Project Runway has always been a guilty, mindless pleasure of mine. But last night's episode was depressing as hell. For those of you who don't watch the show, this last Thursday was part one of the season finale and as always, one of the designers was eliminated. This time it was Michael Costello, who performed unevenly throughout the season. It's not uncommon for a contestant to shed a tear or two when they're told they're "out" but Michael completely broke down. And since we learned earlier in the episode that Michael's boyfriend outed him to his parents (WTF?) and that his parents were unsupportive of his creative ambitions or...well of anything he was doing, the breakdown was probably a long time coming. But what was really sad was that Micheal felt the first signs of support from his family didn't come until he got on Project Runway and he had somehow convinced himself that if he could just win the contest his parents would finally be proud of him and it would fix everything.
Again, WTF? I haven't heard the parents side of things (they refused to appear on any of the episodes they were invited onto) but no one should feel like their parents' love is dependent on their career success. Parents are supposed to love us because they're our parents. They're supposed to be proud of us because we're good people. And when we put our all into something and are still unable to grab a victory our parents are the people who we turn to for support. That's the way it's supposed to work. You can encourage your kid to join the football team if that's what he's into. You can be proud of him for trying out and working hard to be the best player he can be. You can root for him from the stands. But you can't stop being proud of him just because he got tackled on the 40 yard line!!
And of course even if his parents had been proud of a win that wouldn't have actually fixed anything. Eventually he would have had a career setback because that's life. Even more likely his winning the competition wouldn't have changed the dynamic between him and his parents at all. In fact I have a REALLY hard time believing that his parents were going to jump up and down for joy and cry, "Wow, now that Heidi Klum thinks you're a winner we are 100% cool with having a gay, fashion designer as a son!" There's even a little part of me that is sort of glad he lost because 1) I think the disappointment of not having his parents support after a win would have been even more difficult than not having their support after a loss, and 2) the contestants who don't make Fashion Week on Project Runway are required to speak to a therapist or psychiatrist to make sure they're ok and in Michael's case I really think that's a good thing (and maybe he'll take a second look at his relationship with his boyfriend too. Any guy who outs their partner to their partner's parents has Issues).
But for the rest of us that episode should be a wake-up call. We shouldn't have to impress the people who are supposed to love us. Impress your boss, your colleagues, your competition, the girl/guy you've been trying to pick up, but if someone who says they love you still needs to be impressed in order to keep loving you there's a big problem. That's not the kind of love that any of us need in our lives. And we need to let the people who we love, be they our children, our parents, our spouses, our friends or whatnot, know that they don't have anything to prove to us. We need to make sure they know that while we want them to pursue their goals with gusto we won't walk away if, despite their best efforts, things don't work out they way they dreamed they would.
Otherwise you might see your twenty-something-year-old kid having a nervous breakdown on national television all because they got kicked off a reality show. That's not good for anyone.
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