Frenemies Make the Best Medicine
Outside of TV land, frenemies are not acquaintances we only pretend to like, but deep relationships rife with trauma and vulnerability.
The only thing that makes me feel better is affirming other people. I wish I could show my friend how powerful she is even on her worst day. Nothing makes me feel worse than those late hours of the night where I’m sitting by myself, knowing she won’t believe it no matter how many times I tell her.
There’s no shortage of portrayals of frenemies. Most depictions are rather consistent: girls who compete for social capital and the attention of men. One uses cleverness, the other uses beauty, and neither of them can quite come to terms with the fact that they might just be in love with each other. The popular conception of these friendships is that they are comprised of people who are nice to each other despite having a fundamental dislike for one another.
In the TV show Gossip Girl, the relationship between main characters Serena and Blair encapsulates perfectly the frenemy archetype as it is often imagined on screen. Serena fucks Blair’s longtime boyfriend. Blair wields her power as Queen Bee and attempts to socially exile Serena as punishment. Serena steals Blair’s spot in a fashion shoot that Blair had been stoked to participate in. Blair belittles Serena’s intellect during a college interview. In every episode, they attempt to overthrow each other, only to make up and romp around in designer dresses holding hands ten scenes later.
In real life, frenemies are not acquaintances we only pretend to like. Frenemies are relationships between people who are too broken to live up to the Hallmark postcard idea of friends, but too vulnerable to let repeated heartbreak mean the end of the friendship. Outside of the Serena and Blairs of TV land, there’s nothing glamorous about these friendships. The tension that plays out, the betrayals, are as much an indication of a volatile friendship as they are a manifestation of the precarity that surrounds us.