May 26, 2012

I Love Girls!

I am a pretty big fan of the new show Girls.  About twenty-something recent college graduates trying to make it in New York, the show is no Sex and the City (SATC).  In fact, Girls is in many ways the antithesis of SATC: there’s no jazzy soundtrack, no sheen illuminating the sexiness of New York, no particular ambition whatsoever as showcased by the ladies of SATC.  Instead, the Girls of Girls are barely employed, can hardly pay their rent without the help of their parents, and are ill-matched by beta males who suffer from a similar lack of ambition.

The show represents a time when an expensive degree from Oberlin College does not a success make, when your parents pay for your Blackberry, and when boys treat you like shit even though they’re pretty shitty themselves.  In that sense, the show is both unrelatable and relatable.  When I graduated from college with my state degree, there was no question that I wasn’t going to get a full-time job with benefits.  With nearly $50,000 in loan debt, I had to get a full-time job with benefits.  And even though the job I got gave me anxiety and cold sweats every day, I stuck it out for three and a half years, while going to grad school and being miserable pretty much every day.  (That’s my walking-20-miles-to-school-in-4-feet-of-snow-story for you.)

So while I don’t understand the lack of hard work and motivation exhibited by these Girls, I do understand being in my early 20s, with so much promise ahead of me and yet being overwhelmed by it all – by the supposed promise that “the world is your oyster” -- because life is pretty hard when you’re young and no one wants to give you your big break.  It’s only when you learn that getting any kind of big break comes with hard work and sacrifice, both of which are things these Girls haven’t yet learned and which I didn’t know myself at that age.  You work that shitty job, you pay your dues, you get a little experience, and life gets easier and better. 

Where the Girls are particularly relatable, though, is in their need for love, attention, and ultimately, for their need to be understood, for better or worse.  Hannah spends her time fulfilling these needs by sleeping with Adam, an unemployed dirtbag of a guy, whose sexual demands range from asking that she pretend like she’s a prepubescent girl with a lunchbox, to smacking her around a bit, and to telling her to humiliate him while he masturbates in front of her (when she tries to take off her dress, he tells her it will ruin the fantasy and she obeys).  They have no relationship outside his apartment, aside from the occasional phone call or text, and have never set foot outside his apartment together.  We have all experienced a relationship like this in our lifetime, right? If you haven’t, well, good for you.  In your late teens and early 20s (for women in particular), it is not about being sexually satisfied on a personal level – it is about seeking sexual gratification by pleasing the other.  Once you hit your mid-20s, you hopefully learn that this is not the way any kind of romantic or sexual relationship should be.     

While I ultimately became a fan of SATC, I didn’t like it the first time I watched it.  I thought it was tacky and trashy and poked fun at the institution of romantic love.  Do you remember the pearl necklace episode?  Well, I was only 17 the first time I saw it, and the show’s target audience was clearly not 17-year-old virgins.  When I watched it a few years later, I had reached the point that sex and love are not always mutually exclusive.  Having developed that understanding, the show endeared to me the way it hadn’t the first time I had watched it.  To this day, I maintain that it’s one of the best series ever.

But what I like about Girls even more than SATC is that it does not sugarcoat the dim realities of love and sex, to want and to be wanted, and to find your way in a world that doesn’t give a shiznit about you.  When you're in your early 20s, the promise of hope and possibility looms over you like a dark cloud.  Hope and possibility are not necessarily tangible even if they exist in theory.  Moreover, wanting is much different than getting, and always requires some sort of painful sacrifice, something that this culture of young women may only be beginning to understand.  Girls is revealing these struggles in a very real, and at times, maddening, way, resulting in one of the best series out right now.  What can I say?  I'm in love with Girls.

May 19, 2012

Opie & Anthony: Just Another Pop Culture Obsession

My current pop culture obsessions as of late have been (1) John Travolta’s sex scandal; (2) the new show Girls; and (3) Opie and Anthony – all of which I can’t seem to get enough of. Somewhere sprinkled in there is an ongoing obsession with Bethenny Frankel and all her awesomness and the Real Housewives franchise, but that is nothing new. (If you’re too good for pop culture, may God bless you.)

Aside from Girls, which deserves its own post that I’ve been writing in my head since I started watching the show, I am a newcomer to the strange perverse goodness that is Opie & Anthony. Having recently bought a new car, for an entire four months I'm the recipient of a free temporary subscription to SiriusXM Radio. Only having had it for 7 days, though, I’m already addicted to it, a problem, since at the end of my free subscription I may be inclined to renew for a paid subscription just as I've done with HBO solely for Girls, and, oh yeah, "the documentaries."  Initially, I was ecstatic that XM had a station devoted entirely to “Old Skool R&B” (i.e., The Groove) and figured that would be the station to consume much of my radio time, until discovering that there are enough channels to turn any relatively focused human being into someone with prescription-grade Attention Deficit Disorder.  Well, THEN I discovered the Opie & Anthony Channel, of course. 

Okay, so it kind of makes me feel a little like a 17-year-old boy, and not at all a better human being for it, but I can’t help it myself – I’m completely entranced by it, good or bad. Just the other day they had an entire show dedicated to local foods, in a non-trendy or annoying food snobby kind of way -- about how great the bread is in Long Island (I had no idea! Now I want to try the bread in a Long Island!) and why they can’t make cheese steaks as good in NYC as they can in Philadelphia and yada yada yada. And then, somehow, they transitioned over into, well, completely crass and brash chitchat about unmentionable topics. And it was all funny and entertaining and freaking awesome.

The only problem is, now I’m having a very mild identity crisis that I may be a 17-year-old- manboy masked as a 20-something-year-old woman. (I really shouldn’t joke about that, but you get what I mean, right?)  This is what guilty pleasures do to us.  They make us feel like super shallow, base, perverse semi-complete versions of ourselves, and yet, there's pretty much no escaping them, unless you have a ton of religious self-control, which I don't have.  My self control has limits, people.  Some days not eating an entire sleeve of Oreos is a big accomplishment.   And while living life as a 17 year old boy is probably not the worst thing in the world, in practice it actually sounds pretty miserable.  Being a 17-year-old girl was bad enough.