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Business News/ Opinion / The grass is greener in Connecticut
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The grass is greener in Connecticut

Sohaila Abdulali binge watches all of Gilmore Girls and gets teary-eyed about her family

Lorelai and Rory are more friends than parent-child. Premium
Lorelai and Rory are more friends than parent-child.

I pride myself on being a discriminating consumer of broadcast media, so it was with a slightly haughty attitude that I logged on to Netflix for the first time. I clicked randomly on the first episode of a television show that had aired for seven seasons some years ago. It’s called Gilmore Girls. I pressed Play and tumbled headlong into the abyss of binge-watching.

It’s a great show. The three generations of Gilmore women are all smart, opinionated and very funny. The main mother and daughter, Lorelai and Rory, are more friends than parent-child. We see them from the time Rory is 16, until she graduates from college. Lorelai is 32 in the first season; she had Rory when she was just 16 herself. She is perfect even when she’s not. She prefers junk food to cooking but that’s part of her charm. Together, they drink coffee non-stop. They discuss their love lives. They share clothes. They go shopping for trashy snacks. They have movie nights where they never disagree because they both love and hate the same films, from Breaking Away to You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. They laugh and cry together. They have some conflict, but basically it’s the perfect relationship.

It’s utter fantasy, an impossible small-town America. No sensible person would fall for it; certainly no one who has ever been a child or a parent, and I believe most of us qualify as at least one of those.

Yes, no sensible person would fall for it. I, on the other hand, swallowed it hook, line and sinker. I couldn’t stop. I watched when I was supposed to work. I watched when I was supposed to sleep. I watched when I was supposed to be bonding with my daughter. I watched when I should have been calling my mother. I tore through 153 episodes at breakneck speed. And the more I watched, the more I wept at every happy moment and loathed myself for not being a perfect, one-dimensional, witty, pretty, Teflon-coated mother in TV-land.

Lorelai is unstoppably creative: When Rory was disappointed that she missed a trip to Asia, Lorelai rejigged their house into an entire Asia-themed wonderland complete with dragons and kimonos as a consolation prize (I’m not like that! I wept into my tissue). Her mother, on the other hand, was the opposite: withholding and mean and unable to give even a tiny bit of herself without compensation (I’m like that! I sobbed into the next tissue). It’s difficult, when you’re mid-binge, to realize that reality might actually be somewhere in the middle.

Have you ever had a child? Mine is luscious. I would die for her, no question. Living for her...ah, that’s trickier.

On Gilmore Girls, Rory was always Lorelai’s first priority. Even when they fought, they were witty and affectionate. But back to my question—have you ever had a child? If you have, you might relate to the following one-sentence rant. No matter how blissful your domestic life, sometimes being a parent feels like you have a really awful, boring, tedious job that you can’t quit no matter what, with a hideously abusive pint-sized boss who doesn’t appreciate you, pushes all your buttons, drives you demented and leaves your self-esteem in tatters, and then, when you get paid, you have to spend your entire pay cheque on the same abusive boss who then never gives you a day off. Well, Lorelai in Gilmore Girls never felt that way, and if I do, obviously I’m a failure as a parent. Hence the weeping.

When it was all over, I came up for air gasping and looked around at my non-shiny, non-TV life. I love it! I love my flesh-and-blood family. I’m a middle-aged desi New York Amma, not a young white Connecticut Mom. What was I thinking, torturing myself through 153 episodes of really enjoyable television? I called a friend and confessed all.

“Maybe you were just working something out," she said.

Huh. Maybe I was. Maybe I had to go to “Stars Hollow", the fictional town in the show, to see what impossible standards I measure myself against. I’m not perfect, but my child and I will probably end up being good for each other when all things balance out. And we’ll probably break each other’s hearts many times along the way. We just have to hang in there and love each other. And I have to stop comparing myself to every other parent and falling short. I’ll just take each situation as it comes. No use trying to control everything. As Lorelai Gilmore said in Season 2, Episode 13: “I can be flexible. As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible."

Last year, three researchers in the US published a study called A Bad Habit For Your Health? An Exploration Of Psychological Factors For Binge-Watching Behavior. Here is their stern verdict: “Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge-watching should no longer be viewed this way…When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others."

All right, Dr Sourpuss. But sometimes you just have to fall down the rabbit hole of binge TV to come out the other side dazed but cleansed. And admit you loved it. And that even a giant intellect like yours or mine can fall prey to the pretty plastic people on Netflix. Of course I’ll never do it again, going crazy and comparing my life to some moving images on my desktop. That is, until the Gilmore Girls reunion.

Yes! It’s true! They’re coming back! To hell with deadlines, appointments, the sober productive life…I’m clearing my schedule.

Sohaila Abdulali is a New York-based writer. She writes a fortnightly column on women in the 21st century.

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Published: 04 Mar 2016, 08:57 PM IST
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