Life Lessons, According to “Friends”

“You know who’s hot?” Dan asked casually, without glancing up from his pen-and-ink drawing.

“Who?” Addie replied.

“Monica,” he told us firmly.

We were high school sophomores, sitting around the table in art class one winter day.  That was the first time that I caught on to the popularity of the show Friends, at that time still in its first season.  I still remember thinking, I guess I’m not the only one watching this.

By our tenth reunion, Dan would be 100% Out and proud.  But clearly Courteney Cox’s appeal as Monica surpassed all boundaries of sexual orientation.  Hell, I still lust after all three of the women of Central Perk.

Maybe it’s because the show ran through my high school and college years, straight into the turbulent waters of my mid-twenties.  But it seems like every moment, every relationship, and every experience in my life can be linked to Friends.  For example, when I make an irrelevant argument, it’s a “moo point” (you know, a cow’s opinion).  In bed, I’m clearly a hug-and-roller.  While my 30th birthday party didn’t come close to rivaling Monica’s drunken sideshow, I think that my bachelorette party (when I was 29) came pretty damn close.  (I, too, had some issues with opening the door to an apartment even though I had a key.)  When a student strings random syllables together (forming something like, say, “transponster”) I have to resist the urge to holler, “That’s not even a word!”

Yes, it’s true.  I learned some very valuable lessons about life, love, adulthood, and friendship from the sitcom.  Here are just a few:

  1.  You should always laminate your list of five “freebies.”  You never know when you may need permission to sleep with Christian Bale (or Taye Diggs, or Tom Brady…) without officially cheating on your husband.
  2. It’s better to move to Yemen than to stay in a bad relationship.
  3. Lotion + baby powder + leather pants = messy situation.
  4. No leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich is complete without a moist-maker.
  5. You can be as neurotic as Monica, as bizarre as Phoebe, or as spoiled as Rachel.  Your real friends will know this about you and love you anyway.  They may even celebrate your flaws.
  6. If a friend is about to embarrass herself in front of a host of friends and family, you’re obligated to take off your top as a diversion.
  7. Let’s say that your whole life, everyone has told you, “You’re a shoe, you’re a shoe.”  But one day you realize, maybe you don’t want to be a shoe.  Maybe you want to be a purse, or a scarf.  You may find yourself explaining to your father, “It’s a metaphor, Daddy!”  But you go out there, and you be that purse.  You listen to your heart and take the leap.
  8. The winter holidays aren’t complete without a visit from the traditional Hanukah Armadillo.
  9. Rebounding with a girl from the copy place, even if you’re “on a break,” will still devastate your estranged girlfriend.
  10. The best men can be geeky like Ross, dumb like Joey, or awkward like Chandler.  But they all have one thing in common:  Heart.

It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that a sitcom informed the adult that I’ve become.  But didn’t we all wish, as adolescents, that in our mid-twenties we’d have a close-knit community of friends?  An urban family?  Didn’t we imagine living somewhere chic like Manhattan, in unrealistically large apartments, visiting cozy coffee shops, working eclectic jobs?  The show exemplified everything that we idealize about single twenty-somethings living in the city.  Given the fact that I discussed it ad nauseam with my teenage (and college, and grown-up) friends, it’s only natural to assume that we would aspire to become a “Rachel,” a “Ross,” or a “Phoebe.” 

My list above is by no means complete.  I could wax poetic for hours, quoting Friends lines, and living by the words of wisdom that they impart.

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