This one hurts. We want to believe he’s just on a trip—maybe to 15 Yemen Road, Yemen—but he’s not. Matthew Perry has died, which means our beloved Chandler Bing (a.k.a. Miss Chinandler Bong) is gone. But he’ll never be forgotten. After blessing the world with so many years of laughter and joy, we can still see his awkward mannerisms and hear his witty jokes. And for that, we’ll always be grateful. I mean, can there BE any more funny Chandler memories?

And it wasn’t just the hilarious scenes of him sitting in a canoe in his living room or getting handcuffed to a filing cabinet in Rachel’s boss’s office that made Matthew Perry so special to us. He also taught us about heart and pain and forgiveness—life lessons that helped shape us into the adults we are today. Chandler Bing once delivered one of his most quintessential lines, saying there would be a “Chandler-shaped hole” in the door as he ran through it, running from commitment. We laughed at the time, not knowing that 30 years later, there would be a Chandler-shaped hole in our hearts as we said our final goodbyes to the funniest friend we ever knew. 

As ’90s teens, Friends meant the world to us—and still does. Maybe some of us knew their life was a fantasy—no one in their 20s has an apartment like Monica’s in NYC, especially if they spent half their lives hanging out at a coffee shop. But we didn’t care because they let us dream of what we could be. Maybe we’d be Rachel, learning to make it on our own for the first time. Maybe we’d be Phoebe, the quirky friend who does her own thing, gives birth to her brother’s triplets, and believes her mom lives in a cat. Or maybe we’d be Chandler, churning away at a boring job none of his friends can identify, but eventually winning the lottery of life and falling in love with his best friend.  

Chandler mattered to us because he was real. He was awkward and insecure and he messed up—a lot. He had to sit in a box after kissing Kathy. He had to buy an extra bright gold bracelet to match Joey—his “best bud.” He had to wear silver lipstick after lying about watching Joey’s audition tape. And he did it all—because he’s that kind of friend. He’d even eat cheesecake off the floor with you if the opportunity arose. 

We watched him love Janice, break up with Janice, and beg to get her back—not because he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her (O. M. G. Can you imagine?!) but because he was scared to be alone. He was scared to turn into Mr. Heckles. And as we watched Friends all those years ago, and as we’ve watched years of re-runs since, we understand all too well just how terrifying and crippling loneliness can be. 

He dealt with real-life grown-up stuff like hating your job but having no idea what else you might do with your life. And trying to find a non-creepy roommate who didn’t put a Goldfish cracker into a fish tank and stare at you while you slept. But he also lived through these challenges with humor and humility and showed us that we’d be okay if we, too, were stuck living with an “Eddy” or working endless hours as a “transponster.”

And he was hilariously, unabashedly—often at his own expense—funny. I mean, this was a guy who sat on his father-in-law’s lap . . . naked. And a guy who gets mustard on his shirt and falls into garbage bags full of lettuce while chasing his beloved Kathy through the streets of New York. And who got his clothes stolen by Julia Roberts and had to walk out of a restaurant behind a bathroom stall door. And it’s because of these ridiculously funny situations he finds himself in that if you ask any true Friends fan, there’s a good chance they’ll tell you their favorite character was Chandler Bing. 

Most of us didn’t know it back then, but we know it now. While Chandler Bing wore those sweater vests every week and had us cracking up in our living rooms and dorm rooms, behind the scenes, Matthew Perry was in pain. Addiction is its own beast and it takes everything—your mental health, your physical health, your friends, your family, your livelihood. Even at the reunion, which aired 17 years after Friends wrapped, Matthew Perry alluded to how his struggles had impacted his friendships with fellow cast members over the years. 

Matthew Perry mattered so much to us because he was the most real. He was the one to shake us out of the fantasy that Friends created (a fantasy we very much loved and needed to believe in) and show us what life was really like. Regardless of whether you lived in the big, pretty apartment, or the stinky one across the hall where they sat in patio furniture and took care of a chick and a duck, life was full of heartache and pain and healing and asking for help and forgiveness. And that’s a reality check we needed—just as much as we needed the dream of hanging out in Central Perk. 

Thank you, Matthew Perry, for showing us what friendship and love truly look like. For showing us that sometimes our parents mess up, but as long as they love us and are worthy of our forgiveness, we can find the courage to fly to Vegas and invite them to our wedding. Thank you for reminding us to not give up on finding love—and that maybe it’s been there all along. 

We will still watch you on Friends re-runs as long as we can, so we can be transported back to a simpler time when there were no cell phones or social media and people still watched VCRs and could meet each other at the airport gate. We appreciate the life lessons you gave us and the nostalgia we feel as we watch you and Joey flip open your recliners together and turn on Baywatch or witness you riding that obnoxiously large white horse into Monica and Rachel’s apartment on moving day. 

We know you’re not in Yemen, as much as we wish you were. But all we can do is say thank you. Thank you for making us laugh and for also being real. For being Chandler Bing, who showed us how to forgive and also ask for forgiveness. And for being Matthew Perry, who gave us some hard truths about the disease of addiction and this thing called life.

But most of all, thank you for showing us what it really means when you say to someone, “I’ll be there for you.”

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Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is a freelance writer who is known on social media as The 21st Century SAHM. She is an assistant editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds, staff writer and social media manager for Scary Mommy, and is the author of I Brushed My Hair Today, A Mom Journal for Mostly Together Moms. Follow Karen on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/21stcenturysahm/, Twitter https://twitter.com/21stcenturysahm , and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/the21stcenturysahm/

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