I haven’t written in the past month because I’ve been obsessed with Glee. We’re watching it on Netflix, so I’m going through all the drama of being a Gleek in super-compressed time, with some interesting spoilers.
For example, it’s really weird watching the show knowing that Cory Monteith, and therefore Finn, is going to die. It makes the squabbling between Rachel and Quinn in the first couple of seasons seem even more juvenile, and it makes certain moments, like Finn learning how his father really died, or Finn giving Rachel a star so she’ll know he’s always looking out for her, seem prescient and extremely creepy.
So I could write about all of that stuff daily, but I can’t imagine that’s interesting to anyone who isn’t watching at the same pace I am.
I did have a larger thought that seemed interesting, though.
I was thinking about the fact that they all date each other, and that even though the characters are just seventeen or eighteen at the moment (I’m in season 3) it seems perfectly plausible to me that Rachel and Finn, or Kurt and Blaine, will be together forever. Part of this, of course, is writing. Rachel and Finn were cast because of their chemistry, and when that chemistry blossomed into a real-life relationship, the writers capitalized on it and wrote the characters together in such a way that they fit well together. And Blaine was written, from the beginning, to be the perfect partner for Kurt. But we’ll put that aside because it’s not a useful way to think about fiction, really.
What’s more useful is to think of the cast as a small town. Two hundred years ago, people had a small circle of acquaintance, even in large cities. Without much choice in life, and with little mixing between classes, races, or genders, people generally lived with the same group of people for a lifetime, just like the cast of a TV show. Contrastingly, my expectation for the Kid is that she’ll have her current group of friends through eighth grade, and then she’ll have to learn more about herself as she figures out where she fits in a new social arena in high school. She’ll do the same when she gets to college, and do it again at least one more time when she settles down after college. After that, she can do it as many times as her stamina allows by moving to new cities and/or changing careers. Each time one does that is kind of like adolescence all over again, in the sense that who we are can change dramatically. The things we find out about ourselves when our circumstances and the expectations of us change can be dramatic, and all these changes postpone our ultimate settling into the person we become.
Eventually, I think, we find the most important elements of ourselves and bring that with us wherever we go, but in modern society, that takes a long time.
Not so in a small village. If you’re planning to live your entire life among the same 100 people, you can and probably will settle into yourself some time in your teenage years. You’ve already found your role in your society, because the choices are limited. To put it back in Glee terms, Rachel could (and did, actually) try on the Santana role, but her social circle saw that as false and refused to accept it. And because Rachel is not free to change who she is without a great deal of struggle, there is no harm in making a life-long commitment at the age of eighteen.
We comment on the delayed adolescence of Millennials, but I think it’s more a repeated adolescence. With the number of options we have today: socially, academically, in our careers and in our self-expression, we can change multiple times throughout our teens and twenties. With all those options, it’s only natural that almost all of us outgrow our first loves. It’s not that we’re less steadfast than our forebears. It’s not that we’re fickle, or delayed in development. Without the vice-hold that society used to have on life decisions, there’s so much more to discover about oneself. Of course it takes longer than it used to.
But really, can’t Rachel and Finn’s parents think of a single practical question to ask them? Marriage isn’t just about commitment. It’s about financial independence. It’s about forging a new family (whether or not that family includes children) and a new household. So just ask them: Where are you going to live? How will you pay the bills? Do you realize you won’t be eligible to stay on your parents’ health insurance once you’re married? What about financial aid for college? None of these questions is insulting or patronizing if asked in the right way. These are the realities of marriage, and a responsible and respectful parent would not allow his child to be married without first hearing thoughtful answers to these questions.
On the other hand, the Season 3 Christmas episode made me so happy I thought my face was going to split.