Tag Archives: friends

FRIENDS: Where Are They Now

5 Jan

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?

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Rachel Green

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 She’s absolutely merciless when it comes to throwing out old pieces that are either outdated or the wrong size or have bad memories associated with them, and is a genius at filling in the gaps with new items perfectly suited to her clients.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 Geller

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 Buffay

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 Tribbiani

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.

Monica Geller

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.

Chandler Bing

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).

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On Friendship (Or, How To Over-Think Everything)

13 Jun

This past Sunday I took Theo to the park, hoping to score a little mother-and-son quality time. We went to the “Secret Park”, so-called because of the way it’s tucked behind our local high level pumping station, an Art Deco monstrosity that’s designed to fit in with the rest of the gorgeous early 20th century architecture in our neighbourhood (rich people: even their municipal pumping stations are pretty). My plan was for Theo and I to spend the morning chilling out on the climber, engaging in some witty banter and maybe taking turns pushing each other on the swings.

I hadn’t counted on my toddler totally ditching me for a new-found friend.

This other kid was already at the Secret Park when we got there, running around like a madman, waving a huge stick in the air and screaming. Theo was immediately entranced. He watched, shyly, as this boy tore around the grassy slopes, and I could tell that he wanted to join in but wasn’t quite sure how to achieve that. I suggested that we could go play on the climber or on the swings, thinking that doing some park-type stuff might make him feel a little more at ease and thus help put him into the right frame of mind to make friends. He shook his head, though, his eyes never leaving the other boy. Finally, still not looking at me, he said with a great deal of seriousness,

“I need a stick.”

So I found him a stick, and that was all it took for him to feel comfortable enough to start playing with the other boy (whose name, it turned out, was Duncan). Once Theo had that stick in his hand, he and Duncan were running around shrieking delightedly together. Then they played in the sand doing something at once precise and elaborate and yet totally mystifying with a plastic cup and a Christmas tree ornament shaped like a chilli pepper. Then they buried Duncan’s extensive collection of dinky cars, then dug them all up again and started racing them up and down the trunk of a nearby tree.

Insta-best-friends.

I was hella jealous.

I’ve been thinking about how that situation would have played out had it involved myself and some other adult who just happened to be doing something that I found incredibly intriguing. Would I have been able to just jump right in and befriend them, without even so much as an introduction? Oh, fuck, no. Here’s how it would have gone if I’d been in Theo’s place:

Anne’s internal monologue: Whoa, that person seems amazing. I really want to run around and wave sticks with her! But probably she’s way better at waving sticks than me. I mean, I guess I could ask her to teach me, but isn’t that a little pathetic? And anyway, I’m sure that she has more than enough friends. I’m sure that she doesn’t want to talk to me. Maybe if I google “how to wave sticks and scream” I could just do it by myself? Maybe it’ll turn out that I’m really great at it? Maybe if I do it awesomely enough, she’ll come over and try to make friends with me? Do I even really want to make friends with her, though? I mean, she seems great now, but she’s probably not as awesome as she seems. I have a lot of great friends – I don’t need this not-as-awesome-as-she-seems stick waver!

Anne (out loud): Guhhh nice stick!

At what age does the ability to instantly click with someone over something like screaming and waving sticks end? At what age do all these stupid, tangled thoughts take over and prevent people (and by people I mean me) from taking any kind of initiative from befriending others? My kid is (currently, at least) the kind of person who can just jump right in and assume that his awesomeness will be evident enough that he can make friends with anyone he wants to. Or, going even further, he doesn’t even bother to wonder about the state of his awesomeness. He just does his thing and goes from there. And I’m kind of jealous. I fucking want that personality trait so badly, like, you don’t even know.

I really, really want to be the type of person who sees someone cool and is like, “Hey, let’s hang out sometime.” But I’m not, and I never have been.

Instead, I am the type of person who, when I went camping as a little kid, would get my father to visit the campsites of families with kids and act as a sort of friendship matchmaker.

