Anita* and Banke* clicked from the first day they were paired as desk mates, on the first day of secondary school. From that day onwards, they were inseparable. It didn’t help that, physically, they could almost pass for blood relatives. A few people even thought they were, in fact, sisters…twins even. Anita came from a middle class family, and though she never lacked, she always only had just enough. Even though it had meant nothing in their junior days, as they grew older, Anita found herself growing increasingly resentful of Banke’s family wealth. She resented how flashy and glamorous Banke was at the beginning of most terms, often after having spent the holiday abroad. She resented Banke’s locker always being full to overflowing, so much so that her excess could fill the lockers of 4 other students. She resented being thought of as the poorer one, the one who had never gotten on an airplane before. But in spite of her growing resentment, they remained very close, with Banke being completely oblivious of her friend’s misgivings.
Anita’s resentment depend further when Banke went off to the UK for University, while she had to make do with a local one. Regardless, they still kept in close contact. Anita was lucky to get a job with a bank, immediately after her NYSC, and relished being able to earn some good money of her own. Her happiness was short-lived when Banke announced her engagement, shortly after completing her Masters degree. Anita was enraged that Banke was getting married before her! Why did she always have to have it all?!! But she kept a plastic smile on her face, as she helped her friend with the wedding preparations, and danced her heart away on the wedding day. Every time she visited her friend, the envy Anita felt was so palpable, it almost choked her! She resented the fact that Banke had not only married before her, but that her husband was just as minted as, or even more so than, she was. Her only consolation was that Banke hadn’t conceived yet. If she had a baby before her, Anita thought was going to literally die!
Two years after Banke’s wedding, Anita married a man she had dated for only a few months, and was elated when, a few short months later, she found out she was pregnant! Banke’s joy over Anita’s pregnancy was sincere and enthusiastic, albeit with a tinge of melancholy. Anita, having known Banke for so long, sensed this melancholy, but chose to ignore it. She relished the fact that she FINALLY had achieved something over her friend Banke. She loved the fact that she was now the one with something the other didn’t have. She shared unnecessary information about her pregnancy, exaggerated everything she possibly could, and generally rubbed it in every chance she got. In all of this, Banke remained loyal and listened, with a smile, to all the pregnancy stories and plans for the baby. When she had the baby, Banke showered him with expensive gifts, which new Mom Anita resented. A year after the baby was born, Anita was pregnant again, and the cycle resumed afresh.
When Anita gave birth to her third child, Banke told her she and her husband had decided to try IVF. Anita felt the rage began to rise again. Even with 3 children, she still wanted to remain superior to Banke, and this would only happen, she reckoned, if Banke remained childless. Banke was disappointed by Anita’s lack of interest, but shared information about her cycle anyway. When she had her egg retrieval, when she had her embryo transfer, and when she was hospitalised for severe OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome), Anita showed her zero support. Even when Banke tried to reach out to her, she was always unavailable. It wasn’t until the cycle failed, that Anita rose from the woodworks! She arrived Banke’s house, with her 3 children in tow, and spent the entire visit talking about motherhood and how wonderful it was, and never once inquired about Banke’s mental and emotional health, not to mention her physical health, following the failed cycle. When they left, Banke and her husband, Fola*, had yet another fight about Anita. He hadÂ never thought of her as being a true friend of his wife’s, and had told her so endlessly. But Banke wouldn’t hear of it! Her defence of her friend was that Anita had probably wanted to take her mind off the failed cycle. Fola chose not to argue any further.
For her second cycle, Banke decided to travel to the States. So enraged was Anita when she heard this, that she couldn’t manage a complete conversation. In her mind, Banke cycling abroad was pretty much as good as a definite pregnancy. When Banke left, Anita e-mailed her every day, hoping to one day read about something going wrong. Even Fola was amazed at Anita’s sudden interest in their IVF quest, and Banke happily gave her husband the I-told-you-so smirk, each time Anita’s e-mails landed. She wanted to know everything! How Banke was responding to medication. How many embryos they were transferring.Â How her odds were looking. And then one day, Anita got the e-mail she had been looking forward to. Banke’s cycle had failed. Yippee! And almost immediately, Anita’s daily e-mails ceased. This time, Banke did notice.
