One thing that gets deep beneath my skin is when people say, “I can’t stand the later seasons of Gilmore Girls because Rory isn’t even herself.”

Whoa whoa whoa. Hold your pants on there, Sally. Sure, Rory stole a yacht and dropped out of college. But you are making a lot of bold assumptions when you make that claim.

  1. That being perfectly behaved is an inherent trait rather than a learned behavior.
  2. That years of perfectionism and people-pleasing has no toll on the individual.
  3. That college is an easy transition that everyone thrives in.

Never fear, Rory. I am here to stand up for you and your unjust judgment. I am here to defend your depiction as an accurate path that the third Lorelai Gilmore may have embarked upon.

Point, the first: The behavior that many girls are praised for is not sustainable in the long run. Rory is the picture of the perfect child. She fights with her mother and boyfriends for more time to pour into her homework. She does extra reading to deepen her knowledge of the classics. She even takes time out of her busy schedule to engage in the “high society” that her grandmother holds so dear by attending countless parties.

There can come a time in a girl’s life when this perfectionism reaches a breaking point. Years and years of putting aside personal needs for achievements and taking care of others push harder and harder against the wall of your consciousness until cracks begin to form. Suddenly you find yourself wearing the same red boots and oversized Yellowstone t-shirt to every class you attend for days on end. The strain of being an RA implodes into sleepless nights on the Pottery Barn sofa eating gallon-size bags of skittles.

I’m not claiming that I’ve had meltdowns of “stealing a yacht” proportions like Rory does. But I have reached those points where the freedom you glimpse in the apathy of others starts to seem like the most appealing route.

Point, the second: There are not “students who were always going to behave well” and “students that were doomed to misbehave,” and we need to stop viewing the world as such. Children who behave for years and years continue to be rewarded for their behavior. The procession of gold stars, jolly ranchers, and honor roll ceremonies train their brain towards continuously following the rewards. 

Because of this smooth road of success, the first sign of failure becomes a seemingly insurmountable roadblock. When Mitchum Huntzberger (and his insane fast-food name) tells Rory that she “doesn’t have what it takes” to be a journalist, she careens off the road of academic achievement. She has little to no experience dealing with academic adversity. It has been all ice cream parties and 4.0’s up to this point, and she has zero coping strategies for this upheaval of disappointment.

Thus, quitting Yale feels like the only (if extreme) response. Let’s not even get into why we demonize students taking time off from school to figure out their goals.

Point, the third: The transition to college is hard. You spend childhood hearing adults tell starry-eyed stories about how they met their best friends in college and they sledded down hills on cafeteria trays and they stole the giant ceramic turtle from their rival dorm at 2 AM. But for some of us, college is an overwhelming torrent of change. There are new rules for everything. You have to pretend that you don’t eat the same thing for breakfast every day and you have to refrain from singing in the shower and you have to pretend that you like hanging color coded floral calendars on your walls.

In all seriousness, some of us never adjust. Even if our grades are fine, we are counting down the days until we can live on our own terms again, outside the rules of campus. I am perfectly willing to believe that Rory similarly struggled with the emotional transition, based on the struggles we see her having all throughout high school and college to adjust to new routines and social norms.

Transition is hard, behavior is learned, and perfection is exhausting. 

I was emotionally near stealing a yacht or two myself back in the day. Rory’s breakdown is a compelling portrayal of the people pleasing girl breaking under the pressure.

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