Reading: Would Rachel and Monica Be Friends If They’d Met as Adults?

Relationships & Divorce

Would Rachel and Monica Be Friends If They’d Met as Adults?

Probably not. But that’s what makes childhood friends so worth holding onto

By Suzanne Nugent

When Rachel shows up at Central Perk in a soaking wet wedding dress looking for her old friend Monica, it’s clear these childhood friends had drifted. After all, Monica hadn’t even been invited to this elaborate and ultimately unwanted wedding. But Monica does what most of us do in a friendship that began in childhood: No hard feelings. Yes, of course you can move into my apartment, and here are all my other friends. They’re yours too now.

I think about Rachel and Monica a lot. Sure, their voices lull me to sleep as I watch Friends reruns to keep my mind still in a world that seems to spin so fast, I feel like I could easily fly off the face of the earth if I weren’t so weighed down with worry. But lately I’ve been thinking that Rachel and Monica might not be friends if they’d met as adults. 

As adults, we have schedules instead of playfulness, opinions instead of curiosity, and personas instead of personalities. Brick by brick, our ideas about who we should be cover up who we really are. And often, the most reliable friends inside this fortress are the ones who got in when the wall was still low enough to hopscotch over. When friendships start young, it often begins with a simple proposal: “Hi, wanna be friends?”

Last week at dinner time, I had a missed call and my friend Alison left me a voicemail:

“I’m just calling because I was having a conversation with you in my head and I realized I was driving and there are no children with me so I’m available for a real conversation…”

There are a lot of definitions of friendship — someone you can lean on, someone who makes you laugh, someone who lifts you up. But there’s also a very basic thing: a friend is a witness to your life. I have a lot of witnesses to mine — my earliest childhood friends have become the database of my memories. Through a quick text, I have access to all the important life minutiae that come from spending way too much time together for all our formative years. The kind of facts you could never Google:

“What’s the name of that place we went to that one time?”

“Who was that kid who did that thing?”

“I can’t think of the name of that song by that guy who was on that show.”

Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, we folded notebook paper into tiny triangles and tossed them across the classroom when the teacher wasn’t looking. This was the earliest form of DM. An occasional long-winded voicemail volley and an ongoing text thread are how we communicate from opposite coasts now, but a shoebox in my garage encapsulates our earliest correspondence. Looking at the letters on frayed notebook paper now, it might seem relatively unhealthy to keep these things:

“Dear Suzanne — your teeth look awesome,” says one note that landed on my desk in 8th grade when I got my braces off. “You look awesome. You don’t look like Suzanne at all. I mean, No offense.” 

Well, she did say “no offense”?

Another is more direct: 

“I don’t know why we bother being friends, I obviously don’t like you.”

And how about this whopper:

“I don’t want to be friends anymore. Get out of my life!”

But I stayed in her life.

We met in kindergarten and walked through the world in matching plaid jumpers because our small school mandated it. But we often opted for matching haircuts too. When you’re in a classroom as small as ours was, you follow the same rules that apply to sisters: you don’t always have to like each other, but you must always love each other.

We still disagree on a few little life issues, but agree on all the big ones. My jokes aren’t always her flavor but I usually know when to hold the salty language around her. We live 3,000 miles apart and dreams for our futures have individuated. 

At sleepovers, we played a game called “what if” and planned our life the way little girls do — we’d get an apartment after college, we’d travel to Paris together, we’d be backup singers for Robert Palmer. I’d be a famous actress and she’d be a famous fashion designer. Then we’d find boyfriends who were friends with each other too and then marry those guys because all the members of Duran Duran were already spoken for. 

Our manifesting powers were only sort of on-point: We did travel to Paris together, we did get an apartment together after college, and we did marry guys who were not in Duran Duran.

The apartment we got after college had purple walls like Rachel and Monica’s, but just like Rachel and Monica, our lives eventually evolved to include careers and kids. We couldn’t live together forever like those little girls had planned in their game of “what if,” but despite the “get out of my life!” fights of middle school, we’ll always share a life.

Alison’s voicemail continued — a stream of consciousness about the mundane and other things she said she “kept meaning to tell” me.

“Did I tell you that already?” she wondered aloud. “Or did I just say that in my head?”

She asked questions as if I were on the phone with her and I made a mental note to call her back the next day, but the next day would turn into yet another next day. Thankfully, that kind of time delay never registers in the context of a lifetime. 

“Okay, I think that’s it for now. I’ll keep talking to you in my head and assume you’re talking to me in your head,” she ended her message. “Love you!”

“I love you too,” I said. But for today, I just told her in my head. The conversation continues.

Suzanne Nugent is the author of Brunch and Other Obligations and a writer committed to exploring women’s lives and relationships through poignant comedy (or funny drama, depending on your level of optimism). She was shortlisted for the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting and has received accolades from the Denver Film Festival and the San Francisco Writers Conference. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.

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