It’s okay, you can skip season 7 to watch Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life

I’ve seen a LOT of panicked tweets this week where people haven’t finished watching the original run of Gilmore Girls and so are desperately muting any mentions of The Year in the Life. But I’m here, little friends, to give you a run down of what happens in season 7 so you can just skip it. Really. You can. (Except maybe the finale, I’d probably watch that because Lauren Graham made them rewrite it a bunch so it wasn’t completely terrible).

For those who haven’t spent much of the last few years immersing themselves in Gilmore Girls and Gilmore Guys (an exceptional podcast for true Gillies), let me inform you that season 7 takes a serious nose dive. Amy Sherman Palladino and Dan Palladino, the original creators and show runners, were bumped at the end of season 6 due to asking for more writers to help support them, which was deemed too much of an ask. In Amy and Dan’s leaving, they had to hire a bunch of new writers anyway and David S. Rosenthal, the world’s creepiest Heidi Klum fan, took over. Season 7 rehashes a lot of Amy & Dan plots, weirdly, as though no one would notice, so you probably know what’s going to happen.

Let’s start with Lorelai. At the end of season 6, she wakes next to Chris which of course is a terrible thing. Lorelai comes to clean to Luke, but only before he can profess his love for her and suggest they go elope to Maryland, then he walks away and they are broken up (only after he goes to Chris’ flat and socks him in the face). There are a lot of awkward scenes between them, particularly across a cross walk where Luke loses his shit at her in a way that weirdly seems out of character, despite Luke’s firecracker nature. Anyhow, for some terrible reason she calls Chris and they start dating – he shows her a film on the wall of a barn with no speakers, but it works apparently. They eventually take Gigi (remember he has a daughter?) to Paris where Sherry/Cherie has moved, and bribes a load of people to open a French restaurant at 5am in an incredible feat of mind control and privilege. He suggests that they get married. They come home to Stars Hollow and whoops she is Mrs. Chris, and clearly feels real awkward about it. Rory gets really mad that her parents eloped without her, and Lorelai continues to be awkward about it all. A plot rehash occurs and Richard has a heart attack, resulting in everyone going to hospital and Luke being an absolute gem of course. But where is Chris? Well he fell out with Lorelai because she wrote a personal testament for Luke who is suing for custody of April (don’t even ask) and it read a bit like a love letter, and decided to turn his phone off and sulk somewhere. So Lorelai’s dad is sick and he doesn’t show, and then they finally admit that she wanted to love him but he is truly second best, and he leaves. Somewhere in the middle of this Luke and Chris have a really shit fight in the town square. I can only presume they got a divorce.

During this whole mess, Rory has been having some classic end-of-school angst that takes up much of the season. She makes 2 new friends Olivia and Lucy (or Jessica Jones for those up to date on Marvel), who make oblique references to “boyfriend” of Lucy’s, who turns out to be Marty or Naked Guy from Rory’s first year, the guy who awkwardly wanted to date her and watched Duck Soup with her but she chose the rich guy and he got sad and entitled in a way that did not endear anyone to him. So they brought him back, he pretends not to know her, and they keep the secret, but then it all comes out. Honestly this plot was so pointless I remember very little. She is still with Logan through this season, though he now lives in London and buys Facebook or something similar and moves to New York. Up until this point, Rory has been living in his flat with the suit of armour, but moves back in with Paris and Doyle, the most underused characters of the whole season. Facebook #2 turns out to be a bad investment so he disappears for a bit getting very drunk and angry. Then he proposes in front of all her family at her graduation party in the penultimate episode and she says no, hooray! Bye Logan.

So meanwhile, Luke has been suing for custody of April (again don’t ask, it’s so unbelievably out of character and such a plot mess that… no) and Lorelai has been chumming up to him, and at some point he starts wearing the hat she gave him again. The final episode centres on the town planning a leaving do for Rory and a graduation reenactment, but Rory gets a job on the campaign trail with Obama and has to leave in three days. Luke and the Townies plan a party but Babette’s leg hints rain, so he stays up all night sewing a HUGE tent out of all the tarp, tents and coats he can find. Rory and Luke kiss, large pan out, hooray!

