Girls: A Complicated Growing Up
This post contains spoilers for season 6 of Girls.
I have always had strong feelings towards Girls, but whether they are positive or negative depends entirely on the day. My complicated feelings towards Lena Dunham are well documented, but I have stuck with it for six seasons of bad relationships, sexual mishaps and unapologetic nudity. Girls premiered shortly after I graduated college – that wonderful and wretched time when you think you’ve achieved adulthood, while not actually having a clue as to how to live. Despite its imperfections, Girls conveyed young women attempting to be grown, while having no earthly idea how to do so. And it showed friendships. The kind of friendships which, when you are twenty-two, feel like they will last forever.
I used to bemoan the need to see positive female friendships on television. After all, women do not live their lives pitted against each other, nor are we in constant conflict and competition. Much of Girls has conveyed the fraught and often unhealthy relationship between the four leads. “Where are the strong, positive female friendships I experience?” I wondered aloud to my cat. But the truth is female friendships (and male I would presume) are not always positive. They are most certainly not always healthy. Part of growing up is coming to terms with the heart-wrenching reality that your most valued girlfriends don’t always grow with you, nor you with them. As children, we are made to believe that those friendships will be there for life, which can often be the case. My best friend is still the girl who walked up to me and told me she liked my cutoff sweat-shorts at 16, and true love was born. Not that our relationship hasn’t been fraught with complications, arguments and horrid hairstyles. And, were we ever charged with raising a child alone in a woodland cabin, blood would be shed. (Although, should I ever get unexpectedly pregnant and decide to keep it, you have to at least offer, Anne.)
I have made many phenomenal, life-changing relationships with women. Friendships I value and cherish, but I have also experienced dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships in need of severing. In the penultimate episode, when Shoshanna references how her new fiancé introduced her to Al-ANON, I chortled. A full bellied, guffaw of recognition. I too have been advised by therapists to look into AA for enablers as a way to deal with relationships that took more than they gave. Shoshanna, while seemingly the most immature, is actually the most developed, dare I say: the most adult. As our four main characters stood in that bathroom and declared their friendship broken beyond repair, I felt the sadness. I wanted them to work it out, to apologize and hug each other, to suddenly become the main characters in an Ann Brashares novel. But that’s not life. Nor is it Girls. The beauty was that once they acknowledged that they were not bound to each other by traveling pants or movie magic, they could dance together. Their love was not lost, but they had changed. Different women danced at Shoshanna’s engagement party than danced in Marnie’s bedroom in season one. And different women watched. And that’s okay. It’s okay that they won’t stay friends forever. This is growing up. Finding our sister soulmates, and accepting that even some of the most passionate friendships will burn out or die.
The famous Carrie Bradshaw, and one of Girls strongest influencers, once said, “Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories. But that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.” She was of course referring to romantic relationships, but in the end, Girls was never a story of romantic relationships. It was about the women. Some of our friendships will not last forever. Maybe we have one to two truly extraordinary friendships in a lifetime. But that doesn’t make the shorter ones, the ones we drift apart from, the ones we break up with, or the ones we come back to later, any less filled with love. Here’s to complicated, messy, meaningful women, to Girls, and to growing up. Here’s to doing our best.