The 19th century Frenemy - Jane Austen's Lucy Steele found in Florida

November 19, 2020
The 19th century Frenemy - Jane Austen's Lucy Steele found in Florida
Sam Manns
Acai Blueberry White TeaHalf the World Away by Aurora

Dear Erica,

I am a Freshman at FIU and I’m beginning to be suspicious of my roommate(let’s call her Nikki). I started dating a guy six months ago, and Nikki always manages to flirt with him when we go out. She doesn’t have that many female friends, but she has always been really sweet to me so I thought I was just being crazy. However, the other night, I noticed she sent him a text message about the new FIU basketball coach. My boyfriend is obsessed with college basketball. Not a big deal, but Nikki told me she thinks sports are totally boring. What do you think? Am I crazy or should I be concerned?

Frazzled in Florida

Dear Frazzled in Florida,

Talk about warning signs. She sounds like the ultimate Frenemy. Texting your boyfriend about the coach when she has told you she doesn’t like sports? I think we have a modern day Lucy Steele on our hands. Jane Austen’s novels are rife with frenemies, but none is more despicable than the inimitable Lucy Steele. In Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Lucy epitomizes the 19th century Frenemy who repeatedly declares her immense affection for Elinor, but secretly wants her out of the way so she can make a play for her beau, Edward Ferrar. In the novel, Lucy feigns affection to mask her disappointment at finding Elinor still in town and near Edward.

“I should have been quite disappointed if I had not found you here STILL,” said Lucy repeatedly, with a strong emphasis on the word. ”But I was almost sure you would not leave London yet awhile; though you TOLD me, you know, at Barton, that you should not stay above a MONTH. I am amazingly glad you did not keep to YOUR WORD.”

Like all of Jane Austen’s heroines, Elinor is no fool. As Jane Austen writes, “Elinor perfectly understood her, and was forced to use all her self-command to make it appear that she did NOT.”

It’s possible you are being unreasonably jealous, and a single text message is not a cause for concern. However, the fact that Nikki doesn’t have many female friends should be a major warning sign. Women can be judgmental, and cruel. But if a woman doesn’t have any female friends, there is usually a reason. And the sweeter she is to you, the more you should be concerned. Lucy was never more manipulative than when she was offering her sweetest endearments to Elinor Dashwood. Trust your instincts. If she is telling you that you are her dearest friend, but looking longingly at your boyfriend, remember Lucy Steele and keep your distance.