Taylor Jenkins Reid explains how heartbreak brought her writing alive.
I’m Not Sure I’d Be A Writer if Ross and Rachel Never Broke Up
When I was fifteen, my boyfriend of one year came over to my house late one August evening and dumped me.
I cried for so long – so many hours of so many days – that when I finally stopped, I was numb. So I turned on the television. And started watching Friends.
I knew it was just a sitcom. I knew that it wasn’t real and that it wasn’t Tolstoy. But it was a good escape and I needed an escape. After a few weeks of avoiding my ex-boyfriend at school and coming home to watch Friends reruns on the sofa, I started to feel better. I started to move on. Until one day, it didn’t hurt anymore. I had gotten through it.
And then Ross and Rachel broke up in season three. It was an old rerun but I’d never seen it. It was new to me, the story of him sleeping with the girl from the copy place and Rachel finding out about it, the long conversation in the living room with the two of them going back and forth. And then, at the end of the episode, it happens: Rachel breaks up with Ross.
I sat there, glued to the TV, as Ross started crying. As he begged Rachel not to leave him. As Rachel covered her face and said, “No. I can’t. You’re a totally different person to me now. I used to think of you as someone that would never, ever hurt me. Ever.”
And I thought, “That’s it. That’s what I felt when I had my heart broken.”
And I felt good. Not just okay or fine, but truly good. Because I wasn’t alone. Somebody got me.
That’s when I realized I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to do for someone what Ross and Rachel had done for me.
It was years until I figured out how, exactly, I was going to do that. And it was even longer until I learned how to do it properly. It was a full decade before I even attempted to write a novel. But even if my failures, I always knew what was driving me.
So I write books in the hopes that people will pick them up at the right moment and I might, just maybe, put into words the feelings they can’t quite explain. I write books in the hopes that the characters I come up with might make a reader feel slightly less alone. I write books because I know that the right words from the right character at the right time can make someone feel understood.
Ross and Rachel taught me that.
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game — and searching for a new road to happily ever after.
Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Media Studies. Her first novel, Forever, Interrupted, was named one of the 11 Debuts We Love by Kirkus Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and their dogs, Rabbit and Rex. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.