Lisa Lo Paro
April 05, 2016 7:48 am
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Lorelai Gilmore: one half of the coolest mother-daughter duo in television history, and a huge influence on my life. She was everything I thought an older, self-sufficient woman should be: smart, immensely capable, and free-thinking. Her character remains an inspiration to so many women because of all she was able to accomplish at a young age. But there is another thing about Lorelai that was always incredibly obvious and seems very important to mention: her extreme selfishness.

Lorelai is such an amazing character because she is equal parts good and bad qualities, and her selfish attitude actually taught me a lot about two kinds of selfishness: the kind that can make your goals a reality, constructive selfishness, and the kind that hurts other people, which is always destructive. I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls since I was an impressionable 9-year-old, and through it all, Lorelai’s bad decisions and her good ones taught me about how I want to live my life and I’m so very grateful.

Constructive selfishness is not bad.

The working definition of “constructive selfishness” (that I just made up) is selfishness that doesn’t harm anyone else; selfishness that means you’ve put your needs before anyone else’s so you can do what’s best for yourself mentally and emotionally. I think that kind of selfishness is important because it teaches you that you’re a priority, and that taking care of your needs is actually healthy! With the obvious exception of her daughter Rory, Lorelai puts herself first throughout the series.

Sometimes, it’s a very good thing. Lorelai is the ultimate example of a woman stepping out into the world with nothing and no one to help her, and making it to success. She put her needs first when she left home at 17, deciding that the life she had with her parents wasn’t the one she wanted. She put her needs first when she decided it was finally time to trust herself and her talents, and open an inn. And she puts her needs first when dealing with men, so that she never sacrifices her desires for a man’s desires. Her selfishness actually makes her an awesome feminist role model.

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Lorelai’s “constructive” selfishness was always something I admired. Putting her needs first meant she didn’t have to rely on anyone to get where she wanted to be. Her dreams were within her reach if (and often, only if), she worked hard and trusted herself to get there. Growing up, I often felt guilty for wanting more than I had; I was always ambitious and with a close family like Lorelai’s (although not one-tenth as controlling), Lorelai’s attitude toward life, i.e. “make it give you what you want,” was endlessly fascinating. I wanted to be like that. I never wanted to succumb to anyone else’s expectations of me, and I began to cultivate a healthy kind of selfishness about my dreams. Because of Lorelai’s example, my attitude became, “My dreams are important to me, and I can do what I want with my own life.” Regardless of what anyone else thinks.

As I grew up with Lorelai’s example always in the back of my mind, I found myself thinking, “What Would Lorelai Do?” I often thought of how Lorelai never let anyone take control of her; She was protective of her life, her wants and needs, and she made sure they were always met. Sure, that’s selfish of her, but it wasn’t a selfishness that hurt others — at least, not always. Which brings me to the next lesson on selfishness I can thank Lorelai for: teaching me that selfishness is a slippery slope.

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Destructive selfishness is the kind that sucks for the people you love. 

I can think of a dozen instances in the wonderful world of Gilmore Girls when I wanted to shake Lorelai and bring her to her senses, but I can narrow it down to a few: when she left Max, when she dumped Luke and slept with Christopher, and whenever her preoccupation with her own needs makes her completely blind to how much her parents want to take care of her. Poor Emily and Richard!

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Lorelai’s bad behavior taught me that no matter how badly I wanted something — or wanted to get out of something — I had to think about how my actions could hurt others. Lorelai’s independence in relationships is amazing and admirable, but that means she almost always forgot that the guys she’s dating have feelings, too. Luke and Max, the men she most wronged, both loved her unconditionally. And when she decides she wants something else, she breakts their hearts without a second thought.

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But her most obvious display of destructive selfishness was basically any time she had to interact with her parents. Sure, they were annoying, controlling, and totally opposite from Lorelai, but basically, all they ever wanted was to see her more often. They tricked her sometimes into coming around, but it was from a place of love. And because Lorelai couldn’t be bothered, or her infernal pride and selfishness always got in the way, she hurt her parents over and over again. Lorelai could barely understand that she should sacrifice something she wanted to make her parents happy, a huge flaw that she never fully overcomes. In many ways, Lorelai’s selfishness acts as blinders, and makes her way less compassionate to the pain and suffering of the people she loves. That’s a lesson that hit home to me, especially because I never want to hurt the people I love.

Flawed, selfish, and proud, Lorelai is still one of my all-time favorite characters, and it’s her poor decisions and bad behavior that make her so interesting. With every quirky thing she wears, every pop culture reference she makes, and every badass thing she does, she reminds me that I have the ability to turn goals and dreams into reality. She taught me that it’s okay to be selfish. It’s okay to want things, to put yourself first sometimes, to take care of yourself and build the life you want. But hey, the woman ain’t perfect. Lorelai also taught me that selfishness is a coin with two sides, and that the other can do some serious damage. After all, nothing is more important than family. “And pie,” as Lorelai would say. 

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