There was no greater guy on television in the first few breaths of the 21st century than Dave Rygalski.
If you’ve ever seen the third season of Gilmore Girls, you know Dave: he was the sweet, obviously Jewish kid who pretended to be a somber Christian guitarist to spend more time with Rory’s best friend Lane. Despite her strict vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing, Lane somehow managed to discover rock and roll and boys, and her boy never complained about any of the ridiculous complex schemes to keep the rest of their band or Mrs. Kim from finding out about their love.
Dave was happy to let Lane call the shots in all things, and to only take charge when she was feeling vulnerable or insecure. He never pretended not to feel for Lane, and never shied away from what it would take to be with her — even if it meant playing the guitar on Thanksgiving for five hours with no break. Instead of complaining, it was just, “Hey, it means I have these cool Kurt Cobain calluses now,” with a slightly lopsided smile.
Dave and Lane ruined me for every real relationship because they fit so beautifully together. Lane’s punk rock soul was constrained by a super Christian upbringing and her genuine love for her mother; it’s hard to imagine someone other than Dave who’d get that, who would know what it meant to be valued and treasured and hidden away like Ramones tapes and the good makeup. He didn’t try to change her. He was maybe the only person in the entire show who got that the Christian, colorless life Lane lead with her mother was as much a part of her as her rock and roll rebellion — even Rory seemed to assume that Lane’s concern for Mrs. Kim’s opinion was mostly fear.
Dave loved Lane by respecting her love for others — something maybe no other character on the entire show ever did. (Except sometimes Lorelai, maybe, and only for Rory.)
When he finally comes to Mrs. Kim and asks for Lane’s hand in prom-ness, Dave delivers the single greatest monologue in television history — laying bare his own neuroses and awkwardness and sheer devotion to the girl he loves. It’s the best version of the big speech at the end of every rom-com, elevated to aching perfection because he’s delivering it to her mother.
“I just want you to know that I’m a good person. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I’ve never gotten a ticket. I’m healthy. I take care of myself. I floss. I never watch more than 30 minutes of television a night — partly because I think it’s a waste of time, and partly because there’s nothing on. I respect my parents. I do well in school. I never play video games in case they do, someday, prove that playing them can turn you into a serial killer. I don’t drink coffee. I hate soda because the carbonation freaks me out. I’m happy to give up meat if you feel strongly about it. I don’t mind wearing a tie. I enjoy playing those hymns on my guitar, and I really, really want to take your daughter to the prom.”
Now, I have to address the dark side of this media myth: namely, the millions of poor young women out there, wondering what’s so horribly wrong with them that they’ve never had a boyfriend come to recite a monologue of devotion to them, in a loosened tie or in the rain.
“What’s wrong with me?” I ask every morning when I look in the mirror. “Is my hair not shiny? Do I not talk fast enough?”
I don’t wonder if my pop culture references are sharp enough though, because let’s be real.
I still remember yelling in shock when I saw the season 4 premiere, and the band complained about how Dave “moved to California.” It ushered in a sad new world: Lane ends up with Zach, who was unsuccessfully hitting on Lorelai before practice while Lane and Dave were together. I always wondered what Amy Sherman-Palladino’s impetus was here — seeing Lane go from a boy who read the entire Bible in one night in the hopes of being able to take her to prom, to marriage to a space cadet.
Lane Kim deserved a wide and wild world opening up to her, with a supportive man who’d do anything for her by her side. She got a taste of it — maybe more of a taste than most non-imaginary people get — and then she was Lane Van Gerbig, somehow, married to the former womanizer who cost her band a shot at an album deal because of his jealousy. They had sex, once, which she deemed terrible and not necessary to repeat, and then she became pregnant with twin sons.
I just don’t get it. Was Lane just Icarus in this story? Did she and Dave just fly too close to the sun?
Dave would have been careful and kind when Lane lost her virginity, and he would have initiated the conversation about birth control. Lane would have wanted to try sex a second time, regardless of the outcome of the first. In my head, Lane thinks about this at night, in quiet moments after tucking her twin toddlers in bed.
In my heart, she takes a chance and hitchhikes to California with her drumsticks and a dream. In my heart, she flies.