Friends first aired just over 20 years ago. To celebrate its recent release on Netflix, let’s take some time to speculate where might be now. Rachel, the youngest of the group, would be 43. Ross and Phoebe, the oldest, would be 46. What has everyone been up to?
Obviously Ross and Rachel are divorced. Their split started out amicably enough, with promises about always staying friends and being good co-parents for Emma’s sake, but things went downhill pretty quickly after Rachel accepted another job in Paris and Ross accused her of resenting him for begging her to stay the last time she’d tried to move overseas. Sick of Ross’ unending sob circus, Rachel bluntly told him that yes, she did resent him, not just for Paris but for all the other times he held her back career-wise. Rachel then asked Ross to give her some space, but he continued to send her a barrage of texts and messages until she finally blocked his number and email address. They now only communicate through their lawyers.
After returning to New York in 2011, Rachel started her business as a “sartorial curator” (her term). She specializes in revamping the wardrobes of recently divorced women, and has gained a strong reputation as the It Girl of that niche market. She’s absolutely merciless when it comes to throwing out old pieces that are either outdated or the wrong size or have bad memories associated with them, and is a genius at filling in the gaps with new items perfectly suited to her clients. Socialite Tinsley Mortimer recently said that she has no idea how she would have made it intact through her split from Topper without Rachel’s help.
Two years ago Ross’ son Ben, then in his late teens, reached out to Rachel, saying that he wanted to get to know his half sister. Since then, Rachel has become very close with Carol and Susan, and they’ve been a huge help in raising Emma. Saturday night often finds Carol, Susan and Rachel drinking wine and laughing about how terrible Ross is. Sometimes Emily skypes in from England (she and Rachel reconnected while Rachel was living in Paris). It seems funny to them that such an amazing friendship was born out of the ashes of three terrible relationships (“like beautiful flowers growing out of a pile of manure,” Carol said once), but they can’t help being grateful for the strange circumstances that brought them all together.
Rachel can quote most of Sex and the City from memory.
Ross is still at New York University, in spite of being widely known as one of the worst professors there. He has dated several of his students and each time has manipulated them into not telling the university administration about their relationship by saying that if he gets fired, he won’t be able to pay child support and his children will starve. Because of this, no formal complaints have ever been made against him, although he does have a reputation on campus as a whiny womanizer. Female first year students are often warned not to go to his office after hours unless they want to be coerced into pity makeouts.
In 2012, Ross published a book called The Science Behind Jurassic Park, which spent a remarkable twelve weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He and Neil deGrasse Tyson began a friendship on twitter, which then progressed to email and finally meeting in person. Phoebe recently bumped into Ross and Neil while they were out for coffee together, and although Ross was dismissive and condescending to Phoebe, Neil was completely charmed by her. Ross doesn’t know that Phoebe and Neil have met twice since then for herbal tea.
When the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones aired, Ross posted a lengthy Facebook status shaming people who hadn’t read the book before watching the show (and gleefully pointing out every discrepancy between the two).
Ross worries on a daily basis that George R.R. Martin will die before finishing his next book.
Phoebe is still married to Mike, and they are happily childless. Phoebe has come up with a variety of hilarious responses when people ask her why she doesn’t have children, but the truth is that she just doesn’t want to. People kept telling her “Wait until you’re older, you’ll change your mind,” but she’s 46 now and still has no interest in having her own kids. She prefers being the cool aunt to her brother’s triplets and often lets them stay over at her place when Frank and Alice need a break.
With Mike’s encouragement, Phoebe went back to school in her late thirties and became a social worker. She now counsels homeless teenagers through a youth outreach project. She tells herself that if she can help at least one kid get back on their feet then she’ll have repaid her karmic debt, but the truth is that she’s almost certainly done more for those kids than she’ll ever realize. On top of everything else, the teens all especially love the fact that their counsellor actually knows what it’s like to live on the streets.
Phoebe continues to work as a masseuse, although only on weekends, and only with animal clients. She recently developed a combination of essential oils that combats even the strongest pet odours. She markets it under the name Smelly Cat, and it’s available at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Phoebe still does not own a smart phone, and swears that she never will.
Joey spent a few years in pretty dire straits, with all of his acting jobs drying up and few other sources of income. He spent some time living in Chandler and Monica’s basement, trading babysitting for room and board. It turns out he’s pretty good with kids, and he was thinking of starting his own nannying business when his big break came in 2013.
Just weeks after dropping his critically-acclaimed album Nothing Was The Same, singer Drake tweeted “Shout out to Drake Ramoray, the inspiration for my name.” The character Drake Ramoray instantly became a wildly popular internet meme, and Joey was suddenly flooded with job offers. As he made guest appearances on popular sitcoms and charmed his way through the talk show circuit, his popularity only increased. He most recently collaborated on a soap opera buddy comedy with Seth Rogen, and is currently working on a memoir called From Ramoray, With Love.
Embracing the medium of twitter after Drake’s now-infamous tweet, Joey was soon turned onto hashtag activism. He uses it to promote ideas about enthusiastic consent, a concept that’s been important to him before he even knew there was a specific term for it. Joey considers himself to be a sex-positive feminist, although he’s still not entirely sure what “feminist” means.
Combining her love of food with the emotional scars left from a lifetime of her parents’ bullying and fat jokes, Monica became a body-positive nutritionist. A fierce advocate of Healthy At Any Size, Monica works primarily with teenage girls, encouraging them to love and care for their bodies.
With Chandler’s help, Monica recently started a public awareness campaign called Stunning At Any Size; the campaign showcases bodies of all sizes, ages, races and ethnicities, and though Monica has received a lot of flak for it from various fat-phobic jerks, it is generally considered to be a resounding success.
Monica does not allow anyone to use the term “obesity epidemic” in her presence.
When Monica’s parents visit, they only ever talk about Ross’ career, especially his book. By this point, Monica actually prefers it that way. Her father once refer to Stunning At Any Size as “your little thing with the pictures of the fat women,” and Monica politely but firmly told him to leave her house. He hasn’t mentioned it since.
Monica loves Taylor Swift.
After years of fighting his attraction to men, Chandler finally gave in and had an affair with a hot young coworker. After lying to Monica, his children and everyone else for months, Chandler had a breakdown over Thanksgiving Dinner (of course). This led to a brief hospitalization, and after his release and weeks of intensive therapy, Chandler was able to admit to Monica that what frightened him the most was the idea of turning into his father and abandoning his family.
Monica told Chandler that she loved him but didn’t want to stay together with him just for the kids, especially if he wasn’t attracted to her. He insisted that he was, in fact, attracted to her and still very much in love with her, but that he also wanted to sleep with men. After a few false starts and some stumbling along the way, Monica and Chandler now have a loving and supportive non-monogamous relationship. Monica did initially have a hard time with Chandler dating other people, but seeing how happy he was made it easier for her. Last year, Monica reconnected with Richard, and the two have been an item ever since. Monica now channels all of her controlling tendencies into her carefully-maintained Google calendar, which she uses to schedule plenty of time with both Chandler and Richard, and also to make sure she gets the kids to soccer practice on time.
Monica and Chandler are doing their best to raise Erica and Jack in a healthy, loving household. Monica makes sure never to make comments about their weight or how much they’re eating, and Chandler spends quality time with them by taking them out to Broadway musicals and his queer parenting drop in group. Monica, Chandler and the kids attend Pride every year, and it’s become a family tradition. Erica and Jack attend an alternative school, and plenty of their classmates have non-traditional families. They have lots of friends and love telling people that Thanksgiving turned their dad gay (although every time Monica overhears this, she reminds them not to engage in bi-erasure).