Ross and Rachel

by maxmosher

If you were a pre-teen in the late 1990’s, it was all about Ross and Rachel. Sure, Chandler got the best one-liners, and Phoebe’s pseudo-hippie zaniness made her a favourite of my Grade Seven crew, but Ross and Rachel taught us about love, and break-ups, and what grown-up relationships were supposed to be like. When we linked ourselves with the characters of Friends, which of course we did all the time, I was inevitably Ross, the sensitive, slightly-nerdish, archetypal nice guy.

Nowadays, overrun with Michael Cera-esque sensitive heroes (this month Scott Pilgrim opens, in which Cera literally plays a comic book hero), it’s hard to remember that back in the day David Schwimmer was seen as a breakaway from the traditional leading man. He was trumpeted on magazine covers (“Do Nice Guys Always Finish Last?”) and cultural critics wondered if we were entering a new era of feminized masculinity. Then Schwimmer’s film career tanked (like those of all his Friends co-stars), metrosexuality and hipsterism became marketing tools, followed by a retrograde mildly-homophobic ‘real-man’ backlash, and Friends DVDs sit idly on bookshelves gathering dust.

It doesn’t help that Friends is rerun seventeen times a day. It seems like at any hour you can dip into the adventures of those six over-caffeinated Gen Xers and all you have to do is figure out where Ross and Rachel’s romance is at. From the very first episode, when Rachel (Jennifer Aniston, as you know) storms into the coffee shop in her wedding dress, having left her boring fiancé at the altar, and we learn that Ross has been crushing on her since High School, their fateful courting was at the nexus of the show.

The writers skilfully drew out every stage in their relationship (he likes her, she doesn’t know; she likes him, he doesn’t know; they’re almost together, then not; they are together, then not; they’re ex’s; they’re almost on again, but not; she ruins his wedding; they wed by mistake; etc.) to the full comic effect. I consider Ross and Rachel the blueprint for other sitcoms on how they can get a decade’s worth of episodes out of one relationship, and I get frustrated when the love stories of Niles and Daphne or Mr. Shuster and Ms. Pillsbury pointlessly fizzle out.

The only problem was that we all knew they would have to end up together in the end. Somehow, the geeky palaeontologist and the ditsy assistant-buyer would get over their shit and make it work. I still watched the last episode, even though I hadn’t tuned in for years: the show went from being a mildly-dirty chronicler of the dating lives of New York twenty-somethings, to one about the childish antics of over-tanned thirty-something actors who were more famous than their show and demanded a million dollars per episode.

The last episode had Rachel contemplating leaving New York for Paris and Ross’s attempts to get her to stay (like she’s Carrie and he’s Big, as if), and her change of heart, if memory serves, on the airplane, and she hops a cab downtown back into Ross’s arms. Despite not having dated for years, we’re meant to believe that now the two will actually make  it, happily ever after. The fact that we have watched them be jerked around by eachother for years is ironically evidence that they are meant to be together, rather than proof of the opposite.

And it kind of makes me wish that I had a person in my life who I had loved, and been through everything with, and who I learned to be just friends with, while secretly assuming that we’d end up back together, just in time for the happy ending before the credits roll. What troubles me is I probably could have had that with my big Ex, but I had needed to push him out of my life in order to simply cope and get through the days. Now, while it’s still too soon, it’s a bit too late.

But turning to more recent heartaches, I finally sucked it up and wrote the Gentleman an email. He got upset at me for writing about the break-up on this here website, I got upset at him for the whole thing, I explained how much I cared and would miss him, he wrote back similarly nice things, and that was that. Despite me never having been able to be friends with ex’s, we said we’d meet up and talk when he’s back from his latest trip. Not a bang, but a whimper.

Should I try internet dating again? I definitely don’t feel like it, but the alternative may be chastity until one of my friends pressures me into creating yet another smart but humble, sexy (but not too sexy!) plenty of fish profile in order to simply meet people.

I began writing an email to a guy who I dated for awhile and have seen on and off periodically, but then I changed my mind, deleting the subject line letter by letter.

I’m kidding myself if I think I’ll get over the loss of the Gentleman, my second longest boyfriend, by throwing myself at someone else.

I’ll wait, because, despite it all, I’m still a romantic and I’m searching for my Rachel.