It's not often that Netflix binging leads to an existential crisis, but when it does, it really hits.
I was at home watching Gilmore Girls when it hit like a sack of kittens against my chest: I am The Other Rory Gilmore.
For those who aren't familiar with the show, Gilmore Girls is about a vivacious young mother, Lorelai (played by Lauren Graham), and her driven daughter Rory (played by Alexis Bledel) navigating between their family's wealthy background, private school, and their quirky small town of Stars Hollow just outside of Hartford, Connecticut. It's charming, witty, and has a pretty dedicated fan base. So if you're part of the fan base, allow me to explain my awakening. I don't believe I am Rory anymore than I believe in creationism or astrology. I believe that this fictional character and I share a lot in common, and in an alternate universe, it's not completely crazy to think that I would be her, or as close to her as possible.
In the Rory/Nadia Venn Diagram, we are both voracious readers. When I was Rory's age, all I did was read, even if I was clueless about the content (I have no idea what any Faulkner novel is about, honestly). I was also a studious scholar, much like Rory, dreaming of attending an Ivy League school. I attended a competitive high school like Rory, with characters much like Paris, Rory's enemy-turned-bestie. We both love New England, coffee, old movies, and Belle & Sebastian. We obsess over lists, and make new lists, and those pros and cons aren't enough so we make more lists.
However, there are differences.
Rory's grandparents are rich. Like, super rich. A lot of money problems on the show are about swallowing pride and asking for money, versus actually being poor. By the time we see Lorelai and Rory, they are past their poorer days and doing relatively fine by New England standards. While my family was fine, we were by no means rich. I'm embarrassed by how little is in my bank account. And I have no rich relatives to turn to in times of need. If I had that kind of money that the Gilmores have, you bet your ass I wouldn't be eating burnt toaster waffles right now.
Rory's mom is unbelievably supportive. Part of what makes the show so watchable is the relationship between Lorelai and Rory. They're best friends, and it feels off any time they're at odds. Yet Lorelai is also an amazing mother. Beyond movie nights and junk food, she listens, encourages, gives sound advice, and supports nearly all her decisions. She is Gillian Flynn's “Cool Girl” from Gone Girl, but she's a mom. Who knows what the world could accomplish if every parent gave that kind of support.
Rory went to private school. Look, my public school was one of the best in the country. And yet, our cafeteria options were fries or cheese fries. When you got that ca-ca-cash, you get salads for lunch. You get the best possible teachers. You can do anything...
Rory gets into Harvard, Princeton AND Yale. I asked a friend about this, and she says at her equally competitive public high school, she knew a few folks who managed this feat. Maybe. Or maybe TV is fake and what the fuck she got in to the top three schools in the nation?
The entire town of Stars Hollow throws her a going away party. No one has ever thrown me a party, much less an entire town.
Rory gets a sweet ass job riding along the Barack Obama campaign trail right out of school, whereas I get a job writing product descriptions for a defunct furniture website.
I hate that smug bitch so much right now.
Why can't I really be Rory? If I had only studied harder, read more, backpacked through Europe, joined Greenpeace, played at Carnegie Hall, cured cancer – anything other than being almost 30 eating burnt toaster waffles.
Yet there are other differences...
Rory grew up without a dad. For all my father's faults, he worked to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. He came to one of my swim meets wearing a cowboy hat for no reason whatsoever, but he came to the meet regardless. Rory's father, on the other hand, was 16 when he knocked up Lorelai. Instead of being Responsible Dad, he flitters throughout the show, guest starring here and there. I'm not saying if you grow up without a father figure you're flawed, but surely it makes an impact – or maybe an ache, somewhere in the depths of the heart – I'm lucky enough to never know.
Rory's not great at being single. I'm more of a relationship person, but I learned a lot just by taking time off to date. I learned how much fun and inspiring it can be to meet all kinds of people and discover what their lives were like before you two met in this moment. It also helped me find the right person for me. Rory, on the other hand, tries to make a boyfriend out of a guy she met in the dorm laundry room.
Rory breaks down when one person criticizes her. When Rory's boyfriend's father tells her she doesn't have what it takes to succeed in journalism, she quits Yale and moves into her grandparents’ pool house. Granted, she does go back and graduate, but it's literally a passing comment that makes her rethink her entire life. An army of millions screaming profanities couldn't stop me from doing what I love.
I'm me. For heaven's sake, it's television. It's always the best version of a person. I'm not tuning in to watch a broke toaster-eating wallower. Maybe I'm not Rory Gilmore, but I'm someone who didn't need loaded grandparents or a fancy school to get a degree. I'm a self-made woman. I'm actively pursuing my dream. I haven't seen the sights in Rome, but I've been inside the Sydney Opera House. Maybe I wanted to live in Connecticut at one point, but I've been to Bethel and eaten at Bertucci's. That's enough, right?
It's more fun to be a real person. I've dated lots of people, not just the same three who keep circling through my life. I've been free to make my own choices, unburdened by the high expectations of townies. You get to laugh a lot more. You feel pain more accurately. You love even more than that.
I'm a real person. That's okay.