Some Serious Questions

I started writing the post below a couple of months ago. I was in a weird place then, which might be blamed on the state of American society, my then recent reading of The Handmaid’s Tale (more on that below), PMS, or the fact that I was at the height of wedding stress, with so many checklist items still unchecked. If you want the truth, it was probably option (C), which I buried in that sentence hoping it would escape notice, only to make the spontaneous decision just now to come clean with the degree to which hormones affect every fiber of my existence.

I was going to delete the post and start fresh, but here it is in its unfiltered form.

Like lots of people right now, I’m a little strung out. This annoys me, because I’m getting married in a few months (104 days, but who’s counting? Not I) and this should be the “happiest time of my life,” right? I should be glowing, and bubbly, and effervescent, and skipping around throwing daisies in the air. Instead, most of the time I am a near-lifeless blob of a person who spends her days wrapped up in an Old Navy “blanket scarf” that’s roughly the same size as a modest tent, typing phrases into Google like nostrils feel weird, nausea after eating beans, can protein shake cause hormone imbalance?, vietnamese food nightmares, nyc anxiety triggers, signs of agoraphobia, as well as is it tacky to hand address your wedding invitations?, canada immigration process, how long should bridesmaids gowns be?, lose 20 pounds in 3 months, Ms. or Miss address etiquette, party favors that won’t end up in a landfill, milo ventimiglia wife, milo ventimiglia girlfriend, is milo ventimiglia dating anyone.

(More on those last few in a minute.)

Adding to this, I recently read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, which haunted me long after I had stopped reading on the train every morning, all through the workday, and into the wee hours of the night, when I’d dream about a future dystopian United States in which the government kidnapped individuals with “pure” American blood, put them in glass-encased holding cells, hooked them up to IVs, and used them as science experiments. That’s an actual dream that I shouldn’t be sharing. I brought the book up at a work happy hour while everyone was trying to enjoy a glass of wine and 90s jams. “So, one of the themes of the book is “freedom to” versus “freedom from,” right?” I yelled over “Quit Playing Games with My Heart.” “Handmaids are basically birthing vessels, and there’s this conception ritual where…” “They steal butter to use as hand lotion!”

I close my laptop when I get out of the shower so the CIA can’t see how many products I put in my hair, and I firmly believe that the iPhone is a weapon the government is using to spy on us and that corporations are using to sell us couches from Crate & Barrel.

I wake up with a start at 4am and remember I printed out a document at the office and never picked it up from the printer. Then I browse Instagram for a few minutes, delete the latest issue of “Lenny Letter” that was delivered to my inbox (and wonder why I signed up for it in the first place, yet can’t bring myself to unsubscribe because #fomo), and check to see whether the trains are experiencing any delays ahead of rush hour. I lay awake until a minute before my alarm goes off at 5, and then I shut off the alarm, get up, let my dog out so she doesn’t start yelping, and kickbox for 49 minutes, do planks for 5 minutes. I eat oatmeal that contains about 8 different ingredients, and read no fewer than 7 fashion blogs in which everyone is wearing the same thing that Zappos sent them that week.

That’s where I ended, because as you can see, I was, um, pretty agitated. And I never even got to the most important part of the post, which was a heartfelt tribute to one Mr. Milo Ventimigilia. How dare I?

I’m thrilled, a little bit relieved, and a lot a bit surprised to inform you that I’m feeling better these days, but there’s like a 94.8% chance that’s because I tried on my wedding dress yesterday for the first time and it had to be taken in. Eating eggs and kale every day for three months hath not been in vain, y’all! (After this wedding I’m taking a long hiatus from eggs.)  I also cut Twitter and all its toxic energy out of my life a few weeks ago, and ever since I’ve seen a significant improvement in my mental health and general outlook on life.  I know there’s bad, scary, and really depressing stuff happening right now, but reading people’s 140-character hot takes on said stuff does absolutely nothing for my emotional well-being.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve made a conscious decision to be completely self-absorbed, selfish, and trivial and focus on things that bring me great personal happiness (marriage, a trip to Paris, awesome forks from Crate & Barrel) at the expense of looking like a completely superficial jerk who doesn’t get fired up on social media (or really ever, if I’m being honest) about political or global issues. At this moment in my life, I would rather read moms’ hashtag-filled LipSense ads than a bunch of retweets about Tonald Drump. That’s saying a lot, because those ads make me feel somewhat uncomfortable, though I admire their entrepreneurial spirit. I kind of just want to be happy for the next couple of months, anyway. I know that is a luxury many people do not have right now.

It’s weird to focus on a wedding even in normal(er) circumstances. The modern-day wedding is an inherently superficial affair. Don’t think I haven’t felt dumb asking to leave work early to meet with a videographer or for “a fitting.” I hate the fact that my browser history is filled with Pinterest and Etsy searches for things like “guest book ideas.” Really the only idea I should consider: Step 1, buy a guest book. Step 2, put a pen in front of it. Or don’t have a guest book. Who cares? Tomorrow I’ll be spending my afternoon tasting several different varieties of cake, which feels like the definition of an easy breezy cushy life. Some decisions I need to make this weekend: should we give our guests an appetizer and a salad, or just a “combination course” to allow for more dancing time? How many corsages do I need to order from the florist? Do we want a videographer, or is there a compelling philosophical reason not to record such an important, personal life event filled with joy that could never possibly be accurately or adequately duplicated on film without making it look ridiculous? (I actually Googled “Walter Benjamin theory applied to wedding videography.” There were zero results, but every single one of my graduate school professors would be proud.)