The Townies and Gilmores very much fall into the background for this season, as does Luke for the whole part where they are no longer together. Here is a short rundown.

  • Sookie goes a bit weird. She’s pregnant again. (I think this is the 3rd time this storyline has been used).
  • Michel’s dogs die and they host a funeral. He is strangely chipper at the party in the last episode.
  • Lane and Zach get married, have horrible sex once on a beach and she gets pregnant with twins. Mrs. Kim steps up in an excellent supportive way. Zach gets a gig as a guitarist for a band really big in 2007 and leaves to go on tour, so Lane is left with the babies. Lane deserves the best storyline in YITL because this was just such a horrible sex shamey mess.
  • Paris is dramatically underused, but has some good quippy moments. She plans to go to medical school, but given that haircut in the trailer I think she is finally the politician or lawyer she was always meant to be.
  • Kirk lives in a box for a bit.
  • Taylor barely appears.
  • Babette and Ms. Patty come into their own in the final episode, but again, are drastically under used for this season.
  • I think Gypsy is in the final episode.
  • Jess and Dean are not present at all.
  • Liz and TJ come back for some much needed comic relief, have a baby called Doula. Jess is barely mentioned, though this seems characteristic of Liz.
  • Richard and Emily appear for social functions and do the cutest little song at Rory’s graduation party. Richard teaches at Yale for a bit. The hospital visit is a rehash of earlier seasons but with none of the emotional gravitas that “I demand to go first” had.
  • April has to move to somewhere hot and her mother goes a bit evil villain for a bit, hence why Luke sues for custody. I think they get shared in the end, and Luke plans a big summer boat trip, but April has to cancel because of science.

Okay watch the last TWO episodes because you get to see Logan’s downfall, singing Richard and Emily and the last episode.

There you go. If you think I’ve missed any key points, comment below and I’ll add them. Enjoy Year in the Life everyone!

I’m autistic

I’m autistic.

I’m autistic.

These are words I’ve been saying for the last two years, with increased certainty. And this weekend, I finally got an email that said yes, Lizzie, you are autistic. You were right.

Rarely have so few words meant so much to me – especially as I live in a world of poetry and prose. But really, reading that I fit the profile of Autistic Spectrum Disorder was a kind of relief I find hard to describe.

I’ve spent the last few days in a total high since I saw the email at 9am on Sunday morning. I feel validated, recognised, reassured that I was right about myself and not imagining things.

I mentioned in my last post how a friend of a friend seeking diagnosis and suffering from imposter syndrome had said to them that not everyone reads all the information on Autism and goes “heck that’s me. Let’s go get diagnosed.” In fact, I’ve come to realise a lot of people my age just have to settle with the “heck that’s me” because the diagnostic process is long and difficult.

I realised I was autistic in June 2015 when a friend also was diagnosed, and so I decided to read up on how to support people with autism and eventually fell into a hole of reading about myself. It’s a really weird experience. There’s plenty of thrillers that start with someone reading a book about their life, so I was a little on edge, but also was shaking Tim awake at 8am on a Sunday morning telling him to read the twenty articles I’d read that morning.

From there, I had to be sent to the psychological sorting centre for Hammersmith (because the GP couldn’t send me directly to an assessor who diagnosed adult women) where I had to beg a psychologist (we’ll call him Psych 1) several times over two 3 month apart appointments to send me for an assessment. He appears later.

In early 2016, I started seeing an assessor once a week for an hour over a six week period, after which she decided I didn’t have autism. There are several problems with this. The first one being that it is strongly recommended that diagnostic testing is done in one day, as you go back and forth a lot, and interruptions beyond short breaks are not ideal. The second was she only ever saw male children and referred to me as “the most complex case she’d ever seen.” Autistic women are enormously under-diagnosed because the testing is skewed to pick up male traits, and if you’ve seemingly never met an autistic woman before, you might not recognise them.

