Worlds apart or where did all my friends go?
This is a Goodbye, Girls! think piece.
Girls: the beginning of a beautiful friendship
Girls entered my life in my first year of graduate school. Just like Hannah Horvath, I had graduated college. However, I was less sure about me being a writer and more prone to prolonging my early twenties into my late twenties by hanging onto school. Bucharest did not feel like the place for me, always dreaming of other big cities in Europe where young adulthood would find me. New York happened to me at 24 and it felt for a while like the perfect place to actually make the transition to adulthood, whatever that meant. Still in graduate school, I lead a different life from Hannah & co. with the occasional intersection between my NY with the Girls’ ’’city of being alive and young’’.
Like the many girls watching Lena Dunham’s show, I immediately identified with her character, no matter how self-centered or insensitive Hannah proved to be over and over again. However, I realize now that it was never about picking a character and sticking with her until the end. Maybe ’’Sex and the City’’ left me with this mandatory identification requirement, which was not necessarily not even this show’s request, but mostly how people read into both groups of four women.
Of course many girls identified with Girls. Hell, I managed to identify with Carrie Bradshaw while being 19 years old and having just left my small hometown. I saw the first episode of Girls in my hometown. It was summer and season one had just ended.
I saw a picture with Jessa, Marnie, Soshanna and Hannah standing on the stairs of what seemed to be an iconic Brooklyn building. They were selling clothes and called their pop-up shop Maiden’s Milk Vintage. Frankly, Jessa’s long blonde locks and effortlessness convinced me to hit play. I watched the whole season in one night, one episode after the other, waiting for more and with the firm realization I had finally found the young women who would stick with me for an entire period of my life.
They did stick with me until just now. Actually, I watched them closely as they were bringing so many different and relevant points about myself and my world, whether I was figuring things out in Bucharest or in New York. The show made me its own when I was 21 and it leaves me today at 27. We synchronized well enough, I think.
At 24 Girls was relevant enough for me and I did expect my New York experience to be closer to theirs than to any other characters from television. With a mix of Hannah Horvath’s still figuring things out, baby attitude and the reality of living on the Upper East Side (in a modest abode nonetheless), I mainly found myself day dreaming between finding a rich and cool gang à la Carrie Bradshaw and/or just moving the hell out of Manhattan and into a nice big apartment in Bushwick. Somehow all of my acquaintances and friends lived and loved far away from the Brooklyn Bridge.
The truth is I was more lonely than alone and my 10 months stay felt more similar to Shosh’s experience in Japan than anything else. Upon my return to Bucharest, I too felt even more confused and disconnected from my few friends in Bucharest. I don’t feel like I formed or was at the center of a group before leaving. However, my friends seemed to move on pretty fast (from me) and new and strange friendships had emerged through and during my rather short absence.
Girls : the end of an era
Girls was still going strong three years ago and I was left with them and a depression plus anxiety larger than life. I don’t know how exactly, but I feel that Girls was there with me if not for me even through this hellish period of my already late early twenties. If turning 25 felt like a huge stepping stone before, I did not feel wiser, safer or happier when it actually happened. I won’t even go for mature, don’t worry.
Strangely or not, I cannot say I grew up with Girls, nor did I grow old with them. I don’t feel you can approach the series this way. I won’t be touching issues as real sex on TV, body positivity/ diversity and feminism, the poor or lack thereof of race debates on the show – which were all important and many spoke to women and men within a larger spectrum of age. I chose to stay on a more personal level with the show, as these issues were extensively discussed throughout the years and there is nothing outstandingly new I have to add here and now.
The personal is not only political, but also constantly debated within the public realm especially in the time where relationships begin and end on Facebook and friendships unravel within the space of who is present on your Instagram feed or not or, more recently, in your Insta stories and Snapchat. I am a Girls girl for sure and this is partially by choice and partially through timing. The timing of the show was perfect for so many people in their early twenties and I was one of them for sure.
No matter how wise I may have become in treating the characters as mere millennial tropes beyond or because of their actions and motivations, the finale confirmed I actually stayed with Hannah up until the end.
The last episode found me getting mad at Hannah, just like I used to in my early twenties. It is the end of an era, I said to my fiancé as we were waiting for the final episode to finally air. I read reviews upon reviews about Girls, followed the cast members on Instagram and absorbed as many think pieces as I could. As the end of one of my eras is here, it is only now that I feel it isn’t premature to actually say something and dip my body deep into the sea of bodies and opinions on what Girls has given us and more importantly, has left us with.
