Thursday, February 16, 2012

Where you lead, I will follow

I've already picked my Father-Daughter dance song for when I (not so inevitably) get married. I'll tell you what it is on one condition - if you promise not to steal it yourself. Do you promise?

Okay, good. Thanks. I know I can trust you now. This is my song:

Carole King performing the Gilmore Girls theme song, "Where You Lead," with her daughter, Louise Goffin.

My dad and I started watching Gilmore Girls around 2005. In my first year of middle school I spent a lot of time watching television (things haven't changed much). I would come home from school and get right to doing homework. By late afternoon I was done and had the evening to watch whatever mind-numbing entertainment I could find.

Lucky for me, I found something entirely the opposite of mind-numbing.

Gilmore Girls is the most incorrectly represented show on television. With a primarily female audience, it carries a rep as being one of the quintessential "CW shows," a program with a bunch of high-strung teenagers who are constantly talking about "drama" and getting into trouble doing whatever it is fake high schoolers (who are portrayed by 30-year-olds) do.

But in reality, this show is nothing like One Tree Hill or Gossip Girl. In fact, for all intents and purposes the main character isn't even the teenager in the show. It's her mom. And if you're going to get all metaphysical, the real protagonist is the mother-daughter dynamic and intricacies of their relationship as well as the entire space of the town of Stars Hollow in which they live.

Aside from being miles better than any overly dramatic show about rich teen urbanites, Gilmore Girls is a show that thrives on intellectualism for the masses. The characters dish out historical, news-related and pop-culture references as if their heads are actually battery-powered (or maybe coffee-powered) encyclopedias. And as a result of watching, I often feel like I am becoming smarter and more culturally aware just because I am getting the readers' digest version of the figurative Gilmore Book on Important Knowledge.

After watching re-runs on ABC Family for a couple of months, I had grown so in love with Gilmore that I had to make my dad watch it. Since our tastes don't often differ dramatically, I thought at least he'd appreciate the show.

I underestimated our similarities.

My dad got hooked not long after I started showing him episodes. Soon, he was recording episodes of Gilmore Girls on VHS for us to watch the next day, catching up on all the seasons we'd missed as we just began to wrap our heads around quite how amazing this show was.

It is my firm belief that the relationship I had with my dad blossomed partially as a result of watching Gilmore Girls together. Watching a new episode became part of our daily routine. And on Tuesdays when the show returned with new episodes on the WB and then CW, we made it a point to sit down and watch them together over dinner.

To this day, if I'm hanging out with my dad watching TV, we'll often decide to watch Gilmore together. Since 2005, we've accumulated every season on DVD Box set. We've both watched the episodes enough times that we can thoroughly discuss the relationships between characters. We can quote lines. We can reference the jokes in a particular episode.

A few years before my mom passed away, my dad and I went with her to this promotional center owned by a Christian television station in Orange County. The building had pure white architecture and the interiors were equally pristine with accents in gold. It looked like a materialistic version of what the average Christian might consider heaven to look like. Even the doors to the restroom opened automatically, like an angel knew you had arrived and needed the facilities. It might be cool if it wasn't so creepy.

My dad and I, feigning unwavering paganism, decided to write a note in the guestbook of this wonderful building. "I sat and forever am at work here," it read (code for "Satanic forces are at work here"). The reference, from my favorite episode of Gilmore Girls ("Road Trip to Harvard"), gave us mutual understanding and a similar store of comedic reference.

But Gilmore gave he and I more than just a frame of pop culture reference to share. Since starting to watch the show, I've always referred to my relationship with my dad as Gilmore-esque. We go everywhere together, on vacations and smaller trips. He taught me a lot about what I know from life - my love of art, my film and musical taste, my general cultural awareness. He has always been there when I needed a voice of reason, sound (or silly) advice or a shoulder to cry on. We learn together, watching Gilmore Girls, The Daily Show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, etc. on weeknights. Besides wanting to be like my dad, I just always wanted to have him by my side.

As my Father-Daughter dance song says in its lyrics, "Where you lead, I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to." My dad has always made it a point to tell me that he'll go wherever I go. Though I don't know that this declaration will be as probable in execution as it is in theory, I think our relationship is so readily defined by a connection through time and space that even if he cannot physically live where I live, we'll always transcend obstacles to follow each other.

Even living 2,000 miles from home, I have never once felt cut off from my dad. Like Lorelai and Rory in Gilmore Girls, we have a relationship that stands the test of distance and time and experience. Phone calls allow us to share exciting and mundane events alike, recounting our days and exclaiming or complaining interchangeably. It's something that extends past father-daughterhood and into a realm of pure friendship.

One day, if I'm lucky enough to find someone as great as my dad to feel for romantically, I may be put in the position of planning a wedding. I'll fumble around and fret about catering and dresses and flowers and venue. I'll freak out about picking bridesmaids and organizing seating arrangements. But one thing will never be stressful and will always be certain. My song will be "Where You Lead" and my dad will always hold true to those lyrics, no matter how far apart we are.

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