In a world where we feel so out of control, Ross and Rachel from ‘Friends’ are a comforting certainty

As my social media feeds fill up with recommendations of what to do with my isolation, what to make, what to eat and what to watch, I find myself only able to cope with the familiar

Lucie McInerney
Saturday 04 April 2020 14:07
Michael Gove: 'I wish I could predict' when self isolation will end

Somewhere over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve lost what little adventurousness I previously possessed. Some of it was beyond my control and forced upon me (the announcement of the lockdown) but the rest of it seems pretty much self-inflicted.

As my social media feeds fill up with recommendations of what to do with my isolation, what to make, what to eat and what to watch, I find myself only able to cope with the familiar. There has been no revelatory binge watching of new television shows. Instead, reruns of Friends and Agatha Christie’s Poirot are the only things I can bear to watch. For the most part, I’ve seen them all a thousand times, so I know what happens.

I cannot currently cope with the idea of something new, only for it to turn out to be crap. There’s so much uncertainty at the moment: will I get sick? If I get sick, how sick? Do hospitals have enough staff, equipment, medicines? When will the lockdown end? How much more of all-day, every-day with my spouse/flatmate/children/self can I actually handle?

So for me, the comfort that comes from knowing what happens with Ross and Rachel and that the little grey cells of the persnickety Belgian detective will always deliver justice is simply invaluable. In a world where we feel so out of control of our own lives, from what we can and can’t do, where we can and can’t go to our own health, that really annoying audience laughter in Friends has evolved from an irritation into somewhat of a soothing balm.

Many of us are now operating in a sort of low-level but constant state of anxiety from all this relinquishing of control. I have all but lost the ability to concentrate on any one thing at a time, instead I must be writing and listening to music, reading while I’m eating and the old classic: playing on my phone while watching TV – so knowing what’s going to happen allows me to double-screen.


Because of my constant need to be overstimulated, I am not one of those people using this opportunity of a lockdown to follow any of the advice readily available on social media about what to do with ourselves. Lists have appeared all over Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with suggestions to: read more, get in shape, eat more healthily, compose your first symphony, find your hidden talent for detailed portraiture, and, of course, write your novel. My warped concentration levels would only permit me to attempt at least three of these things simultaneously; so I am doomed to fail (if I bother trying). But if this isolation is leading people to finally sit down and get that long-threatened screenplay started: good for them!

However, as surely as night follows day, not long after the lists of “what we can get done in lockdown” started appearing, so did the clapback. The grief we’re now doling out to each other about working out or not working out, doing things or unable to do things strikes me as so utterly misplaced.

People are all over Instagram either baking loaves by the dozen – or taking said activity as some kind of personal attack on their productivity and the fact that said productivity hasn’t resulted in any kind of baked good. Who would have thought that one of the most contentious issues of spring 2020 would be banana bread?

Let’s be honest here folks, most loaves will be a result of people (like me) who grabbed a bunch of bananas with the best of intentions in a mad panic for fresh fruit, only to find themselves days later staring guiltily at the aforementioned bunch as they munch their way through a pack of chocolate Hobnobs. You don’t want to throw away perfectly good food. You need more sugary snacks. There is but one answer: banana bread.

It all comes back to the age-old adage that, particularly when spending too much time on social media and comparing yourself to other people, that way madness lies. Every one of us is going through a trying and challenging time – some find solace in doing new things, some in sticking to their routine, others in doing nothing at all. But we would all definitely have a lot more peace if we let the judgement go. From my perspective, I plan on sticking to my comfort telly all while enjoying a slice of freshly baked banana bread, and the end of those chocolate Hobnobs.

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