Note from the Editor: The views expressed are solely that of the author. This is not an endorsement of the television show Girls.
Lena Dunham is an evil genius.
I’ve watched her Girls series with a car-crash fascination, respecting her honesty and wit while hoping her characters might get to have a positive, more Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood-type day at some point.
The lines in the Season Two trailer play like a string of cry-for-attention Facebook statuses.
“I’m an individual. And I feel how I feel when I feel it. And right now, it’s a Wednesday night, baby, and I’m alive.” -Hannah
“I don’t even know what I want. Sometimes I just wish that someone would, like, tell me ‘this is how the rest of your life should look.’” -Marnie
“You should look around yourself right now…life is never going to get any better than this for you.” – Jess
Right now, these are the made-up voices of my generation. At least, of the girls.
Why do boys watch the show? For the nudity? Maybe. For the Bridesmaids-like ‘nothing is sacred’ humor? Possibly.
Part of me thinks that guys appreciate seeing that girls, the ones who have been trying to show them up since they were kids, the ones who are now statistically getting more college degrees than they are, still remain (as the show tagline reads) “almost getting it kind of together.”
Because isn’t that why girls watch it too? To know we’re not alone?
I was out with some girlfriends at the mall last month, and we started talking TV. Girls came up, and there were immediate cries of “So good!” and “No spoilers!”
Like Sex and the City groupies of years past, we began discussing our personality traits and how they compared to the girls on the show.
One friend insisted to me, “You’re totally Hannah! Like all the way! It’s perfect!”
I disagreed. I saw myself split between Hannah and the token Asperger’s-symptom goody-two-shoes character, Shoshanna. At least in the scenes when she isn’t wearing a pink tracksuit.
And so I broke it down.
Because I’m sarcastic, and good at writing, and I weigh more than most of my girlfriends (though yes, I’m also tall, thanks for asking). And, of course, there’s the name.
Because I’m a twenty-something virgin, and make obscure references sometimes, and can’t subliminally tell a guy I’m interested in him to save my life.
But later I realized why, even still, the combination of the two does not equal me.
Because you know what? I’m working on it.
I’m working on being kinder, and more in shape, and less of a spaz around the dudes. And I owe any progress I’ve made to the girls who are in my life.
My generation refuses to sugar-coat anything. We’ve dealt with parents putting up a “united front” so they could wait to divorce until we went to college. We’ve been hurt by friends who didn’t show up to our 14th birthday parties (yes, still a sore spot), and friends who stole our crushes, and friends who were never really friends.
We know we’re not Carrie Bradshaw. We can’t afford to drop $40,000 on shoes, and we’re tired of pretending that we can. We aren’t taking New York by storm. We’ve barely branched out to those ritzy gluten-free microwave dinners.
Everyone, we say. Everyone is frustrated with their relationships. Everyone is spending more on eating out than they can afford. Everyone has credit card debt. Everyone hooks up and then feels weird about it later.
Knowing this, we rise up together as a generation and proclaim,
“I am young, independent, and too smart to give in to my parents’ outdated expectations. I will now get wasted and text you a picture of my boobs.”
In life, some things are forced on us. Some are genetic. Some just suck. But that doesn’t mean that we, the flat-broke millennial generation, are fresh out of choices.
We’re still responsible. Responsible beyond just making rent. Responsible to become people of character. Responsible to get ourselves out of an adolescent slump before we’re old enough to have a midlife crisis.
And if you think I’m writing this from a cute little ivory tower, you should know a little context.
Just over a year ago, I spent the last three dollars to my name on two Taco Bell burritos and some boxed spaghetti. I had no job, no car, and was racking my brain for any alternative to moving back in with my parents in Florida.
But I kept trying, and my friends helped, and things got better.
And that’s what Girls glosses over—or honestly, stomps on. The idea that the problems and challenges that you have when you’re 25 will eventually work out, and often make you a better human being if you let them.
Yes, my dad was once an aimless food-moocher with a wolf-man beard whose own grandmother didn’t recognize him. But he didn’t stay that way forever. And he probably could have, if he didn’t have good people around influencing the change.
Because alone, we don’t like change. Change means sweat and tears and accountability. So instead we mistranslate “The truth will set you free” to “Transparency will let you off the hook.”
Yes, I’ve wasted lots of time and done lots of dumb things. Yes, I still do dumb things. But the beauty of finding ourselves all in the same spot is that we can tag-team getting out of our individual ruts, without getting caught up playing the judgment game. We’re already being honest about our faults, so the next step is, “Hey, remember that really idiotic thing I do in this situation? What if you encourage me not to do it, and if necessary get in my face about it?”
And while that by itself won’t make us model human beings, it will make a difference. And for the rest we can turn to the One whose grace is sufficient for those almost getting it kind of together.
Maybe then we’ll go from Girls to Women.