Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Watching “Gilmore Girls”

Before having back surgery this past spring, I’d never laid eyes on a full episode of “Gilmore Girls.” Yes, I came late to the party. Very late. The show debuted in 2000 and went off the air in 2007. So when I found myself virtually immobile for weeks at a stretch, with nothing but Netflix (and a bottle of Percocet) to keep me occupied, I decided to give the show, which people whose opinions I respected told me was a classic, a whirl.

Despite writing for a TV-centric website for a chunk of time, I’ve never been one to get full-on obsessed with a TV show (not since my “My So-Called Life” days, anyway.) But “Gilmore Girls” incited, nay demanded, an unprecedented level of boob tube devotion in me. If the show’s brilliant dialogue, comfy-cozy aesthetic and kick-ass soundtrack wasn’t enough, the lead characters — two flawed, hilarious, complicated and fiercely independent women — sealed the deal. Having spent the last several months watching every single episode repeatedly, I have come to see that “Gilmore Girls” isn’t just a show — it’s a way of life, with its own set of core values and code of ethics. I’m sure many of you Frisky readers are already “GG” adherents, so feel free to chime in with your favorite “GG”-endorsed life lessons, as this is an admittedly over-simplified compendium. And for those who’ve yet to see the show … well, now you know what you’ve been missing.

1. Schopenhauer is cool. So’s Sparks.

I’d have thought that between my liberal arts education and my nearly decade-long career as an arts and entertainment writer, I’d be full-up when it comes to obscure academic and pop culture trivia. But each episode of “GG” is packed full of so many culty references that by the time I was done Googling lyrics and assembling a reading list of all of Rory’s favorite authors, I found I’d gotten a second-wave education by proxy. See, TV IS educational!

2. Coffee Is The Best Thing Ever Invented.

Everyone has their own cure-alls. For my grandmother, a fresh part in her hair healed all wounds. For the Gilmores, there was nothing a steaming cup of Joe didn’t mostly fix. I tend to agree. The clarity delivered by a caffeine buzz has helped me resolve a multitude of conflicts, from friend-on-friend arguments and romantic conundrums to constipation of the mental and physical variety.

2a. Enough Caffeine Is an Adequate Substitute for Diet and Exercise.

Of course, it helps to have the metabolism of an outrageously attractive fictional TV character who remains lithe despite a steady diet of tater tots and Chinese takeout. Side effects of this fitness approach include diarrhea of the mouth.

3. Backsliding Doesn’t Seal Your Fate.

Anyone ensconced in the Gilmore universe knows that Original MILF Lorelai Gilmore was constantly banging her head (and other body parts) against her baby daddy, Christopher Hayden, over the course of seven seasons. Due to a long and checkered history together, a shared spawn, and serious physical chemistry, they both seemed unwilling to face the fact that they just didn’t work together. I’ve certainly had my share of indiscretions with bad-for-me exes, and have worried that I was doomed to keep on retreading my old, dysfunctional relationships over and over again. The verdict is, of course, still out on this, but I have hope, and its name is Luke and Lorelai.

After many seasons’ worth of bad romantic decisions, many of which led her back to the aforementioned baby daddy, Lorelai finally quit the schmo and opened herself up to a romantic future with curmudgeonly diner-owner Luke Danes. I’m not advocating running out and wrangling yourself the first cranky blue-collar dude you can find, but I am saying that even the most stubborn and self-destructive romantic habits can be broken if the right guy comes along.

4. Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness.

There’ve been plenty of moments, especially in these trying economic times, when I’ve closed my eyes and thought, If only I were a trophy wife with a wad of cash for buying expensive clothes and facial treatments and a streamlined list of responsibilities that extended to sitting on a couple of charity boards and yelling at incompetent maids. Yes, my daydreams are elaborate. I realize that there are plenty of real-life examples of the old “money doesn’t buy happiness” chestnut (one of them rhyming with “Liger Hoods” comes to mind), but for the purposes of this little article and a more general tendency to be more affected by fictional storylines than real-life news, I’m choosing to identify Gilmore matriarch Emily Gilmore as a cautionary tale for why throwing money at a problem rarely works. In fact, in many cases, it works against you. Case in point: you get a knocked-up teenaged daughter who only talks to you when coerced and a reputation for being the Pol Pot of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

5. The Mother and Daughter As Best Friends Model Doesn’t Cover Sex Talk.

I know lots of hip modern moms who bend over backwards to relate to their kids, to an embarrassing degree (remember Amy Poehler’s “cool mom” character in “Mean Girls”?). For better or worse, there was never any mistaking that my mom was a mom, not a friend, and those boundaries were set in stone from the time I was a toddler. I always envied how close and chummy Lorelai and Rory were. It seemed genuine and not gross, since Lorelai was effectively still developmentally a teenager by the time Rory hit puberty. But even they grappled with issues of TMI. When Rory finally lost her V-card to her married high school sweetheart, Dean, she went for full disclosure with her mom, and a major fight ensued. So now when I’m two martinis in and feel like sharing war stories with my mom, I need only recall the ensuing freeze-out between Lorelai and Rory and keep my mouth shut. Hangovers and parental discord? No thanks.

6. Smart Nerds Trump Slutty Foxes

Sure, looking like Lauren Graham or Alexis Bledel probably helps the batting average, but the core message — that girls who talk and think “too much” and are better read than college professors and can name every Go-Go’s B-side can be objects of lust and adoration — is a valuable one. In an era when young women aspire to look and be like Kristin Cavallari, it’s good to know that being brainy and talking like Myrna Loy will get you laid.