I am the type of person who daily descends into the bottomless black hole of saying too much and then trying to correct that by saying even more.

I am the type of person who goes out for dinner with a writer that she particularly admires and brings cue cards full of things to say in case the conversation lags.

I really, really want to be the kind of person who says, fuck cue cards, but you guys? I actually love cue cards. And I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with loving cue cards, except that maybe it’s a problem when you come to depend on them as a sort of social crutch.

I don’t want to be the type of person who, in the middle of a nice dinner, whips out a list of interesting conversation topics, but what the fuck else am I supposed to do? Think thoughts and say words in real time? As Barney Stinson would say: please. Putting my thoughts down in a blog post is fairly easy, because I can edit and then re-edit until I’m sure that I’ve got it right. But having an actual, un-plannable, give-and-take conversation with another person is a different beast entirely.

I mean, seriously, how does anyone ever figure out the right thing to say? Because this must be something that other people are capable of doing, unless everyone else has somehow learned to be extremely stealthy with their cue cards. And how do people not only manage to say the right thing, but also avoid saying exactly the wrong thing? And how do you come to accept that it’s not actually a binary, that there is a wide gulf between right and wrong, a deep valley full of conversational material that’s perfectly fine, but for whatever reason isn’t particularly scintillating or thought-provoking.

And that’s just the basics of general small talk. That’s just beginner’s stuff. What about all the crap that comes later, once you’ve managed to become friends with someone and actually establish some kind of relationship? Then comes the really tricky stuff – carefully cultivating that relationship, making sure that you make time for that person, learning how to deal with any conflict that arises with them.

Ugh, conflict. Oh, conflict. My old nemesis.

On Sunday, I watched my kid get into an argument with Duncan over who got to hold which car. It didn’t quite come to blows, but there were definitely angry words and hurt feelings involved. Then, miraculously, two minutes later they were firm friends again, discussing the various merits of blue race cars versus red race cars as if nothing at all had happened. Meanwhile, when I get into a fight with someone, I end up spending days, sometimes even weeks, treading and retreading the same mental ground over and over and over again. I I spend ages trying to figure out what I could have done differently, as if I’m ever going to be presented with the exact same set of circumstances at some point in the future. Worst of all, I need an incredibly amount of reassurance that yes, I am a still good, yes, I am still loved.

This last one has been killing me lately. I’ve realized that a huge part of it is because when you take up residence in anxiety-town, you lose any ability to trust your own senses. So you end up feeling like you have to sort of crowdsource your thoughts and feelings, constantly asking, “Is this okay? Is this a normal reaction? Am I right to respond this way or am I going overboard? Do you still love me? Is it okay for me to love myself?” And yes, sometimes this way of coping is super helpful, but sometimes it can be totally toxic as well. Even when all of your neurons are misfiring in exactly the right way to make you feel like you are a terrible person, it’s dangerous to think that someone else can give you an accurate read on what you’re doing or how you should feel about yourself. On top of that, you might not get the answer that you want, and at the end of the day constantly demanding feedback and reassurance can make you feel pretty pathetic.

So what’s the answer? I’m not sure, to be honest. Lately I’ve been making a lot of checklists for myself (for whatever reason I find list-making to be very soothing). After a couple of days of trying to unsnarl this mess in my head that I call my brain, I now have a bunch of easily-accessible documents that I can refer to whenever I start to doubt any given situation. These lists are full of reminders about all of the empirical evidence that I have that yes, people do love me, and yes, there is value in the things that I say and do. I’ve also made lists that help me to remember that conflict isn’t the end of the world (even if it sometimes feels that way), and that it’s totally possible to have a horrible fight with someone and then move past it and maybe not exactly forget that it ever happened but also not let it be what defines your relationship from that moment forward.

