Why “Friends: The Reunion” Makes All the Middle Aged Moms Cry

I didn’t make it five minutes into HBOMax’s Friends: The Reunion without tears welling up in my eyes, accompanied by a grin so wide you’d think I’d just time traveled back to the fall of 1994, and was plopped down on the oversized sofa in the TV room of my sorority house. 

If the phrase “all the feels” was meant to perfectly and accurately describe something, then it’s exactly the phrase I’d use to describe what watching this funny and nostalgic trip all the way back to that orange couch at the Central Perk felt like.

Watching the Friends: The Reunion was really like seeing old friends again

It was-pun totally intended-like really seeing old Friends again, and for those of us who are now casually hanging around the orange couch of middle age, it instantly brings back memories of life two decades ago, when we too were stumbling through our 20s with our best friends beside us. 

One of the best parts of the reunion special was watching the cast stroll onto the set they once called home, and seeing their raw, emotional reactions unload in real time. I feel like if you tossed myself and my college roommates back into our sorority house, you’d see the same exact reactions on our faces- just memories replaying on the screens of our minds, followed by story after story of hangovers, bad dates, and bombed exams. 

But because Friends aired from 1994-2004, the show was not only must see TV during our college years, it then became a companion for most of us in the years that followed, and that’s why it was so relatable.

And even though I wasn’t living in an adorable rent controlled apartment in Manhattan, with a hot (and always hungry Italian) across the hall, somehow watching this cast act out and go through often outrageous life scenarios, it still felt real. Real in a sense that it helped me realize that none of us during that decade of life really knows what we’re doing, and that in itself was comforting. It was made even better with some of the wittiest, deadpan humor writing around. 

Friends was the TV glue that kept my generation talking

But it’s what Friends has managed to do to my generation (and others) both during and after it aired that has set its place firmly in the zeitgeist of one of the greatest comedic sitcoms ever aired. (And I don’t say greatest lightly, because the series was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards, is ranked no. 21 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, and no. 28 on TV Guide’s 60 Best TV Series of All Time.) 

At a time before social media madness and cultural divisiveness took over, Friends was akin to metaphorical TV glue that kept so many of us actually talking together about something other than real problems. Must-see TV was when the whole country came together to find out if Ross and Rachel would ever get back together (or were ever really on a break), not to rage tweet about the latest news headline. 

Back then we were able to find common ground in one of Chandler’s mindless jobs, in Ross’ divorces and mental breakdown, in Phoebe’s search for a true family, in Joey’s quest for a big career break, in Rachel’s desire for independence and later managing single motherhood, and even in Monica’s infertility struggles.

The Friends characters grew up right in front of us

What started as us watching six immature friends do immature things, turned into us watching six characters grow into adults before our eyes, and with it, all the issues adult-ing brings with it, and ironically at the same time most of us were experiencing the same things in our own lives. 

It’s been 17 years since the last episode of Friends aired. Since then I have at various times in my life found myself desperate to watch an episode, especially one I know verbatim, simply because of the fact that they’re unbelievably emotionally comforting in a way that’s hard to describe.

Watching old episodes of Friends is soothing and healing

I know I’m not alone in thinking there is something unique about the emotional feelings and healing that an old stand by episode can bring, because during the reunion special there was a segment that went into detail about that exact phenomenon. 

People from literally around the world talked about how during very difficult times in their lives, both mentally and physically, watching an episode of Friends somehow brought them great joy, a sense of happiness, and even made them feel less lonely. It was as if the friends on the screen were actual friends in real life. 

I sometimes find myself binge watching season after season during some of the most personally challenging times of my life. Yup, that includes 2020. Last summer when the world was shutting down and nothing made sense, I knew that watching an episode (or 50!) would help me focus (or not have to focus!) on something other than the chaos in the real world. It’s mind media medicine like no other! 

I will never get tired of the reruns

Even though the special recapped some of my favorite episodes, as well as lines that I’ve heard hundreds of times, “My eyes! My eyes! Monica and Chandler! MONICA. AND. CHANDLER!” I still don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of watching this show. And I may very well be at a much different season of life now that I was when I first watched Friends, (anyone else find they relate more now to Jack and Judy Geller than Ross and Rachel?)

It was and will always remain a great reflection of a different time in my life, and I’m glad the reunion special provided me the chance to see it through the eyes of people who are actually MY age now. Yes, the cast aged just like I did, and I must say grey looks really good on you Joey!

Wouldn’t it have been fun to see them all handle sending kids off to college? HBOMax, can you work on that?

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About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

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