Like many of my generation, I have deeply conflicted feelings. In general.
Lena Dunham could have written it: I was at a birthday party thrown by Occupy activists in Brooklyn. They were my age. They served kale and seitan ham. They talked about a friend who'd just gotten arrested. But the friends I showed up with had other things on their mind — namely, the episode they'd just seen of Dunham's new series, Girls. Despite the fact that these friends were all Guys, they assured me I'd find the series relatable. "The way she depicts sex is exactly how I always imagined my other straight friends' sex lives," said one friend. "And that conversation about McDonald's having a bad rap — you totally know that guy, you've heard that conversation."
These friends aren't easily impressed, so the fact that they seemed so excited about this show — well, it impressed me. But back to how Lena Dunham would have written it: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and I was in that bad place. You know, the one where you can't sleep, so you start questioning everything in your young life and feel utterly alone? Yeah, that's the one. I figured it was as good a time as any to watch the premiere of Girls. What I felt watching the show was a ball of contradictions… which I've organized in convenient list form below. Here are the top four moments I thought were both completely relatable and completely non-relatable:
1. Relatable moment: Hannah is at dinner with her parents, assuring them her internship might turn into a job, or even a book deal.
My reaction: Hey, that's me! Minus the possibility-of-a-job-or-book-deal part.
Simultaneously not-relatable moment: Hannah expects to get money from her parents to support said possibility.
My reaction: Why does she expect her parents to give her money? Sure, I know lots of people who get help paying for their health insurance or phone bills. But to me, the premise that a college grad would expect to be bankrolled by her parents is not relatable. Don't get me wrong — I think a lot of twentysomethings do feel entitled, whether it be to our dream job, or a subsidized iPhone. But how many of us, at twenty-four, really expect our parents to pay all of our expenses indefinitely? If I'm basing it on my group of friends, no one.
2. Relatable moment: Hannah's friend is bored in her relationship. She tells her, "His touch now feels like a weird uncle, just putting his hand on my knee at Thanksgiving. It makes me feel like such a bitch, because I can feel him being so nice to me, and it makes me so angry."
My reaction: Yeah, that's pretty much something I've said to a friend, verbatim.
Simultaneously not-relatable moment: Hannah sympathizes by saying, "I think you need to admit to yourself that you're sick of eating him out. Because he has a vagina."
My reaction: My friends give better advice than that. (And yes, sometimes they give said advice over cupcakes, but usually not in a bathtub.)
3. Relatable moment: Hannah's seeing a guy who doesn't get her. She kisses him and he goes "You're feeling frisky," to which she replies, "I really despise that word." Then, she keeps kissing him.
My reaction: Been there, rolled my eyes at that.
Simultaneously not-relatable moment: Hannah asks if she's doing okay (i.e., keeping her back flat enough) while the guy fucks her from behind. When she talks too much, he tells her to play the quiet game, and she shuts up.
My reaction: I totally get this scene, and the fact that smart women in New York have sex with assholes like this all the time. I also like that she comes to his house to get fucked literally right after getting fucked figuratively by her internship. I get it, but I don't really relate to it. Maybe it's because Hannah's situation feels so close to my own that I don't believe she'd let a guy talk to her that way. She might have low self-esteem, but I'm not sure that translates into taking it like a mute for-hire dog.
4. Relatable moment: Hannah's friends are smart, interesting, beautiful and having dinner.
My reaction: Look, they too eat at the un-chic hour of 7 p.m.!
Simultaneously not-relatable moment: All the people at the dinner party are straight and white.
My reaction: I know Dunham has already taken a lot of flak for this. My opinion, so far, has been this: Dunham is clearly basing the show off of a version of her life. If that life really is all white and straight, then I'd rather her portray that than have token minority characters she doesn't know how to write for. But I just have a hard time believing that is her world. I'm a white, straight woman her age living in New York. And more than half of my friends are people of color and/or gay. It's not just because I'm a progressive hag. It's because that's who you naturally meet living in this city. It's not necessarily more offensive to leave these characters out than it would be to superficially put them in. But the fact they're not naturally there? Not so believable.
And there you have it. Being in your twenties at the moment is all about contradictions; we're all about feeling simultaneously connected and alone. We seek a sense of belonging from a TV show at 4:30 a.m., and end up feeling both more and less isolated after we watch it. I, for one, will definitely be tuning in to Girls next week; Lena Dunham might not be the voice of a generation, but at least she has a voice I want to talk to.
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