I usually remain blissfully unaware of this, due to a complete lack of interest in high-street shops. I pretend this lack of interest is because of the environmental impact of such large scale disposable materialism. But of course it’s actually due to a lack of money.
By ignoring the strain put on us (and our relationships) by the genderisation of shop products for marketing purposes; I can focus fully on more tangible feminist issues. Like our Prime Minister vetoing improving sex education in schools despite it being recommended by a huge array of experts and the women in his own cabinet.
Admittedly though, most of the strain “the genderisation of shop products for marketing purposes” puts on my relationship is because of me using phrases like “the genderisation of shop products for marketing purposes”.
Anyway, thankfully this episode doesn’t actually cover Valentine’s Day. So I can press on without its shadow hanging over us.
“The One Where I Try Not to Talk About Valentine’s Day”
Seeing as this seems to be the “feminist issue” of RLF I'm gonna start with the “feminist issue” covered in this episode (at least according to Joey and Ross): Phoebe having to tell Rachel the "wonderful" Paulo assaulted her on the massage table. Thankfully for the viewer this makes Paulo such a horrendous arsehole we excuse Ross’s own dubious attempt to show Rachel what a “nice guy” he is - by jumping her whilst she's vulnerable.
The writers manage to subvert this well though as Rachel swears off men altogether.
(As an aside there's another example of concurrent fashion trends between the 90s and now here, as Rachel spends most of the episode in what looks like a onesie).
I did wonder (again) if this was written by the female writing staff. In many ways it’s a female focused counterpart to the previous episode. Both feature one the Friends™ crossing an inappropriate sexual line with someone important to one of the others. But this handles the issue with more sensitivity as it delves into Rachel’s heartbreak, and the laughs are derived largely from Ross acting out.
I looked it up and, to my surprise; this episode was written by all men. I suppose ultimately this is positive, the male writing staff too were capable of portraying M, P and R as complex female characters.
It's helped by the first appearance of Monica’s competitive streak, brought about by the introduction of another staple quirk of the series – the Foosball table! Before this we get the joy of Chandler and Joey struggling to agree on furniture to buy, which I can very much relate to. We received several gift cards in lieu of Christmas presents this year.
Whilst it's a funny scene, a lot of the humour relies on two heterosexual male flatmates acting in a stereotypically coupley fashion. This links nicely with the classic scene at the start of the episode (of the Friends™ spontaneously singing the theme to ‘The Odd Couple’) but I can’t shake the realisation I’m essentially laughing because they’re “being a bit gay”. This is made worse by the reappearance of the “blunt gay joke” at the expense of Carol and Susan.
Ross’s further dick-holery is also apparent when he willingly lets a vegetarian Susan eat a lasagne with meat in it.
Talking of things you shouldn’t eat, this episode briefly touches on people eating placenta. My partner had a good laugh at this as apparently I go on about it “all the time”. Ridiculous, all because I happen to have mentioned once or twice how good for you it’s supposed to be and that a lot of animals do it naturally...
Also though why would any self respecting meat eater pass up on their only opportunity to legally and morally eat human meat? And my partner’s a vegetarian, so it would be her ONLY opportunity to eat ANY meat.
There’s been an odd trend in recent years of companies offering services to prepare the placenta into smoothies or dried pill form, but I say fry it with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
(NB I emphatically do not actually say that. I am merely open to the possibility of trying it.)
The miracles of childbirth (culinary and otherwise) are further explored in this episode as Ross deliberates on whether he wants to know the sex of his child.
I’m not sure where I fall in this camp. I like the idea of it being a surprise. (And certainly wouldn’t want to buy any clothing or decor based on preconceived notions of the child’s gender.) But, on the other hand, I suspect finding out would make me feel more involved and excited about the pregnancy. We'll have to cross that road when it comes to it.
To bring this decidedly un-valentine’s day special to a close: I’ve just realised if Ross had gone all the way with Chandler’s mother last time, she would have become the second person he’d slept with!
Real Live Sitcom Moment:
This week’s RLSM comes from my Real Live David the Science Guy. He shared the following story with us in the pub last weekend:
Apparently one of his uncles has both a predilection for sleeping in the nude and an unfortunate habit of not putting his spectacles on to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
As a result, whilst on holiday, David and his partner were awoken in the middle of the night by the drunken uncle first exclaiming “what are you doing in my room?!” before, upon realising his error, hurriedly adding “for heaven’s sake don’t turn on the light.”