A Letter to Lorelai Gilmore: On Happiness and Holiness

I watched the scene in shock.  

A mother, in her late forties, and her daughter, in her early thirties, sit opposite each other in a hotel room.  The daughter, with her hair slipping from her bun, says she’s been sleeping with a man who is engaged to someone else.  The mother, wearing a sweatshirt that reads “HAPPY,” grimaces, scrunches her nose, and sighs.  “Well,” she tells the daughter, “that’s way sluttier than a one night stand.”  Then, the conversation moves on. Surely, I think, they’ll return to this subject shortly.  Surely, this is not the mother’s actual reaction to her daughter’s affair.  Surely.

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Late last fall, I began re-watching the first seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in preparation for the Netflix revival, A Year in the Life.  I went back to Stars Hollow for comfort.  I went back for the twinkle lights and the smell of snow.  I was in high school when the show debuted, and I watched it with a deep admiration for the mother, Lorelai. I loved her hair, her fearless fashion choices, her optimism, her volunteerism, her pop culture knowledge, her childlike spirit.  Her story inspired me.  She started her own business!  She bought her own house!  She encouraged and supported her daughter wholly and unconditionally!

During my re-watch, however, Stars Hollow struck me as less idyllic.  Lorelai struck me as less perfect.  She encouraged her daughter, but never really challenged her.  Why, in that shocking scene, did she not say, “I love you and because I love you, I need to tell you: you made some poor decisions.  You did some bad things.”  

In high school, I would have heard Lorelai’s reaction (or lack thereof) as coolness.  Some ten years later, however, I hear it as cowardice.  I hear it as a silent endorsement of a dangerous sentiment: that it is more important to get what you want than to do what is right; that it is more important to be happy than to be holy.   

I don’t point this out because I think Lorelai Gilmore is a bad person.  I point this out because I can be a bad person.  I’m wildly imperfect, and I desperately need people in my life to tell me when and where I’ve fallen short.  I need to hear the words, “I love you and because I love you, I need to tell you: you made some poor decisions.  You did some bad things.”  Those words don’t immediately make me a happy person, but they ultimately make me a better person.

I still admire Lorelai.  When I doubt my ability to start my own business, I think of her persistence.  When I doubt my intelligence, I think of her wit.  When I doubt my inner and outer beauty, I think of her self-confidence.  I will let her example encourage and challenge me.  

Unlike Lorelai, however, I refuse to treat happiness as the ultimate goal and self-sacrifice as the worst alternative.  Surely, with the help of friends, we can be good people.  Surely, with the grace of God, we can be holy people.  Surely.

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