Upon her return home, Banke waited for the opportunity to proven wrong, but she never got any. Anita didn’t show up for a visit until she had been home for three months. When she did visit, she asked, very nonchalantly, how she was coping. The rest of the visit was focused on stories about her wonderful kids, how blessed she was, and how many of their old friends were having kids, in and out of wedlock. The visit lasted barely an hour, but it seemed like an eternity for Banke. The scales were finally off her eyes, and she could clearly see that her so-called best friend did not have any empathy for her at all, but instead seemed to relish her misfortune.
When she was cycling again, Banke and Fola decided to keep it quiet, and travelled under the guise of taking a much needed holiday. When she had been gone 3 months, Anita e-mailed a one-liner “Ol girl, this your holiday na wa oh!”. By the fifth month, she e-mailed a more frantic “Babe, where you dey??!”. By month 7, Anita had reached panic mode, flooding all her social media timelines with messages, and sending her multiple e-mails a day. Banke didn’t respond to any one of these.
Anita couldn’t bear the suspense of not knowing what Banke was up to, and even drove all the way to Banke’s parents’ house, to ask after her. Banke had kept her mother updated with events unfolding with Anita, and the older woman wasn’t surprised in the least. Like Fola, she too had seen through Anita a long time ago. She gave Anita a flippant answer about Banke being fine, and still needing to rest. Anita knew there was definitely something up, and was furious that there was no way for her to confirm what exactly was going on.
She heard about the birth of Banke’s twins through mutual friends, and she felt like she had been doused with a combination of scalding hot, and freezing cold, water. Banke returned home with much fanfare, and all their friends and family were excited for them. They had finally become parents after nine long years of marriage. Anita didn’t show up once. She didn’t even call. The excuse she gave a mutual friend of theirs was that since Banke had chosen to keep the pregnancy a secret, she officially didn’t know she had given birth. This might have been a plausible excuse, except for the fact that NOBODY knew Banke was pregnant, mutual friend inclusive, but yet they had all shown up. The couple had only informed their immediate family, and even those ones had kept it under wraps.
Banke mourned the loss of her friendship with Anita, but proceeded to try to move on with her life. She thought the worst was over…except it wasn’t. Anita proceeded to spread nasty rumours of Banke feigning a pregnancy, adopting the twins, using a surrogate….there were so many variations of the lies, that it was hard to keep up with them. And Banke’s heart broke with each one. She couldn’t believe that this was her friend, her so-called best friend, doing this to her. In the end, she was forced to share pictures of her pregnancy on all her social media platforms.
I wish this was just a fictional tale, but sadly, it isn’t. I know these two women, have developed a close friendship with “Banke”, and have had long discussions with “Anita”. Even though I didn’t know them in the early days of their friendship, I was surprised at the level of bitterness Anita still has about Banke, citing instances from secondary school about how selfish and entitled Banke was, and how she thought the world revolved around her! When I asked her what on earth that had to do with the issue at hand, of her not being there when her friend needed her, and of her choosing to slander the poor girl instead, Anita couldn’t give me a logical answer, a meaningful connection between those days in the past (when her resentment obviously began), and today.
Alas, their friendship never did recover, and whilst Anita probably considers Banke an enemy, Banke has chosen to classify Anita as her “friend for a season”.
Women, especially, are notorious for being over competitive, even with their nearest and dearest. Sometimes, it is a case of healthy competition, but in other cases, it gets out of hand. The quest to be the “better one” sometimes pushes us overboard, into a sea of irrationality! For some women, even if they have it all, the thought of the next woman having a little bit, is enough to drive them into a tailspin. Anita had carried a chip on her shoulder for Banke for so long, right from their childhood, and was holding on to the one thing she thought she had finally achieved over Banke…fertility! Even if she had 10 children, the thought of Banke having even 1 would have been enough to fuel Anita’s jealous rage.
Friends like that have been rightly classified frenemies! Friends, but enemies…or rather, enemies cloaked in a friendly garb. I would rather have 1,000 clear cut enemies, than just the one frenemy! If you’re going to stab me, I’d rather it wasn’t from the back!
May God keep us all!