“I’ve got a world of chances for you, / I’ve got a world of chances, / Chances that you’re burning through.” – Demi Lovato, “World of Chances”
Yo Lili, Phil, Evan,
When you’re young, you want to do everything. Even if you don’t, you still believe you could. I’m not so young anymore—foreclosure is now something pondered daily—but my desire for possibility has hardly waned. Having, or wanting, it both ways is as close to a credo that I possess. Like Dunham’s girls, I’m at a juncture where I (still, still!) expect a lot without understanding really how much one must give in return. That’s privilege, yes, but it’s contingent on a model of privilege practiced by the generation that raised us. In a recent Times interview, Dunham explains her parents’ response to her post-college decision to move back home: “Do you realize that none of us would have accepted help from our parents?” Their time isn’t Dunham’s time, however, so I wish people would stop making that comparison as justification for “Gen-X” laziness.
How much to give in return? I’m weary of hearing adages about getting what you give, about no free lunches, about aspirational narratives that begin with ascent and conclude with achievement. People are learning, earlier and earlier, that you can do everything right—you can, goodness forbid, give more than you need—and you might still feel shortchanged. That’s part of existing in a privileged society too. “Your integrity is all that matters,” Adam tells Dunham. Well, yes and no.
It seems like everyone is contemplating reciprocity right now, and perhaps it’s due to the current impossibility of any adage-promised reciprocity. Sometimes you give and you don’t get. Like an abusive relationship. Like an abusive relationship with New York City. How difficult it is to know one’s worth when standards for rewarding that worth might have little to do with effort or ability. How lucky that “discovering one’s worth”—and maintaining integrity while doing it—even gets to factor into Hannah’s and Adam’s respective ideas of growing up, which is, to become artists.
Girls, as well as our relation to it, is about investment. Adam thinks his time (or, more exactly, his creative talent) equals someone else’s $2,000. He tells Hannah in the pilot: be no one’s slave, except mine. Except, now in a mutually dependent—genuinely striving-to-be healthy and happy—relationship, Adam needs to return his ear to Hannah: ”you have to teach them how to please you. Or you have to compromise.” “She’ll show you her tits if you give her some ice cream” no longer flies. Sometimes you’ll have to pull $5 from your shorts instead of your dick with the trust that your bond is stable enough for the other to reciprocate similar love in future.
Jessa thanks Thomas “for handling the cheque” who, as a venture capitalist, knows his share about risky investments. His logic here might not even be entirely unfamiliar: buy two girls some drinks and they’re more likely to come home with you. Open an expensive bottle of wine and, accordingly, they’ll certainly be more likely to sleep with you. Following such investment logic, Thomas translates spilt wine on his $10,000 rug–a rapid escalation in the cost of the night’s events–as meriting some serious sexual payback: “If you’re really sorry you better be planning to make this a very special night for all of us.” (That the inverse of this also applies is suggested by the fact that Jessa is no longer employed: she doesn’t put out and so is laid off.) It’s like Adam revenge sex part two and, indeed, something about Chris O’Dowd’s whine reminds me of a 15 year old’s incredulous disappointment. “This can’t be the way that this goes,” he cries. Welcome to the girls’ world, Thom. We’ve all discussed how Dunham’s girls run this world—without consequences or violence; with minimal risk. O’Dowd’s over-the-top character (tipping into caricature) makes him a weirdo, but it doesn’t make him a rapist or an assaulter. He doesn’t scare the viewer, and he certainly doesn’t scare Jessa. How much this incident will come to haunt Marnie really? He never made them pay. And where did I learn to think like this?
Lili, will you be my friend? I want to braid your hair. I want to enter into a conversational braid that involves you and Evan and Phil too, except rather than talking about makeovers and makeunders, I’m going to tease out a sentence strand you made in parentheses: “I love that Jessa is this programmatic about her distress.” How to be a friend? For Marnie, it involves patience, because Hannah is distracted (even if, as Jessa says, she’ll later repent by “apologizing for it like you’re going to shoot her”). Sometimes it involves sitting around while a friend ignores your present needs. The nice thing about braids, though, is that there requires more than two strands. Cue Jessa.
If Hannah is learning how to be a good friend, Adam is navigating how to be a boyfriend period. For Hannah, standards might have seemed low until now but—even for a girl who has only gay men as exes (whatever that indicates)—they do exist. So, first learn to apologize. Because in relationships there are rarely do-overs, only make-overs. Lili, you wrote about makeovers as an act of love, and Phil earlier spoke about forgiveness in Girls. Forgive me for braiding my own hair, and largely ignoring yours in this post? Cue Evan? Phil?