I am now 27, still living in Bucharest and distastefully hating it/myself for that. I did not make it anywhere, but that is starting to feel fine, finally. I don’t feel like Hannah is happy with this turn out of events, although she laughs herself through the realization she had not left her mark on New York City. Unconscious or not, she decides to keep herself busy with anything else, although this was one of her goals from the beginning. To become someone, rather than letting yourself be or become whomever it turns out to be good and safe for you: she seems serene and dare I say mature, up until she is faced with the actual reality of her baby becoming a separate being in the world.
As soon as Grover leaves her womb to become Grover, all her bottled up and unresolved insecurities (especially male related) seem to burst out. She does not have time to think about her place in the world, not that she does not care. A child is forever and although we know this all along, the last episode of Girls stresses upon this reality in a very raw and direct manner.
What about having a baby and other life-changing decisions
It is not strange, but somewhat bittersweet that we are left in the end with three female characters who are revolving around motherhood in their own manner. Marnie asks to be part of mothering Hannah’s yet unborn baby and unsurprisingly Hannah lets her stay. The previous episode left the other characters in New York, more or less with their fates resolved. Even Hannah’s gay father managed to find a life for himself and his newfound courage of being who he really was long before his daughter was born. Of course, everybody is still figuring out some things, having already figured out others. Fair enough.
How about Hannah? As I finally come to terms with her decision, I am still shaken by her first interactions with Grover. Marnie is performing motherhood better than Hannah up to a certain point. However, she is not a mother and she is not the one having experienced carrying a human being for nine months, birth and everything after. It seems like Hannah desperately wants a medal just for these things. Fair enough again. She does deserve a lot of credit just for leaving New York and preparing herself (more or less) for her new life in two.
Of course, the fact that Grover is a boy complicates things, not that a girl would have been an easier way out. Marnie’s stay with Hannah seems to leave space for Hannah to manifest her ambivalence towards the child without the child being too much part of her seemingly change of heart. Marnie is definitely not a substitute mother for Grover, nor is she trying to be anyone else. Same old Marnie, performing selflessness as the whole experience and even Grover are doing something for her. Hannah’s child represents more of a twisted Marnie-style vacation from life, which will have to end and it does upon the arrival of Hannah’s mother.
It would be premature and unfair to call Hannah a bad mother at this point and even a bad friend. Again, she is too busy figuring out motherhood more than anything else. Here is where the show really ends for me. As Marnie realizes she is not actually a mother, I realize I am overwhelmed and unprepared for motherhood; also, I am highly unqualified to talk about motherhood more than I have.
A few of my closest female friends have more or less recently had babies and although I am happy for them, it would be untrue to say I am happy about it. I leave Hannah and her mother to take care of Grover. Hannah seems to have found at least a way of finding her center in relation to her son and this is enough for me. Not only am I not a mother yet, but the mere thought of people close to me being mothers still has to sit with me for a little while longer. I don’t know how you do it or how you decide you’re ready. I won’t pretend I am ready for such a life-altering decision.
Motherhood feels more like a decision than just a choice. Becoming and being a mother is not something you can define easily, of course. I feel though that we can agree upon the fact that Hannah and her mother are mothers much more than Marnie is yet. She has the chance of being a mother, even a good one, but not necessarily in the near future.
I imagine myself leaving Girls in the same manner in which Marnie leaves to live her life. This is maybe one of the few moments where my heart is with Marnie. Not that I like rules and not that she likes rules: it does not really matter what she will do next exactly. It is the mere realization that her giving space to Hannah and their friendship makes for an ending of a big chapter of her life, the end of an era. Marnie, more than anyone else in the show, has trouble letting go. I have trouble letting go too, but Hannah’s quirky and happily insecure voice singing Tracy Chapman as Grover finally latches onto her breast is powerful enough to make me understand that this is a legitimate ending as any. This is one of the few moments I could use a car and driving to make a more powerful statement about my own life. I remember when we were young, driving in your car. We are still young. Hannah is young, Marnie is young and I am (still) young.
We are young, but different. Still young, yet wiser in some aspects of our lives and maybe finally letting go of mainstream or publicly acclaimed versions of performing adulthood. ‘Goodbye, Hannah’ seems more appropriate than ‘goodbye, Girls’.