I read an article by Gwyneth Paltrow (or Gwinnie as I like to call her) on her GOOP site a few years ago where she talked about a frenemy and how something “unfortunate and humiliating” happened to her and how she breathed a sigh of relief when it happened (side fact: it was apparently about Winona Ryder). Anyway I remember thinking at the time “well Gwinnie that’s not very yoga/macrobiotic/zen-like of you”, judging her silently for her pettiness.
Then recently I had a dream or more like a nightmare about a “friend” I went to elementary and junior high school with. She terrorized me throughout these years and even continued to do so in my teens and then twenties. Okay so by terrorized, she didn’t exactly leave a dead animal in my path or anything but I do attribute some of my worst memories of those years to experiences with her. She was the ultimate “mean girl” before Lindsay Lohan coined the phrase. And she was the epitome of the word “bully” before that became a social media catch phrase of this decade (whereby every celebrity now claims they were once the victim of bullying – I mean really Taylor?). She could be very charming and endearing when she wanted to be which is I guess how she weaseled her way into my life circa the Vanilla Ice era. I already had a best friend at the time who I adored. But frenemy wanted to hang out more and more with me and I guess being fairly uncool and gawky myself, I totally embraced it.
However, little did I know she had no real interest in being my friend, what she really wanted was my best friend. She would slyly find ways to hang out with my best friend without me. Sometimes, as teeny boppers do, my best friend and I would get into little spats which frenemy would take full advantage of. Very soon, my “best friend” suddenly became frenemy’s best friend instead of mine. And then frenemy cunningly began to fill “best friend’s” ear with all sorts of negative things about me. In parallel, frenemy’s behavior towards me also gradually switched from flattering to downright nasty.
I think the reality is that things that happen to us at that age really can affect us for life.
Frenemy gained more and more power throughout junior high and high school as she became even more pretty and popular and always seemed to have the coolest clothes in the world. But even that and her newly coveted asset of my former best friend still wasn’t enough for her – she had to turn former best friend against me to the point that she stopped talking to me completely. And at the time I was too naive to understand why – often feebly wondering what I’d done to former best friend and wondering if I should try to call her as I missed her. I guess one might say “Well what kind of a friend was that anyway? You’re better off without her”. I guess I knew that was true but it didn’t make me feel any better at the time.
One would think by this point frenemy got what she wanted but no that still didn’t suffice for her – rather than feeling guilty about what she did, she started saying all sorts of horrible things about me to anyone who would listen and giving me the most awful stink eye for years that I’d ever experienced in my lifetime.
Funny thing is this story sounds more like the Dylan/Brenda/Kelly love triangle of the original Beverly Hills 90210 than friendship/frenemy-ship. No, there was no man involved but it hurt me just as much as it presumably did Brenda (if she wasn’t fictional) to lose my close friend and get terrorized by a young teen girl all at the same time.
So since writing this story felt therapeutic, I almost forgot about the Gwinnie comparison. I pretty much forgot about this entire episode of my life for the past 20 years or so until this strange nightmare reminded me of it and motivated me to look up pre-teen girl terrorist. Well after a quick inquiry, I found out that something unfortunate and humiliating also recently happened to her. And just like Gwinnie before me – I breathed a sigh of relief. I guess it takes an extraordinary Deepak Chopra-like effort to rise above mean girl pettiness, especially when you feel you are the victim of it.
But I think the reality is that things that happen to us at that age really can affect us for life. After that whole experience, I refused to ever use the term “best friend” again even though I’m fortunate to have wonderful close female friends including a best friend who I’ve had for 25 years – she’ll never know I secretly call her my best friend though for fear another sycophant will steal her away from me 🙂
I guess we can’t get rid of these unpleasant frenemy memories of our past or force ourselves to not feel the warm bliss of karma when you find out that someone gets what they deserve. But for anyone like me who is now a mom, we can at least try to shield our daughters (sorry but from my experience this stuff just doesn’t seem to happen to guys!) from these types of experiences by teaching them the importance of kindness of course so that they don’t become a sycophantic pre-teen girl terrorist themselves. But just as important, we need to raise them with a strong enough self-esteem so that if they do ever get terrorized by said pre-teen girl sycophant, they won’t need karmic retribution to feel better and instead can just shake it off (Taylor comes in handy again!)