I’m probably going to be severely mocked for my next statement, but I’m going to make it anyway.
How I Met Your Mother has made me cry twice in the past five months.
I was a latecomer to this show—I didn’t start watching regularly until halfway through Season 5, and it’s now about to start its eighth season. Immediately, I started catching up with the show on DVD. While there are some sitcoms you can jump right into without watching from the beginning, this is not one of them.
For those of you who never got into the show, late or early, here’s a little background on it. HIMYM is one of the most narratively interesting shows on TV right now, full of flashbacks and flashforwards. The premise is that in the year 2030, Ted Mosby is telling his two teenaged kids the (very, very LONG) story of how he met their mother and all the crazy things that happened on the road there, including everything going on with his friends Marshall and Lily, respectively a lawyer and a kindergarten teacher who are engaged and later married; Barney, a slutty but weirdly charming (probably because he’s played by Neil Patrick Harris) playboy; and Robin, an ambitious TV reporter. We know from the first episode that the mother is not Robin, whom he dates for most of Season 2. We also get little clues along the way about who “the mother” is: she’s roommates with a girl Ted briefly dates, she’s at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day when Ted is also there and leaves behind a yellow umbrella which Ted takes home, when Ted accidentally walks into the wrong classroom on the first day as a professor she’s in that class, and they will someday meet at a wedding that we eventually find out is the wedding of Robin and Barney.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that the quality has declined as the show has gone on, which surprises me, because I don’t think that’s true at all—some episodes are better than others, but overall, I think the show is just as good as it’s always been. I love it for a lot of reasons—for one thing, I was always a big fan of Friends, and this show, also about a group of friends in New York, is the closest thing to Friends that’s currently on TV. I loved all of the main characters on Friends, and I love all five of these main characters, too. I also love how the show manages to capture succinctly so many truths about yuppiehood, coining phrases like “woo girl” and “revertigo.”
But I think a deeper reason why I love it so much is the feeling of hope that pervades it. No matter what happens to Ted, you know that in the end, he’s going to meet “the mother,” a woman he loves deeply and speaks of to his future children with obvious affection.
Which brings me to the two episodes that made me cry.
One was the season finale, where Marshall and Lily welcome their first child. As Ted muses about how his friends, whom he’s known since they did some stupid things in college, are now parents, he realizes that he himself is nowhere close to being a dad, and he doesn’t want it to be that way.
The other episode is an episode toward the end of the last season called “Trilogy Time.” It talks about how, since the year 2000, the guys have gotten together every three years to watch the Star Wars trilogy and imagine what their lives will be like three years in the future. The reality, of course, is always different. Ted, in 2009, thinks that if he hasn’t met his wife in three years, there’s something seriously wrong with him. When 2012 rolls around and he realizes that that still hasn’t happened, he thinks that something really is seriously wrong with him. But we see in the future that in 2015, Marshall and Barney good-naturedly complain about Ted bringing a girl to guys’ night, but are okay with it because “he loves her so much.” Then we see that the girl he brings to the trilogy watching isn’t his future wife, but his newborn daughter. And when they wonder if things will change much three years in the future, Ted says, “I hope not.”
Even upon second viewing, it made me tear up.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see why. At twenty-eight, not only am I still single, I have always been single. I really am starting to think that there is something seriously wrong with me, and realizing that although I want so badly to be a mom, I’m nowhere close to being one.
I wish I had that reassurance that three years from now, everything is going to be so much better. Yes, I do realize that TV is not real life—I am not one of those people who justify their relationship decisions because it worked out for Carrie on Sex and the City (and yes, I know people who actually do that). But even though this show is fictional, somehow watching it makes me hopeful.
Incidentally, I found today, totally by accident, this 2006 article, which is excerpted from a book called The Unhooked Generation by Jillian Straus. Intrigued, I requested an interlibrary loan for the book and will hopefully be reading it soon.
Then I did some Googling and discovered that while Jillian Straus was researching that book, which stemmed from her and her friends’ frustrations at their inability to find a romantic partner, she met the man who became her husband. You can read their story here.
So I haven’t met my future husband yet—at least, I don’t think I have. But it’s a dream I’m never giving up on, because nothing sounds better to me than reacting to the idea that things will change in three years with, “I hope not.”