In the show’s first weeks, I so looked forward to Sunday nights. Well, in truth, I looked forward to Monday mornings because I don’t have cable just “borrowed” access to HBO GO. But now, the happy anticipation I used to feel for your next episode is gone. And Lena, I’ve figured out why things between us have changed.
You should know that I am Hannah, your main character in GIRLS. Except more uptight, more anxious and less fun, though probably equally as self-obsessed. I am in my mid-twenties, living in New York. And, despite our first class educations – hers at Oberlin and mine at Dartmouth – neither Hannah nor I have secured our first real professional jobs. We are both from not-the-Northeast. She is from Lansing, Michigan, and I am from Zirconia, North Carolina. Neither of us grew up wealthy, nor were we poor. And, like Hannah, I have also experienced the travails of dating (or attempting to date) self-satisfied hipsters in the too trendy part of Brooklyn otherwise known as Williamsburg, which was also the location of my first New York apartment.
This was why I was initially addicted to the show. I liked it precisely because we are so similar and yet Hannah leads a substantially easier life than I do (i.e., than the real Hannah would). But lately, the show’s total lack of reference to reality has really got me down. It’s not so much about the details of how my story diverges from Hannah’s. No, it’s more a matter of the emotional distance you’ve put between us. But, to fully explain, I need you to bear with me while I paint you a picture.
My parents are middle class folks. My dad is a chemical engineer, and my mom is a bureaucrat for the North Carolina court system. We buy used cars and drive them into the ground. Our nights out involve a movie theatre and our favorite cheap Mexican joint. We were all bowled over when I was accepted to Dartmouth. My parents took out large loans on top of a third mortgage to make it possible. I took out large loans too. Then, I did well enough to win Dartmouth funding for graduate school abroad.
When I returned to North Carolina after finishing my master’s in London, it was the summer of 2009. I was optimistic that I would get a job of substance regardless of recession. But, after applying to upwards of seventy positions, the only offer I had in hand was a paralegal position at a law firm in New York. I jumped at the opportunity to live and work in the city.
After considering and applying and then getting rejected and not reapplying to law school (it’s a long story), I went on the job hunt with renewed aggression. After all, I had a Dartmouth diploma, a master’s degree and now two years of semi-professional work experience. But, alas, for the dozens of job applications I’ve submitted over the past year, I’ve received two interviews and exactly zero offers.
I am now approaching my three-year anniversary at the law firm as a paralegal. (They let me call myself a “research analyst” on my resume because they don’t really understand why I haven’t moved on either.) And I’m okay with it. I know an opportunity will come my way eventually. In the meantime, I am fairly well paid, I have health insurance and I am so close with those at the firm that they feel like a second family.
Now, getting back to GIRLS, I truly did enjoy the show because facts like the above were not directly addressed. TV is always meant to be shinier and more dramatic than real life, which is why TV is entertaining and a guilty pleasure. But I have an increasing desire to see Hannah get at least a little bit angry or a little bit sad about her prospects for forging a grownup life. After all, she went to Oberlin and is witty, smart and, on occasion, personable. Hannah should want more for herself, and then she should run into the brick wall that is the continuing recession and show us that she’s bloodied her forehead just like everyone else.
Listen, I know GIRLS is comedy and it isn’t meant to accurately reflect reality or to provide social commentary. It is not a documentary. I get that. But, in my estimation, the pilot did make certain promises. The middle class, Middle America (or not-the-Northeast), the recession, stymied dreams and frustrated parents – all of those issues were brought to the fore in the first five minutes of the first episode. And, they’ve kind of been ignored ever since.
In real life, Hannah would have a paying job always because her student loans would be like mine, $600 per month even with Obama’s incredible Income-Based Repayment scheme. Hannah’s parents, making what professors do, would not be able to afford to finance her entire New York life for any measure of time, much less for two years (as the show implies). And if Hannah had no income, her roommate would say, “Sorry sister, but I need to throw an ad up on Craigslist because I don’t have the liquidity to cover you if you can’t get it together.” Then Hannah would drink a bottle of wine by herself while sobbing hysterically on the bathroom floor as she ponders moving back to Lansing to work at the Denny’s while she gets her finances in order.
Good god. That would be a dreary show. No one wants to see that.
So, fantasy is good. Fantasy is why I watched the show. Escapism for me is a basic necessity like food, water, shelter and alcohol. But given that I wanted to connect with the show on an emotional level, I yearned to see GIRLS somehow address the feelings that the real-life Hannah would have to face. Maybe Hannah could check her credit score history and see the dramatic downward slope and then go out and drink too many margaritas and slow dance awkwardly with sleazy forty-year-old men as I may or may not have done? Ahem.
Lena, when we met, I felt like you got me, if not by the letter, then at least in spirit. I had such high hopes for us. I wanted it to work. And, it’s not that you’ve changed. I’m just finally seeing that you can’t give me what I want. There are things I absolutely loved about GIRLS. But it’s just not going the way I thought it would. And, Lena, I’m afraid I’ve got to call it quits.
Photo Source: HBO