As much as I set out to not get caught up in the hoopla, it’s almost impossible not to; what’s more, the hoopla can be kind of fun––at least when you forget about how much it’s costing you and how many salty tears you will cry while trying to pay off all the hoopla balances. So I would feel foolish and guilty even in the most carefree of times. When you throw in all the Bad Stuff (my blanket term for anything that comes up in Google News), the fact that I’m devoting all of my brainpower, physical energy, and life savings to a party makes me feel like a callous, out-of-touch, truly empty individual. Kim Kardashian or Marie Antoinette. A Real Housewife. How does one not feel silly while opening boxes and boxes of towels, dishes, and “cake domes” (an actual thing I wanted and received) when the world is going to shit out there?

Since February, my personal project, besides planning a big party and preparing to marry the apple of my eye, has been watching every single episode of Gilmore Girls, a show that I never watched while it was actually on the air for reasons uncertain. I had never seen even a single episode until about a year ago, when I half-watched the Christmas episode in season 2 (I think), in which Rory and Jess take a carriage ride together around Stars Hollow, ostensibly against Rory’s will (but we all know she likes it). I decided to start from the beginning back in February for, again, reasons uncertain, but I’m sure which all trace back to Milo Ventimiglia. I started watching on a Saturday and was in deep (like 19 episodes deep) before day’s end. Despite the show’s cheesy quality, a theme song I found grating and too long, the somewhat odd romanticization of coffee-drinking, and too many sheepskin jackets and too little Paris and Tristan in season 1, I couldn’t get enough. Watching that show gave (and gives) me the same feeling as cuddling with my dog or wrapping myself in a fuzzy blanket while drinking tea. The characters are funny and multidimensional, and the dialogue is fast and weird and sometimes lame but mostly surprisingly, legitimately funny and frequently filled with semi-obscure, niche cultural references. The show also brings up a lot of serious questions, such as: Why does it not rain in Stars Hollow? Where are the police? How do Rory and Lorelai afford so many damn coats (and why do they each own more than one sheepskin jacket)?

Gilmore Girls became a nightly ritual and my excuse for not leaving the house on weekends. There are some scenes in this show, particularly in seasons 2 and 3 (read: the peak Milo years), that would have quite literally and dramatically shaped my adolescence. But having watched every single episode now at age 30, I’m so glad I found it later in life, at what turned out to be the exact right moment. As you may have gathered from my nervous-breakdown-put-to-paper (screen) above, I kind of needed a pick-me-up. Throughout my life I’ve always turned to art (what I consider to be art, anyway) in times of personal stress. In high school, I listened to Hanson’s This Time Around album every day to and from school; I still can’t listen to those songs without feeling exactly how I felt as a 15-year-old, which is why I don’t listen to them very often anymore (they’re too precious). In college, it was Felicity. Keri Russell was my everything. As a young(er) semi-professional adjusting to adult life, it was Harry Potter. I finished the last book on the same day I interviewed for and was offered my current job. Beau was painting his apartment in Brooklyn and I was sitting on his bed with tears streaming down my face and wondering whether I should bother reading any other book for the rest of my life. Would anything come close to Deathly Hallows?

Gilmore Girls is somehow all of those things combined. There are no wizards, but Stars Hollow is a charming, idyllic world where it snows maybe once a year and rains almost never, and even in the dead of winter you can walk around with your coat unzipped. (This is a detail that bothers me, because I live about 2 hours south of where I imagine Stars Hollow would be, and I can’t go outside in the winter without every single inch of my flesh protected from the elements.) It’s also a world where all the hottest boys in town apparently can’t resist a girl in turtleneck sweaters (and sheepskin jackets) who loves reading. Speaking of which, Gilmore Girls gives Felicity a run for its money when it comes to sweaters and unbecoming fashions (I love the shrug trend of 2005–2006––what was with that?); it’s also got Felicity’s young adult/twenty-something angst, but strikes a healthier balance by incorporating more lighthearted banter, picnic basket auctions, and Kirk. The tone of Felicity is often very serious and reflective; Gilmore Girls peppers the more solemn moments with silliness and fun. (And Kirk.) And, like Hanson’s music, the show reminds me of everything I loved and now miss about growing up, even if I didn’t know I loved it at the time and couldn’t imagine missing it.

Gilmore Girls is joyful at its core. It celebrates life and it made me remember why that is important. There is a time and a place for angst, and it is often necessary to express anger, maybe more so now than ever. But I would like to think that it’s just as important to find reasons to celebrate and be happy.

Last weekend was my bridal shower, an event I had been nervous about for myriad reasons. First, I feel a little weird about bridal showers conceptually; they feel sillier and more frivolous than even a wedding, and also vaguely sexist, though well-intentioned. I was also concerned about how I would handle myself. I’m uncomfortable in the role of The Bride. I don’t like being the center of attention or, really, anyone looking at me for any reason. I’m not good at chit-chat or gushing, particularly about household goods. But my gratitude for my loved ones (and desire to buy an ivory lace dress) outweighed these concerns, and I got myself pumped up and in the mood and in my new dress from the Loft (50% off!), and I bravely marched into the restaurant ready to seize the day and put on my best smile and act polite and happy. And almost immediately, in spite of myself, my heart felt like it had burst open. What a wonderful feeling, to have people you love and who love you in return in one room, for you. What a wonderful thing to, in a single moment, look at the faces of women from every stage of your life.

At some point, the Gilmore Girls theme song began to play. A song that I had once found so annoying and cheesy now felt like the perfect song for the day, for the year, for the people I was surrounded by. I started to cry, because I was so happy.

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