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.

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