Tuesday, February 12, 2013

(the) Girls

If you haven't watched the the fifth episode of Girls yet and plan to, don't continue reading!


I was a bit ambivalent about Girls when I started watching the show last year. I found the episodes entertaining, but once the 30 minutes was up and the credits started to roll I felt nothing except the acute sense that something was missing. The characters were interesting enough, although I didn't feel a strong connection with any of them, and I liked the feel of the show, but it lacked a certain fullness and depth. In some ways it felt farcical, and in other ways it just felt like a show about ordinary white girls from middle class families. For me, Girls wasn't drawing out any emotional reaction, and it almost felt pointless. Despite this, something drew me back every week.

Now, halfway through the second season, I am finally connecting with the show. The last three episodes have been so good, but it was the most recent episode "One Man's Trash" that really did it for me. First, the feel of this episode was perfect. Hannah romping around in her small romper made me feel the summertime heat in my bones. I felt transported back to east coast summers of my own: wearing the shortest shorts, feeling sticky-hot, enjoying warm summer breezes that blow thick with freedom and possibilities. I was transported into Hannah's day. I was in that coffee shop, I was in that brownstone. I yearned for summer. For the happiness one feels after a long winter when you are finally able to bare your legs and drink iced mochas while reading on your front porch. For the too hot stagnant feeling one gets inside an apartment with no air conditioning that forces you to throw open all the windows, strip down to your skivvies, and eat a strawberry popsicle. The expectations and playfulness of summer felt perfectly captured in this episode, and I could feel it all.

The story itself was wonderful too. Hannah meets a man, Josh(ua), who is in his forties and stays in his perfect brownstone house for two days having sex, eating delicious food, conversing happily, snuggling on a couch in soft morning light, playing games in her underwear, traipsing about in Josh(ua)'s sweaters. Eventually, however, the spell which made them both call in to work sick so they could stay together longer is broken. Hannah faints in Josh(ua)'s shower/sauna. He rescues her and she recovers on the bed. Her head is in Josh(ua)'s lap, he gently strokes her hair, and then Hannah's vulnerability manifests into tears. She cries because she realizes she is just like everyone else and what she really wants is happiness. Although Hannah shares her feelings with Josh(ua) he does not share anything of his own.

The next morning Hannah wakes up alone in Josh(ua)'s bed. The light is no longer soft like it was that first morning. Wearing one of his shirts, she makes a simple breakfast of toast and jam and eats it in the backyard while reading the newspaper, a scene similar to one that took place earlier in the episode. She has a cup of tea. She thinks. She goes into Josh(ua)'s closet and you can see that she has realized something. While she wants happiness she is also not ready for this kind of happiness, for a loving older man with a beautiful house and a stable job. So, Hannah decides to go back to her normal world. She puts her own clothes back on, her romper. She makes the bed and takes out the trash, erasing the fact that she was ever there. The episode ends with a shot of Hannah walking away from the brownstone. The last shot is long, and we watch Hannah's form shrink as she walks farther and farther away. The length of this shot gives the audience time to observe Hannah in an unobtrusive way and allows them to muse over Hannah and her experience.

To me this episode felt like it was about the life cycle of a relationship. The meeting, the beginning when everything is perfect and you never want to get out of bed, the moment when you begin to really open up to the person, the fights, and finally the disconnect and break up. Despite the fact that this relationship happened in the span of 30 minutes, it didn't feel rushed to me. It felt right. Girls finally made me feel something, a deep aching in my heart.

Like Hannah, like everyone, I want to find happiness, but sometimes it feels so far from my grasp. All my life I have always been on a path. Chugging along with a purpose: I was accomplishing things, I felt happy, I was intellectual stimulated, I had close friends, I had love. Of course things changed and I had to alter my route, come up with alternative plans, but I always felt I was moving forward, feeling happy while moving towards more happiness. After college, however, it felt like everything just crumbled away. I feel like I've lost who I really am. I feel stagnant and happiness seems so far away.

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