Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Roundup: “Frenemies”

Frenemies–they’re that annoying itch behind a guy’s balls that is the bain of his existence until he gets a second to scratch it and overwhelming satisfaction floods over him, duping him into thinking a change (in underwear, or friends–what’s the … Read More

By / October 6, 2010

Frenemies–they’re that annoying itch behind a guy’s balls that is the bain of his existence until he gets a second to scratch it and overwhelming satisfaction floods over him, duping him into thinking a change (in underwear, or friends–what’s the diff…) can be postponed.

This week’s rerun TAL on Frenemies is a welcome reminder that such relationships are an everpresent, taxing, yet stable presence.

Psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad researched the phenom, finding that half of our relationships are with people we care about that are a pain in the taint. Furthermore, it’s not necessarily outside incentives that preserve warm fuzzies, but rather self-inflicted logic.

With all the freedoms afforded to Americans, the asshole shackles are not unlocked half of the time by the key dangling from our necks. Said another sardonic Jew, "It’s often safer to be in chains than to be free."Hot insight, but a good way to preserve Soviet suffering in the bones. 

"People stay for reasons they impose on themselves." There are always incentives. "Why don’t you cut it off?" asks untypically perfidious Ira.

 

Act 1: Beginning with Amy’s first boyfriend, my parents were highly upset.

Family–you can’t live with em. So why can’t some accept living with some distance? As foxhead Ira put it, "family members can easily be frenemies because you care about them, you love them, and they can make you feel very weird."

When Amy marries a Tunisian Muslim she met in a chatroom after six weeks of enamored cooking and wooing, her fam cannot get close and eventually take on the relationship of frenemies. The love and support her sisters offer is not reciprocated or absorbed. I’m reminded of Larry David’s thinking: "People have often wondered how they’d feel if they were adopted. I think it’s funny."

When the closeness does more damage than good, better to cultivate a pleasant Facebook relationship so you can all stay up to date, comment, and poke each other now and again. Frenemy problem solved.

Lexicological Intermission: Self is your frenemy.

Erin McKean of Wordnik tickles the etymologist within, pointing at origins of "frenemy" that go all the way back to the 1950s. She also speaks of teachings in the Bhagavad Gita, that the self is your friend, the self is your enemy, essentially saying that self is your frenemy. Doesn’t gel with the pros, but an apt observation all the same. Eliminating lexical gaps, says McKean, "A lot of these [merger] words are just forcing their way to the surface of the language, and I think frenemies is one of those." Frenemies: a clear case of language servicing the populace’s needs, which is very GGG.

 

Act 2: I mean, I don’t want to sound cliche, but I’m not here tomake friends!

The sacrifice of closeness in the name of self-advancement is not a bad idea. As my ancient leisure economist crush Thorstein Veblen had theorized, "It is always sound business to take any obtainable net gain, at any cost and at any risk to the rest of the community."

Reality show divas have sung the battle cry of their people often enough to sound authentic. VH1 Blogger Rich Juzwiak really hits the spot with some mindblowing analysis of the over three minutes of "I’m not here to make  friends" audio footage greatest hits.

Best part is Rich’s spot on analysis in that it’s impossible toimagine saying this in real life. Rich Juzwiak, you are a hot observer of pop-my-maraschino culture. "Tap into your id and let loose."

 

Act 3: Josh’s sister was speaking, a princess in peach.

Opposite to the prior act, wise owl David Rakoff ignites the typical TAL flair that burns away some of our misanthropic scabs temporarily. Urging us toward the "fren" half of frenemies in rhyming verse and employing a fable a la last week’s Sedaris, Rakoff narrates a tale of frenemy betrayal. He could’ve quoted the Cars had it fit in his rhyme scheme.

 

Act 4: "Have a good Thanksgiving." And never heard from her since.

Childhood friends gone frenemies during an ugly period briefly reconnect decades later under delusional circumstances. I suppose it makes sense that the way to rekindle a rocky past relationship is to do so on surreal  grounds. Asks Ira, "And after all that happened, did she remember or acknowledge any of the things from your past?" "Nothing."

"People do so many things without knowing that they’re doing them." In the end, there is a horribly beautiful resolution on many platforms."Neither of us needs to continue this relationship, this relationship is done,"she says, FINALLY.

Check out Amsterdam blogger Chad Balthazar’s excellent illustration of frenemy here.