And Then There Were 5

Swathi Parasuraman
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readNov 8, 2023

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A love letter to my Friends and an ode to the one we lost

Image from Cosmopolitan.com

I don’t even remember when I started watching Friends. Was it in high school, at home on Star World? Locking the door to the upstairs TV room in the evenings so that my parents wouldn’t walk in by mistake during a kissing scene or any scene where they talked about sex. Or was it in college? Sprawled on the iron cot in our girl's hostel, munching on chips and downloading each season painstakingly from some girl's hard drive that would eventually make its way through every floor for this very purpose. I don’t remember exactly when, but what I do remember is the feeling that I had found my tribe in the 6 wacky characters on this TV series, going through their 20s and 30s alongside trials, tribulations, hijinks, warmth, laughter, and a whole lot of love.

I don’t remember when they cracked my heart open and burrowed their way deep into its recesses. I don’t remember when I started snickering at Chandler's dryness or going “aw” at Joey’s naïveté. Relating to Monica’s high-strung cleanliness or thinking Rachel, no matter how spoiled, was still so damn adorable with her clumsiness. Empathizing with Ross’s love for dinosaurs and bad luck with marriage. And finally, realizing from Phoebe that it's okay to be a bit weird and quirky and different from everyone else.

It’s been more than 10 years probably since I started watching. Now, every episode, every line, every joke, every expression is burned into my brain. I can mouth each line alongside any of them in any scene. Someone close to me pointed out recently, “You have watched it so much that unconsciously, I can see bits and pieces of all 6 of them in your mannerisms and personality. You have literally been shaped by that show.”

It’s true. Like Brooke Shields playing the wonderfully beautiful and creepy stalker Erica, to Joey’s Dr. Drake Ramoray, I feel like when I watch and lose myself in the Friends world, I actually believe that it is happening for real in some parallel universe and not just some fictional show filmed at Warner Bros studios. Sometimes, I see the actual actors on different shows and feel a moment of disbelief.

“What on earth is Rachel doing solving mysteries with Adam Sandler? She should be living with Ross and Emma now.”

“Why is Chandler doing a car chase with Bruce Willis?”

I would bet that most of my generation who grew up watching sitcoms would feel the same. Friends is not a show. Friends is like a mother's hand soothing and soft on your hair after you have had a bad day. Friends is like a cool, older brother who you look up to and wish you could be like. Friends is like that one song that can instantly change your mood to something better. Friends is like that warm hug that brings tears to your eyes.

During the days of navigating those pesky teenage emotions and those pesky young adult emotions and those existential mid-20s ‘What the hell am I doing’ emotions, Friends has been our collective therapist. When we struggled with romance in college, with superiors in our first jobs or even with our own friends or family, it would still be okay. Why? Because the same thing happens with those 6 and they still somehow sail out of it. Rachel struggles with being just a waitress but works her way up to a fashion executive. Ross is a complete dork but sticks to it no matter what because he loves what he does. Monica is high-maintenance but still honest, caring and true. Chandler uses jokes to cope with difficult situations and guess what, so do a lot of us. Phoebe does not give a damn what people think of her weirdness, and guess what, it’s okay for us to do it too. I see myself in every character's struggle but also rejoice in their happiness because it may mirror mine someday. Everything will be alright in the end, just like it happens for them.

Of course, many may say it’s dangerous to be lost in this fantasy. But you can’t deny the delicious thrill of imagining yourself in a world where you can live independently in the heart of a big city for years, taking life day by day, where just by stepping across the hall and opening a door, you can find your best friends ready to gossip, laugh, cry, and love together. That you could all hang out every day at a coffee house which resembles more of a living room, with your feet up on the sofa, chatting about dating, relationships, and other interesting stuff. That you could do EVERYTHING together, be it weddings, funerals, Las Vegas trips, beach trips, dance classes, hockey games, jogging in the park, and more, with 5 other people guaranteed to have your back at any time for decades and more. That you could have a whole other family, as precious to you as your birth family. That you could hear “I’ll be there for you” as constant background music running in your head.

Because in real life, that is rare. We lose touch with friends, we go our separate ways, we move cities for jobs and eventually, our connection gets limited to liking each others updates on Instagram. Friends gave us a universe where you could live side by side with your childhood buddies and go through every major life event with them. It defies reality but at the same time, creates a wistful hope and joyous aspiration.

So now, even when I am well into the exact age that the Friends were when we left them for the very last time, I still don’t go a week without watching an episode or two just to lift my spirits, mostly when I’m eating or flipping through Netflix. These people, much loved, will live on eternally on screen, whether as the young, fresh-faced 20-somethings from Season 1 or the older, wiser but goofier as ever 30-somethings from Season 10. The last episode is the most heartbreaking one I have watched on TV and to date, I cry each time. The only other scene I’ve cried so much for is when Mufasa dies in Lion King. Imagine.

Friends might have backlash for its many problematic storylines and tone-deaf characterizations which the creators were not sensitive to back in the day. While that may be true, there’s no denying that its emotional impact transcends generations. It wasn’t just how the stories in the series progressed, but it was the way they made us feel inside. Like being close to a burning candle of warmth, snuggles, and comfort.

The candle burns bright even today, but slightly dimmer now.

The thought that we would lose one of them never ever crossed my mind. It sounded too sinful to even think of, too devastating. And then, it happened. We lost Matthew Perry recently. When I read the news, it was like a lightning strike. No this cannot be real. I just watched Chandler the other day breaking up with Janice for the umpteenth time. I watched him yell at Ross while trying to carry a sofa up the stairs. I watched him cry when faced with Monica’s wedding proposal in a room filled with candles. No this cannot be real.

A piece of the perfect circle has suddenly been torn away. My generation grieves today for the loss of the talented, goofy, eloquent, kind actor that was Matthew Perry and his lovable Chandler Bing. The one who struggled the most during the series and after, with multiple personal issues which he finally managed to overcome after walking a long, arduous road. The one who is most worthy of admiration, let alone for bringing smiles and hope to thousands of people across the globe.

If we are so devastated, I cannot even imagine how the rest of the 5 feel at this moment. But all I do know is that Matthew Perry and Chandler Bing will forever remain in spirit, in soul, in heart. Laughing and goofing around as usual. Making sarcastic jokes and using humor as a defense mechanism as usual. Being caring, considerate, sensitive, vulnerable, and loving as usual.

“Could he be any more immortal?”

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Swathi Parasuraman
Human Parts

Cafe hopper & anime geek who writes what catches her fancy. Oh, also a murder mystery enthusiast