“Frenvy”

After writing about finding her false teeth in the popcorn, I am thinking about my dear friend Hope.

There was a moment, early in our friendship, when I realized that we envied each other. We had been talking over spicy black tea about the many things that life contains: travel and how it changes you; loves that don’t work out, and loves that do; the body and how much it matters. And we were silent for a moment and I knew – I just knew – that we were thinking the same thing: we were both envying the other’s body.

Hope envied my unused body: my legs that could walk fast, my young powerful lungs, my unwrinkled hands, my brown-pigmented hair, my feet that did not hurt.

And I envied all that Hope’s body had survived: the power of her immune system to fight off the 1918 influenza that killed over 50 million people the year she was fifteen. She had made it to old age unhalted by the many things I feared (cancer, car wrecks, and so much more). She had pushed out three babies and would never have to do it again. Her legs had carried her all over the world, and she had a thousand memories (contained in her clever, well-built brain) to prove it.

She was beautiful in the way that survivors are beautiful, and she had survived everything that, in my more desperate moments, I doubted my ability to survive. I envied her calm toward the catastrophes I dreaded, and I envied her innocence to envy my legs.

The moment passed. She poured more tea. And we hugged goodbye and I went home, to my dorm room, my homework, my nineteen-year-old roommates.

Today when I think of the things I have that my friends want or admire, as well as their belongings that I desire – a bigger house, or an immaculately behaved dog – I wonder: what role does envy play in friendship?

Friends help us strive to be the best versions of ourselves, and to look at our lives with some perspective. Is envy a crucial part of that? Or is it one of friendship’s failings? Does “frenvy” teach us to distinguish who we actually are from who we sometimes pretend to be? Maybe it helps us grow toward the qualities we admire in our friends, the way certain flowers grow to face the sun.

— Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

COMMENTS