So the season is over for the HBO series “Girls.” If you watch it and haven’t seen it, then come back after you do. I love this show and I love Lena Dunham, but it’s only funny:
- If you are very comfortable with how awkward you were in your 20s.
- If you enjoy things that make you laugh and feel very uncomfortable at the same time.
- If you are kind of clueless on both counts and you think it’s funny because it has nothing to do with you.
Think “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for women. That I even watch it is a small miracle. I only have time to watch a few shows and tend to live under a nerd rock when it comes to what’s new in pop culture—when people talk about Kim Kardashian, I hear it as Kim Cardassian and I think Rick Berman is doing a new show (Star Trek folks help me out here). On the other hand, I can tell you about the 25+ year Zelda franchise and that Nintendo made a huge misstep by not producing enough games for its latest system, the WiiU. Don’t laugh—you live with a 15-year-old hard core gamer and see what you can talk about at parties.
So I give a big shout out to my friend Colleen who turned me on to the show. I liked it from the start, and one night as were drinking wine and eating her secret-recipe wings, she told me the Lena Dunham character, Hannah, reminded her of me. I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants. Why? Because she was right. And I don’t mean that I’m like the talented and wise-beyond-her-20-plus-years Dunham. In no way did I have the perspective to frame my 20s while I was living them. I barely have it now. No, I’m talking about the writing struggles, the bad fashion choices (oh, god, soooo bad), the blurting out of awkward truths, the drifting away of college friends. The show is uncanny in how true it is and funny as hell.
This season hit close to the bone with the story line about Hannah and other talented writers taking jobs in the advertorial section of GQ only to realize it cannibalizes their personal writing. I am not a natural at the two most common jobs for serious writers—teaching and freelancing—so I’ve had traditional full-time jobs my entire career, and I always struggle to find the time and energy to write. I’ve often wondered would my writing career be farther along if I had taken a different path—Hannah’s path? That path would have been the other story line that put an arrow through my heart: Hannah getting into the Iowa Workshop, aka writing Mecca. I, like every serious writer, considered applying. But I couldn’t see my way clear to leaving Boston, a city I love, or how to finance it and find my way back. I went instead to Emerson College in Boston for my MA (an MFA cost more and seemed too impractical). There I discovered my writing niche: personal essay. Still, that accomplishment didn’t prevent me from holding a grudge against a former boss’s daughter who was my age and went to Iowa to advance her literary career, while I was stuck writing full-time for her mother. It was my first job, and I’m still a little scarred from getting handed writing assignments on torn paper stained with coffee rings and wrinkled cocktail napkins. But I’m not bitter. Well, not very.
Can you see how this show is messing with me? I was curious about how much of my 20-year old angst was apparent, so I asked Colleen what exactly about Hannah made her think of me—I’ve known her since high school, and we lived through our 20s together. I’ll admit asking her the question was very Hannah-like.
“I think the first thing was her pasty white skin!” answered Colleen. Check. “Every part of her physical appearance reminds me of you – her hair, the shape of her body, her face.” Check. “She puts it all out there and not ashamed to do so – take it or leave it.” Half a check. Sometimes I did this, but not as much as Hannah or as much as I wanted to at the time. “She is not a typical beauty, but she’s gorgeous.” Well, thank you! “She’s hilarious, she’s a struggling writer, she’s creative. I can picture having a conversation with her where she is analytical like you.” Yeah. That about sums it up.
Watching “Girls” for me is like Lena Dunham filmed my 20s and sold it to HBO. And they used Industrial Light & Magic to add in all the sex scenes, because I was boyfriendless during much of that time and was too earnest and Catholic-guilty for random sex.
So Lena, if you want to know what Hannah will look like in her late 40s, check me out on Twitter. I’d also like to tell you to get the hell out of my head and my life, but you’re too damn funny. Plus, how else can I find out how my life would have turned out?