All of this is to say: I really want to be the kid who one minute is screaming about how it’s my fucking turn to hold the red car, and then the next minute is fine. I want to be the kid who jumps right in without a single thought. I want to be that goddamn kid who runs around waving a stick and screaming without first having to google how and why I should do this so as to prevent myself from looking like an idiot.

Because that kid? That kid seems really fucking rad.

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Bullying (or, nolite te bastardes etc.)

7 Oct

I’ve written on here about some of the less-than fun stuff I went through as a teenager, but I think that last night was the first time that I’ve ever publicly referred to it as bullying. And now I kind of want to talk about it?

A little bit of background:

I’d had the same group of friends throughout most of elementary school. The five of us had been pretty tight, spending every recess and lunch hour together, pairing up for science projects and book reports. On the weekends we would force our parents to shuttle us around the city for various playdates and sleepovers.  I’d known them for so long that I couldn’t imagine ever not being friends with them.

Then, one mid-day recess in seventh grade, my friends told me they had to talk to me.

We sat in a circle on the schoolyard pavement, near the edge of where the grassy field began. It must have been October or November, because I remember that the sky was grey and there was a chill in the air. My friends started out by saying that they’d been talking about me, and had realized that they collectively found me annoying. They told me that they’d come to the decision that they didn’t want to hang around with me anymore, and asked me to stop joining them at lunch and recess. I tried to argue with them, then tried to bargain, but it was pointless; their collective mind was made up.

Basically, they broke up with me.

What had already been a difficult year went from tough-but-manageable to downright miserable. Even before I was de-friended, I was already being picked on by my classmates for my bad skin, the way I dressed, and the nerdy things I liked. Now, not only was that all still happening, but I suddenly had no one to protect me, and no one to tell me that I wasn’t an ugly pathetic loser.

As the year went on, the kids who made fun of me became braver, making more and more publicly humiliating comments about me. One kid said that I didn’t need to use whiteout, because I could just use the pus from my pimples – the teacher laughed at that along with everyone else. Another kid wondered aloud why my clothes were so terrible, since my father was a lawyer and could almost certainly afford something better than ill-fitting sweatshirts and track pants. Boys from my class prank-called me in the evenings, pretending to ask me out – then repeating everything I’d said on the phone the next day to the rest of my class.

I didn’t tell my parents what was happening because I was embarrassed, although they must have noticed that I wasn’t being invited to my friends’ houses anymore. I didn’t want them to know how much of an outcast I’d become at school, because it seemed like it was mostly my own fault for being unlikeable. Anyway, I reasoned, even if they did know, what could they do?

When I started high school, I chose a school that almost none of my classmates were going to. The only person from my class who was coming with me was the girl I’d become close with in 8th grade, so that was fine. I figured that this was the perfect chance to start over. No one at this huge new school knew me, or knew my past; I would walk through those front doors in September as whoever I wanted to be.

I didn’t get to start over, though. Does anyone ever really get a fresh start? I still had all the problems that had led to being teased in the first place: bad skin, the wrong clothes, and geeky interests. Even worse, the last two years had left me with zero self-confidence, which meant that I was constantly second-guessing myself. Because of this I had a hard time making friends, and when I did I was clingy and jealous. I was even more of a mess when it came to boys. Boy, was I ever.

Bullies can smell a victim, and I was soon back to being the butt of the joke. I went to an arts high school where I majored in dance, and the girls in my dance class were saccharine sweet to my face (most of the time), but made fun of me as soon as my back was turned. By the end of the year I was so tired of it that I transferred out of dance class and instead majored in visual art, where I was surrounded by pretentious art school kids, stoners and comic book nerds – on the whole, a much nicer group.

I don’t mean to make it sound like I was totally friendless. I mean, yeah, I had people that I hung out with – a pretty big group of friends, actually. But even within that group I was teased. Early high school was pretty much just as shitty as late grade school.

My later high school years were better, and the same goes for university. I moved out east for school, made some great friends, and became the stunningly self-confident adult you see before you today. Things are mostly totally fine now. I am mostly fine now.

