Ask anyone who hung out with me in the 90’s about me, and they might just talk about my (not so) paranoid delusion that NBC was spying on me. Yes, NBC, the television network. It was not an unfounded delusion. On many occasions, I would tell a joke or random story (I’ve been doing this a long time), two or more weeks would pass, and we would suddenly hear the same joke or story (nearly word for word) coming out of Chandler’s mouth on Friends. This really, really bugged me. Partly because I never got any credit (or royalty checks), but mostly because no one ever believes me when I tell them now.
Because of the Friends thing, I began to wonder if sitcom writers are somehow scripting my life to try out bits and jokes for their shows. I often find myself in completely implausible situations (and even slapstick hijinks). It’s the kind of stuff you can’t make up, but seems too set up, too perfectly written. It’s also the only think that coherently explains the circumstances that surrounded meeting my friend I call Margaret (because that’s her name).
First a little background on her. Margaret has to be character. She attractive, friendly, and a little ditzy, but in an endearing way. Think Anna Faris, except prettier and not annoying. She’s also really smart, but teeters into what we referred to as Margaret’s World. As an example, several of us were sitting around watching the movie That Thing You Do. The movie ends with a montage with subtitles letting viewers know what became of the characters. The moment the words came on the screen Margaret exclaimed, “I didn’t know this was a true story!” We all laughed, and then she laughed with us, because she knew we meant it in fun and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s got good writers.
These little forays into Margaret’s World happened enough that we (okay, I) made up a catchy little song that we would break out as appropriate. Good Times. There was only one problem, apparently the writers needed some type of conflict to increase the entertainment value, so they wrote in some unrequited affection. Specifically, they started writing me as a hopeless loser with feelings for the Most Popular Girl in School. Ah, who am I kidding, they just added the feelings bit.
This came to a head one afternoon when a few of our mutual friends were giving me advice on how to ask her out. They gave me different scenarios and tried to coax me in to following through. Of course, Margaret walked in the room in the middle of this conversation, which immediately ended. After the briefest pause, everyone but Margaret and I was laughing. She not knowing what was funny and me feeling mortified.
“What’s so funny?” she asked. They just laughed harder.
For some reason, I answered, “They’re laughing at me because I don’t have the guts to ask you out.” Idiot! The laughter stopped. Margaret displayed a look of shock and slowly backed out of the room. In my head, I always picture her running away screaming the moment she hits the door.
This episode was indicative of my non-existent dating life at the time. It was a weird time when my friends employed various tactics to get me a date, all of which failed spectacularly.
Fortunately, Summer passed, then the Fall semester and Winter break. I had made peace and was not in active pursuit of a relationship. This did not stop my new roommate from trying. His girlfriend had a new roommate as well, and he kept mentioning that he thought we’d hit it off.
“Please don’t bring this up,” I would say.
“But I think you guys would hit it off.”
“Or maybe we wouldn’t. Then I’d not be at peace. I will lose my peace if I pursue a relationship.”
“But she’s really cute and funny and Amy says nice things about you to her.”
“Amy’s talked about me to her? What did she say?”
“I don’t know, you’d have to ask Amy.”
“Oh, okay.” Then a thought struck me, “What’s her name?”
“I can’t remember.”
This went on for a few days. It didn’t take long for hope to set in and cause me to dream. I started looking forward to meeting Amy’s mystery roommate. They would talk about setting us up on a blind date (which I have never been on) or the four of us getting together. I began to really think it could work, right up until Amy finally told me her name.
“Oh yeah, her name’s Margaret.” Now, you might think that there are lots of Margarets in Clarksville, and you’d be right. You might further postulate that the odds of the same Margaret that was shocked into silence at the mere thought of me asking her out being the new roommate of the girlfriend of my new roommate were astronomical. Again, you’d be right. And even with that very slight chance that these two Margarets could be one and the same, you might think that this is the sort of thing that only happens on TV shows, that it is not the sort of thing that happens in real life. On that point, you would be completely, utterly, inexorably wrong.
Though I laugh about it now, it was not funny then (Margaret still doesn’t think it’s funny). Of course, I was even more upset when a similar story line played out on Friends. The writers had improved it, but only after trying it out on me first.
Fortunately, they gave me a good ending. Margaret married my good friend JoshJohnson (who insists I call him that for dramatic purposes) and I married an amazing woman I don’t deserve. They even wrote in a wonderful friendship between the four of us that can’t be shaken by long ago crushes and awkward moments, though we still laugh about them during the flash back episodes.
Which, now that I think of it, they kinda did with Friends as well. It never ends.