How I Ended Up Crying on the Sofa Watching Gilmore Girls

Plus: The best magazine cover of the year has already landed, good reads, and more!

My Dearly Beloved, 

After quite some time away, sorting through a cross-country move, a pandemic, the launch of a podcast, and some very 2020 existential crises, I’ve decided to resurrect this newsletter. I hope it’s a welcome addition to your inbox. Once a week for the foreseeable future, I’ll be publishing a piece for everyone on the internet to read. But then, every Sunday, the paying subscribers of fruity will be getting an additional newsletter like this—a collection of thoughts, things that have caught my eye, and shit my friends said that made me laugh and/or haunts my dreams. There may be some stuff in here about the media, things I’m reading or watching or listening to, and of course, occasional musings about the things I love, be it fashion, beauty, or spirituality. For a little bit, I’ll be keeping these free for you to get a sense of what you’re buying into—and I hope you enjoy. Oh, and if you don’t already subscribe, here’s a cute little button to help you do so!

How I Found Myself Crying on the Sofa Compulsively Watching Gilmore Girls

In November, when I’d scrolled through everything Netflix had to offer and Joe Biden was elected-but-not-elected President, I needed a distraction—the kind that only arises when a tiny weed edible sucks you into the vortex of a delicious television show. I didn’t want to watch a sitcom (I had recently finished Living Single), and I didn’t want to watch anything doomy or gloomy (see: everyday life). So, I somehow settled on two shows I’d never seen before: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls. A whole lot of homosexuals on Twitter pleaded with me to watch Buffy, but even that felt a little too dark for my liking. 

“I love Buffy, but this is the perfect time of year to watch Gilmore,” my friend Kelley told me over DM. She pointed out that the Gilmore Girls universe was some sort of bizarre New England utopia where it was never quite summer, but always an idyllic fall/winter/spring — the kind of show that would make you want a cup of hot cocoa. 

My friend Cleo agreed, noting that there are few women-led shows where the characters model rewarding, fulfilling relationships. Enter Lorelai Gilmore, the main character, who ran away from her ritzy home at 16 to give birth to a baby girl. Her daughter, Rory, is smart, polite, and angelic—living proof that Lorelai’s gamble paid off. Instead of playing off the tropes of a typical mother-daughter dynamic (antagonistic, slightly spiteful, only occasionally warm), the Gilmore girls are a team. They’re best friends, they’re all they’ve got. The premise is, in short, adorable. 

I turned on Gilmore Girls while my fiancé, Darien, was putzing around the house one day, contemplating whatever medical education he was going to deliver on Instagram. As soon as the Carole King theme music came on, I was in, baby. He, on the other hand, was out. “Those are two different white women?” he asked, pointing to Rory and Lorelai. When grandmother Emily Gilmore’s WASP/Old Hollywood affected accent filled the room, he went running to the bedroom and closed the door. “I CAN’T LISTEN TO THAT AWFUL VOICE!” he yelled. 

Mrs. Emily Gilmore is a fan favorite among the gays, regardless of what Doctor Darien thinks of her. My friend Zach told me she’s “the exact brand of rich white woman that I love.” Upon watching her excoriate Lorelai in one early episode, I gleefully tweeted that I hope she had a more redemptive storyline coming—you know, that kind of watershed moment where you get to see the bully’s heart of gold? “Not quite, but she’s still the best,” someone responded. He was right—after six seasons, I can assure you that Mrs. Emily Gilmore gloriously sticks to her flaws. 

Another friend, Rose, told me that Gilmore Girls “canonically ends after season three,” while plenty of others advised me to stop watching after season five. Apparently, Amy Sherman Palladino, the show’s creator, left the series somewhere around that time. (The show brutally struggles mid-series with Rory’s arrival at Yale, thus bifurcating its universe—the idyllic Star’s Hollow and a college campus.) 

Indeed, by the end of season four, the enduring sweetness of Gilmore Girls was beginning to give me a cavity. The small-town comfort of predictable events unfolding—especially in comparison with our world, fraught with havoc—was getting boring. The “Look, I’m pretty and talk really fast!” pastiche of the protagonists morphed into a loathsome self-absorption. The background characters, rather than developing over time, somehow flattened out. Of course, I was still rooting for Rory and Lorelai and only wanted happy endings, but it started to feel like there was an unwillingness on behalf of the writers to expose the Gilmore girls to their logical pitfalls. 

Enter season six. The best episode of the series comes when Mrs. Emily Gilmore and her husband, Richard, realize that Rory—the genius, the well-behaved, meek, polite overachiever—is not quite the prodigal granddaughter they thought her to be. Rory and Lorelai briefly stop talking to one another (real drama!), because Rory, after experiencing the first-ever rejection of her life at an internship, has a complete identity crisis. She exits Yale, gets arrested for stealing a yacht, and takes a sabbatical—anathema to Lorelai, who raised her daughter to be “everything she wasn’t.” 

