I have been somewhat amused by this term, ever since I heard about it from a good friend back in 2009 when I returned to Singapore for the winter term in 2009 then. He told me about this term, which refers to friends who are actually enemies, as he explains. But the term seemingly also points to the other potential meaning, of enemies who are actually friends–who maintain a semblance of public enmity for some reason, but are actually friends in reality, such as what we would normally associate with the likes of Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag in “The Hills”, and Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston(who was Brad Pitt’s former wife, before he later divorced and then married Jolie). The term is rather ambiguous as a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy”, and implies the coexistence of these two states on different terms.

Of course, a lot of the good friends whom I have known for years, or those whom I am on good terms with and have benefited a lot and been blessed with the friendship of do not exactly agree with the need to keep such frenemies around them, because they find it tiring to maintain appearances. Personally speaking though, I think that frenmity relationships are a part of what some of us will live through, especially if we are going through a learning curve in life with regards to knowing whom we can allow into our inner circle of trust, and whom we cannot. I actually believe that some of us will be “burnt”–hurt and betrayed–by such people in the process. I am not always good at vibe-ing everyone or detecting a bad vibe everytime, especially if the person is always good or adept at hiding his or her inner machinations and flaws, and even more so, if the person is a master manipulator who is skilled at playing mind games. I can count on my hand at least 3 to 4 of them throughout the process of my life up till now.

What is exactly a frenemy? How do we know the difference between a friend who is an enemy and a real friend? I am sure that the Bible gives us a lot of indications. Proverbs 27:6 has an exact description of this, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” If we look at the latter half especially, friends tell you the truth which might hurt, but that will in fact build you up, but enemies will not and in fact, they might even engage in empty or excessive flattery to make you feel good for a while but they thrive on these techniques of weaselling into your favor. There are also signs that someone is a frenemy, if he or she praises you for the first part of a sentence or speech, but at the very very end concludes it with a statement or phrase which sarcastically cancels out everything almost like a tight slap at the end of a sentence. Frenemies also thrive on your misery and lack of personal growth, insofar as they enjoy seeing you not advance in life to become a better person, and will often bog you down with negativity or self-inadequacy, feeding off it so that they feel better–at your expense. Their techniques might not always include rumor-mongering or threatening subtly, but at times, they can do that behind your back, and then mix these techniques with an apparent veneer of friendliness to you.

Some people have claimed that the frenemy is uniquely a female phenomenon, and it is not without reason that we see frenemies portrayed in our reality TV and social media age with shows like “The Jersey Shore”, “Gossip Girl” and so on. We even have movies like “Mean Girls”, “Frenemies”, and a slate of novels in popular culture including Megan Crane’s novel of the same title! Arguably, women are more emotional creatures by stereotype and hence, they are more likely to harbour animosity towards someone of their same sex or even a man they might dislike subtly without wanting to be direct about it. But taking the stereotypes of women as emotional and subtle creatures aside, men can probably be worse(or better, depending on one’s point of views) frenemies because as a friend of mine in church, Zane, said himself, when men are frenemies to someone, they do so with a calculating aspect, plotting with machinations an agenda such as the downfall of someone in the workplace, the tricking or seducing of a woman–and sometimes, even man, if they are homosexual or bisexual–into bed, or manipulation of someone for his own ends, whether for money or something else. Frenemies can exist in either sex.