“I wish I could, but I don’t want to.” ~ Phoebe
“I’m a pacifist. But when the revolution comes, I’ll destroy all of you.” ~ Phoebe
The very first episode of “Friends” aired on September 22, 1994.
I was only a teenager then, fascinated by a group of people living the dream in New York City. What I didn’t know was that these characters would always be part of my life as I grew and evolved.
After 26 years, I still watch “Friends” over and over again, and I can still relate to every single one of them including Gunther and Mr. Heckles. Like Joey, I love food and have a soft spot for my friends. At one point in my life, like Rachel, I worked in the fashion industry and was a bit vain. I guess I learned sarcasm from Chandler and like his Janice, I can be the “needy girlfriend;” that’s only when I am not being Gunther and having the biggest crush on someone who barely notices my existence. Like Ross, I am a total nerd and books are my dinosaurs. Oh! And I turn into Mr. Heckles when I am PMSing. I mean, I could play the oboe.
However, the two main characters who left the biggest imprints on my heart were Monica Geller and the one and only Phoebe Buffay. Throughout my 20s and early 30s, like Monica, I was a control freak whose competitiveness can turn really ugly—American football anyone? I was an overweight kid who needed to prove herself as an adult, which could quickly turn into becoming obsessive-compulsive, self-disciplined, and even strict. Unfortunately, most of us forget who we really are, and it’s not until later in life that we start looking more and more like the person we were born to be.
In my late 30s, as I was watching “Friends” again, I noticed that I am and have always been Phoebe. By far, the most mindful character in TV history was seen as an eccentric, a little nutty lady by many, when in fact Phoebe was a progressive, mindful woman.
Although I still think that Sherlock is the smartest and most fascinating TV character, here’s why Phoebe is my all-time favorite:
She is an environmentalist. Who can forget that scene when she tries to save old Christmas trees from being thrown in the wood chipper and her famous quote: “I am against innocent trees being cut down in their prime and their corpses grotesquely dressed in, like, tinsel and twinkly lights.”
She respects all living beings. I was shocked the first time I watched the episode with Bob, the rat who turned out to be a female and had babies in Phoebe’s apartment, until I had a cockroach and a spider as flatmates. Ultimately, Steve and Peter were caught in boxes and set free.
She is an animal lover like no other. Not only does Phoebe love “smelly cats,” but she is also a vegetarian who refuses to eat her furry friends. Even when she tried to please Mike’s fancy parents, she couldn’t eat that steak.
She wears comfortable clothes and has her own sense of style. Unlike Rachel and Monica, Phoebe does not follow trends. She probably wears organic hemp panties.
She had a rough life, but she did not become bitter, only kinder. She grew up as an orphan and, at one point, she even lived on the streets. Her pain turned her into the strong empath who I admire.
She’s a terrible liar. Although Phoebe is good with words—I mean Regina Phalange good, she is extremely transparent and honest. Phoebe’s bluntness can be a little too much at times, but we can all agree it is so much better than lying.
She promotes real self-confidence, unlike many modern so-called influencers. She is so comfortable in her skin and so spontaneous that people might even think she is hiding something, but with Phoebe, what you see is what you get.
She has the soul of an artist, although she is not a great one. Phoebe’s sense of art is unique, even weird—from “Gladys” to “Smelly Cat” she never ceases to amaze me. Isn’t art, after all, a reflection of who we are? And Phoebe doesn’t take life too seriously; she is easy-going, she enjoys what she’s doing, and lives in the moment.
She never gave up on love. If there is one Phoebe thing I can relate to, it has to be her ability to love unconditionally. Who else would agree to be the surrogate mother of their brother’s wife or agree to marry her supposedly gay friend so that he can stay in the country? There is nothing she wouldn’t do for the people she loves. Although most of her relationships were short-lived and disappointing, she still opened her door for love.
Like Phoebe, one day, I hope I get to say this to my Mike: “When I was growing up, I didn’t have a normal mom and dad or a regular family like everybody else. And I always knew that something was missing. But now I’m standing here today knowing that I have everything I’m ever gonna need. You are my family.”
Finally, Phoebe’s unconventional spirituality is something that inspires me. A new mantra I learned from Phoebe that helped my anxiety: “I don’t even have a pla.”