Fathom Mag

Published on:
June 7, 2018
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4 min.
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Behind Frenemy Lines

We had one last history lesson before school let out. 

My ninth graders stared at me with glazed eyes and vacant expressions as I flipped through my PowerPoint on the Cuban Missile Crisis. “It’s like,” I said, going off-script, “the US and Russia are frenemies, and Cuba is the boy they’re fighting over.” 

A distinct spark of interest replaced their vacant looks. One of my male students said, “Guys don’t really do frenemies. Like, what does that even mean?” 

“It’s like when you don’t like a girl, but you’re not really mature enough to talk it out, so you pretend you like each other even though the entire world knows how deeply you dislike one another,” someone explained. 

The lesson went swimmingly. We even drew a diagram on the board. The US and Russia were stick figure women, and Cuba was a stick-figure guy with pretty cool “swoopy” hair. There was an odd moment with Turkey as America’s side chick, but we didn’t dwell there. 

Making Friends and Forming Frenemies 

We’ve already talked about how I’m not great at making friends. 

It’s something that I’m working at, slowly but surely. But it’s hard and vulnerable work. Especially in the midst of all of the other work I’m doing in my life right now. I’m trying to build relationships with other women while cutting off my unhealthy connection to a false notion of biblical womanhood. 

I’m trying to build relationships with other women while cutting off my unhealthy connection to a false notion of biblical womanhood.

I’m like, “Hey, Sarah, want to grab coffee . . . and also talk about how often I tie the cleanliness of my house to my personal worth?” Or, “Brittany! Thanks for lending me that fun novel. Have you ever sat down and thought about how narrowly we understand the idea of ezer?” 

And sometimes Sarah’s all, “OMG, Jasmine, I completely understand feeling shame about the pretzels that are ground into your living room carpet.” But sometimes, Sarah says, “OMG, Jasmine, you are really getting on my nerves going on and on about this journey.” 

Just kidding. Sarah never actually says that, at least, not directly. Normally, she just stops responding to my text messages or blocks me on Facebook or tweets something like, “I get her Disney-themed name and it’s cute or whatever, but, no, I don’t want to go on this Whole New World thing she’s got going.”

And I’m pretty sure that’s an Aladdin-themed subtweet aimed at me . . . or maybe I’m reading too much into it? What do you think? Should I ask my tenth graders next semester? 

Not Quite Foes 

Okay, so the Aladdin thing never actually happened and Sarah is a fictional character mined from my oversensitive imagination. But you get it, right? 

Sometimes the insecurity that comes with beginning a new friendship ends in the happy, “You, too?” moment that C. S. Lewis talked about in Mere Christianity. You meet someone working through the exact same thing at the exact same time as you. And it’s not that your conclusions are all the same or that you’re on the same page 100% of the time, but you get each other. 

And then there are the other times when the insecurity of a new friendship (or an older one for that matter) ends with the crappy, “You, too?!” The kind said with an eye-roll, that doesn’t mean, “Sister!” but actually means “Other.” 

Oh, you’re one of those women who pushes back when we’re talking about gender roles. 

You think you’re better than me. 

You think your marriage is more evolved than mine. 

You’re probably a feminist. I don’t have time for you. 

But very rarely do we say that outright. Because, like my ninth grader explained, we’re not mature enough to have an actual conversation. 

I’ve made my fair share of frenemies. Trust me, sometimes it’s hard to see through the log in my eye. It’s the size of a California redwood thanks to the number of my in-person and online relationships based solely upon my unwillingness to hit “unfriend” or have a tough conversation. 

But very rarely do we say that outright. Because, like my ninth grader explained, we’re not mature enough to have an actual conversation.

Friends Like Family 

So what do we do with frenemies? 

What do we do with women who don’t “get” us? Who don’t “get” what we’re going through? Who aren’t ready to wage war on your faulty notion of biblical womanhood with you because they aren’t convinced it’s faulty? What if you just aren’t on the same page?

My growing pains and burgeoning passions are an important part of the work God is doing in my life, but they aren’t the beginning and end of the gospel or my connectivity with other believers. My story isn’t the only one that matters. 

We live in an age that is all about owning our truth. And I want to tell the truth. I want to be honest about what God is doing in my life. But I also want to be a woman who understands that my story isn’t the center of the universe. My friendships are based on something much deeper when they’re in Christ.

Some relationships are refreshingly easy. They’re filled with, “You too!” at every turn. But there are always those friendships that are a little bit tougher. They happen when we aren’t on the exact same journey; when we have a different emphasis; when we flat-out disagree on non-essential issues. These friendships are harder, but they’re also a refreshing opportunity to live life outside of an echo-chamber. 

And I need that. 

Saying Goodbye to Frenemies

I want to be mature enough to have a hard conversation, to talk it out for as long as my friends want me in their lives. And when those hard conversations have worn us out, I want to know when it’s time to walk away in love. 

I realize that not all of us are going to be the best of friends. But the gospel makes us family. When we share the same savior, we can love one another in spite of our differences. Maybe that love has to happen from a distance, but that’s okay. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and this magic carpet ride isn’t for everybody. Sometimes, we’ve got to part ways because the give-and-take just isn’t worth it. 

But the frenemy limbo? It’s just got to end. Even the Cold War didn’t last forever.

Jasmine Holmes
Jasmine L. Holmes is the author of Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope. She is also a contributing author for Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of Our Identity in Christ and His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God. She and her husband, Phillip, are parenting three young sons in Jackson, Mississippi.

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