I never watched the Gilmore Girls when new episodes were airing. Only in the past year or so have I been watching some of the episodes on Netflix. So far, there has been a lot to like about the show for someone like me who is not interested in programs that place trite matrimaniacal plots at their core. Sure, there is some coupling and crushes and near-miss weddings, but that’s not the heart or soul of the Gilmore Girls.
Mother Lorelai Gilmore and daughter Rory are a single-parent family that shines. I enjoy the friendship and love between them, and the passion each of them has for her work (paid work for mom and school work for daughter). Rory is super smart, gets absorbed in books to the point of obliviousness to everything else around her, and wants to go to Harvard. And she makes no apologies for any of that. In fact, she seems utterly joyful and unselfconscious about her love of learning.
In what may have be my favorite episode so far, Lorelai is going to be away for the evening and Rory is so happy just to be able to spend the evening home alone. Her plans are nothing dramatic. She just wants to do the laundry her own way, order tons of the food she likes the best, and, best of all, simply have the house to herself.
None of her peers can understand this. Her boyfriend is flabbergasted that the two of them could have the place to themselves, but Rory wants to stay home alone – to do laundry! Another guy who is interested in Rory makes up an excuse and a lie to stop by – then doesn’t want to leave. Paris, Rory’s competitive friend from school, is freaking out about her less than perfect grade on a recent test, and keeps whining and begging Rory to let her come by to study, until finally, when she appears at the door, Rory caves. Rory does insist, though, that Paris can only stay for an hour, then she has to leave. Of course, Rory eventually gives up on that, too.
Nothing works. Rory doesn’t get her luxurious night to spend home alone, and none of her friends ever really gets it about the attraction of such an evening.
But I get it. And I suspect that many other people do, too – perhaps especially those who are single at heart. I’ve had the same sort of yearning and craving all my life. I grew up in a household with three siblings and two parents and a stream of aunts and uncles and cousins and friends dropping by all the time. There was just one time when the house was likely to be empty – early in the evenings on Sundays. I savored those times, and I never did anything more exciting than Rory did.
I’ve lived alone all of my adult life, so I can typically be home alone anytime I want. But before I moved out to this little seaside town in California where I live just blocks away from the beach, I used to rent a beach house for a week or two every summer (if someone else hadn’t already done so and invited me). I’d invite friends and/or family to stay with me for all except one or two nights. I totally enjoyed the time with other people, but I also delighted in having the place to myself. No one could understand that. One year when I saved the first night for myself, my parents surprised me by arriving early. They thought I’d be so happy not to have to be alone that first night. Another time, I saved the last day, and one of my friends kept asking if she could stay that last day, and never could understand why I declined.
So thank you, Gilmore Girls, for airing a version of Home Alone that really hit home for me. We need more recognition that spending time alone with nothing special to do is not necessarily boring or lonely. For some of us, it is deeply satisfying.
I’ve never seen any other TV show or movie with this theme. Have I just missed them all or do they really not exist?
[Note. For stories of other people who crave their time alone, check out Chapter 8, “There’s nothing sweeter than solitude,” in How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century.]