Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Friends Means To Me: A Mildly Embarrassing Confessional

This year, Friends is twenty whole years old.

(Which means I am old.)

Me: geeking out INTENSELY on-set
When Friends first aired, I was living in Pennsylvania working as an au-pair spending my weekends drinking can after can of Old Milwaukee, watching Anime and obscure movies on laser-discs with my very cool, Nirvana-esque boyfriend. I had no time for some vanilla sit-com.  Well. That's not strictly true. I'm casting myself a little too cool there. I vaguely remember it coming out, but because American TV baffled me so much back then with its sheer volume of content, I could never remember what was on when and what channel so, when I did have access to the remote control, I just ended up watching re-runs of I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moor Show on Nick at Night.  So even if I really, really wanted to see it, the chances are I would never have found it.

So I came to Friends late, by that sense. It was introduced to me, instead, the next year when I was at university in Sheffield and Channel 4 began playing the first season on Wednesday nights - right after ER. Then, when I only had four channels to deal with, I was able to get into it.

Now, I can't imagine my life without Friends.

Oh, don't worry. I'm well aware of how tragic that sounds. I'm 38 for God's sake. And a lot of what I've written here could possibly get me sectioned, but it's hard to write about how much a TV show means to you without sounding a bit mental.

So here goes:

I was 19 when I first started watching Friends and I really haven't stopped. It's been a constant in my life for the past 19 years. At every high and low, Friends has been there.

Me: geeking out AGAIN on the
corner of Grove & Bedford, NY
I guess this should worry me but, again, I find it comforting. I reference Friends in my head without even thinking about it: I always say the word 'compooper' when I need to write the word computer. When we visited a fertility clinic, Chandler's 'there's a lot of malfunctioning wee-wees and ho-has in here' popped into my head.  When my dad died, The One Where Nana Dies Twice suddenly made sense.  Trust me, there are several scenarios that Friends goes through that don't work (rat-babies), but those that do ... do. I know how strange that sounds, but when you feel alone or out of your depth, there's solace in knowing that someone has been there before. It's embarrassing, yes, that that someone is a fabricated character, but, you know, someone wrote those words ...

Friends has had such a positive impact on my life. Contrary to what may be inferred from this post, it's not replaced real friends, but enhanced those friendships I make.  I've honestly made friends-for-life through the mutual understanding of an obscure Friends quote - 'front and back!' ... 'but you left' ... 'Cups and ice'.

It bonded me to two of my best friends - Sarah 1 at Uni who introduced me to it, and Sarah 2, my flatmate in London who I introduced it to, leaving her with my Season 5 Video Boxset on a Saturday morning and finding her in the same position that night having watched the entire season in one sitting. From then on, getting a brand-new season box-set of Friends was the absolute HIGHLIGHT of our year, man! And when we moved into a new flat, my full-season set of Friends videos filled an entire kitchen cabinet.

My beloved (at the time) boyfriend dumped me the night after the final ever episode of Friends.  It was like two eras ending and I felt as bereft of one as I did of the other.  But with Friends, I could go right back to the beginning and start again - with Joey in his leather waistcoat and Monica and Rachel's high-waisted jeans. I have split up with a lo-ooo-ot of men and Friends has held my hand through long, weeping nights. I've had some sad things happen and during the worst parts, it was the only thing I could have on the TV. The comfort is in its reliability, that I know what's coming and I know I'll enjoy it.  I've found that when I'm happy, I need Friends less - when things are tougher, I come back to it. Like crack, I suppose ...

And, I think, that's the basic fact - I enjoy Friends. I just do.  It gives me 22 minutes where I can relax, regroup and enjoy myself.

And there's so nothing wrong with that.

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