HI. MY NAME IS SEAN. I consider myself an average 27-year-old Seattle guy. I eat Dick’s cheeseburgers, I drink Rainier beer, I like attractive women. I wear a single pair of Levi’s until they’re so tattered in the knees and butt they’re in danger of disintegrating during any activity more strenuous than reading the paper. I bike Tiger Mountain and run around Green Lake. I get dirty. I sweat. I stink. Pretty normal—probably like many guys you know. But behind this ordinary facade lies a secret: I’m addicted to Grey’s Anatomy.

I do not watch a single other TV show, but again this year from September 25 until May, my Thursday nights will be dominated by the dramas, triumphs, failures, and—most importantly—love affairs of the Seattle Grace Hospital staff. Once a week I steal away to an apartment in Wallingford to join a group of four or five women, sip a nice shiraz, rehash the previous week’s episode and, come 9pm, watch with rapt attention as a group of surgical interns, residents, and attendings heal Seattle’s sick and injured, champion Seattle’s downtrodden, and search the halls, operating theaters, and on-call rooms of Seattle’s favorite fictional hospital for true love. Together we read into every minute detail, every line, every look, for some clue as to what’s going to happen in the future, trying to will the characters to make the decisions we want them to, shouting at the screen when they don’t.
My addiction began innocently enough. Three summers ago I was living in Jackson, Wyoming, spending sunny weekends on my mountain bike. I awoke one Saturday to the unfamiliar sound of raindrops on my bedroom window and was at a loss. I glimpsed my roommate Meghan’s Grey’s Anatomy DVD set on top of our TV, recognizing a few actors I liked. A little bored, a little curious, and with a quick glance over my shoulder to make sure no one was home, I popped the first disc in, expecting just another cliché TV hospital drama, full of wooden acting and ridiculous plotlines. But by the time Dr. Addison Montgomery strolled through the doors of Seattle Grace six hours later and announced to a shocked Meredith that she was Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd’s wife, I was hooked.

Love, loss, betrayal, heartbreak—the themes are universal, Shakespearean even. I saw myself in each of the characters, empathizing with Izzie when she fell for someone already in a relationship; knowing, like George, how it feels to be infatuated with someone out of your league; understanding what it was like for McDreamy when he settled for Nurse Rose when he really wanted Meredith.

It’s not an easy affliction to live with. On my first trip to Seattle to scope out graduate programs—eight months after I first met the characters of Grey’s—I casually asked a heavily tattooed downtown barista where I might find Seattle Grace. “You mean the hospital on Grey’s Anatomy?” she snorted. “Dude, it doesn’t exist.”

By the time Addison Montgomery strolled through the doors of Seattle Grace and announced she was Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd’s wife, I was hooked.

I’ve lived in Seattle for nearly a year now and have realized that for some people Grey’s does serve as a touchstone, a point of reference. When I described the location of my last apartment on Queen Anne to my mom in New Jersey, I realized I could simply say, “You know, on Grey’s, that hill they show near the Space Needle?” And when my friend Katie, back in Jackson, asks about my rental house in Greenlake, I tell her it’s a Craftsman with a big front porch, just like Meredith’s—though not quite as clean.

Every Thursday night there’s a moment when someone points at the TV and shouts, “I’ve been there!” almost as if they’re surprised. And sometimes on days that aren’t Thursday, I find myself wondering what neighborhood George and Lexi’s dilapidated apartment is in. Capitol Hill, probably? But why do they have roaches instead of rats? And how is it that McDreamy’s beloved “ferry boat” ride takes only a few minutes? Once the lines between real life and the show blurred so much I nearly purchased a pair of intern scrubs from a downtown tourist trap.

Guys tease me mercilessly. More than once I’ve been laughed out of the bar on a Thursday boys’ night out to jeers of, “Have fun at your Grey’s Anatomy party!” When I visited my folks back East last November, my dad—a retired businessman whose favorite station is the Weather Channel—walked in on me getting my fix only to furrow his brow, shake his head, and grunt, “How can you watch this crap?” Even talking to my closer, more understanding male friends about the show is challenging. “McDreamy,” they say, struggling to hide their horror while nodding authoritatively as though they appreciate the significance not only of the nickname, but also the nuances of the character. “He’s the actor from Garden State, right?”

Guys question my addiction, asking me why I watch such a “touchy-feely” show. I tell them I’m hooked and, like any addict, I can’t help it. But this is a cover. The truth is, every week at my friend’s place in Wallingford I think of my own Meredith—a woman thousands of miles away, already in a relationship, and out of my league. I know she’s watching, too. The show has become a way of saying, with more poetry than I could ever muster, how I feel. Every situation, every line, every melancholy, bittersweet soundtrack song describes perfectly our situation, as if it’s made just for us. When Meredith tells McDreamy she believes they could be extraordinary together, my Meredith and I are thinking of each other—thinking and wondering—and hoping from a safe distance for a happy ending.

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