When you think about it, it’s pretty clear that everything after Season 2 of The L Word was the result of a creative writing assignment that Jenny gave the students in her 10th grade Language Arts class at Green Oaks High School in Illinois, when Jenny got a job there after befriending the principal’s daughter, who was her roommate at the hospital.
Jenny missed LA. She missed the heat, she missed her loving, erratic, hare-brained friends, and Bette and Tina. Most of all though, Jenny missed her hottest and best friend, Shane. But she knew she needed to get her life together, away from these women and the way that they lived. That had been what pushed her over the edge, in fact — the fighting, fucking, crying, drinking… When she was discharged from the hospital, Jenny worked hard to find the right therapist, which sometimes takes months but she kept at it, and it only took a handful of sessions with Dr. Donna Martin for Jenny to understand how toxic LA had been. There was a small part of her that sometimes wondered if she might ever go back, if she would ever see her super hot best friend Shane again. But as quickly as this thought would surface, Jenny would swallow it down and get back to the business at hand, which was always writing and teaching.
In the state of Illinois, under a near constant cover of clouds and rain, there’s a small town named Green Oaks, population 3,866 people. That’s where Jenny moved after her hospitalization. She sometimes drove down to Wilmette to get her fill of city life, which is where she met Madeleine, a pixie-like trans woman with clear blue eyes who was fully realized and nuanced and self-assured and loved dancing and laughing and studying marine life. Jenny and Madeleine respected the hell out of each other and encouraged one another to drink plenty of water and get eight full hours of sleep each night. They’d dated briefly, but Jenny was dedicated to her self-imposed celibacy and didn’t want to hold Madeleine back and, understanding that polyamory was definitely a choice but not quite the right one for them at that time, she and Madeleine decided to be friends instead. (Shortly after, Madeleine met Lorna, a fully realized, nuanced and self-assured butch woman from South Carolina who played fiddle, and they fell madly, deeply in love, which was very sexy and very sweet.)
Madeleine was the one who gave Jenny the idea for assigning this creative writing exercise to her students. About six months into her treatment with Dr. Martin, Jenny had been given a version of the task as homework — something to help her look forward instead of back — but she was having a hell of a time putting the words on paper. It seemed simple enough: write the story of your future. But every time Jenny tried to imagine her future in Green Oaks, her mind went blank. She was happy there and had a wonderful, supportive friend group, including a cool dyke community she’d met through Madeleine, but dreams of LA kept popping up, unbidden and unexpected. Jenny talked with Madeleine and asked for her honest opinion: what did she think would happen if Jenny moved back? Madeleine was blunt: she didn’t know the future and neither did Jenny. She suggested Jenny try writing that story, the one where she went back to LA and picked up where she’d left off nearly a year ago.
But the what-ifs and possibilities of that story where overwhelming to Jenny, so instead of tackling them herself, she turned them over to her students.
“Your assignment is to write about what happens when Sarah Schuster moves back to LA after a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital in her hometown in Illinois. This will be round robin-style, where you’ll work together in groups and build off of each other’s stories as we go. Everyone will have a chance to add to this story of Sarah Schuster, a beautiful, delicate, misunderstood woman whose biggest mistake was opening her heart.”
Everything That Didn’t Happen Because Actually Seasons 3-6 of The L Word Were 10th Grade Creative Writing Assignments
With Corresponding Grades and Feedback
- Dana Fairbanks is sick and will likely have breast cancer. (A+ “Great external conflict, very relatable. Let’s see where the group takes it!”)
- ‘Mama T and Mama B.’ (D “Lacks creativity. Honestly bums me out.”)
- Alice Pieszecki and Helena Peabody are friends. (B “Very imaginative. Hope your group can make sense of it later?”)
- Alice chases Dana by car through city streets. (A+ “Classic.”)
- Sarah Schuster goes back to LA with her butch kinda-girlfriend, Moira, who isn’t exactly welcomed into the friend group. (A “Excited to see where this goes!”)
- Shane McCutcheon lives in LA but doesn’t know what a quinceañera is. (F “This is literally impossible.”)
- Alice has an elaborate shrine to Dana in her living room. (A+ “Haha. Brilliant.”)
- Sarah uses a taser in a parking lot; “We’re not faggots, we’re dykes you asshole.” (A+ “FLAWLESS. Evocative of Dorothy Allison — see me after class I have a book I’d like to loan you.“)
- Carmen de la Pica Morales gives Shane an absurdly sexy lap dance after making her wear a dress and hair extensions and dance with a man at a quinceañera. (A+ “Thank you for turning this around.”)
- Tina Kennard cybersexing with a man. (A+ “Haha. Brilliant.”)
- Shane for Wax. (A “Love that you’re adding a new location! Great forward motion for Shane, too.”)
