How I Came to Realize that I Can Still Love Rory Gilmore Without Striving to Be Her

Perhaps my love of Gilmore Girls was born of the fact that I effectively went to Chilton Academy. No, really – a fancy New England private prep school with years of history and tradition, and brick and marble as far as the eye could see? While there’s no definitive evidence that our Milton Academy was the actual inspiration for Rory Gilmore’s place of study, my classmates and I were neverthelesss adamant that the connection was real. Most of us would probably still fight you over it.

But these preternatural prep school similarities were neither my first nor my strongest tie to the hit early 2000s TV show that captured the hearts of thousands of young women around the world. The charming characters, quirky small town setting, and witty, fast-paced dialogue carried the show for seven seasons, developing so much fanfare it even won a much anticipated special reunion in 2016 (but we aren’t going to talk about that because, frankly, I reject its very existence as an insult to the sacred name of Gilmore).

As for me, it didn’t take much – I was hooked in the first five minutes of the pilot. As a shy, book-loving high schooler who felt out of sync with my peers and unusually close with my mom, I immediately connected with Rory. I felt with her a sense of kinship and sisterhood I badly needed at the time, a kinship which soon began to wield a powerful influence over my life. Rory helped inspire my fanatical ambitions to attend Harvard, and then Yale, and while I didn't end up joining their ranks, I did choose their suitably ivy-encrusted European equivalent.

Rory inspired me to channel my love of storytelling into the field of journalism, to push myself to overachieve, and to surround myself with smart, like-minded people. Following her lead I dated a “Dean” in high school, eagerly awaited my “Logan” in college, and remained ever watchful for the dark, brooding, Byronic hero of a “Jess” who was to be my one and only. I longed for the day when the Life and Death Brigade would sweep me off my feet and into adulthood with a gorilla mask and a glass of champagne in hand.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Congratulations to the Class of 2020! We're still celebrating you!

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But that was high school. As I moved to college, Gilmore Girls became my go-to to combat those ever-lurking waves of homesickness that wash over you when you’re least expecting them. The little New England town of Stars Hollow reminded me of my own home, now far across the Atlantic Ocean. The easy bantering rapport shared by the two leading ladies made my own mom feel a little bit closer, and even the frequently-out-of-his depth but ever patient and loving Richard reminded me of my dad. On tough nights, I let the familiar strains of “Where You Lead” wash over me like a soothing balm, and felt my worries temporarily wash away.

But there's this inconvenient truth about life which we’re bound to encounter sooner or later — namely that we, as human beings, are unavoidably fated to change as we grow older. As I eased into my new life at school and began to flourish in my new surroundings, I felt my comfortable connection with the familiar Gilmore girls slipping away. As I gained more independence, I watched my relationship with my own mom vacillate worryingly between the familiar, almost sisterly connection shared by Rory and Lorelei and something more akin to Lorelai and Emily’s more nuanced and complicated bond. When I met my own “Logan,” I realized that he treated me far better and was there for me far more than Rory’s Logan ever was, and I became frustrated with her for not demanding more for herself. Worst of all, during a rewatch of season six (in which Rory loses all sense of herself, committing petty theft, quitting Yale, and moving away from home), for the first time I felt outright betrayed. As a 16-year-old, these had seemed like bold, exciting adult decisions, but at 20, I watched in horror as she spiraled. Was this my role model? Was this to whom I looked for guidance and support? The girl whose life choices I had attempted to emulate for years now seemed misguided and utterly alien.

This wasn’t me.

And of course it wasn’t. It was a fictional character in a fictional world, with fictional relationships and problems and ideas; one that I’d grown to love and identify with over the years, certainly, but not one whose example was meant to be the Holy Gospel by which my life choices were made. As I flung myself wholeheartedly into college life, I came to recognize other differences between myself and Rory (for one thing, she never did a whole lot of flinging into anything), differences I was proud of. I became an extrovert: I loved company, people, parties, late night chats and long nights out. I made choices, took risks, had adventures, got lost and then found and then lost again, and generally took every opportunity for a new experience that came my way. I held on to the things I admired about Rory — her love for her family, her insatiable desire to learn, her open, honest nature — but found different goals to aspire to. It was simply too much fun being me, instead. 

Don’t get me wrong, this revelation didn't cause me to eschew the Gilmores completely. I will never stop laughing and crying my way through the series when I need an emotional pick-me-up or a healthy dose of nostalgia. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Rory Gilmore, but perhaps most importantly, I learned that I don’t want to be her. My life doesn’t need to follow a script (no matter how closely it may resemble one at times), and no, her diet of endless coffee and Hostess snacks is simply not sustainable by any human being. Disappointing, I know. 

And while this may seem like a very roundabout endorsement, if you’re looking for a show that combines clever writing, a lovable cast, and an emotional roller coaster you just can’t quit, look no further. I am still, and will always be, the #1 fan of all things Gilmore. 

Now, please excuse me – I have to go start my fourth rewatch.