For All The Ships That Sail: Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller

when i was 7 i had a crush on a girl in my class & didnt know how to deal w it so I wrote her a letter that just said “get out of my school”

@Lindzeta on Twitter

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl who likes another girl will convince herself that they actually hate each other in order to avoid confronting her true feelings. Unfortunately, girls hating each other is much more commonly accepted than girls crushing on each other; in fact, it’s encouraged. Rory and Paris have so many intense arguments (most notably while holding swords, as in 3.11, “I Solemnly Swear”) that one could wonder how on earth they even want to be friends. The answer is simple: arguments are a safe way to channel passionate feelings, and they stay friends because they’re in love, obviously. For further elucidation on the “I’m going to convince myself that I hate her because I can’t handle accepting that there’s something else going on” phenomenon, check out Rachel Bloom’s lurid Katy Perry send-up “Feelin’ Kinda Naughty” from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, “What Is This Feeling?” from Wicked, and “Jolene” by Dolly Parton.

Who are the characters?

Lorelai “Rory” Gilmore III: precocious, sweet, occasionally boat-stealing, doe-eyed protagonist. Best friends with her mother, Lorelai; together they are the titular Gilmore Girls. Aspiring journalist and resident darling (read: occasional spoiled brat) of her small Connecticut town, frequent pawn/mediator in family fights.

Paris Geller: cut from the same neurotic, overachieving, insecure, competitive cloth as Elliot Reid (from Scrubs), Annie Edison (from Community), Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter), Jane Villanueva (from Jane The Virgin) and Leslie Knope (from Parks and Recreation.) Aspiring lawyer and/or doctor with a running list of enemies. Has a tender side that can be coaxed out on occasion. Emotionally neglected by her fabulously wealthy parents and desperately craves maternal validation from Rory’s mother/BFF Lorelai.

The first shot of Paris in the series is of her dramatically glaring at Rory as she walks past; her first lines find her crouched under the registrar’s window poring over Rory’s transcript. Rory doesn’t understand why Paris is so obsessed with her, but they gradually develop a very supportive, if idiosyncratic, friendship– Rory’s last line to Paris is “I haven’t been able to shake you off all this time– I think we’re going to be friends for a very long time” (7.21, “Unto The Breach.”)

Why they work well together:

Rory at her best is sweet and charming. She consistently inspires people to do over the top things for her, such as her entire town coming together to throw a going away party for her in a thunderstorm or her surrogate father opening his diner at the crack of dawn so she can have one last cup of his coffee before leaving home (7.22, “Bon Voyage.”) She can be very diplomatic and level-headed, often called in to mediate between her mother and grandmother or mother and father. Paris, on the other hand, made nearly 30 enemies during her first week at Yale (4.2, “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale”) and complains that she’s “not cut out to deal with people” (6.17, “I’m Ok, You’re Ok”) Rory proves herself quite capable of ingratiating Paris into her friend groups, and Paris begrudgingly appreciates it.

Rory at her worst is a petulant, apathetic brat who cannot take criticism and completely spirals when things don’t go exactly her way. When her boss at the Stamford Gazette tells her she doesn’t have what it takes to be a journalist, she takes it so hard that she drops out of Yale and estranges herself from her mother (5.21, “Blame Booze and Melville.”) She often needs some tough love, which she is unwilling to accept from nearly everyone in her life but Paris.

Paris at her best is fiercely loyal and driven. In one of her shining moments, she tears Rory’s boyfriend a new one:

You, Logan Huntzberger, are nothing but a two-bit, spoiled waste of a trust fund. You offer nothing to women or the world in general. If you were to disappear from the earth tomorrow, the only person that would miss you is your Porsche dealer. (6.17, “I’m Ok, You’re Ok”)

When she cares about something or someone, she cares so deeply it consumes her. She single-handedly produces an issue of the Yale newspaper (6.13, “Friday Night’s Alright For Fighting”) when her staff jumps ship and demands perfect historical precision from her study group’s production of Romeo And Juliet (2.9, “Run Away, Little Boy.”) In fact, she is so determined to have the perfect spring break experience that she kisses Rory in the middle of a club she didn’t even want to go to in the first place, and then interrogates Rory about whether or not she was a good kisser (4.17, “Girls In Bikinis, Doing The Twist.”) Paris forces Rory to rise to her level, and Rory is more than game to oblige.