I was sent back to psych 1 who said he’d refer me for therapy and began talking to me (again) about borderline personality disorder, a condition I’ve thoroughly investigated but do not match.

Meanwhile, I decided to start a fundraiser to go get a private assessment with a friend’s therapist. I raised half the money I needed within 72 hours.

While waiting for my assessment, I saw Psych 2. Psych 2, the man who was going to sort therapy with me, greeted me, sat down, apologised that people had assessed me up to the eyeballs and had missed that I was obviously autistic. Honestly it was the most comforting thing to hear from someone who knew. He told me I should pursue my second assessment privately.

Psych 1 received a report from Psych 2 that can be summed up as “stop telling her she has BPD, she quite clearly has autism and this deliberation is harmful.”

I was due to have my assessment in September but one of my assessors was rushed to hospital, so it was pushed to the 10th of November. Over four hours, they questioned me and my parents about how I experience the world. It was important, but also painful. I had to talk about the bullying, physical and sexual abuse I have experienced in my life, the fact that I’m socially naive and unable to perceive the switch between good friendship and unsafe behaviour – a pattern which persisted until my early 20s and still haunts me. My parents sobbed as they told me of incidents I have no memory of, where I screamed horrible, terrible things at them, and then five minutes later came into their room and asked why they were crying. It was a lot.

When that email came through, I think all of us felt validated. I told my parents over the phone that they had parented an autistic child without any help or guides, and that they were superstars. They cried, but I’m pretty sure it was happy tears this time.

I’m still feeling that high. Before my assessment, a kind stranger called Julia reached out to me. A sibling to an autistic adult with late diagnosis like myself, Julia told me to remember that however I felt afterwards was valid, and that I needed to give myself space to feel that. I’ve purposefully planned very little this week, though I’m spending the next two days in zoos because I think I deserve a treat.

There is a sense of mourning creeping into the background. Would the bullies have done what they did if they knew I was autistic? Much of their bullying took advantage of the fact that I wouldn’t understand them being nice one minute, cruel the next, and so would never leave. That is intrinsic to my autism – I cannot perceive other people’s behaviour or emotions well, or sense their intentions. But would I have been protected?

Past is the past, sadly, but what I can say is that I feel ever so protected now. When I announced on Twitter that I’d got my diagnosis, auties across the world reached out to welcome me to the family. I am lucky to know some wonderful autistic people that completely ~get what I’m feeling and I love that Twitter has facilitated so many of those friendships – a space where we can interact with people but not have to worry about stimming too much, or looking at someone in the eyes, or being overstimulated in an unfamiliar environment.

I’ve got a lot to learn in terms of managing and coping, but now I know who I am, I know my strengths and my weaknesses and most importantly, my hard limits. I am going forward in life with this knowledge and that is the most valuable thing in the world.

Finally an enormous thank you to my family, my close friends (particularly the Cat Sick Crew) and Tim, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Your inner voice on the page

For those who don’t know, this week I’m having my autism assessment.

This is round two, because the first time round I saw someone who didn’t really listen to me, massively underestimated a lot of my problems, and so I took advice from friends, the internet and a psychologist I’d been sent to for the wrong type of therapy to go ahead for a second assessment. Thanks to the enormous generosity of friends, family and internet strangers, I’m due to have a private assessment on Thursday. It’s actually my second attempt, because one of the doctors was rushed to hospital back in September when I was first supposed to have it.

And so, as I’ve learned from the last two experiences, I am fully in the throes of anxiety about it and battling imposter syndrome. This is something I’ve seen in many other autistic adults awaiting assessment – all our lives we’ve battled that feeling of outsiderness, internalised our problems (and sometimes had them minimised by others around us) and worked to appear as normal as possible. When you are told you’re just shy, socially awkward, “a bit weird”, you tend to chalk it up as just that. It’s only when you’re 27 and it’s eight in the morning on a Sunday and you are reading up on Asperger’s in women to understand a friend’s needs better that you realise you’ve missed a biggie. You are reading yourself on the page. Despite that, you can’t shake those old feelings.

