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Felicity as the Antidote to Death

Felicity was the first show I watched post having a baby. Post standing at the foot of the bed in which my father-in-law passed six weeks before I gave birth. Post my original birth plan being placed in a blender, crapped on, and then blended to perfection.

To say that nothing went according to plan in the weeks leading up to having my first baby would give way more coherence and structure to what giving birth and living during that time was actually like.

  • It was like having my head dunked under water and at some point not coming back up.
  • It was like trying to leap out of my own body but having to stay put.
  • It was like everything that anybody ever told me was the opposite of what happened.
  • It was like, I will marry this anesthesiologist.
  • It was like, I’ve come to, and I’m not going to marry the anesthesiologist, I’m going to marry this morphine pump and we will live in Mexico and operate a surfing school.

I never felt closer to death than when I was about to give birth. Death hung around my family. My husband lost his father so suddenly and with such finality. Up until then I was lucky not to know the permanence of death. How it is to walk into a kitchen and fully, truly, absolutely expect the person you just buried to be cooking something at the stove.

And so, I turned on my computer and I turned to Felicity. Which was this odd show I’d seen many years prior with my mom. And I knew about the hair scandal – where the ratings of the show dropped supposedly because Felicity (played by Keri Russell) cut her hair in the second season.

Felicity is definitely one of those shows where it’s so easy to dismiss what’s happening because it’s about love, and crushes, and screwing up, and figuring out what you are supposed to be. And all the people are supposed to be poor, but they are living these fun New York lives. So really, it is perfect for just sitting back and helping to hold off the anxiety shakes.

Oh, I don’t know. Felicity was just this beautiful girl and her story of going to college in New York City because her high school crush went there was just the right amount of unbelievable / interesting. She knows what she’s done is a tad crazy too, so that made the viewing doable. I did not need to buy into what Felicity did because she did not quite buy into it. But if Felicity can move to New York City just because Ben (played by Scott Speedman) lives there, then I can feed this baby twelve times a day.

It’s also easy to dismiss Felicity because it is another show where a female character spends almost the entirety of the show finding love. I want to posit that Felicity picks up where My So-Called Life leaves off – just in the same way as Angela seemed to transcend Jordan at the end of the show’s glorious one season run, Felicity, ultimately, is about people finding themselves despite the mind altering presence of first love. Side note: I like to think of Felicity working very well for the first three seasons. The fourth season is a master study in writing going off the rails. Where once I lamented the ending of Lost, I now add a lament for the ending of Felicity. The fourth season was phoned in, it felt sloppy, and it did not do justice to stories told in the first three seasons.

Keri Russell’s portrayal of Felicity is key. She gets the nervous, sexy, slightly naïve character really well. But she is also strong – she is mostly a good friend, a dedicated student, and kind of not in touch with her emotions in a refreshing way. So if Angela of MSCL kind of over-analyzed and slouched her way to enlightenment, Felicity began to over-analyze but then took a big leap without thinking too much further ahead. Her character was a mix of maturity and wildness (remember when she slept with the art guy just as she was getting together with Noel (Scott Foley)) – what a mess! But how fun!).

For me, the most powerful thing about the show was/is the realistic way most of these characters approached the college experience. Whereas I felt stuck in my bedroom with an infant, Felicity and co. were making decisions, moving forward, screwing up, freaking out about finals. They just all seemed like pleasant, slightly neurotic people who I/we would want to be friends with.

For the purposes of writing this, I intentionally did not re-watch a single episode of the show. I wanted to go off of the muddled memories / thought fragments that I could recall. I think this is being authentic to my first post-baby viewing experience. To go back and re-assess the show now would cast it in a different light. And I want to honor the weird light and offer up great thanks to Felicity. Girl, it was fun spending time with you. XO

Natalie Lyalin

About The Author

Natalie Lyalin

Natalie Lyalin is the author of two books of poetry, Blood Makes Me Faint, But I Go For It (Ugly Duckling Presse 2014), and Pink & Hot Pink Habitat (Coconut Books 2009), as well as a chapbook, Try A Little Time Travel (Ugly Duckling Presse 2010). She is the co-editor of Natural History Press. She lives in Philadelphia.

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