A great new book that’s out today is How to Be Alone: If You Want to, and Even If You Don’t by Lane Moore. Charting her rise from a rough childhood (she basically raised herself) to a creatively fruitful and dazzling career as a musician, writer, comedian, and host of the popular New York City and nationally touring show Tinder Live, Moore points out how so much conventional wisdom and life benchmarks are actually total nonsense that are designed to keep us all isolated and down.
Among those situations: sitcom characters. Their fairy-tale romances and casual good-person-ness make us expect that in our own lives, and it leads to bitter disappointment. Specifically ruining love for the world: Jim Halpert from The Office.
It will not at all surprise you to know that a lifelong hopeless romantic with an overactive imagination and a not-that-great personal life who loves TV has shipper tendencies (see: someone who gets incredibly passionate about a fictional relationship, be it TV or film or in books, what have you). Mine range from Logan in Veronica Mars (I know he’s not perfect, but they’re Logan and Veronica, what do you want from me); Leslie and Ben from Parks and Recreation (the best TV couple to ever exist); Olive and Todd from Easy A; Chris and Jal and Freddie and Effy from Skins; Jane Villanueva and Rafael Solano from Jane the Virgin (I know Michael Cordero was her heart, but have you seen Rafael? Have you?); Idgie and Ruth from Fried Green Tomatoes; Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly from The Office (seasons one through four only); Gunnar and Scarlett from Nashville (seasons one through four only); and Jaye and Eric from Wonderfalls. I have at times thought of making my Tinder bio “Jim Halpert or die.”
And, yes, I do watch these shows over and over again, often curating specific episodes like, “Okay, so we should start here because this is when Ben and Leslie first meet,” like I’m creating a super-cut version of the show that plays out like a 20-hour rom-com. And even though that’s a fucking long rom-com, I am always so gutted when TV shows end, when a TV rewatch is done. Often I’ll go back and start the whole thing over again because I don’t want to leave that world. I want to stay safely wrapped inside it, so immersed I feel like I can move within that world, that I live inside it, that I’m a part of it. Nik once very accurately observed about my obsessive relationship with television: “Oh my god, Lane. I just realized something. You rewatch your favorite shows because they’re like your family. The characters are people who are there for you when you need them; you’ve grown to love them; you know them well; you’ve spent so much time with them. In some cases, the shows were with you when you were growing up; they raised you; they’re your family. And when they’re done, you don’t want them to leave because then you’re alone again and your family is gone.” And he was very, very correct.
But back to Jim Halpert.
Before I first started watching the American version of The Office, I remember my friend Joy telling me, “Jim Halpert is like porn for female writers,” and then later watching the show and thinking, Truer words were never spoken, my friend Joy.
In the years since, I have come to the conclusion that Jim Halpert probably doesn’t exist. Like, I want him to exist more than anything so we can get married ASAP literally anywhere at all. In a ditch? Sure. Outside a gas station? Okay. On a stranger’s porch until they ask us to leave? Fine. But in my experience, Jim Halpert is as unattainable of an ideal as you can get because he makes even the most well-meaning dudes look like serial-killer bores and I hate it.
I seriously can’t watch seasons one through three of The Office without just crying nonstop at how beautiful the world would be if more dudes were Jim Halpert in pretty much all of the ways. It’s physically painful to behold his existence, and I don’t feel like that’s an exaggeration. His relationship with Pam is basically a fairy tale that seems like it could actually happen, so once you get out into the world of online dating apps and guys you meet at bars who think negging is cute, it’s reasonable to find that you’re very, very angry because you were told there would be Jims. (Or at the very least, one Jim.)
Maybe there are Jims! Maybe there are! And if there are, I’m so hyped to meet them, it’s insane. But also, yeah fucking right. You mean to tell me that there’s a man out there with impossibly floppy ’90s hair, like a Disney prince, and he wakes up like that: flawless? And this man is who is also the king of intricately planned romantic gestures? Because right now I’m living in a world where dudes can barely set up a date that doesn’t involve coming over to their apartment and watching them play video games while I try to find something in their kitchen that isn’t PBR, so thinking about a real-life Jim is something I can’t even do without my brain melting into a Jim-shaped puddle.
Oh, and wait, because there’s more. Jim Halpert (and it should be noted, I am basing most of this on seasons one to four, as the character got a little hit-or-miss as the years went on so we DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE LATER YEARS!!!!) wasn’t confused about what he wanted, he didn’t want to just “see where it went,” and he didn’t suggest he and Pam Netflix and chill. He met her and he knew and he acknowledged this and held out hope they’d end up together, even though she was dating some dickhead for a long time. WHO ARE YOU, JIM???? Oh, just someone who can pull off a gas-station proposal and still make you think he’s a goddamned dream? Cool.
Seriously, if your ex-boyfriends proposed to you in a gas station, you’d call your mom crying, but when Jim does it, it doesn’t even matter and somehow it’s even cuter because he couldn’t wait any longer to do it and also because he is Jim. Jim, who is reliably calm and empathetic, no matter what happens. When Pam’s veil tears at their wedding (if you haven’t seen this show yet, I feel zero regrets about spoilers — it’s, like, ten years old, old dude), he doesn’t tell her to get over it or panic, or just say “sorry” and move on. Nope, he compassionately cuts his own tie, thereby yet again doing anything and everything he can to make sure she’s happy all the time, like it’s his freaking job to make sure of it. Come. On.
Oh! And this is so fucking sad that it’s worth noting, but he actually asked Pam out on a date for dinner like a normal human being. He didn’t ask her if she wanted to chill or hang or come over to his place. He asked her if she was free to go to dinner with him for a first date that is a date for dating purposes. Man, it is sad that this is so rare.
And even when she rejects him, he doesn’t get angry at her! There’s no angry tirade about how she’s a tease or a liar or a bitch. If anything, he freaking cries and BLAMES HIMSELF and apologizes for misreading signals. (I just sighed heavily.) When Pam is upset that Jim lifted her up at the karate studio, he starts to write her a formal apology email, but then does one better and buys her a bag of freaking Sun Chips and quietly puts them on her desk, expecting nothing in return, just so she knows he cares about her and would never intentionally upset her. I might cry soon.
He’s totally happy to still be her best friend even if she never loves him back, which is just literally unreal, though it shouldn’t be. He’s not just being her close friend because he presumes one day they’ll end up together or sleep together, and you know that because for the first few seasons, he had no reason to believe that would ever happen. So many guys only befriend you or stay in your life because they assume one day they’ll get whatever it is they want from you, and the second you disprove that theory, they’re out. Jim, on the other hand, would’ve probably still been Pam’s friend even if she’d married dumb Roy and had his dumb kids because he loved her unconditionally. Jiiiiiiiiim.
In a world where guys will go out with you once and never talk to you again, but then like all of your Instagram posts for the rest of your life like they never really wanted to date you and instead just wanted to capture you in glass and look at you forever like a caged fucking bird, Jim Halpert is a fucking revelation.
From How to Be Alone by Lane Moore. Copyright © 2018 by Lane Moore. Reprinted by permission of Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.