Paris at her worst is Paris at first glance. In Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day,” there is a stanza that makes me think of Paris, and of myself, and of awkward and difficult women everywhere:

Things keep popping out / on my face /  or  / of my life
It seems no matter how / I try I become more difficult / to hold
I am not an easy woman /  to want
They have asked / the psychiatrists     psychologists     politicians and / social workers
What this decade will be /  known for
There is no doubt          it is / loneliness

She can be incredibly rude inconsiderate, oblivious, and painfully awkward. When she and Rory meet, she doesn’t so much have friends as minions. Her brashness, however, belies a deeply-rooted insecurity that only Rory can handle. Paris gets more than a little hysterical when she gets rejected from Harvard (3.16, “The Big One”), and although she could rightfully hate Rory for getting into Harvard instead, she is the only one Paris wants to see.

Why they might not work together (in real life):

For as much as they can bring out the best in each other, they can also bring out the worst. They know each other so well that their fights can be especially vicious. Rory’s intense need to be liked grates on Paris, who is less easily charmed than the entirety of Stars Hollow. In their first conversation, without so much as an introduction, Paris asks Rory if she’s “going out for The Franklin,” Chilton’s newspaper, and when Rory is understandably confused, she snaps, “Nice innocent act. At least I know you’re not going out for drama club” (1.2, “The Lorelais’ First Day at Chilton”). Paris also requires a measure of patience that Rory is not always interested in granting. Any of their intense arguments could be a friendship-ender, but what I find so compelling is that they communicate, make up, and keep choosing each other.

Verbal repartee is a Gilmore Girls signature, and an odd sign of love: the slow burn Luke/Lorelai and Sookie/Jackson romances are fueled by affectionate bickering. Frigid silences, such as those that tend to crop up between Lorelai and her sometimes-estranged parents, are a harbinger of irreparable damage. In real life, however, perpetual verbal sparring does not necessarily indicate a healthy relationship.

Is it a standard/popular ship? Are there alternate ships involving the characters?

The Rory/Paris following is small, but persistent. Mallory Ortberg made a compelling argument on The Toast and although I don’t really read fanfiction, I’m willing to admit that I have bookmarked and reread this one.

Both Rory and Paris have a series of boyfriends, from Rory’s hometown boy next door (a pre-Supernatural Jared Padalecki) to the ill-advised fling Paris has with a professor old enough to be her grandfather. In this writer’s opinion at least, those suitors are, as Mallory Ortberg puts it, “unworthy male chaff.” All three of Rory’s serious boyfriends treat her terribly in different ways: Dean is prone to fits of possessive rage, Jess is a flighty heartbreaker, and Logan is smarmy and selfish. Paris has one serious boyfriend, whom she ends up divorcing in the Netflix revival, and her other two main love interests are inextricably tied to Rory. Tristan is the boy they fight over, but to again quote Mallory Ortberg, their feud “is never about Tristan the person as much as it is about what Tristan represents: acceptance, popularity, safety.” When Paris goes on a date with a boy she meets at the Model UN convention (3.1, “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days”), she summons Rory to her hotel room to help her get ready and then insists that Rory hide in the closet because otherwise poor sweater-clad Jamie will forget what he ever saw in Paris and ask Rory out instead. If that isn’t classic lesbian emotional sublimation, I don’t know what is.

Dream fantasy

I originally imagined Rory and Paris getting married at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s estate in Lenox, MA — which might be my own personal pipe dream — but I decided to think a little smaller. They have Jane Austen levels of simmering sexual tension, and I wanted to give them the “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” moment they never got in canon.

Int., day. Paris and Rory are driving back from spring break in Florida, circa season 4, episode 17. Paris is driving, still wearing her sun hat even though it’s overcast, and has a death grip on the steering wheel. Rory is trying to read in the passenger seat. Intense classical music is playing a little too loudly. They have clearly been driving for a while. The silence is comfortable, but both of them secretly think it’s awkward, which is why they’re trying super hard to look occupied.

