I Grew Up With ‘Friends’—It Needs to Stay in the Past
The TV series was the backdrop to one of the happiest periods of my life. So why can't I stand to watch it anymore?
During my university years, the TV show Friends was one of the most-watched series of all time. In fact, it was so popular in my shared student house that the gentle hum of Chandler, Phoebe, Rachel and Joey’s voices became almost like white noise. Cozy and constant, it was a comforting blanket that we all relied upon.
From heartbreak to hangovers to long hours of studying and general boredom, we would lay on the bed together laughing at Chandler’s quippy one-liners, Monica’s neurosis and Ross’s general goofiness. We all had a favorite episode that we’d play on repeat. Mine was that one where Ross gets stuck in his leather trousers, but for my friends, it was the classic “The One Without the Ski Trip” or “The One With the Cop.”
As this was long before the time of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, our choice of TV shows was limited, so we watched things differently. One of us would invest in the box set, and we’d watch it until the DVD became too scratched to work properly. I often wonder now if we would have devoured it so intensely if other shows were around to take our attention or whether it would have still stood up as such a classic? I imagine it would be the latter.
The ‘Friends’ Reunion Made Me Feel Weird
Like millions of others last month, I tuned in eagerly to the long-awaited Friends reunion. While I hadn’t really sat down to watch an episode in quite a long time, I still cared about what the cast was doing. I also relished an opportunity to take a trip back in time to an era that was so much more carefree than my present situation—married with a business, a child and another on the way.
Just a few clips in and the sight of the old set with the now 20-year-aged cast made me feel a bit, well, weird. It was like opening an old photo album of ex-boyfriends and memories that, while happy and hedonistic, were hard to look at for too long. I wanted to push it back under the bed, where it wouldn’t be pulled out again until another 20 years or so.
Why? For me, so many of the episodes are evocative of a certain time or event, loaded with far more emotion and nostalgia than they probably should. I loved my university years and, while I’m not one to fear or dislike aging, it’s a period of time that I miss a lot. I think that’s why it feels a little bit painful. It underscores the fact that it’s a part of my life that will never be again and, in all honesty, it makes me a bit sad.
It’s Important to Leave Some Things Where They Belong
But not only that, the reunion made me realize how much has changed not just in my own life but in the world in general. The cast itself seemed heavier in spirit than their younger and fictional characters that were so etched into my consciousness. It was like lifting the curtain on a behind-the-scenes view that I didn’t really want to see. I felt for Matthew Perry (aka Chandler Bing), who seemed lost and quiet and so far from his on-screen persona, not to mention depressed that the women had felt the need to hang on to their youth and beauty with quite obvious aesthetic tweaks.
The show’s creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, were asked if they’d ever consider creating more episodes. Their answer was a straight-up “no.” I couldn’t help but feel relieved and agreed wholeheartedly with their sentiments that no attempt should be made to continue the characters’ stories and pick up where they left off. They had tied things up so nicely, they said. Why would they want to mess with that?
There are some things—like my university days and our friends in Central Perk—that should be left in the place we remember them: happy, undisturbed and forever young.