not because you want to make her feel terrible but because you want her to be a better person (which, by the way, is out of love) then it was totally the right thing to do. Don’t feel guilty. It could end your friendship, true, but do you want to be friends (much less BEST friends) with someone who *thinks* they’re open minded but ISN’T open minded??

  5. Ana

    The faux-interest in YOUR situation, just so they can brag about their’s…most recently “oh are you back in normal clothes yet (3 weeks after we both had babies); because I am” followed by “is your baby sleeping through the night; because mine is”

  6. “That’s so great you are writing and working (for $$) less….but don’t you get bored? I mean, I know I need a challenge to keep me motivated.”

  7. Johanna

    What about the reverse of the “do you really want to eat that?” friend?

    Sometimes it seems like friends really want you to indulge in vices with them even when you don’t feel like it – I’ve definitely been ragged on by friends once or twice for skipping dessert, or not drinking, with mocking comments.

    @Lisa Z. – I don’t think that makes you a frenemy. I also am going to disagree with the “I don’t like your ex” comment. To me a frenemy isn’t someone who occasionally criticizes honestly, it’s someone who uses the guise of friendship to sneakily bring you down.

  8. These comments are making my skin crawl. Eek!

    I agree with Ana…feigning interest in another’s experience to remind him/her how awesome YOU are (not you, Rachel, but YOU, Imaginary Bad Friend) is the worst.

  9. Katie

    Hahaha! These are so great and so true, and unfortunately I’ve been the culprit myself before, having said something to a friend along the lines of this one: “Don’t try on mine, you’ll stretch it out,” when she was trying on one of my shirts. I probably cared a little too much about the condition of my clothes than the happiness of my friend seeing herself in the shirt, but I spent hard-earned money on it and she was clearly built “differently” from me [ insert foot in mouth ]. End of story, she tried it on, I heard a snap of a seam breaking, and from then on the shirt no longer fit the same way. Perhaps there’s a better way to phrase it…

  10. The “never liked your ex” comment can go either way, I think – depending on your friend’s distance from her (former) situation. Also, “you look tired” can be rephrased as “Are you feeling OK?” to convey honest concern. As for “don’t try on mine, you’ll stretch it out,” I really wish I’d been firmer with a college roommate about trying on my clothes…

  11. no name

    well, i wish someone had said something before i got married so then i wouldn’t have had to get divorced.

  12. gail

    such a fine line between the frenemy comment and helpful honesty. reminds me of a dialogue i often had with my mother when i was a teenager:
    she would say, “what do you think of this dress, tell me the complete truth, really what do you think?” if i said, i really don’t like it, she would say, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

  13. OMG! I love this! Hilarious because you NAILED THEM. My favorite is the passive aggressive use of the smiley face emoticon. I have one friend who uses Mr. Smiles only when making a passive aggressive statement. So transparent.

    Hmm… what did you miss… How about the friend that tells you the negative things other people have said about you, and then quickly assures you that they disagree. I have one of those. She makes me feel REALLY great.

    • Yes! When that happens to me I always say “Why would you tell me that???” To which they respond with something like–I love this–“Well, I would want to know if someone thought I was an arrogant bitch.” Really?? Would you?

  14. Did it ever occur to you that we are often our own worst frenemies? Inside your own mind, how do you speak to yourself? Are you kind or unkind?

  15. At the recovery end of a 2 year long health crisis I said to a “friend” that I’d like to think I learned something from it all. Her response? “Not to get out of shape?”

    I was mortified.

    She certainly doesn’t qualify as a BFF.

    And thank you, @Sheri_Perl, I do have to remind myself to be nice to me….often.

    Hugs and butterflies,

  16. With the concurrent epidemics of self-centeredness and lack of self-confidence, there seem to be more and more people who are just rude.

    But I’ve also noticed that the people who complain about it the most are the people who are guilty of it. (Not directing that at anyone!!!! Just food for thought!!!) We tend to see in others what we hate in ourselves.

  17. The “you look tired” one just kills me. How is that helping me? Even the “are you feeling okay” is tough…I’d feel better if they just asked how I am doing or what’s been going on in my life or something. But the kicker is–only ask if you really give a hoot!! I feel worse when someone asks how I am and then proceeds not to really listen. Just go back to telling me I look tired…it’s all the same.

  18. My pet peeve is when friends tell me about a movie/artist/food/etc that they really like, and then end it with, “I don’t think you’d like it.” it’s so insulting! And I’d rather my friends not put me in a box but leave me to decide what I like or dislike.

  19. I had a friend say to me, in front of other friends, that because I might not be around in 6 months or a year or two years (long story, and by ‘not be around’ I mean alive but unable to hang out), that she didn’t know if it was worth spending time to become even better friends. Gee, glad it’s not because of cancer that I might not be around in 6 months or a year or two years.

  20. Laura

    In my BFF hunt a couple years ago, I was having a tough emotional year and my BFF contenders, rather than ask if I’m okay or politely mention that I was being too self-involved, waited months to bombard me with all my inadequacies. That was when I dropped these frenemies, formed my own group and started volunteering to find better individuals. Great decision on my part and their loss.

  21. tommy

    Since we’re fond of gratuitous Seinfeld references…… Wasn’t there an episode in which George borrows (or tries on) someone else’s turlteneck and ends up being called “Big Head”? (Gotta start back on Seinfeld and The Office.)

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