I am no doctor but, if this whole ‘getting a real job’ thing does not work out, I might pretend to be one in a vulnerable South American country. Anyway, despite my lack of medical experience, I would venture a guess that St Andrews exhibits a phenomenon called ‘sanity by default’. Has the return to academic reading proven too much? Run away to the pub at 2pm? Ease your anxiety with the knowledge that, somewhere on The Scores, a gruesome, real-life version of Sebastian Flyte started on the Moet at 10am. The old adage, ‘somewhere in the world it is 5pm’ does not apply. Instead, we have ‘somewhere in St Andrews, there is someone worse than me. Now where was I?’
In a less extreme form, the condition manifests itself in finding comfort in the foibles you share with others. My own personal experience of this has been a revelation related to The Gilmore Girls. Some people get dunked in a river to achieve salvation, others even see God on a piece of toast. This television show is my equivalent of a religious experience. It follows the exploits of a single mother, Lorelai Gilmore, and her only child, Rory. They have an extremely close friendship based on neuroticism, old films and binge eating. I always found it reassuring that their relationship reflected my own one with my Mother. To my delight, I found many girls in a similar position in St Andrews. I say many; I mean two. What can I say, I am easily pleased.
One of the prerequisites to entering ‘Gilmore Girlhood’ (the elite club that involves the three of us shouting, “IT’S ALL JUST SO TRUE” at the screen and eating popcorn so awful it will one day give us cancer) is a role reversal. In the television series, it is Rory who often has to coax her mother to Friday Night Dinners at her grandparents’ house, usually with promises of martinis and a swift, painless death should it all become too much. Likewise, I had my own (albeit solo) Friday Night Dinners at my grandmother’s house. I remember the time my mother sheepishly asked me to convey the message that she had been offered a holiday-of-a-lifetime opportunity. The reason for her trepidation was that it took place over my eighteenth birthday. I am told that, in the real world, it would be me trying to sneak off on holiday. Nevertheless, I was happy to let her go but a protective grandmother may have something else to say on the matter. I tried to break it to her gently but I still felt guilty; like George in Of Mice and Men, standing over Lennie as he delivers the coup de grace to someone who is only really guilty of perhaps loving fluffy bunnies too much. It turned out my dread was totally uncalled for as my grandmother interrupted me with a diatribe about how my mother was right. In a rare moment of anti-consumerist zeal, she damned eighteenth birthday celebrations as the evil product of the loins of greeting cards companies and chocolate manufacturers. I was relieved but it would have been nice for her to show some concern. I mean, it is hard to fulfill your martyr complex if no one is there to tend to you on your metaphorical cross.
The television show also manages to spark as much hate for some characters as it does love of others. One friend of mine is famed for her ‘Dean rants’. Dean is Rory’s first boyfriend; an All-American explosion of clear skin and floppy hair. Rory eventually chooses him over his bad boy, Springsteen-knock-off, love rival Jess. What is so wrong with that? Everything, according to my dear friend. Usually, she cites his lack of personality and general unsuitability for Rory, as well as the fact he cheated on his then wife. In one particularly virulent monologue, she described the wrongs committed by Dean against Rory so passionately to a friend that he presumed they were real people the girl knew. He was very concerned about all the adultery and love triangles up until she had to clarify that none of the participants were real people.
All this is a testament to how entangled we can become in simple escapism, how intrinsic it is to developing and signifying our morality. If you are not convinced, just think of the ‘sanity by default’ idea; at least you are not as bad as that mad Features editor in The Saint.