Unseemly

OK, guys (whoever you are), this is unacceptable. I have shed more tears in the last five hours than in the previous two decades.

Of course, for the first of those decades I was appropriately medicated. I could look down  on the sloppily sentimental hoi polloi, with a mixture of compassion and condescension, from my Paxil-numbed pinnacle. Since giving up Paxil, I’ve tried other meds off and on; most did a pretty good job of keeping me from feeling anything. Even when I was taking nothing, I managed not to blubber.

“But there’s so much to cry about these days,” you say, “what with politics, climate change, war, stupidity, cruelty…”

Yeah, sure, all that. But the main source of my misery is Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

I should know better by now than to binge-watch TV shows alone. What I do isn’t even worthy of the term “binge”: I’ll watch an episode maybe every day or so. But that’s enough to immerse me in the lives of fictional people, just like when I get hooked on a book and stay up late finishing it. With no one else in the room to offer snide or otherwise grounding comments, I’m too easily swept up in the drama and production values.

I’ve always had this problem of getting way too emotionally involved with imaginary people. And when their story comes to an end, I often feel empty and lost. When I finished reading Exodus, at the age of 12 or so, I had to close myself up in the bathroom and bawl for about an hour. Of course my sobbing wasn’t just about the story ending and beloved characters dying. I had more noble, but equally mawkish reasons, to cry. After all, this was the story of My People fighting for Their Land. So what if I was only half Jewish and zero percent Israeli, and the book was a romantic fantasy that played fast and loose with history? Cut me some slack here. I was only 12 (or so).

I had been a fan of the Girls since their first season, in 2000. In preparation for the reboot, I watched (or rewatched—I couldn’t always tell which) many episodes from the 1st through 7th seasons, usually with my own girl, now 32, and her boyfriend. I had hoped that we could all watch the new season together in Seattle, but they refused to watch it before finishing with the original series. So I watched the four new episodes alone, compounding my aloneness by being back in the Berkeley home I share with a man who sensibly has no interest in the lives of any TV characters.

The new season did not end sadly. In fact, the overall optimistic and heart-warming nature of the last episode helps to explain why I was crying uncontrollably long before it ended. Now that I’ve stopped blubbering for a few minutes, I will try to figure out what else, besides a lack of brain-changing drugs in my system, could have led to such a display of unabashed sentimentality. Here are some possibilities, starting with the obvious:

  • The show ended. I hate it when things end.
  • The sappy music did the trick of reducing me to tears. I hate music.
  • The mother-daughter bond reminded me of how much I love being with my own daughter, who’s far away.
  • The mother-daughter bond reminded me of how little I bonded with my own mother.
  • The loving marriages and enduring friendships that those fictional characters have reminded me of how devoid of love my own life is.
  • The careers and capabilities of those fictional characters reminded me that I have no career or capability.
  • The careers and capabilities of all the genuine people behind the show—writers, actors, musicians, producers—put me to genuine shame.

Then there’s the fact (deserving of a whole paragraph, not just a bullet point) that I was introduced to the show during its first season by my sister, a notorious TV addict who watches a lot of trash but is occasionally discriminating. I had asked her, when my daughter refused to watch the new season with me, to let me know if she was going to watch it before I left town. She never did.

And that could be the main reason for all the blubbering. I used to have a relationship with my sister, and like almost every other relationship I’ve had (including the one with my other sister), I caused it to dry up and blow away. I used to have a life that was almost on a par with the happy, quirky folk of Stars Hollow. OK, maybe not that happy or quirky, but close. And I threw it all away. Not all at once, but slowly.

In fact, my life for about the last 50 years has been a slow-motion trainwreck. Not the kind of celebrity spectacle chronicled by Sady Doyle in her feminist analysis of the trainwreck phenomenon. I will never be a celebrity, or even spectacularly damaged. I used to call myself a loveable loser (like the erstwhile Cubs), but the first part of that term no longer seems to apply.

OK, enough self-pity for now. Maybe my new shrink will put me back on some good stabilizing, mind-numbing medication. If not, I guess it’s on me to stay away from heart-warming fiction, or pretty much any kind.

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