Rory: The house is burning and you can save the cake or me. Which do you save?
Lorelai: That’s not fair. The cake doesn’t have legs.
As a young, female, academic, I feel the constant pressure to prove myself serious and intelligent. I make the effort to read good books, watch obscure films, and be well versed in art and music. And yet, I consistently feel both inadequate and overdone, depending on which peer group I’m conversing with at the time. Either everyone around me has never heard of my favorite films and directors, or they have watched them, studied them, and have now moved on. “Oh, you like Godard? I was pretty into him about four years ago….”
This can be pretty maddening at times. I want to be culturally relevant, but not a snob.
How can we as young academics fight the expectation to be more than ourselves, while also disproving the assumption that we are less than ourselves? By bucking the cultural expectations altogether!
I have done this by choosing to be an open self-contradiction. I love every film by Werner Herzog, and I also love Gossip Girl. I love listening to Biggie Smalls and to Phillip Glass.
Often people will confess to me that they are a closeted manga lover, or a secret Taylor Swift fan. I say, why not shout it from the rooftops? I don’t think we should be ashamed of tastes and preferences unless they are actually shameful. Maybe you love B films. Ok, tell me why. If you have a good reason for loving what you love, then I’ll have a good reason to try it for myself. If you don’t have a good reason, then maybe you should do some introspection.
Recently, Gilmore Girls was released on Netflix. This is great news for two kinds of people: those who have seen Gilmore Girls, and those who haven’t.
Gilmore Girls was one of the most formative parts of my adolescence and young adulthood. Firstly, because it was what kept my mother, sister, and I together at an age when most mothers and daughters can’t stand being around one another. And, secondly, because it taught me some unforgettable life lessons.
Here are a few:
1. Birthdays are Important: So make them into a big deal! It’s a chance to celebrate those you love and to make them feel special. It seems like the older we get, the less we are inspired to note the passage of years. Fight that impulse! And show the people close to you that they are worth celebrating! In the Gilmore household, birthdays are a week long affair. Go forth and do likewise.
2. Smart Women Can Act Dumb: And by dumb, I mean silly. We can all take ourselves too seriously a lot of the time. Remember when you were a kid and wore all green on St. Patricks Day? Why not still? It takes a lot of confidence to stop caring what other people may think. Maybe it’s time to try dancing the next time the band at that restaurant plays a song that enlivens you. If bystanders don’t mind, why should you?
3. Hard Work is Hard Work: Gilmore Girls doesn’t sugar coat the struggles we can have when we try to progress. Rory fails tests, crashes into deer, and a has melt down after highlighting her hair pink. Lorelei is a single mom who runs an inn while also taking night classes to get her associates degree. Both are constantly confronted with self-doubt and exhaustion. But do they give up? No. They keep going, and so should we.
4. Work as Much Nonsensical Repartee into Conversation as Possible: The people and situations we encounter on a daily basis are a lot funnier than we often acknowledge. So why not add to the humor?
5. Men Can Come and Go, but Family Stays: Lorelei and Rory both date quite a number of men over the seven seasons of their show. Some are better than others (and we all have our definitive favorites), but what remains constant is the mother and daughter’s solidarity for one another. Ya ya! Maybe Lorelei didn’t like Jess much, but she stood by Rory’s choices, and when Jess left, Lorelei stood by her then too.
6. It’s Important to be Clean (and it’s Important to be Messy): Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lorelei is a hot mess and Rory is a clean freak. They tease each other in turn about their idiosyncrasies, but also let each other be. Your loved ones don’t have to be like you. It may even be optimal for them to be your opposite! Because that way, you can understand the beauty in variety. Also, that not everything has to be just as you like it, and that’s ok.
7. It’s Important to be Honest (and it’s Important to Keep Your Mouth Shut): Lorelei and Rory both go through periods of telling each other exactly what they think of the other’s dumb decisions, in spite of the consequential tears, tantrums, and silent treatments. But, they also practice a fair amount of tact. Sometimes they should have spoken up more (or less), but either way it’s great to see two women try to navigate the best way to care for one another.
8. Boyfriends are Great, but Girl Friends are Better: Despite the many good and rocky relationships the Gilmore girls have, the one constant in both their lives is each other as well as a strong female friend. Sookie and Lane do their fair share of fighting and laughing, but always they are there for their friend. A lot of times it is easy as a woman to prioritize my relationships with men because those relationships feel like the ones with the most potential. But I am here to tell you that romance comes and goes (until you’re married, I hope), but a best friend is priceless.
Those are just a few of the life lessons I was taught by the Gilmore girls. How about you?
And to those of you who have never seen the show, and are about to start: welcome to the family.