A Woman Against “Girls”

A Gen X-er considers the latest "voice" of Gen Y.

On a recent lazy evening, I found myself sucked into an episode of "Sex and the City" from the first season, when Carrie's wardrobe was relatively label-less and chunky heels were still in style. I'd originally seen it in a friend's dorm room, most likely while taking down an entire Domino's pizza and fantasizing about finding my Mr. Big in Comp 201. Like so many women my age, my friends and I were obsessed with the show, gathering to mourn the final episode the way you would the passing of a dear friend--crying together, holding hands, and drinking Cosmos while we battled over who was The Ultimate Carrie. It was the aughts and that’s what you did.

Re-watching the episode, I was struck by a tidal wave of nostalgia that was followed by a core-shaking realization when Samantha turned to Charlotte and said, "Okay. If you were 25, that would be adorable, but you're 32 now, so that's just stupid."

I gasped, watching in horror as my 19-year-old and 33-year-old selves converged at the intersection of a shocking realization: I am now older than the women I watched, idolized and dreamed of being. And I couldn't help but wonder, if my 19-year-old self were here now, would she like "Girls"?

My dear friend Ana (the Miranda of my own "SATC" posse) was the first woman my age to talk to me about HBO's new hit series, saying that watching it made her feel utterly disconnected from the people it portrayed. I settled in for a viewing of back-to-back episodes to see how I'd fare and, by the end of the pilot, I was fighting the urge to throw kale chips at the screen.

Who were these despicable, foul people who ate cupcakes in the bathroom where the door was NEVER locked?!? And why did everyone have a quippy comeback, no matter the situation?

The second episode, which mined an abortion clinic for humor, did little to change my mind that investing in these obnoxious, self-involved pseudo-struggling singletons was a hellacious abuse of my time. And yet, I forged on, through a sea of atrocious, hipster, so-ugly-they-become-cool outfits and comedy wrought from cringe-worthy set ups, as on Sunday night's episode, when guest star Jenny Slate declared, "I completely have to poop," all in hope of answering my burning questions: First, why does no one in this show's universe have boundaries?!?! And, more importantly, is this what "The voice of my generation. Or a voice of a generation" sounds like?

During the premiere episode, Lena Dunham, the writer, director, co-executive producer and star of "Girls," in the show's typically navel-gazing fashion, muses if her character, Hannah, might just be that voice. Granted, Hannah's on drugs when she says it, but if the blogosphere is to be believed, Dunham is the mouthpiece for the 20-something zeitgeist. If this is true, however, homegirl is going to have to hook me up with a Rosetta Stone CD or two, because I just don't understand.

Born eight years apart, Dunham and I are on the cusp of each other's era. I recall fondly the year she was born, for Hands Across America and Teddy Ruxpin and my Jem tapes. Having already grown out of my roommate/internship years, I'm not necessarily the show's target demo, but 25 wasn't that long ago for me--shouldn't I still relate to the trials and tribulations it portrays?

Since the show's premiere, it's been rampantly compared to "Sex and the City" since it, too, follows four single New York City girls trying to forge a path in life. But Carrie and her crew gave me and my friends something to aspire to, while "Girls" has a nasty darkness that permeates it.

Sunday's particularly meta episode featured Hannah announcing, "No one can hate me as much as I hate myself." Is this the mantra of the next generation that so many young women relate to? While some could (and have) applauded the show for being affectingly realistic in its portrayal of twenty-something misery, watching it, with all its humiliating sex and lessons in life's shortcomings, makes me crave the days of television escapism.

When I was 24, I coveted Carrie's life, but sitting through this new show is like being sober and watching drunk party girls, their heels too tottery, their dresses hiked up too high, trying to walk straight and not barf. It's just sad and off-putting, and it makes you so grateful to have outgrown those days. 

Perhaps years of a battering economy or a nation at war has hardened America's youth and that's why it's so difficult for me to relate to the girls of "Girls." Maybe Dunham was letting the audience in on her ultra-inside joke when she called her own writing "trivial."

Or maybe Carrie Bradshaw saw all this coming in the episode "Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty-Something Women," when Samantha observes, "Girls in their 20s, they're spoiled and ungrateful. They think they're it."

"Don't they realize, we're still it?" asked Carrie.

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