What’s strange is that now I’m friends on Facebook with a lot of the people who made me miserable (maybe some of you are reading this now – hi guys! kind of awkward! sorry!). We’ve never talked about or even acknowledged what happened; after half a lifetime of not knowing these people, we mostly just “like” each others’ statuses and comment on photos of each others’ kids. Initially, I felt awkward having them back in my life, mostly because I worried that they were still judging me and still finding me wanting, but now we’ve settled into a sort of comfortable camaraderie, reminiscing about our collective school days as if we’ve been friends all along.

Maybe they’ve forgotten what happened, or maybe it just never seemed like a big deal. Maybe they feel bad.  Maybe I’m the one with the problem. Maybe they were right, and I am a pathetic loser. Maybe they were dealing with their own stuff at the time and didn’t realize how much it sucked for me. Most likely it’s a combination of most of the above.

I find that when I talk about what happened, I use a lot of euphemisms; I’ll say that I went through a tough time when I was younger, or else that I had a bad year the year I turned 12, or any other number of variations on the same thing. I’ve been hesitant to use the word “bullying” when talking about my own circumstances, for a couple of reasons:

1. Was I even bullied? I mean, yes, I was teased, but does that count as bullying? When does it cross the line from normal kid behaviour to bullying? Or is bullying so pervasive in our culture that it now seems normal?

2. Weirdly, I feel anxious about what the people who are my friends now will think of the fact that I was such a loser. There’s a part of me that thinks that they’ll start to reconsider our friendship, start to notice all of the less-than-stellar components of my personality.

3. Saying that I was bullied is admitting that I also became a bully later in high school. I made fun of people, talked behind their backs, told secrets. I was even party to making a girl cry in 11th grade chemistry class. I was mean, and I liked being mean.

I do think that it’s important to start a dialogue about this, especially in reference to the first point. In the wake of Jennifer Livingston’s on-air response to an email criticizing her weight, in which she refers to the man who sent her the email as a bully, there has been a lot of discussion about what qualifies as bullying, and whether or not it was the appropriate word to use in that instance. David Dickson, chairman of the Bullying Prevention Initiative of California, says“Bullying, normally, is what someone, in a very mean spirited way, continually and on a repeated basis, does to another person, typically in a social setting in front of other people…It was a stupid letter he wrote, but he commented privately.” 

Now, I’m not an expert on bullying, and none of the definitions that I’ve found online have really been satisfactory, but it seems wrong to ignore this entire discussion just because what happened doesn’t fit Dickson’s fairly narrow definition of what bullying is. Whether or not the letter sent to Livingston was public, it was certainly hurtful and unnecessary, especially considering that she’s likely spent a lifetime of facing comments like that. Also, it sucks to have a so-called bullying expert be so condescending and dismissive, especially when bullying in our culture is so often dismissed as kids just being kids (or, in this case, fat ladies just being too sensitive).

Maybe Dickson wouldn’t consider what I went through to be bullying. I mean, sure, it was public, and it was often mean-spirited, but maybe it wasn’t very mean-spirited, or maybe it wasn’t repeated or continual enough. Maybe it was just teenagers being dicks to each other, and I’m just an oversensitive lady-type. Usually writing things out here makes them clearer (and hey, it’s cheaper than therapy), but this time it just makes them seem murkier and more confused. Was I the one with the problem? Were they the ones with the problem? Was I undeserving of friends? Am I still?

What I do know is this: I’m tired of pretending that nothing happened, and I’m tired of feeling like I did something wrong and have something to hide. I’m tired of waiting for all of my friends to discover that once-upon-a-time I wasn’t cool, and then to high-tail it out of my life – so take that, brain, a pre-emptive admission of uncoolness. Most of all, I wouldn’t want any other kid to feel as shitty as I did.

So yeah. Can we talk about this?

Me at age thirteen, centre, with my cousins and sister.