Rory moves in with her grandparents for her year away from Yale and became a bit of a society lady, horrifying her grandfather, whose unveiled disappointment unintentionally displays the simmering disdain he has for his society-oriented wife. Emily, who eventually loses her tight control over her granddaughter, lets it slip that Rory was the daughter she wanted but never had. Meanwhile, Lorelai, the aforementioned disappointing daughter, finally gets to declare the “I told you so!” she’d been waiting for since she first left home at 16. The facade—both that of the elder and younger Gilmores—finally cracks. 

Even in the midst of all this, the Gilmores (being WASPs) agree to attend their weekly family dinner at Emily and Richard’s on Friday evening. But unlike the deliciously passive aggressive dinner scenes of past seasons, this one is chaos. Rory, who always speaks in a squeak, finally raises her voice and—remarkably!—her eyebrows. Emily gets sloshed on martinis and calls her granddaughter ungrateful. Richard bellows like a Shakespearean antagonist from the opposite end of the table. And Lorelai casually mentions that her boyfriend just discovered he has a child “out of wedlock.” The cameras go from Palladino’s signature “live-action Broadway ” magical realism to a Curb Your Enthusiasm faux documentary. The resentment is so honest, the anger so real, and the words so menacing. The utopia has finally played itself out—reality has arrived to the Gilmores, and no amount of coffee and pancakes at Luke’s Diner is going to smooth this one over. It is not neatly tied with a bow or a mother’s embrace. The Gilmore girls leave the home, hair messy and makeup smeared, before going their separate ways. 

This brings me to the most poignant thing I was told about the Gilmore Girls: “Oh my God, you only find the show ‘soothing’ because you grew up with a mom who has boundaries,” my friend Tyler said. “Everyone is always like, ‘I want a mom like Lorelai!’ Bitch, NO YOU DON’T!” 

Perhaps this is the reason there was so much catharsis in the chaotic dinner scene of season six. Through Tyler’s lens, the crux of Gilmore Girls is not an idealized mother-daughter relationship. It’s an unhealthy, codependent mother-daughter dynamic informed by serious parental rejection. At first, it was so nice to romanticize the bond that Rory and Lorelai have, and I think that dynamic is probably not all that farfetched. But precisely because of that bond, there’s so much honesty in Rory’s complete character departure in seasons five and six. Like any other young adult, she’s shattering the expectations of herself and trying to put back the pieces in her own image. 

So many of the show’s fans urged me not to keep watching—to just cut right from season five to the recently-aired reunion special on Netflix. “It’s clear the show hates Rory,” someone told me on Twitter. “College Rory is the worst,” another chimed in. I could see that many people felt betrayed by Rory’s sudden, obvious character flaws. But to me, they are entirely logical. Didn’t the cloying nature of Rory’s upbringing—and the fact that she was often tasked with being the caretaker to her mother—necessitate a need to be selfish, to break the rules, to figure out what and who she wanted? If her whole identity crisis comes from being told, for the first time in her life, that maybe she’s not all she’s cracked up to be, doesn’t it track that she doesn’t actually know who she is, only who she was supposed to become? 

By the end of season six, it’s obvious that Lorelai still has plenty of issues to work through, and cycles she hasn’t been able to break from her own upbringing. Watching her continually end up in the bed or arms of her teenage ex is painful, but it’s also honest. As a teenage mother who didn’t date, where was she supposed to make all the mistakes of intimate relationships to figure out the right one? Where, in the process of raising a child entirely on her own, was she supposed to find the time to contend with her demons? It seems to me that, instead of protecting herself, she did the best she knew how to make sure her daughter wouldn’t have to face them, too.

It’s touching that the season ends with Rory saying goodbye to Logan, the bad-boy-boyfriend she fell in love with, despite their families trying to tear them apart. In a way, we see Rory (even in a tearful goodbye!) achieve the kind of love that Lorelai always sabotages herself from receiving. Perhaps Rory could only get to this point because she knew she had something Lorelai never did — unconditional parental love — to fall back on. In that way, Rory’s self-realization is a testament to Lorelai’s imperfect mothering. It’s a total mess, but at least it’s an honest mess. And that’s how I found myself crying on my sofa, compulsively eating chocolate-covered raisins, screaming at my television screen as the credits rolled. 

Anyway, there is so much to talk about when it comes to Gilmore Girls, and in case you haven’t realized, I want your deep thoughts and your deep thoughts only. If you have some, please share them with me. 

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In Case You Need Beauty in Your Life…

  1. Art That Makes Me Glad to Be Alive

“Morning Cloak,” by the artist Tourmaline.

Artforum published an interview conducted by Cyrus Simonoff with the artist Tourmaline, whose artworks have been exhibited at the New Museum and the MoMA, among others. Tourmaline’s work towards abolition and Black trans liberation make her an indispensable guide for all of us (if you learned about Marsha P. Johnson in the past five years, you likely have Tourmaline to thank). 

