One recent summer evening, while blasting the air conditioner in my single-gal Brooklyn apartment, I got sucked into the rabbit hole of Friends reruns. It was a show I grew up with in syndication, so I missed a lot of the sequential Ross-and-Rachel drama. I knew about the whole "we were on a break!" thing. I knew that he said her name at his wedding to Emily. I knew that they technically were married once, and also had a kid together. But somehow, I skipped over the final few episodes of season 10. For those of you who don’t remember or somehow managed to miss the finale, Friends culminates with Rachel (played by Jennifer Aniston) packing up her life in NYC, and planning to leave for Paris. She bids a heartfelt goodbye to each friend, one by one. Until, that is, she gets to Ross, to whom she just can’t bear to bid adieu. True to the character David Schwimmer developed across a decade, he becomes neurotically, pathetically angry at Rachel. And keeping with the tangled romantic subplot, they eventually end up in bed together.
I've actually loved that she's been a hold out for all this time, happy in her relationship without the apparent need to sanctify it while wearing a fluffy white dress.
Even after they have sex, though, Rachel still plans to leave for Paris. And even after Ross reveals that he wants to finally be with her, Rachel still gets on that plane. For the better part of the last episode, it seems like she is finally going to choose herself, her dreams, and her desires, wholeheartedly. Of course, that doesn't happen. She eventually does the thing that we all expected: She returns to New York to quibble with Ross for all eternity. For a moment, though, I dared to hope she wouldn't —because Rachel deserved to explore life on her own terms. Which brings me to my point: Jennifer Aniston got married earlier this month, after years of enduring the world's patronizing "concern" over the possibility that she would remain single, despite being a beautiful, wealthy, and successful woman. Her August 5th wedding to Justin Theroux has been chronicled in uncomfortable detail — from the rings and the ceremony itself to the blurry telephoto lens images of the newly married mister and missus on their beachy honeymoon. The actors didn’t sell the exclusive of their event to a glossy mag; nor have they been particularly forthcoming about the details. Still, the coverage has been relentless, and the message is clear: Jennifer Aniston finally tied the knot. Bells have at last rung. Rejoice! For the woman jilted by Brad Pitt will not die a pathetic spinster! Huzzah! Although I am fully aware that neither Aniston, nor the character who made her famous, should serve as representatives for all of womankind, I am mildly pained by this real life rom-com denouement. Something about this wedding stirs up the same part of me that was ticked when Rachel chose Ross over the world. While I'm absolutely not suggesting that Aniston got married to satisfy anyone other than her partner and herself, there's something about carrying a bouquet down an aisle that's less attractive to me than a single woman who has chosen to spend her life with the man she loves, sans marriage certificate —tradition be damned. Put another way: I wanted Jennifer Aniston to get on the proverbial plane to Paris, and do what I wasn't expecting. I wanted her to live a life with the man she has chosen, and rise above any and all speculation that she and her happiness wouldn't be fully realized, without a wedding. For quite some time, Aniston has been living proof that having it all doesn't necessarily mean having a lawful husband, too. All these years, I chose to view her spouse-free existence as a sign that she didn't care what people might be whispering behind her back. Sure, I was totally projecting, but the fact is, she was an inspiration to those of us who love our partners, but might not be completely sold on the institution of marriage. None of this is to say that I want her to abandon Theroux and go live on another continent — when it comes to relationships, my party line is: You do you, girlfriend. But just once, wouldn't it be wonderful to see a fairytale romance conclude with something other than the words "I do"?