My husband always wonders at my addiction to Friends. “You’ve seen this episode 12 times before!” he’ll cry and change the channel to a music video he’s watched …12 times before. He watches as much as he can, that is, before I clobber him with a chair and retrieve the remote from his unconscious grip.
It’s an addiction that comforts and cheers at the worst of times. I was bereft when Friends ended, and think nothing of watching reruns of the same episode as many times as they show it.
I know every ‘Oh-My-GOD”, every “How YOU doin’”, every “Could you BE more …” in the 10 seasons of Friends. Yet I laugh when they laugh, shake my head patronizingly (“that Joey”), and hope Ross and Rachel won’t break up; like it’s…maybe not the first time…but certainly only the fifth time I’m watching that episode. I feel like I’m sitting on that couch with them in Central Perk, ribbing the others (sometimes cruelly) about some trial they’re facing at the moment.
Sad, I know.
I think it’s because it takes me back to when people had time to be friends in my own life. I’m particularly attached to this sitcom because it reminds me of my gang back in college. We were a mix of girls and guys (apart from three of us the combination changed when we graduated to Masters Degree), and we would hang out all the time. We would sit on the back staircase on our floor in JU and pass the time of day just like the characters in Friends. Of course we weren’t half as good looking, and were students rather than working people alone in the city -- but it was much the same.
Just like them, we would josh each other about sometimes sensitive things (I got no end of grief for my Bengali. I thank God I wasn’t overweight at the time, the teasing would’ve been merciless!). We would just be glad to be in the company of like-minded people and laugh uproariously at each other’s jokes. Conversation used to be stimulating—we would try to outdo each other in wit; sometimes there would be flashes of profundity in our naïve exchanges that I find SO hard to come by in my “adult” conversations nowadays.
I guess when I watch Friends all of that comes back to me. That feeling of belonging, of wondering what madcap thing your friends will come up with next; of that sudden flirtatious spark with one of the gang because you’re young and happy and attractive and everything is right and fun.
Now I’m still friends with most of the group from that time, though except for a few who I consider my closest friends still; everyone has got on with their lives and rarely get a chance to catch up. Not one is in the same city as the other; and I doubt with the sundry trials and tribulations that a near decade can bring, we could ever share the light-hearted banter that was at the heart of our closeness so many years ago. I know for a fact that we’ll never ALL be in the same room together, and in fact, there will be some who won’t even agree to it.
Now, 8 years down the line, some of us have done better than others, some have got married (not to each other; none of the Monicas and Chandlers made it oddly) and had kids, others haven’t. I find it strange that a group of people who shared such a close bond could be so different now. Yet, I feel confident that however happy or busy our lives are now, every one of us have a flash of nostalgia when we think of the staircases and window ledges we used to haunt for hours every day, chattering about everything and nothing.
And that’s the time when I switch on the telly and watch Friends re-runs.