Monday, February 25, 2013

Life Lessons from Downton Abbey

***Spoiler Alert!***
If you didn’t tune into PBS on Sunday Nights for Downton Abbey, you’d better have a good excuse. Were you flying a plane? Performing open heart surgery? Vaccinating children in Papua New Guinea? Surely there must be a good reason! The season 3 finale attracted over 8 million viewers and was the subject of 80,000 tweets the night it aired. Though season 3 ended tragically (Matthew!), it also left us with a few lessons to ponder over the next year as we wait for season 4. In an effort to steer clear of the drama that our fictional friends endured this season, here are a few hard lessons they learned for us:   
Have a Great OB/GYN
Poor Lady Sybil. You know you were standing on your couch screaming, “Go to the hospital already! Forget what that pompous doctor Sir Philip says! Take your hot Irish husband and GO!" Sybil’s family doctor, Dr. Clarkson, knew that she was suffering from eclampsia while in labor, but in the end he couldn’t convince the family or their famous doctor pal Sir Philip that she was in grave danger. Lady Sybil died from eclampsia shortly after giving birth to a daughter.
Lesson learned: Choose a doctor you trust, have a birth plan that they support, and make sure you have an advocate who will make everyone stick to the program.
"Sybil, I love you more than green beer, but I'm totally going to let your dad make every medical decision for us."
A Man is Not a Financial Plan
Viewers can deduce from season 3 that Cora, known downstairs as Lady Grantham, married Lord Grantham for his title and he married her for her money. Fine, we can say they were in love too if it makes you feel better. Lord G invested Cora’s fortune into a doomed railway scheme and ended up losing it all and putting the estate in jeopardy. They were almost going to have to move to “Downton Place” and live with fewer servants- egad! Good thing the Downton Abbey heir, Matthew Crawley, has the best luck ever (for now) and inherited money from his dead x-fiancĂ©e’s father. He reinvested it back into the estate therefore saving them all from having to brew their own tea.
Lesson learned: Don’t rely on others to make your financial dreams come true. Whether you help bring home the bacon or not, it’s smart to have an idea of what state your finances are in.
"Where should I invest Matthew's newest fortune? A balloon factory? Time travel research? Garbanzo bean farming?"
It’s Good to Have a BFF
When Mrs. Patmore isn’t whipping up a kidney soufflĂ© or making snarky remarks to her kitchen maids, she’s chatting it up with her BFF Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper. When Mrs. Hughes had to go see Dr. Clarkson about a lump in her breast she took along Mrs. Patmore as moral support. When Mrs. Patmore was being wooed by the raunchy spice salesman at the country fair, Mrs. Hughes told her that he’s a lecher and only after her crazy awesome cooking skills.
Lesson learned: You’ve got to have good friends who will look out for your best interest and aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. Also, beware of creepy men who only ask you about your cooking skills.
"Does this hat make my butt look big?"
Money Can’t Buy Happiness
Even though the aristocratic Crawley family has so much money that they actually pay people to button their shirts, they don’t seem to be terribly happy. Take Lady Edith. She’s continually bullied by her older sister, jilted at the altar by a geezer with only one working arm, loses her younger sister to eclampsia, and at the end of season 3 was being pursued by her newspaper editor who is married to a “lunatic” and cannot get a divorce.  It’s like watching post-Edwardian Jerry Springer.
Lesson learned: Having a lot of money does not make you immune to difficult times. Happiness is a choice.
"How can I be happy when I have a name like Edith?"
Stand By Your Man
Anna, who works as a ladies maid to Lady Mary, fell in love with Bates the valet, but they were only married for what seemed like five minutes before Bates was convicted of murdering his x-wife Vera and then thrown into prison. Don’t worry- Vera was absolutely horrible and nobody liked her.  Anna made it her business to prove that Vera had actually killed herself, that Bates was innocent, then succeeded in getting him exonerated, and did it all whilst tending to the ubiquitous needs of Lady Mary. Well done, Anna!
Lesson learned: We all need someone in our corner that will cheer for us and defend us when nobody else will. That Tammy Wynette really knew what she was talking about.
"Oh hey. While you were in solitary confinement I used all your dry shampoo. My bad."
Wear Your Seatbelt
Remember Matthew Crawley’s good luck? It ran out at the end of the season and he was killed in a car accident (actor Dan Stephens wanted off the series). Of course the show’s writer Julian Fellowes had to pull at our heartstrings and make the crash happen immediately after Matthew’s wife Lady Mary gave birth to their son and heir. Darn you Julian!
Lesson learned: Wear your seatbelt and keep your eyes on the road.
"La la la la la. Okay, the instructor said to keep my eyes on the trees. No- the fluffy clouds. Or was it the..."

Photos courtesy of