You’ve Got To Have F-R-I-E-N-D-S

My grandpa died of a heart attack when I was fourteen years old. He was sixty eight.

That’s a pretty abrupt way to start a blog post, I know. (FIRST POST OF 2017. HELLO. SO SORRY.) Likewise, that day was also a pretty abrupt way to end me getting to know my grandfather. He was a very sweet man, and I was just at an age where I was starting to understand that adults were actual humans, not these mythical creatures who always knew best and always had money. I would’ve liked to know him through those lenses. Today, I only have faint memories and feelings of warmth. I’ll take it.

Not counting my grandmother on the other side who passed away when I was very, very little, my grandpa’s passing was the first time I had to confront and comprehend death. It was my first personal tragedy.

I remember that night vividly.

My mother had just taken me to the party store so I could buy silly supplies for an eighth grade class project I was working on. I even remember I was being snarky to her in the store, stupid details you recall so you can kick yourself later for being such a little fucking brat. We drove back to the house, parked on the driveway, and my mom got to the front door first. I think I was still pulling my craft supplies from the trunk when I saw my dad through the glass doorway, holding my mother. She was crying into his chest. And somehow, in that moment, I knew.

My grandpa had heart problems throughout his life. It’s amazing how a heart attack is both shocking and at the same time not shocking. Now that I’m older, I’m beginning to believe that any way death gets you… accident, old age, cancer… it will always be simultaneously both.

I think my mom’s friends came over to the house. I remember, after being informed and hugged and allowed to cry, I decided to go to my room to be by myself. By that point, I was out of tears, and I knew I still had to go to school the next day and be normal before the funeral that weekend. Grief hits you in waves anyway. I was in the uptick.

That Christmas my parents surprised us all with little box television sets that my brothers and I could have… in our bedrooms! With the antenna, we got twelve channels of basic cable. IN OUR ROOM, YOU GUYS. It was a great luxury that many of my friends were no doubt envious of.

That night I turned on my in-room television, and the WB was playing back-to-back episodes of FRIENDS.

They were there for me.

I remember turning up a conversation between Phoebe and Chandler to drown out the conversation between my mom and dad just outside my door. I watched each episode, chuckling to “They don’t know we know they know we know” as I drifted off to sleep, only to have to really deal my grandpa’s passing after a night of sleep. Don, I love you and I miss you.

Later that same year, SEPTEMBER 11TH HAPPENED! It was a great year, you guys. Super fun.

I remember every single magazine cover in the grocery check-out was that jarring image of blazing towers, a tiny plane, and the date written in intense white font. My family was the product of many, many, many magazine fundraisers, so our mailbox was bursting with these terrorist discussing periodicals.  Newsweek, People, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, Time, and I want to say even Sport Illustrated had it’s own 9/11 take. Our coffee table was saturated in magazine sadness.

But then, we got that week’s Entertainment Weekly.

I remember laughing when I saw the cover. “Woops, they must have already gone to press before this happened. I bet they’re embarrassed now,” I said to my brother. Brian grabbed the magazine, “I’m actually glad we got this one. It’s nice to see something normal when everything else is not.”

I stopped my joking and took in what Brian said. Instead of the cover being yet another approach to the 9/11 story (which EW did the following week with a fascinating article about how Hollywood had to make a shit ton of adjustments for upcoming movies due to new sensitivity issues. But, I digress…), the cover of EW was titled “All About Friends!” It was an in depth episode guide before the premiere of it’s new season.

The Friends cast was wearing all white. It was this shiny white flag of happiness in the midst of flames and fear and terror.

I read that issue of EW from cover to cover. I learned that Matthew Perry’s favorite episode was “The One with the Blackout” where Chandler gets trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre, (“Gum would be perfection”) while everyone else’s favorite episode was “The One Where No One’s Ready.” (One I would argue is a best bottle episode ever written.) I remembered that article and that magazine cover because, yet again, it was a nice breather from my grief.

It wasn’t until recently that I noticed this Friends pattern. Perhaps it crept into my subconscious after my grandfather’s passing and 9/11, but ever since then, I have used Friends as a crutch for every period of mourning in my life.

My senior year of college I watched seasons 1 – 10 on DVD (that’s right, I watched it in IT’S ENTIRETY) over the course of the final three months before my graduation. I believe it started as a quick curiosity. Had I actually seen the first season? Let me check.

And then it sort of steamrolled from there.

To clarify, it’s not that I did nothing but watch Friends my last semester. I more popped the DVDs in whenever I was home: cooking meals, cleaning (yes, at one point in my life I did both those things), falling asleep. It wasn’t until I got to season eight that it became a thing. A race against the clock. You see, these DVDs were my roommate Sarah’s, and so I needed to finish it before college was over. Because once college was over, then Sarah was going to need her DVDs back and I was going to move out, just like Lauren and Jenn and Sarah were all moving out and then… who knows what was going to happen? To me? To us? The future?

I watched seasons 1-10 to cope with the fact that college, and my wonderful living situation, was over.

And it helped. Even season 9 (which is THE WORST SEASON, but more on that later), helped.

November 8th, 2016. Oh boy.

I was stupidly excited. I wore an America hat, a shirt quoting Independence Day, and a wooden American flag necklace to work. I was thrilled to see democracy in action.  I had plans that night. I was going to go to an election viewing party at my boss’s house. I was excited to see his house mostly because I’m nosey at what his house looked like and also think my boss is way cooler than me. I was excited for the next day to celebrate and be merry. To finally have our first woman presi—

But then… it all changed.

