You likely don’t remember the first time you watched the seventh season episode of Friends where Rachel turns 30 (it’s called, natch, “The One Where They All Turn Thirty”)—but you probably had a similar response to me when you did: “Dang, that’s old“. Oh, how young and naive we were back then, right?
Re-watching the episode now, as an adult, is an entirely new experience. No matter which side of the milestone you’re on, the big 3-0 has now probably taken on a different meaning for you. For example, if you had asked me where you thought I’d be at 30 back when the episode aired in 2001, the answer would have included a house in the suburbs and two or three happy kids. Stay-at-home mom? Maybe. Minivan? Definitely.
The truth is something substantially different—and now, from a more mature viewpoint, 30 feels like it’s actually still pretty young. Even though we know it’s for entertainment, it’s still weird to rewatch Joey freak out about aging with dramatics that are, sorry to say, really silly. But what’s infinitely more relatable now that we’re adults? The way Rachel has put immense pressure on herself to have it all, even crying when a birthday card intended as a joke makes her address the fact that she’s not married and doesn’t have kids. You can obviously welcome the new decade feeling all kinds of satisfied—attached or not and with or without children—but current 30-somethings will understand the way that birthday can make you feel anxious about whether or not you’ve achieved what you had hoped for. There’s something about nice round numbers that calls for self-reflection. And, really, that’s a good thing. We all need to take a step back from our daily anxieties, look at the bigger picture, and ask ourselves questions like: Am I happy with where I’m at? Where do I picture myself at 40 years old? Am I on the right path? Should I be making changes in my life?
It’s interesting to note that when the episode aired, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry were the youngest cast members—and they had both turned 30 a couple of years prior to filming “The One Where They All Turn Thirty.” We’d love to know whether they thought the histrionics were over the top too or if any of the gang actually struggled with the birthday IRL.
Likely, it was a mixture of both. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen the episode, here’s a clip:
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