The fox who longed for grapes, beholds with pain
The tempting clusters were too high to gain;
Grieved in his heart he forced a careless smile,
And cried ,‘They’re sharp and hardly worth my while’
Let’s just fully disclose one thing right now: I don’t have HBO and I’ve never seen “Girls.” What I have seen is pictures of a pantsless Lena Dunham (three years my junior) accompanied by headlines about million dollar book deals. What kind of books? Sweeping period dramas rippling along a shimmery fabric of finely spun characters.
Haha no god, I’m kidding. About sex and her (and my, and all of our) adultolescence, what else!
Last week a friend of mine texted me and tentatively asked if I’d seen “Girls.” The punctuation was a question, but the tone was all presumption. He was looking to discuss the series with someone prematurely curmudgeonly and quick to judgment about things of which she knew little or nothing.
He knew I could be that that person.
“Yeah I saw it in the late 90s when it was called ‘Sex and the City’ and had alternately fabulous and dreadful outfits.”
After collecting all of the information I could (without having to subscribe to HBO or afflicting my laptop with malware from the kind of Web site on which I devoured “Six Feet Under” on the laptop I had to replace months later), I determined comparing “Girls” and “SATC” was fair enough. Both set in New York, both about sexually empowered females and the questions that may invite.
Both, I came to learn, have a Big.
“Here is the ‘Girls’ Big,” my friend sent me a picture of a stringbean actor with a helmet of dark glossy hair.
“Oh awesome, a manchild!” I said, cringing at the memory of many of the available single men I’ve met in the last five years, “Let me guess what he does. COMMODITIES BROKER. Oh no? Well color me shocked if he’s anything other than the YOUNGEST-EVER MEMBER ON BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY.”
I was informed that “Girls” Big is an artist. It was then I knew I could not watch this show, this fucking show. Especially while I do not have cable or any options for watching it. I have run out of sympathy and patience for aimless young people, including myself. I don’t think I can endure the dysfunctions hobbling the relationship between a young woman and an artist. Because DUH!
When J. asked me about whether I’d seen the show I told him my understanding was that it was like SATC for young people, and I couldn’t even stand young people when I was one. As soon as I could talk, I revealed to the world a freakishly articulate Benjamina Buttonesque 30-something woman, properly naming “my vagina” (understanding the pediatrician’s time was too important to waste with euphemism), aspiring to high fashion and breathtaking beauty, hunched with the conviction my pores were too big, and being empathetic to the point of self-destruction.
I had stretch marks when I was 11 and in my early adulthood they invited the same remark from dudes that my choice of cocktails: “My mom has those.” Whenever our culture is blessed with something that is touted “…but for young people,” I am left slack-jawed and wondering what ISN’T for young people. It’s like when white people complain that black people have “their own channel” (precisely one channel where they can reliably find representation). Sex and the City, while sprung from a pre-existing mold, was unique in that it featured women who were at least 35.
I think it sticks with me not because of awesome writing or even because of relatable characters or situations, but because it didn’t treat female adulthood like a death if certain finish-lines weren’t crossed. Television offers plenty to those who would mourn high school as the last time life can be fun, flush with potential, musical, and a little sexy. (I dropped out at 16 having attended exactly one dance where my female “date” told everyone I was gay.) Soon people are coupled, married, parents, and then fall off the radar of anything that could be considered “entertainment” until they get to the Diane Keaton romantic comedies about how funny it is when old people try to have sex. “YOUR READING GLASSES ARE DIGGING INTO MY WOBBLING MAN CHEST.”
“EEEYYY? I COULDN’T HEAR YOU!”
In more recent years it’s given us shows with whose characters we can commiserate as the economy continues either to suck or to be an excuse for those of us who don’t know what’s going on and can’t seem to make life work. They’re broke, shitty jobs are their career, they trade in wittiness and creativity. They’re getting laid with like-people! But I am not inspired or encouraged by any of this. “Girls” sounds like the place where I’m stuck, and if I want anything shining its heavenly light on me from my television, it’s a place where I want to be: Married to a handsome, brooding investment banker who doesn’t have some artsy-ass reason to dodge commitment and doesn’t match 75% of the bullet points under the DSM’s entry for “sociopath.”
In the meanwhile I’m sure I’ll catch the show once I’m eligible for another free trial on Netflix, and I’ll like it just fine.