Gossip Girl introduced me to headbands, nair-tinis, and one of my closest friends.
In high school, my guiltiest pleasure was reading Cecily Von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl novels. The scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite – Blair, Serena, Chuck and Nate – were the opposite of anyone I, an overprotected teenage girl attending public school in the suburbs, had ever met in real life. The people I knew went to regular school dances, not debutante balls or swanky charity galas. I had been on the steps of the Met before, but only directly after stepping off of a school bus on a class trip. I was immediately hooked on the series, dashing to Barnes & Noble each time a new book was released.
Throughout college, I’d read my YA novels during slow periods at my part-time job at my university’s fitness center, craving a life as exciting as my favorite characters’. I dreamed about someday getting a more glamorous job and an apartment in New York City, although I wasn’t quite sure how I’d make it happen.
After graduation, I got a job as a financial news editor in midtown Manhattan, and settled into my new routine of commuting into the city from home in the suburbs. Working in the city was turning out to be less exciting than I’d imagined until, one day, on my way to the train, a “Notice of Filming” sign the street caught my eye. Gossip Girl, the TV adaptation of my favorite books, was going to be filming across the street from my office.
On the day the first episode of Gossip Girl aired, I was walking down Madison Avenue and ran into Blake Lively and Penn Badgley. They were shooting the scene from Serena and Dan’s first date when she jumps onto a Vespa. As the camera rolled, a city bus drove by with Blake-as-Serena’s face plastered across the side. After the scene wrapped, I gushed to Blake and Penn about how excited I was for the show. Blake and Penn were friendly and down-to-earth, especially in light of my over-the-top fangirling. Before that day, the only celebrity I’d ever had a conversation with was Joe from Blue’s Clues. Suddenly, coming into the city each day felt a lot more exciting.
My New York City dreams were finally starting to come together. I had cleared the small hurdles of adulthood, like choosing a health insurance plan and setting up a 401(k), but I still wasn’t sure that I was on the right path. The close friends I had made in college lived in other states, and I often felt lonely. My coworkers weren’t that interested in talking about Gossip Girl with me.
As I was leaving work one night, I spotted a brown-haired guy in a navy trench coat and Chuck Bass’ signature navy, red and white J. Press scarf, and immediately introduced myself. Brian was a college student from Queens and, as his taste in accessories suggested, was also passionate about Gossip Girl. He and some friends had learned of the filming location on a fan site and wanted a photo with Chace Crawford. I excitedly told him my Penn-and-Blake story. After taking some grainy photos with Chace on our respective flip phones, we exchanged phone numbers and friended each other on Facebook to coordinate our next meetup.
Using the show as our guide, Brian and I went on fun Gossip Girl-themed outings all over the city. While a few months prior I had struggled to find my way around, together we went to Sant Ambroeus for coffee to drink on the steps of the Met, PJ Clarke’s for cocktails and Socialista for cuban sandwiches. We celebrated my birthday with Gossip Girl grilled cheese sandwiches at the Palace Hotel.
Aside from being Gossip Girl fans, Brian and I are both ambitious, have similar taste in music and movies, pamper our pets, and come from close-knit, single-parent families. Over late-night phone calls, we discussed our different theories about Jenny Humphrey’s social climbing, our favorite Blair Waldorf zingers and our mutual dislike of Vanessa Abrams. We also talked about deeper topics, like our goals for the future or conflicts with family and friends. Our conversations helped me make big life decisions, like finally getting my own apartment (on the Upper East Side, of course), and generally feel like my life was going to turn out OK.
Gossip Girl premiered in 2007, which, in some ways, feels like a lifetime ago. The iPhone 1 had just been released. Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana. George W. Bush was president. I wore a headband every day.
I definitely still read YA novels, but my priorities are different. I’ve stopped wearing headbands and I’m pursuing my own dreams instead of fantasizing about trading lives with private-school educated socialites. I’ve changed jobs, apartments, and even some friends. Like all friends, Brian and I have had our ups and downs, and we have disagreements, but we are still friends today.
Blair Waldorf once said that destiny is for losers, but I disagree. Sometimes, there is such a thing as being in the right place at the right time. I’m lucky to have friend who gets me, long after our favorite show has gone off the air — even if we met behind Chace Crawford’s trailer.