Have you got a frenemy?

THEY CRITICISE YOUR loyal boyfriend, turn their nose up at your favourite outfits and induce feelings of paranoia and selfdoubt.

By (Daily Mail)

Published: Mon 27 Apr 2009, 9:14 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:10 AM

Most of us have at least one ‘frenemy’ — slang for an enemy masquerading as friend — and this week actress Gwyneth Paltrow used her website to detail her own experience of this malign breed of acquaintance. Here, authors Amanda Edwards and Eileen Condon, who have written the book, Bullies, Bitches and Bastards: The Ultimate Guide to the Utter Gits In Your Life, exploring the phenomenon, give their view on the subject, while below writer Polly Graham describes the so-called friend who tried to ruin her life...

Recognise your frenemy

So, even the angelic Gwyneth Paltrow has admitted she once — oops! — enjoyed hearing that a frenemy had suffered an ‘unfortunate and humiliating’ setback in her life.

Welcome to the gang, Gwynnie. Is there any woman among us who hasn’t done a small jig of joy at the news that an enemy pretending to be a friend has come a cropper?

Unfortunately, an awful lot of us seem to have had a frenemy or two. She’s the friend who invites you for what should be latte and chitchat and leaves you feeling inexplicably depressed about every life choice you’ve ever made.

Or she’s the woman you’re still friends with after nine years, even though, when you see her, you’re never quite sure if she’s going to greet you with a tickertape parade or treat you as if you’ve turned up wafting the Ebola virus around.

Do men have friends like these, too? Or is it just us? When we were writing a book that touched on the subject, we couldn’t come up with a single male example. We tried — in the interests of fairness — but men just didn’t seem very forthcoming. Or else they were just baffled about the whole concept of having a friend you didn’t actually like.

One brave chap began to relate, with some gusto, details of a friend who ‘is always competing with me’. But before we could probe further in the course of our (ahem) scientific research, he suddenly shut himself up and muttered: ‘Oh he’s all right, really.’

Perhaps he was worried it was all starting to sound a little fey? After all, how often have you heard two male colleagues having this conversation at the water cooler?

John: ‘What’s wrong, Dave? You seem a bit down.’

Dave: ‘Oh, it’s nothing. I don’t know . . . I thought Stu was a good mate, but he hasn’t rung me. He said he was going to, but I haven’t heard a peep since last Saturday. We had a lovely day at the match — we had a really good laugh. I don’t know what I’ve done, but I’m not ringing him. I rang him last time. He can ring me now.’

Who knows, maybe they’re having these conflabs all the time in private. But bump up against any female conversation public or private and, sure as hell, there’ll be analysis, forensic examination, rumination, cogitation and a vast amount of brain space being taken up with trying to work out why she did that on that day in that way to ME!

We seem to tie ourselves up in knots. Who in their right mind would keep a frenemy? Either they’re a friend — in which case they can stay. Or they’re an enemy — in which case you should boot them into touch.

But we don’t, do we? Time and again we allow them metaphorically to slam the door in our faces and kick us out in the rain. Since we wrote our book, women have fallen over themselves to tell us: ‘Oh my God, I know her!’ The two characters that seem to resonate most are the frenemy who delights in your disasters, and the woman who treats her chums like cannon fodder.

These are the kind of pals we could do without. Except we don’t. And why is that? Perhaps it’s because women’s friendships tend to be based around emotional connections. Feelings are invested, secrets are divulged, hearts are opened. Once these bonds have been made, it’s hard to walk away, even when your friend is behaving badly.

And though we may be intuitive —that explains the sick feeling you’ve had for the past eight years about your so-called confidante — we don’t always have the courage to act on our instincts. We doubt our judgment. We think we can’t be right. We convince ourselves to ignore those gut feelings.

Maybe we’re just genetically programmed to be accommodating, rather too trusting, a tad naive, a degree too warm in our attachments. Or, to cut to the chase, we just don’t want to be seen to be horrible.

And talking of cutting to the chase, there’s none better than our menfolk at that. When faced with your ponderings about a frenemy, they’ll get straight to the point.

You: ‘Don’t get me wrong, I really like Chloe, but every now and then if I tell her about something I’ve done... she sort of puts me down... oh, I don’t know, perhaps I’m just a bad person. What do you think?’

Him: ‘She’s just jealous. Another drink?’ Maybe we should have just asked a man why he thinks women put up with frenemies. He’d probably have replied: ‘Because you’re soft.’

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