Quarter-life crises, urban family, the perils of leather trousers… Friends taught us about it all

Run out of friends? That’s because they’re all at home, binge-watching every last one of the 236 episodes that Netflix casually rolled out on New Year’s Day. That’s 88 hours’ worth, so – just to forewarn you – they may be some time.

In fairness, I’m also one of the many temporarily eschewing the outside world, up to my eyeballs in glorious retro reruns and clapping maniacally along with The Rembrandts at the start of every episode. The hair! The cameos! The dad jeans! Could there be a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Sure, it’s come up against its fair share of detractors – it’s stupidly, overwhelmingly white for a start, and there’s a brilliantly compelling 100-message thread knocking about on Twitter that unpacks why Ross is “one of television’s all-time worst human men.” Something that, I must admit, as a pre-teen devouring the show on fuzzy VHS tapes that I’d recorded off the telly, I’d kind of missed. With the now-cynical eye of a rapidly defrosting youth, I can say with utter conviction that Rachel probably should have ended up with Joey instead. Ross did sabotage her career, after all. He was also pretty whiny, alarmingly manipulative, jealous, patronising and – most unforgivably of all – both owned and wore leather trousers. As I believe the kids say these days: boy, bye. Here – take your monkey with you.

‘Mental Geller’ aside though, for all its faults, Friends achieved that crucial feat that eludes 90 per cent of sitcoms. After 14 years, it’s still funny. Really funny. They may have been abhorrent, but I still cry proper tears of laughter at Ross getting stuck in his leather pants.

It’s not just the consistent lolz, though. Friends had so much heart that it allows you to forgive the questionable potholes of the time, fetishise the nostalgia, and – if you’re anything like me – simultaneously get a recap of some pretty important life lessons that it planted in your impressionable little brain growing up. Lessons like: be more present. Something that – *puts on best preachy voice* – we could all stand to be reminded of today.

Friends existed in a time that was pre-social media, where mobiles were a rarity and you actually had to meet people IRL and call their landline if you wanted a date. Adorbs, right? Especially when you consider that this blissful digital void meant that when they were all hanging out in Central Perk with nothing to do but drink giant cappuccinos and actually talk to each other, they weren’t getting FOMO about not being in the other slightly more Instagrammable coffee house round the corner. Note to self: put your phone away, woman.

Friends also taught me about The Fear™. This was a pretty seminal turning point in my thinking when it came to my career; that you a) need to work your ass off to get your dream job, and b) sometimes that would require lighting a fire under yourself to get there. Chandler quitting his eight-year ‘temp’ role as a ‘transponster,’ Joey making ends meet by playing Al Pacino’s butt, Rachel breaking free from her daddy’s-girl privilege by cutting up her credit cards… it taught me the grim, often dead-end realities of climbing the ladder in your 20s, and – giant Manhattan loft apartments aside – the value that comes with proper, scary independence. Sitting cross-legged in my parents’ lounge, picking the marshmallows out of a bowl of Lucky Charms, I remember Monica saying to Rachel, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.” It was true then, and it’s still true now.

Of course, that doesn’t mean life is without its plot twists. Embrace them. You may think you’re gonna end up marrying Magnum, P.I. but find yourself proposing to a sarcastic neighbour years later. There’s a joy in not knowing. (FYI, Friends taught me that girls can ask guys to marry them, and that, actually, it can be really romantic).

Elsewhere, I learned that you don’t always need a plan; sometimes, a ‘pla’ will do, that grabbing a spoon is often the best answer to a breakup, that there are still very definitive rules when you’re on a break, and that a fake name comes in handy more often than you’d imagine. I’m signed in to half of the buildings in the Marina as either Regina Phalange or Miss Chanandler Bong.

Most importantly, though, it taught me that if someone doesn’t like you, it’s a moo point, (“It's like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn't matter. It’s moo.”) and that home is truly what you make it. And for me, that means filling it with friends who I love enough to call family.

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