RORY: Well, that was fun.

PARIS: WHAT?
RORY: [turning down the volume] I said, “that was fun.” But don’t let me keep you from, well, whoever this is. What, pray tell, have we been listening to, anyway?

PARIS: It’s Prokofiev. The Romeo and Juliet ballet.

RORY: Of course it is. That’s very on brand for us, I suppose. [beat] Anyway, this was a fun weekend, don’t you think?

PARIS: Maybe for you. All I got was a sunburn and a hangover. And what good was all that tipping if you’re just going to be stepping in beer anyway?

RORY: Didn’t you have any fun?

PARIS: Well, a bit–

RORY: Paris, I think we should talk about–

PARIS: I suppose it was fun to participate in teenage bonding rituals just to say I did. Terrence is always telling me I have to make college memories that don’t revolve around studying and telling freshmen to get out of my way.

RORY: You don’t really strike me as the kind of person who just does whatever people tell her to.

PARIS: I don’t! I take things into consideration and, if and only if I want to do those things of my own volition, then I do them.

RORY: So when you kissed me, that was of your own volition?
PARIS: [long pause] Isn’t that what girls do on spring break? That’s what Madeline and Louise were doing.

RORY: [affectionately sarcastic] If Madeline and Louise jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge?

PARIS: [very serious] Don’t speak to me like that again or I’ll throw you right out of this car, I swear to God, Rory. I might be too uptight to loosen up and try for a fling, like you, but I’m not… [trails off, turns the volume back up]

RORY: [turns the volume down] Paris, I think maybe we should talk about it.

PARIS: Why, so you can tell me that I’m a bad kisser and a weirdo pervert freak and that no boy should have ever gotten within ten feet of me?

RORY: Well, if you’re going to be like that, sure.

PARIS: Fine.

[Paris turns the volume back up. Eventually, the song ends. There is an awkward pause since it’s the end of the CD.]

PARIS: Um. What, exactly, did you want to talk about?
RORY: I was going to say that although I don’t really enjoy being ambushed–

PARIS: But I was being spontaneous because that’s what you do on spring break!

RORY: [continuing, ignoring the interruption] — that I quite enjoyed it and maybe I’d like to do it again some time!

PARIS: [swiveling her entire head to look at Rory] Really?

RORY: [gently adjusts Paris so she is looking at the road again] It was a nice change. You don’t have a beard and you’re actually my height.

PARIS: Is that all I have to offer? You know who else doesn’t have a beard and is your height–

RORY: Did you miss the part where I said I’d like to do it again some time?

PARIS: Are you sure? I think you had a few too many beers that night. How they even let us have beers I’ll never understand, because, well, look at our baby-faces…

RORY: Are you done?

PARIS: It’s just a lot to process, I mean, you’re Rory Gilmore, the most accomplished eyelash-batter in Stars Hollow, and I’m–

RORY: You’re Paris Geller and I love you very much and I have since you thought I couldn’t see you spying on me when I arrived at Chilton.

PARIS: I was quite an amateur back then.

RORY: So what do you say?

PARIS: [blushing deeply] “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.”

[Paris slams on her brakes and pulls over to the side of the road, which, luckily, is in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in South Carolina or Virginia or New Jersey. With a very familiar set jaw, firey eyes, and puffed-up chest, Paris strides around the car, opens the passenger door, and kisses Rory harder than she has ever kissed anyone. Without the grimy guise of spring break, and with reassurance from Rory, it’s the best kiss she’s ever had.]

Molly McGowan is a consulting archivist, or historical gossip connoisseur, living in Boston. Her passions in life are making elaborate crafts to foist upon her loved ones, trying not to get trampled on the rugby pitch, soliciting life advice from her many tarot decks, and searching eternally for the perfect vegetarian Buffalo wings.

Molly McGowan

Molly McGowan is a consulting archivist, or historical gossip connoisseur, living in Boston. Her passions in life are making elaborate crafts to foist upon her loved ones, trying not to get trampled on the rugby pitch, soliciting life advice from her many tarot decks, and searching eternally for the perfect vegetarian Buffalo wings.

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