My mother was a single parent for most of my life. Even though she had a lot to manage, she always found time to make us feel like way more than just mother and daughter: We are best friends; we are sisters; we are soulmates. As in any/all of those relationships, we often get frustrated with each other—and then get over it so quickly we forget what we were even upset about. We like the same music (although sometimes she’d rather not listen to my “hippie” music), we like the same food (although I’d rather avoid quinoa for the rest of my life), and we like the same male Hollywood actors (George Clooney and Eddie Redmayne, of course, always).
We even share a favorite TV show: Gilmore Girls, which follows the story of a single mother, Lorelai Gilmore, and her daughter, Rory. I see so many similarities between Lorelai and Rory and my mother and me that the events in the show seem to mirror our own lives. On many occasions, we’ve looked at each other in recognition when Rory or Lorelai say something that one of us has said before (and especially when they get into an argument we’ve had in the past). My mother and Lorelai have a lot in common—they both balance being a friend with being a mother—and I am a lot like Rory in that I can show my mother support right back.
Rory and Lorelai’s home life paralleled ours, even if they weren’t identical. As I took in the episode where Lorelai reconnects with her parents for financial support in order to provide Rory’s education, I could only think of the conversation I had with my mother when I was nine, when she told me that she was struggling financially and that she needed help from my grandparents to support my education. Since Lorelai couldn’t afford it on her own, she went to her parents’ house asked them for the money that would send Rory to the private school Chilton. Thanks to my grandparents, I was able to attend private school during my middle school years in India, where we moved to live with them.
Growing up in India meant being part of a culture that disapproved of dating. While that didn’t stop me from getting my first boyfriend in the seventh grade—my best friend’s extremely cute older brother, swoon—it did make it hard for me to tell my mom. I didn’t tell my mother immediately, though I wanted to. I didn’t want to disappoint her, since we were both clearly aware that our community wouldn’t approve.
It was always on the tip of my tongue whenever she walked into our apartment after work, or when we were in the kitchen heating up leftovers, or when she put on my mascara for me before school. I have always confided in my mom when it comes to the important things in my life: whom I had a crush on, which friend was treating me like shit, what rumors I had heard about myself. She was an extension of my mind; she always said the things I didn’t have the guts to say, but wanted to. Her only intention was to lift me up and make me feel better and confident about any situation I was in. But I really liked my new boyfriend, and I had always wanted a boyfriend, and I didn’t want that to end because of her disapproval. So although it was difficult keeping such a huge secret from her, the only thing that made it feel OK was the fact that I was in a relationship—and that it was awesome.
When Rory gets her first kiss from Dean, a boy she had been crushing back and forth with for a long time, she doesn’t tell Lorelai right away, either. When I watched this episode six years after my first boyfriend, I was all but screaming PLEASE TELL HER WHAT’RE YOU DOING OH MY GOD. It was so important for Rory to tell her mother because it’s her first kiss and her first ACTUAL love interest EVER in her LIFE and Lorelai needed to know so she could give Rory the right advice and give her moral support and lead her in the right direction!!!! (Phew. Might I have been projecting a little?) I could see, very clearly, for the first time what any spectator to my own life could have told me when I decided not to tell my mother about my relationship: My mom and I could have shared so much if I let her in on my first boyfriend. While I was upset that Rory didn’t tell her mother, I was more upset that I didn’t tell mine.
Both Lorelai and my mom had to hear about their daughter’s first kisses from outside sources, Lorelai finds out from Rory’s best friend’s mom, who chides Lorelai because her own daughter “doesn’t need to hear about your daughter’s kissing.” Lorelai isn’t mad about the kiss, but is very disappointed that Rory hasn’t told her about (1) DEAN HIMSELF and (2) the kiss, and she feels shut out from her daughter’s life. Lorelei decides to spy on Rory instead of confronting her about it.
My mother, for her part, didn’t spy on me…or, at least, she didn’t mean to. My grandmother was cleaning my room and found an empty Hershey’s Kisses packet in my drawer filled with poems and letters that my boyfriend had written for me. My grandmother read them and reported back to my mother, who felt the same way that Lorelai did: left wondering if the whole “my mother is my best friend I tell her EVERYTHING” feeling was diminishing as I grew up. Lorelai is confused when Rory’s best friend’s mother, Mrs. Kim, tells her about Dean, and frankly, quite upset. She expresses this to her friend Luke while they are at the grocery store where Dean works:
LUKE: What is wrong with you today?
LORELAI: Rory got kissed.
LORELAI: Rory had her first kiss and that guy did it […] Oh, look at him. Look how smug he is.
LUKE: He’s bagging groceries. It’s hard to be smug bagging groceries.
Since she was obviously bugging out to the point of no return, Lorelai finally tells Rory that she knows about Dean and the kiss in a pretty passive-aggressive way, asking her, “So…kissed any good boys lately?”
Rory, of course, can’t believe that her mother didn’t say anything. I felt the same way when my mother confronted me, because instead of coming to me first, she went to my boyfriend’s (and best friend’s!) mother’s house to talk about my relationship, since they were also close. My mother simply said, “So, I went over to my friend’s house today. You know, your boyfriend’s mother.”
My mother explained to me that she wasn’t upset that I had a boyfriend, but that she didn’t know what to do or say to me and was hurt that I kept such a HUGE secret from her. Because she knew my dude’s mother, she could express that to her. I was mortified, and definitely showed it: My first response was just to groan, “WHYYYY.” I felt Rory’s frustration with Lorelai—it was wrong for my mother to have gone to my boyfriend’s house and not me! My mother and I were upset for the same reason: We both kept something from each other, and we both neglected to confront each other about it. Now that I think about it, this is just like us: Even our disagreements are focused around mutual openness and reliance.
The fight about my first boyfriend and first kiss ended up making our relationship even stronger. I am growing up, and some things simply don’t need to be said or heard. But there’s no way we could ever keep the truth about an event that is SUPER IMPORTANT from each other. Even when one of us accidentally hurts the other’s feelings, we’re able to talk it out, and that means our bond is unbreakable. We’re too close, and she’s too valuable to me, to stay upset for long, anyway. Just like Rory and Lorelai. Speedy forgiveness is a huge aspect of Rory and Lorelai’s relationship—they work it out when Lorelai tells Rory, “I didn’t love the way I found out, but you’re getting older. These things are bound to happen,” which is pretty much exactly what my mother said to me—and it’s also the reason my mother and I have stayed close throughout the years.
The world feels so big, but I know I can always depend on one person, who feels like so much more than just one, in the best way. Before I moved to college this fall, I spent my last night at home with my mom and the Gilmore Girls. I laid on the futon with my head on my mother’s lap, watching the episode when Rory graduates high school—as if we needed another reminder of how close their lives were to ours. As valedictorian, Rory gives a speech that I basically could have written: “My ultimate inspiration comes from my best friend, the dazzling woman from whom I received my name and my life’s blood, Lorelai Gilmore.” I burst out crying, and I think my mother did, too—she was sniffling and running her fingers through my hair. In that episode of the show, like just about every other, Rory and Lorelai perfectly portrayed what it’s like when two kinds of love overlap: The Gilmore Girls know how inspiring it so completely is when your best friend is also your dazzling mother. ♦