Feeling Unfriendly About 'Friends'

Why I won't be celebrating the hit show's 25th anniversary

| 17 Sep 2019 | 04:40

I won’t be there for them.

"Friends" (the non-Facebook kind) is celebrating its 25th anniversary and I shall be sitting out the festivities - such as the three-day "Friends 25th: The One With The Anniversary" big screen extravaganza (scheduled for Sept. 22, Sept. 28 and Oct. 2) with tickets procured from the Fathom Events website, as well as the pop-up exhibit in Soho — because I never liked the show. (Let the backlash begin.)

Although the cast was indeed eye candy at its finest and the theme song was a toe-tapper, I just couldn’t get into it.

Perhaps, as a native New Yorker, I just found unrelatable the, “friends as family while young transplants try to make it in Manhattan” thing. Or maybe because in 1994 when the show premiered, I had been married for six years and hoping for motherhood, no longer interested in the shenanigans of singles, a life from which I had successfully distanced myself.

I was so uninterested that I missed the entire first season, even though the engaging actors were in every magazine, and friends and colleagues were always talking about how cute the show was. There was also the obligatory “I’m so (fill in character’s name here)” declarations, which meant that I found myself suddenly surrounded by a bevy of Monicas, Rachels and Chandlers, with very few people (read: no none) laying claim to mirroring the intelligence-impaired Joey, flaky Phoebe or geeky Ross.

I succumbed to peer pressure (“How can you not watch 'Friends?'”) for seasons two, three and four so I could be part of the water cooler conversation on Friday mornings.

By the start of year five, though, I found myself settling in with the first episode and thinking, “I just can’t do this anymore.” So, I turned it off, managing to live without seasons five through nine.

In 2004, when the final season aired, for some inexplicable reason I got sentimental and decided to give the series a farewell viewing. All it did was confirm for me that my original decision to not become a fan was the right one.

Even after half a decade of going cold turkey, that apartment (Monica’s grandmother’s rent-controlled one) still irked me. (My first apartment, including kitchen, bathroom and two closets, was the size of my current living room.) My breastbone constricted when Ross and Rachel decided to drag a child into their unhealthy and draining push/pull relationship. And I shook my head as Monica and Chandler turned inward to the group to find love, because they'd exhausted the NYC dating pool. I had seen that scenario play out IRL more than once and it never ended as anyone hoped.

I also didn’t quite understand how some of these bonds stayed intact or even existed at all. Knowing how much her brother loved Rachel, how did Monica stand by and let She of the Coveted Hair Cut hurt him time after time by choosing other men? I know some very protective sisters who would have tossed their roommate out on the street. Rachel would have been playing tambourine for loose change while Phoebe strummed “Smelly Cat” on the guitar down the subway.

I’m also still trying to reconcile how Rachel, the waitress with no skills, beat out all the F.I.T. fashionistas with degrees, aka the million girls who would kill for that job, to become an executive at Ralph Lauren.

So fans, enjoy the 25th celebration, get your memorabilia and tickets to watch cherry-picked episodes in the movie theater. It just might help take your mind off what’s going on in the rest of the world. As The Rembrandts sang: no one told you life was gonna be this way.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels "Fat Chick" and "Back to Work She Goes."

I’m still trying to reconcile how Rachel, the waitress with no skills, beat out all the F.I.T. fashionistas with degrees ... to become an executive at Ralph Lauren.