I Was OK Being a 'Friends' Non-Fan Until Suddenly, I Wasn't

I have never seen Friends. Not a single episode. The show debuted on NBC in 1994 and concluded ten seasons later in 2004 and I've never seen it. The show is a cultural staple that has pioneered everything from imitation hairstyles, to parodies in other television shows I have watched, to desperate cries from desperate fans about an eventual Friends reunion please, please, please — and I've never seen it. The show has been referenced, researched, and rerun and I've never seen it. But now, every episode of Friends is coming to Netflix and it's finally time for me to see it.

There's a three step process that happens whenever I confess to someone that I've never seen Friends. Their eyes widen. Their mouth drops open on the words, "What?! Really?! Why?!" They blink in evident confusion and then go, "You have to watch it! It was amazing." Sometimes, I get lucky and they instead conclude with a simple, "Huh," as if my refusal to watch Friends to this point is some kind of bizarre medical condition they cannot understand but are determined to be tolerant and politically correct about.

So, why have I still never seen Friends? The first reason is simple enough. I just wasn't interested. I was 4 years old when it started and 14 years old when it finished. At that time, my gamut of favorite TV shows ran from Barney, Arthur, and Teletubbies to Boy Meets World, Lizzie McGuire, and All That. I was too busy watching the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and worrying about whether or not I'd make any friends — pun intended — in high school to sit down and watch an adult situational comedy. I was never that teenager. At 24 years old, I'm still watching cartoons.

But that excuse only works for so long. Friends is in syndication. I've seen reruns in my FiOS guide playing on Nick at Nite. Why didn't I watch it then? Well, by that point it came down to timing. I missed the pilot episode. There are ten seasons of the show and I'm the kind of person who likes to watch my TV shows in order. Once I missed the pilot episode, I skipped over Friends every time I was looking for something to watch. How was I supposed to get to know these people and fall in love with these people if I didn't make the journey with them from the beginning? I already have a general overview of what happens without even looking it up online; Ross and Rachel, they're the ones to watch. I want to see how they start.

And that's how I intentionally and then accidentally reached my adulthood without ever watching Friends. That's how I smiled vaguely whenever anyone compared my favorite on-screen couples to Ross and Rachel. That's how I learned not to take it personally when someone looked at me like I was an alien for never boarding the Friends train. That's how I grew to resent Friends and then become vaguely re-interested in Friends and then resent it again. That's how I added it to an ever-growing list of shows to watch, knowing I would never get around to it because I don't care enough to spend money on a box set.

That's when Netflix decided to add Friends to its line-up of available shows, as if it heard me resigning myself to a life of feeling left out every time a Friends anniversary or reference went right over my head. As if it knew I was too lazy to do anything to change my status as a Friends non-fan that was more strenuous than opening my Netflix. There are lots of reasons why someone might not be a fan of the show. Maybe they watched an episode and didn't like it. Maybe they hate the ongoing hype and wrote it off permanently. Maybe they hate one or all of the actors.

But if there's anyone out there who is like me, a lazy potential fan who suffered from a lot of missed opportunities in between being told "You have to watch it," then now's our chance.

Image: NBC; f-centralperk/Tumblr (2)