“That scene when Liz Lemon was drinking wine on the treadmill at 4 in the morning I totally thought of you”.
Um, thank you? That was a text I got from my brother a few years ago referring to an episode of 30 Rock. One night in early 2007 I flipped on the television in the middle of an episode, and saw Tracy Morgan being carried through a crowd by his body guards while “I Will Always Love You” played in the background. It was absurd, and I was hooked.
I don’t watch a lot of television. I don’t say that as a superior “I don’t have a TV” person, though I was one of those for a while. I just don’t have many shows I go out of my way to watch, and I don’t turn the TV on unless I want to watch something in particular. Still, for years I have had a standing appointment with Thursday nights.
My first exposure to the show was not Lemon-centric, but as she entered the cultural consciousness our similarities could not be denied. We have the same glasses, and for the record I had them first. She says things like “I already have a drink, do you think he’d buy me mozzarella sticks?” She insists she can “have it all” while shoving a sandwich in her mouth. She goes on feminist tirades and takes secret pleasure in taking on too much responsibility. She eats “night cheese” and sings about it.
Most importantly, she is hilarious. In my family, being funny was a virtue, a goal we always strove for. There were a lot of years I wished that my family had taught me how to dress nicely or style my hair or be gracious or any of those other more womanly virtues, but instead they taught me how to crack jokes.
Watching Liz roll her eyes and dance goofily once a week throughout my twenties was revelatory: here is a woman being rewarded for being funny and a little bit off. There was good-natured humor about her romantic ridiculousness, and oh, how I could relate. I described myself with no self-pity as terminally single. Like Liz, I had a great job and friends with whom I could laugh about the occasional dating mishap.
Then a few years ago I met a man who told me he’d always wanted to meet a funny Catholic woman with glasses. We fell in love during the summer hiatus and my only regret was that I was losing my connection to Liz Lemon. When the show returned, Liz had found love too! I couldn’t believe it. Alas, my love does not have the comic bonus of being a hot dog salesman, and we do not have a plan to adopt which requires us to marry immediately at City Hall, but it seemed Liz and I were moving in lockstep.
On my thirty-second birthday, Liz Lemon donned her Princess Leia outfit and got married. I didn’t watch. Instead, my boyfriend took me out to dinner, and I caught up with the episode later that weekend, laughing hysterically while he tried to nap on the couch next to me. Through years of absurdity and fun Liz and I both grew up. When she goes off the air tonight I’ll miss the humor but be grateful for the inspiration, for the permission to be myself and to grow in laughter, life and love.(Photo credit to the very funny Katrina at Ukrainian Picnic)