Zach came home. “At this point, XXXXX is going to win.” He told me. I had since stopped watching the news because my heart couldn’t take it. “He’s… he’s… going to win.” I was working out on my stationary bike . I stopped mid-cycle. I put on sweat pants. I asked Zach to order a pizza. While he went to pick it up, I watched Friends.

I cried and watched Friends.

The next day, I cried and watched Friends.

This went on for a while.

For the record, I don’t think I am the biggest Friends fan in the world. Actually, I am far from it. I feel like just by being a thirty year old woman, Friends is just naturally engrained into my DNA. In job interviews when they ask me, “What are your favorite shows?” I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Friends. And this is not a slight to the show at all. I think I don’t mention it because, quite frankly, it should be a given that I love Friends. That we all love Friends. That Friends is essential television viewing.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, there’s an episode of Friends playing in this bar I am sitting in as I type this. It’s the dreaded season 9, when Rachel gets into Joey for some reason. Ug.

My relationship with the show goes beyond basic fan-ship. The show brought me nostalgia and innocence before I even knew what those things were. There’s a familiarity to the show, a comfort. Friends is my Cheers. And I say that, LOVING CHEERS.

But Cheers wasn’t on when I was growing up. I watched it as an adult student of television.

Friends, however, ran from 1994-2004, my formative years. And while it was on, you couldn’t avoid it. At the time, Friends was the biggest show on television. So big, I’m not even sure if I watched in on Must See TV or in syndication. I don’t know if I saw “I take thee… Rachel” or “We were on a break!” first, and I don’t care. I have since seen it in order and will probably watch the show backwards at some point in my life, if that ever becomes a thing. And, mark my words, it will.

Now this bar is playing the episode where Phoebe dates Sean Penn. Weird.

Quick Thoughts On Friends You Can Fight Me On (do I have to say spoilers?):

– Season 4 is the best season.

– Season 9 is the worst season.

– The One Where No One Is Ready is the best bottle episode period.

– The One With All The Poker has the best Chandler one liners period.

– The One With The Embryos is the perfect show to show a Friends newcomer, also it’s the episode where everyone is at their best character.  (Ross is at his Rossyest. Joey is at his Joeyist, Monica is at her…) And it’s the best use of rapid fire set-up/punch lines I have ever seen on a TV show.

– The Thanksgiving episodes are important to watch the night before Thanksgiving. The worst is the one is with Brad Pitt, the best is one with the flashbacks.

– The episodes in London are a huge achievement for their cool back story.

– Ross being on a break is no justification for sleeping with the hot Xerox girl.

– Chandler is the best. Matthew Perry is great at being vulnerable and I’m sad he’s not a bigger movie star.

– Later seasons Ross is the worst, but it’s not David Schwimmer’s fault. Also, he is the best at physical comedy.

– Richard is sexy as hell.

– Monica and Chandler have the best chemistry. Them hiding their relationship was the best storyline.

– Rachel not seeing her baby on the sonogram is enough of a reason to write a baby storyline. Every other reason sucked but that scene is what gave Jennifer Aniston an Emmy.

– “She’s his lobster” should be a more commonly used phrase.

– Of the guest stars, Elliot Gould reigns king. Though I always root for Janice.

– The show could do without: the monkey, the chick and the goose, Ben.

– Lisa Kudrow needed three more Emmys.

– It was great that Joey fell for Rachel and had to deal with it.

– It was stupid that Rachel liked him back.

– Mike has no real memorable qualities other than he is Paul Rudd and, hey, we all like Paul Rudd.

– The fact that Rachel didn’t get on the plane gets me EVERY TIME.

There are also many negative critiques I can give Friends. Lots of people argue that it ruined television, as it was a show about six attractive people who were funny, and television has been trying to replicate it ever since then, to no avail. I also heard there was also a famous law suit regarding a Friends writer who felt she was being sexually harassed, and the ruling was that the writers room was a creative space and writers are allowed to say what they want whenever they wanted to no consequences (SEXISM IN THE FRIENDS WRITERS ROOM, WHAT???). So… cool? It also is a show about all white people, with no real diversity in casting until Aisha Tyler was brought in season nine to be a love interest to Ross and Joey. (Although there was Julie in season two, who was Asian America, but I guess if we can count diversity on one hand, it’s a problem.) I’m also not sure if many of the jokes would be acceptable in today’s PC culture. There’s a lot of Chandler is gay jokes, Joey is a womanizer jokes, Ross is too smart it’s boring jokes, and also Jennifer Aniston never seemed to wear a bra. By season nine the actors were famously getting a million dollars per episode, and obviously the budget was taken from the writers to give to the actors, as that season was one where stakes we super low (Phoebe has rats she keeps as pets?), the characters were caricatures of themselves (Did you know Monica likes cleaning?), and the humor was all mean (drink every time Phoebe yells!). So, yeah, it’s safe to say Friends is not a perfect show.

But it’s also safe to say that it is my safe show. It’s the show I turn to whenever times are hard, (my life’s a joke, I’m broke… Yeah, yeah, I know) and for that, I am forever grateful.

At the beginning of this year, my aunt, my dear, wonderful aunt passed away from cancer. Again, shock/not shock. The wound is still too fresh for me to write much about. In short, I am sad. I am very, very sad.

The night I found out, I came home to my Zach, who held me, and talked to me, asked me about the good memories I had with her, and let me be sad. When my tears had temporarily dried out, it was late, and Zach asked me if I was going to bed. I said I would in a bit.

He went to sleep and I went to the living room.

And I turned on Friends.

I cried and watched Friends.

I cried and watched Friends.

– One L

“You’re over me? When were you… under me?”


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