Like most people in the entire world, Friends was a big part of my life growing up. Every time I re-watch the entire show (which is probably too often), I find myself identifying with a different character depending on my current life and emotional state. Though I consider myself a Monica because of my obsession with cleanliness and need to be in control, for the first time I found myself drawn to Rachel’s character, in particular the grace and patience that she exudes in maintaining her friendship with Ross.
When you’ve been with somebody in your friendship crowd and it doesn’t work out, there is nothing harder than trying to resurrect the friendship you had before you were together. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and hurtful not just for the two of you, but for all of your best friends to watch you both trying to be the friends you once were. In some ways it’s like a divorce and in the beginning you can only see your friends separately because everything is too raw. But when I started watching season three of Friends, I admired Rachel’s attitude so much. Sure, she made the odd bitter remark towards Ross, she got jealous and equally tried to one up him all the time, but still she continued to be in the same room as him, be civil and supportive of him with a smile on her face even though it broke her heart to do it.
It always surprises me how Rachel is the only one not to have a serious relationship (aside from with Ross of course) throughout the whole show. She dates, she meets new men and she fulfils herself with her career and her friends but she never really gets over Ross. She watches Ross move on hopelessly with several serious relationships, namely Emily and Mona, and yet she is so incredibly elegant in how she handles herself. She has plenty of opportunities to date again, and yet keeps the door open for Ross to be ready again, almost as if she knows they have to both grow up a little bit before they can be together.
Like Rachel, I consider myself a very head-strong person. I also have a lot of Rachel’s other qualities like brashness and selfishness. When I have split up with people in the past, I have forced myself to cut them out of my life completely and hold a grudge for the rest of time. But that changed very recently, when I found myself in the same position as Rachel was with Ross.
My boyfriend was one of my closest friends, and most of our mutual friends were our best friends. He also happened to live with those friends, so if I ever wanted to see them I would have to go to his house and be on his territory. In the beginning it was incredibly awkward, mainly because the lines between friendship and romance will always be blurry once you cross it, so what once would have been harmless flirting became small talk and awkward chit chat. If our friends ever left us alone in a room, we’d diffuse the moment with laughter or our phones, but there was no denying it was going to be hard.
The challenge for me was not cutting this person out of my life, and instead learning to be his friend again—despite the awkwardness of moving on at different paces. But I thought about Rachel, and how she remained cool, steadfast and kind. She allowed herself to feel pangs of jealousy, but she wouldn’t let her emotions completely detonate her friendship—with the group or with Ross. Instead she allowed him to move on, and pursued her own passions—her career, dating, even motherhood—without letting heartbreak put a stop to her life.
So I’m taking her cue. Because my ex was my friend, I had to remember that we were friends first and this was the most important thing. As hard as it was, and still is, to keep a smile on my face while my ex embraces his single status right in front of me, I keep reminding myself of Rachel. If Rachel could stay friends with Ross after their breakup, then I can try to do the same with my ex—or rather—my friend, too.
(Images via Giphy, NBC)