As much as I love Friends — and I really, really love it — re-watching it on Netflix has brought to my attention a number of flaws my preteen- and later teen-self glossed over. (There’s no way they could have afforded that apartment or those wardrobes.) Re-watching the series has also brought me a whole lot of comfort.
The professional, personal, and financial lives of Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe could be at times truly awful.
And honestly? It’s kind of nice to see how little they had it together.
I’m just weeks away from turning 29 and, apart from sporadic freelancing gigs, I’m pretty freshly unemployed. Anyone who’s been in this boat knows that it basically sucks. Don’t get me wrong — I know I’m extremely lucky to live where I do, but it doesn’t take the sting out of not knowing if I’ll be able to make rent on time, or watching my credit slide because I’ve been forced to neglect my bills.
The worst part is knowing I’ve done this to myself. If I were smarter with my money, I’d at least have some savings to work off of, but no, I just had to have those Sam Edelman boots with the spikes on the back. (At least they double as weapons in case I ever get mugged.)
During this time of uncertainty, Friends has proved an unlikely comfort. I find myself consoled as I observe the friends’ lives fall apart over and over. I watch as Rachel struggles with the coffee house job, barely making enough to scrape by; and Monica rolls around on skates in the ’50s diner, trying to avoid grease fires and sexist poets. I watch Phoebe lose her masseuse job and later have to compromise her morals and work at a high-end spa. I watch Joey, well, be Joey.
Even Ross and Chandler, who are portrayed as the most financially responsible of the group, go through some hard times. Ross’s personal life was obviously a mess, but for a long time the one thing he could really count on was his job. Who knew it could all be undone by a sandwich?
And Chandler — it takes being sent to Tulsa for him to quit his financially-rewarding-but-soul-sucking job, at which point he’s forced to become a 30-something intern just to work in a field he actually enjoys. (I haven’t been unemployed all that long, but the thought of returning to the land of interns has definitely crossed my mind.)
I watch all these characters and the thought that appears in my mind more often than anything is, Same. Yes, Friends is just a TV show, but it’s nice to see even fictional people my age completely blowing it — especially in New York. Living here is hard, as pretty much anyone who has lived here or lives here knows. Just the other day I overheard someone on the street say, in complete earnest, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.” It’s an exaggerated cliché, especially in the grand scheme of things, but one that holds some water.
Sure, I’ve had to sell some of my belongings — I have too much crap anyway. Sure, I’ve been eating so many pancakes I feel like I live at an IHOP — I love breakfast for dinner. And sure, my primary source of entertainment has been binge-watching Friends on Netflix because I can’t afford to go to the movies — it’s helping me get through a rough patch.
More than anything, watching these characters and their late 20s/early 30s shenanigans has been a reminder that when things have gotten difficult for me in the past, I’ve always bounced back — just like Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe. If the show gets anything right, it’s that for the most part, things work out. I’m in a tough spot right now, but I’ll get out of it eventually. We get by with a little help from our friends, and Friends.