I've been in love with Matthew Perry since 1996.
I know that liking Friends is hardly a unique claim, but I dedicated a wall of my bedroom to posters of him. When Chandler fell in love with Joey's girlfriend, Kathy, in Season 4, I wanted to be her. Hell, I still do. And my crush didn't end at Friends. I watched every movie he made, each show he helped create; I waited for Matthew Perry's moment, when the world realized how fucking awesome he is.
So when I found out he'd written a play called The End of Longing that would debut in London's West End, I got tickets immediately.
My brother booked us front-row seats — an amazing feat in itself — and I looked forward to collecting Perry's spit in my mouth through the show (weird?). Once there, I gripped the wrist of my brother's girlfriend so tight, I nearly broke it. And seeing Perry on stage, mere feet away, was crazy-good, and the slight tremor in his hand during the first act was hella cute. Welcome to the stage, Matthew Perry: playwright, actor, hot-as-hell be-stubbled man.
While I fully understand that Matthew Perry is a celebrity and, as such, I have no claim to him, there's a certain expectation of actors when they're performing in the West End. Sure, no individual has to greet their fans at the stage door after the performance: it's a choice they're fully in control of. If you seriously can't be bothered for whatever reason, that's fine. When I saw David Schwimmer in the play Detroit, he left via a secret entrance of the theater so as to not meet fans after, and I can't fault that decision. Not everyone wants to give autographs or huddle close to their fans. So when you choose to leave by the stage door on a nightly basis, you're entering into a contract with fans who have bought tickets to your show.
I'm under no illusions here: I am completely pathetic. I knew as much when I got front-row seats to Matthew Perry's play, when I bought a program and a poster for said show and, again, when I made the decision to wait by the stage door after. Even though a voice nagged inside my head that I should leave, particularly as the February weather was so inhospitable, I stayed. Perry's car was ready and waiting, engine running, and the security guards assured fans that he would be out soon and that he would be giving autographs. I wanted to leave, but I couldn't. The crux of the problem is crushes — they fuel irrational decision-making.
Some people had waited longer, perhaps while the rest of us watched the play, to claim a coveted place at the metal barrier. I had only one person in front of me, and figured I'd see Perry up close, if nothing else. My brother reiterated the phrase, "This is going to be shit," a couple hundred times while his girlfriend reconsidered any previous desire to marry into the family. As five minutes turned to 50, I knew this wasn't my finest moment, not even close.
That old adage, the one about never meeting your idols, is often true, but I wanted to so badly disprove it, because Matthew Perry, after all, is one of the great loves of my life, without even knowing it. Sure, I don't have a hope in hell with him in any realistic version of events, but he's the first man I completely fell for, more important to me than my first, second, or third boyfriend. Having devoured just about everything he's made, performed, created, I respect him where others may not and know he's way more than his Chandler Bing persona. This feeling, though, is what made the whole experience all the more depressing.
We stuck around long after others, who began bailing as 11 p.m. approached, thinking we'd stayed this long, so what's five minutes more? What we didn't realize then was that five minutes more meant crushing disappointment. But how could we know that?
About an hour and a half after The End Of Longing finished, Matthew Perry came out of the stage door. He took a pen from the person nearest the exit and signed five programs, said, "I'm not doing photos," twice, didn't smile, and then signed, like, five more programs. Then he got in his car. He kept his eyes down, didn't make small talk, never asked fans what they thought.
And the worst part? Before he left, I actually begged, "Matthew, please." I am the most pathetic, and there isn't any doubt now.
In the Uber home, I considered what this meant for my 20-year-long Matthew Perry crush. Was it over, or was this merely a blip on an infinite time line? Was he a jerk, or just having a bad night? Is this what he's like as a person, or was this event in a vacuum? While my concerns might seem trivial, the connection we have to celebrities can be just as important as the places we grow up and the people that raise us. Perry's impact on my life is crucial, and evolving, and I (stupidly) think that means something.
As far as epiphanies go, the truth is, life is shitty, no one owes you a damn thing, and everyone you love disappoints you in the end. It's what happens next that's important. Which is why I'm re-watching Numb, and hoping the world realizes that Perry's penchant for drama (The Good Wife, The West Wing) should score him a series that matters, soon.