- The NEA pulls its funding because The Art of Dissent is critical of the Bush administration; Tina is unsupportive. (A+ “”This is the new McCarthyism” haha perfect!”)
- Shane and Sarah reunite in the driveway and are very happy to see each other. (A+ “Shows so much heart from both of these characters. Loved the embrace — for a moment it was like the world fell away and only the two of them existed.”)
- Shane kisses a puppy before unloading the truck. (A+ “Great detail.”)
- Angus Partridge and Kit Porter meet. (D “Feels unnecessary.”)
- The gang plus Moira all meet at a fancy restaurant to celebrate Sarah’s return; it does not go well for anyone. (C “The lobster anecdote is a good try but I expect more subtlety from someone at your level.”)
- Shane apologizes to Sarah about how dinner went, while reiterating how happy she is to have her back. (A+ “This is a really sweet moment between best best friends!”)
- Bette goes to Washington, where she’s propositioned by a closeted US senator. Bette calls Tina for advice/permission, then turns down the offer. (A “Love how Tina is slowly losing her mind. Enjoying the animosity building between these two!”)
- Billie Blakie, a party promoter, introduces Moira and Jenny to people who give Moira an opportunity to rethink her gender situation. (A “Yes! Good direction!”)
- Kit and Angus kiss and talk about their feelings. (F “This is terrible. Don’t bring Mary K Letourneau into this ever again.”)
- Dana is given a cancer diagnosis, undergoes a mastectomy without telling her friends. (A “Great, but why would she not tell her friends? Keep it believable.”)
- Alice meets a lesbian vampire at bisexual speed dating. (A+ “Love it. More like this please — wait why is a lesbian at bisexual speed dating?”)
- Helena enters into what will be a tumultuous relationship with a documentary director, Dylan Moreland, who will end up blackmailing her and breaking her heart. (A “Feels true.”)
- Shane’s 6 o’clock is late, also Cherie Jaffe. (A+ “Wow.”)
- Carmen ignores Shane and flirts with men; Shane goes to Cherie Jaffe’s beach house. (A+ “You’ve taken this to its logical end and yet I’m shaken to my core and horrified by your sick genius. Absolutely STUNNING scene by the pool.”)
- Tina admits to Bette that she’s having feelings about men. (“To revisit the pool scene for a moment — am I to understand that Shane went *back home* to get her strap-on before going to Cherie’s beach house?”)
- A publisher loves Sarah’s novel, draws comparisons to Dorothy Allison, buys it on the spot. (A+ “Absolutely perfect direction.”)
- Sleater-Kinney plays The Planet while Sarah walks in on Billie giving Max a blowjob and Shane gets the news about Dana’s surgery. (B “Again, take care with Dana’s story here! Loved Sarah saying “don’t hide” to Max though, that was very poetic.”)
- Dana pushes away her girlfriend, Lara Perkins, and instead relies on Alice for friendship and help. (D “Yikes.”)
- Carmen and Shane get matching tattoos. (D “Why does this need to happen.”)
- Tina wants to have sex with this white dude who looks like the next white dude she’ll want to have sex with. (B “Haha yes.”)
Jenny was grading the most recent round of progress — Carmen and Shane get back together but it’s rocky, Moira has transitioned to Max and is throwing a top surgery party, Dana shaves her head — when she came to an entry that would change her life forever.
“Dana dies with none of her friends around. After the funeral, Shane is distraught and, in a mourning panic, asks Carmen to marry her. Carmen accepts.”
Wait. How could these sophomoric monsters kill Dana? And worse, why the hell would they drive Shane into an extremely misguided lifetime commitment to Carmen (a woman who was fundamentally wrong for Shane, if Jenny was being honest with herself)? She thought about the night Shane had cut her hair in the kitchen: the tank top Shane was wearing, how she’d knelt down in front of her, the sound of the scissors and when the tears came. And how safe she had felt. Scared but safe. She’d trusted Shane, depended on her, owed her life to her, really. Shane had been the one to find her on the bathroom floor that day — Shane was always the only one who was ever looking for her when she needed to be found.
Actually, coming back to reality for a moment, Jenny wondered what Shane could want in Carmen. Carmen couldn’t make her happy — Shane needs someone with imagination, someone to take care of her, someone to laugh at her jokes. And then—
“Oh my god. I love Shane. I’m majorly, totally, butt crazy in love with Shane!”
Jenny stood up from her desk and walked to the phone. She still knew the number by heart.
Jenny hesitated but then went for it. “Shane,”
“Oh my-” Shane exhaled a tension she’d been keeping inside for nearly a year. “Babe.”
“I was wondering if we could talk?”
“I’ve got all night.”
Jenny sold everything she didn’t love and drove herself back to West Hollywood, where Shane met her on the front porch of a reasonably priced bungalow. Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.