When I was younger, I was a devoted Gilmore Girls viewer. Or ‘Gilmore girls’ as it is actually called (why the second lower case ‘g’…we’ll probably never know for sure).
I shipped Luke and Lorelai. I shipped Rory and Dean. I shipped Rory and Jess. I shipped Rory and Dean again, even though I knew full well it was a disaster waiting to happen. I know about those poodles, oy! And I’ll sleep with the zucchini anytime. But even more important to me than the Girls’ love lives, Emily’s D.A.R. meetings, Sookie St. James in the kitchen, Kirk’s eighteen jobs, or Taylor’s infinite ability to create another inane festival, was the relationship between Lorelai and Rory. This was THE mother-daughter relationship to beat all mother-daughter relationships. See ya later, Grey Gardens.
So after all these years, when I heard about the revival on Netflix, I was beyond excited. I’m going to have Lorelai and Rory back in my life! The perfect mother-daughter pair! But returning as an older, (slightly) more mature adult, I noticed some things that had never stuck out to me before.
After years of therapy and self-reflection, I’ve personally realized some dysfunction in my own relationship with my mother. When I was younger, my mom just seemed fun in a somewhat unreliable, uneasy way. There was the drinking…but she couldn’t be an alcoholic, right? After all, alcoholics are fall-down drunks, or at least they were on television. My mom never fell, except for when she fell asleep after a few glasses of wine. And other parents probably let their daughters drink with them right? “Better with me than at some party unsupervised,” she told me.
And then there’s the over-sharing. I heard about my mom’s sex life and I told her about mine. Now I think it’s good that I could talk about sex with my mom, but where do you draw the line? And why did I have to be her “girlfriend,” giving her dating advice (something I still do on occasion)?
What about those good old daddy/ex-husband issues? My mom told me about my dad’s affair to the woman who would eventually become my stepmother. This doesn’t seem like the most mature thing to share with your impressionable ten-year-old.
Until I left for college, my mom was truly my best friend. We had inside jokes, we went to concerts, we told each other everything, and let’s face it, I could even party with her. It wasn’t until I left home and she had an alcohol-fueled mental meltdown that I realized maybe our relationship wasn’t the perfect friendship meets parent-ship I’d idealized it to be.
So in binging classic Gilmore Girls episodes and inhaling the revival, I suffered the same realization all over again. I had idolized this duo without seeing the familiar dysfunction in this (fictional) pair. Lorelai’s lack of boundaries lead Rory to believe she can tell her mom anything and she’ll always have her tacit approval, something that she only discovers is untrue when she sleeps with a married man and expects her mom to be happy for her. Or when she drops out of Yale, expecting her mom to let her “find her way” without comment. And no spoilers, but this pattern rears its ugly head in the revival as well. And Lorelai’s own over-sharing about her on-again, off-again relationship with Christopher, Rory’s dad, only furthers to confuse Rory about her father and whether she must take sides. Let me tell you, not an easy road to navigate as a teenager.
Family dynamics are complicated, messy, and specific to each situation. And yes, there is also the fact that these are actually fictional people on a television show. But I don’t think I’m the only one out there that looked at Lorelai and Rory as the epitome of a close mother-daughter relationship.
But I suddenly see what they really are…super dysfunctional. This makes for great television, but isn’t something to use as a good example for parenting in real-life.
Now that I’m a new mom, I’m trying to navigate the difficult landscape of “parent versus friend.” It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. You can’t be all things to your child and then expect to be seen as their parent.
(Disclaimer: I still love this show and will binge it again and again…just try to stop me!)