GIRLS :: A Grown-up Girl’s View
I’d just turned 22 and my boyfriend, my first real love, took my virginity (I was a Catholic schoolgirl. The good kind.), giving me something in return: an STD.
I didn’t know what it was at first, but a close inspection after uncontrollable itching made it obvious. I was with crab.
I confronted him in a rush of hurt and confusion. His comeback? He got it from the toilets in his all-male Marine barracks.
I believed him at first.
In the new HBO series, GIRLS, the main character, Hannah, faces something similar. In her case, the affliction was HPV, and Hannah’s loutish sex partner, Adam, assures her he’d been tested for it the week prior. Never mind, as she comes to find, there is no test for HPV in males.
I still recall in detailed horrible memory the late night visits from my boyfriend, lo those many years ago. How if he said just the right thing, I’d take him back after repeated infidelities. I kicked myself after those late night visits of perceived passion, where he’d leave two hours later and not call for three days.
In GIRLS, Hannah goes to her never-calls jerkfriend’s apartment every other day or so, in desperate attempts to lure him with hot goth girl makeup or neediness or anything to make him love her, or as she says in episode four, “I just want someone who wants to hang out all of the time, who thinks I’m the best person in the world and wants to have sex with only me.”
Don’t we all.
For me, that’s the crux of the GIRLS craze, and it certainly seems to be eating up the Internet airwaves with glowing reviews: It’s all of us a little bit. Even if we didn’t/don’t live in an urban center. Even if we’re not white. Even if we’re 43 and married now.
I want to laugh with GIRLS and often I do, but more times, I feel the ache of forgotten growing pains in my gut. I get that Hannah and her friends’ single-girl-in-the-city experiences in New York aren’t or weren’t common to everyone, but it was my life. I lived in Chicago with my best friend, Lisa, haunted bars with my youthful optimism and angst, and worked jobs to further my fledgling writing career. Now, I gaze through the mist of intervening time and remember those days as picking out Pier One furniture for our walk-up, smoking cigarettes on the balcony, and solo dancing to the Murmur’s You Suck.
The apartment and songs are different, but it’s all the same.
From left to right: Jessa, Marnie, Hannah, and Shoshanna.
The characters might even have some of us in them or who we want to be. Shoshanna? The sweet little fawn who’s still a virgin? Me. Jessa? The wordly, don’t give-a-crap free spirit? Who I wish I were more of more often. (“I cannot be smoted. I am un-smotable!”) Marnie, the professional, semi-self-absorbed, girl women who stays with her boyfriend only because he’s nice? I get it.
My boyfriend after the jerk, John, talked every day about moving to another state. We never talked about me joining him. I remember someone asking if this bothered me. Nope, I said. I just wanted to be with someone nice for awhile.
And then Hannah. Wannabe writer, quirky, floating on a cloud of her own “what do I do next” vibe? How I imagine myself to be. Even today.
Despite the fact that I adore this show and its characters because it reminds me of days gone by and captures the ennui of youth in vivid technicolor, I also understand how this series resonates with people who didn’t or don’t experience their 20s how the characters do. It’s because this show is honest. Honest in all its funny, ugly, and sad glory.
As Hannah narcissistically asks after her journal is discovered by Marnie’s boyfriend, who learns from its gut-wrenching raw entries that Marnie is no longer in love with him, “If you had read the essay and it hadn’t been about you, would you have liked it? You know, as a piece of writing?”
Marnie refused to answer, but I will. As a piece of writing, this show is brilliantly evocative and on point, capturing the sometimes aimless, trying-too-hard or too-little gestalt of making it in a city not known to take any prisoners; and it’s also uniquely generational. When Hannah laments to Marnie about a former boyfriend who “likes” her Facebook posts, she says his social media reach-out is like telling her: “Sorry I passed you an STD but I really enjoy your quirky web presence.”
I don’t know if writer, show creator and star, Lena Dunham is the voice of her generation, as Hannah tells her parents right before they stop supporting her financially, but it’s a strong voice and has echoes of all of us in it.
After the crabs incident, I stayed with my jerkfriend two more years. Breaking up, getting back together, then finally calling it off once and for all after I discovered a pair of brown women’s underwear in his bed (BROWN? Really?). I no longer took his apology calls, or secretly loved it when he sent me flowers to make up for being a dick. I was growing up.
I’ll be watching as Hannah and her friends do, too. I like to think it reminds me of how far I’ve come — or where I still need to go.
Disclosure: On occasion, contributors of The Trend Tribe receive products, compensation and/or services gratis or at discounted rates. This practice does not influence the contributor’s point of view or the outcome of the review. All descriptions are factual and accurately reflect the reviewers experience. The opinions are their own. Photos credits: HBO .