For many in my generation, the TV show Friends was the beautifully unrealistic model we thought our lives would look like. And while none of us actually ever ended up having apartments like Monica’s or hair like Rachel’s, somehow, for those of us who watched every episode as stifled teens in suburbs, it was a blueprint for how we thought our lives in the city would be.
Friends became the phenomenon that it did because so much of it rang true. Sure, there was a large dose of aspiration and beautiful, thin white people and a deliberate neglect of the cruel realities of life. But the success, I believe, came from a potent mix of shiny New York living and shiny New York people plus storylines that you can watch over and over because they could have happened to you. Or maybe they did happen to you. (I have moved flats so many times and someone has *always* shouted “PIVOT!” when lifting a sofa). It was (in your head) you at your very best – if everything went to plan.
But, now, it’s no longer my blueprint. My friends have dispersed; they are in different countries, they have different responsibilities, they have babies and jobs. And somehow that magnetic force that used to keep us all together is fading. Our “Monica’s apartment”, which was less an actual place, but more a place in our lives; forging careers, being broke, dancing on sticky-floored pubs on a Friday night, that’s now over. It’s all behind us. My friends are in different places, literally and figuratively. They are making big, tough decisions, the kind they’ve never had to make before. I’m not sure we realised it at the time, but we’ve had our final episode.
And so it feels like I’m transitioning from the Friends set to the Frasier set, where the focus of your life begins to change. It’s another life user manual, played out on a 90s TV sitcom, but with a different set of instructions. Friendships are still everything (see Roz and Frasier) but other responsibilities take shape – maybe an ageing parent, a divorced brother, a friend bringing up a baby alone – as well as a commitment to a career that is no longer about just a foot in the door but real responsibility.
My friends have dispersed; they are in different countries, they have different responsibilities, they have babies and jobs. And somehow that magnetic force that used to keep us all together is fading
Suddenly, across the board, the stakes are so much higher. The calamity and stupidity of Joey and Chandler is starting to be replaced with the poignancy of Roz’s loneliness or Fraiser’s sense of regret or Marty’s tricky relationship with his sons. And like Frasier, there’s still so much humour, but somehow, the disappointments are heavier, bigger, more meaningful. The lightness of life now has a shade of emotional weight, of consequence. The TLDR version of this? We’ve got older.
And there is some sadness to this. I still want to drink beer in wedding dresses on a sofa with my two best friends. I miss the thrill of falling in love with unsuitable older men. I want to be able to spend hours sitting on big sofas, drinking bigger cups of coffee, considering the celebrities I’d shag.
But despite those things, I’m actually ready for this next step. I feel very open to all this change. And, as the last woman in my old friendship group standing in a city where everyone else has moved on, I actually feel comfortable in my own skin. My friends’ success was a barometer which I lived by, but if they aren't there, you have to find, and really know, your own barometer. You have to really understand what is important to you. And I’m in that process now.
But they helped me get there. A decade of being surrounded by brilliant people who love you and laugh with you all the time has prepared me to step out on my own. And now I’m on a Fraiser model; the gang feels smaller and more intimate; the days are busier with bigger things to juggle, responsibilities have changed. But a decade of friendships has made me who I am, and now I feel very ready to be that person.