If somebody's already fucking us, should they have to masturbate our ego, too?
This week on Girls, Hannah gives the guy she just started seeing, Sandy (played by god’s literal gift to man, Donald Glover), an essay of hers to read. When Sandy boils his criticism down to, “It wasn’t for me,” Hannah hears, “You’re not for me." The problem is, Hannah doesn't separate herself from her writing. With this episode ("I Get Ideas") Lena Dunham essentially asks whether it’s ever okay, or even possible, to date our critics. If somebody’s already fucking us, should they be obligated to masturbate us, too?
Dunham airs her argument, and the one Hannah ultimately sides with, through Jessa: “If he’s not reading your essays, he’s not reading you.” What Hannah fails to see is that Sandy did claim that her essay was well-written, it just didn’t speak to him personally, a concession people often make to Girls itself. And in a large way, Sandy’s thoughts on the essay echo the grievances of most of Girls’ critics; "Ultimately, it just felt like waiting in line and all the nonsense that goes through your brain when you're just trying to kill time.” But when it comes to our relationships, do we want to actually be with people who don’t dote over the nonsense in our brain? Hannah it seems, thinks you can't actually be in love with someone who doesn't adore every morsel, be it garbage or gold, that you spout.
The art projects of Girls' characters have always been the barometers for their relationships. When Hannah and Adam were in the haze of their romance, Hannah went to see his play, confessing that for the first time, she wasn’t judging someone for doing what they loved to do. And in kind, Adam fully supported her outlandish searches for inspiration, like her attempt to hump her boss in his office for a story. It pans out the same way with the other girls: Jessa says her marriage works because Thomas-John immediately looks at a painting when she shows it to him, and even poses shirtless for some. Marnie, and her suffocating first season counterpart, Charlie, were doomed from the beginning because she never took the time to a) enter his apartment and b) discover that he was a skilled woodworker who’d made his own furniture. When Marnie first sees Charlie’s masterful carpentry, we wonder just how could she not know (or appreciate) something so integral to Charlie's personality?
In "I Get Ideas," Hannah, the self-proclaimed color-blind liberal, gets back to her apartment and claims she broke up with the Republican Sandy because, “Your rights happened and your rights happened,” (as she points to Marnie and her gay roommate, Elijah). But that’s not really getting at why she dumped Sandy. Sandy was responsible, clean, charming, genuinely engaged, and pretty hot (again, Donald Glover). The real reason Hannah couldn’t continue to date the dude had a lot to do with the fact that a Grade-A solipsist can’t get down with someone who doesn’t want to applaud her every creative blip.
When you hand over your writing, or anything you’ve created, to someone you’re sleeping with, they're invariable computing the implications their criticism will have on your relationship. Whether or not they respond honestly is a different matter, but you know they're thinking it. And that's a problem, because those implications aren't on our partners, they're on us: we choose the extent to which we conflate our creative and personal lives. The people we’re fucking don’t need to enjoy our work to enjoy us as individuals. Hannah’s quick rejection of Sandy and her “But he was a Republican,” cover-up dismisses the necessary fact that in both art and relationships, "understanding" and "enjoying" are two completely different monsters.
Relationships can push you creatively. Sometimes a lover takes your work down a notch because they’re interested in an honest, artistic symbiosis, not because they want to pull you off your self-built pedestal. Hannah ignores that and, in turn, misses out on both potentially career-altering criticism and some really great sex. Sharing a creative work, whatever its nature, with a partner, will reveal something about your partner’s understanding of you, sure. But your reaction to praise or criticism much more obviously reveals something about yourself and your expectations about the relationship. If you’re not willing to stay with someone who won’t cradle your every brain-child, you might not be ready for any type of criticism — personal or public. And if you’re unable to separate yourself from your art, but still insist the people you're dating engage with it, you might be setting yourself up for a life alone in bed, jerking off to your own short stories.