Tourmaline has an exhibition of new work called “Pleasure Garden” (showing at Chapter NY through 01/24 in New York), showcasing photographs of herself in Marie Antoinette-like pastoral grandeur. Amidst two epidemics in 1800s New York (cholera and yellow fever), Tourmaline says that “pleasure gardens” were de rigeur: “They had air balloons. There would be a beer garden, and cruising and hanging out, poor people getting to be in the fresh air.” Recreating her own pleasure gardens, Tourmaline wanted to place emphasis “on pleasure as a tool and as a destination for aligning with what we really want and making more of it.” 

“My work concretely seeks to know about the historical details,” she tells Simonoff. “But this work also tries to ask—rather than reaffirm or reproduce what feels really dusty—what is happening in our now that feels very alive?” Maybe you, too, have been dismayed, discouraged, or just overwhelmed with grief upon reading that a million people in our world have died of coronavirus in the past three months alone. There is so much death happening (both literal and metaphorical, with the death of the American Imagination on full display at our Capitol). Now is a wonderful time to follow Tourmaline’s lead and indulge in the things that “feel very alive” to you. 

“What is happening
in our now that feels
very alive?” —Tourmaline

  1. Being Underneath the Stars à la Mariah Carey

For full disclosure, I’ve worshipped at the altar of Chani Nicholas for quite some time, and even though she is a friend, I am far too terrified to text her every time I think the planets are conspiring against me (three to five times a day, most days). The CHANI app is like having an astrologer in your pocket, and is filled with everything from New Moon ritual ideas to sage wisdom for navigating the dreaded Mercury retrograde. (FYI—one’s coming up on January 30th, and it’s going to be a doozy.) Some of you probably think astrology is nonsense, and for this I have some news: I feel the same way about Catholicism! To each their own.

  1. The Best Magazine Cover of the Year Already Dropped (No, Not Kamala)

It’s hard to imagine any remaining print magazine topping the beautiful and wondrous art that is the Jan/Feb cover of Essence, a collaboration between Rihanna and artist Lorna Simpson. 

This is somewhat of a redemption story for the magazine, which has been facing shakeups and troubles since it was acquired by billionaire Richelieu Dennis in 2018. In September 2020, it was announced that the magazine was furloughing its entire staff—including its editor-in-chief—with just one week’s pay. The news came after a string of departures at the senior level.  

One of the biggest problems plaguing Essence (which also plagues Out, The Advocate, and plenty of other “niche” media brands created by and/or for marginalized people) is that advertisers pay these magazines dust. When you work at a “niche” publication, you spend half your time as an editor (or a marketer! Or an ad salesperson!) explaining your audience to detached (and/or racist, homophobic, misogynistic) advertisers who write their financial commitments one full year in advance, always giving the same money to the same publications. You also spend quite a bit of time convincing celebrities who belong to your community and speak up on issues devoted to your community that they should be on your cover (their publicity teams often worry about their client being on the cover as not being “on brand”). It is remarkable who really chooses to show up for these brands—and damning on those who don’t. 

The fact that Essence—which to the best of my intel, is currently being run nearly singlehandedly by the very talented Ms. Cori Murray—was able to pull off this cover and story in the aftermath of scandal and layoffs? Absolutely miraculous. It speaks to the talent of Ms. Murray, and also to the wisdom of Rihanna and Lorna Simpson for making this glorious moment for the magazine’s history. I am rooting for Essence. If you are, too, you can support the publication by subscribing here

What I’m Reading:

Venus and Cupid by Artemisia Gentileschi. 

(1) I bought Amores, a collection of love poems by my favorite Greek poet, Ovid, thinking it would be filled with adorable platitudes I could leave under Darien’s pillow. The whole thing ended up being a poignant and timely commentary on how artists abuse their muses, and what the muse can win in return. (2) I finally ploughed my way through Anna Karenina, which was certainly a literary masterpiece but definitely could’ve used an editor? (3) I returned to The Iliad, since I’m on a Greek mythology kick It was a great follow-up to The Song of Achilles, and Caroline Alexander’s translation was surprisingly readable. (4) A quickie-but-a-goodie ( more on this one soon!) is Sabbath, an exploration of the spiritual and creative need for rest, by Wayne Muller. (5) In The Book of Lilith, I learned about the so-called Bride of Satan and found out that just like any other woman in history, she is maligned, righteously angry, and deeply misunderstood. I am contemplating a tattoo. (6) I’m currently making my way through The Aeneid, and my therapist recommended the ancient wisdom of the I Ching—both of which should take me a couple weeks to finish. 

Parting Words

Considering this month marks an insurrection attempt against the United States government, an anything-but-peaceful transfer of presidential power, and an inauguration fraught with terror alerts, I’ve been thinking a lot about violence. Taoism has a lot of strong words about the topic, mostly condemning the reckless use of it. Here, from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching:

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value,
if the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?

Leaving you in peace,