A friend of a friend explained away these fears well – very few people read things about autism and no one goes hey, I’ll go get an assessment on a whim.

I’ve found comfort in reading all my life. Fiction taught me many of the social norms I didn’t know, helped me understand how others perceive problems, helped me make sense of the world but also escape it when it got too much.

And in the same way, books featuring autistic characters have actually helped me understand myself better. Two that I’ve read this month hit that mark particularly – Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and the upcoming The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig, which will be released early next year. It is not often that I read a 1st person narrative that I totally understand. I can sympathise and enjoy but never really go, heck that’s how I see things. But both of these were that.

Mockingbird follows twelve year old Caitlin, whose brother was recently murdered in a school shooting, as she comes to terms with his death and her father’s grieving. It is a children’s book, suitable for those aged 9 and up. Kathryn writes Caitlin’s thought process so well, so on par with my own. The way she describes remembering to look at someone as Look At The Person. This is what it feels like – its a conscious thought. Its that mock interviewer telling me I never looked him in the eye and he found it disconcerting and weird, and how I learned to look around people’s head in a weird halo, timed to the 30 seconds… until I realised that was also disconcerting so now I look at people’s mouths with fleeting glances to eyes if I really have to. My work friends described as my fleeting little looks, like I’m peeking out of myself to see you. Her struggles with literal phrases remind me of being a very confused child, knowing that it was something I was supposed to get, but luckily being an advanced reader meant I came across idioms early enough to have a mental reference for what it is and what it meant.

The Original Ginny Moon is a book of another ilk, following Ginny in her first Forever Home after being removed from an abusive family environment as a child and her desperation at getting her Baby Doll back to keep her safe. What I recognised in myself from Ginny was her trouble with explaining context. So often I’ll launch into conversations with people and forget that they don’t always know what I know. This lands in two ways – either I get frustrated in explaining the context to someone who understandably doesn’t understand what I’m talking about or I explain ALL THE CONTEXT possible. For Ginny, people don’t do that work to understand what she is talking about, and her motivations. Her recklessness too reminds me of my younger self. When you have a goal you are determined to reach – for her, Baby Doll, for me, going on wild adventures to work as a marine biologist – nothing can stop you, not even your own limitations. You go weirdly against yourself because you become so very, very fixated on reaching that goal.

One of the commonalities of these novels is the struggle to be understood and heard by those around us.

It is a relief to know that these narratives come from parents of autistic children. They have first hand experience of that disconnectedness that comes from mistranslation, how awkward it can be to bridge the gap between two different languages when you are missing most of the dictionary. I also found a small resonance with Tilly in Caroline Pankhurst’s latest novel Harmony – luckily not her anarchic behaviour, but her accidental bluntness, rudeness, and her eventual learning to suppress what is not socially okay.

Of course, autistic people are very different and there is no single autistic person that we can hold up as an example of what the rest of us are. However, it is certainly possible to see aspects of ourselves reflected in the words of others, or even just situations we’ve been in before.

I’m currently reading Autism, Anxiety and Me in order to help me vocalise some of my problems – the book is a joint project between Emma and her mother, with an entry by Emma followed by her mother’s explanation of how to help your autistic child navigate the situation. It’s a very good parent-child book, but also Emma’s mother’s explanations help me understand what it is that I’m baffled about in certain contexts or why I never have understood that alpacassos and books don’t count as essentials, finance wise.

Some people would argue it’s not good to obsess over what’s coming, but obsessing over it is partly how I cope as well as a problem in of itself. Thanks to books, I feel much more equipped to answer questions about who I am.

My work-in-progress book list The Essential Autie List can be found here.