According to my Facebook feed, Millenials have apparently discovered Friends and they are not happy about it. Not happy at all. They are criticising a show which is 20 years old for displaying attitudes which were not only of their time but in many cases ahead of it.
That’s not good enough for our millennial wunderkinds; the show should have anticipated almost a quarter of a century ahead and pitched for that particular audience. Just think, if it had then it could really have been a runaway success and made millions upon millions of dollars for everyone involved as well as shaping the language, culture and fashion of an entire generation. They really missed a trick.
Anyway, it prompted me to leave it on in the background a couple of times recently as I was busy with other things in the house, and I found myself tuning into it more than I expected. And while, yes, it is a little dated in places, it’s also actually pretty good in a you-can-see-it-coming kind of way. I only ever saw it first time round through the eyes of a teenager, rather than through the eyes of the often single 20-somethings the show depicts.
Fast-forward to 2018 and I’m looking at it from the other side of the fence. I’m no longer a callow youth with little life experience who gets almost but not quite all of the jokes, now I’m a late 30-something with more life experience than most who gets all of the jokes plus a few that perhaps weren’t intended.
I also never noticed how very single they all were, at least for the first few seasons. The little horn-dogs were constantly hooking up with other people (and then, later, each other) and exploring all that dating can bring. The travails of meeting new people, breaking the ice, the Friend Zone, poly-dating, flirting and more, it covers it all.
When I was growing up my family was convinced I was closest to being the character of Ross. My brother, the confident, attractive, cocky young actor was obviously Joey, one of my sisters tried so hard to be Rachel that it was almost funny while another sister had more than a touch of Pheobe about her (and still does).
Trouble was, I didn’t want to be Ross. Yes, I wasn’t the best looking kid on the block and certainly wasn’t the most confident (especially around women), but I knew I had wit inside of me and quips which hit the target more often than not. No, I wanted to be seen as Chandler more than any of them. Still making mistakes, still not quite slick enough to be a real ladies man but funny and sharp. And definitely not the one people pitied or disliked to varying degrees.
Stepping back and looking at me now, I find myself in an odd situation. When I am around my family, those who have known me the longest, they still see me as Ross. If anything, they see me as more Ross than me. But if you were to ask any of the women I’ve met over the past year and I’m pretty sure that they would disagree.
I’ve said before that I am well aware of my limitations in the looks department; I’m no munter but nor am I gracing any magazine covers anytime soon. That’s has simply made me more keen than ever to make people smile, and I’m pretty sure I’ve achieved that. At least, that’s what I’ve been told by those who smile.
So why the two different versions of me? Why am I so much more confident and comfortable around people I barely know but am seen as uptight and embarrassing by those closest to me? I guess it’s something to do with some form of memory-overlay which carries forward to later in life. To some degree, they still see me as an older version of the slightly shy, geeky boy I was growing up.
They don’t see me as I am today around others; confident, happy, outgoing and witty. They’ve been around as I practised my attempts at wit and failed, have heard my stories and witnessed my failures. They’ve also held them up against the achievements of others and seen me living a hitherto “boring” and straightlaced life of dating-marriage-kids-car-9-5 job; hardly screams exciting, does it? So what if I’ve travelled, had adventures, done amazing things and lived a life; that doesn’t fit the narrative, so let’s ignore it and keep me in my box.
Becoming single has not been exactly a pleasant experience, but it’s certainly given me a lot of time to reflect on who I really am, and I’ve found out that I do actually like the person I’ve become rather than the person I was. I’ve found myself acting differently around new people, and found that I like to be someone who plays with words, who is confident and who plays games that the other person enjoys too. I’ve not regressed into my shell and become bitter, I’ve discovered a version of me which is fun to be around.
That version of me has to step back and be put away when my family comes to visit, of course; with so many big personalities I’ve always needed to fill a different role in our not-so-little family unit. But I now know who that person is, and when to bring them out. I’m sure I have a different personality at work, a different personality as a father and a different personality as a son, but I now know what my dating personality is and I actually quite like him.
So no, I may not quite be Chandler, but that’s fine by me. He was a man of his time. And you know what? Unlike the version of me from twenty years ago, I’m a man of mine.