girls

I am 35 and stuck between Carrie Bradshaw and Hannah Horvath

Everyone has his coming-of-age story. Mine was Sex and The City. I bumped into it on TV in 1998, while visiting a friend in NYC and it was love at first sight. To my 20 years old self – who had only watched and enjoyed Friends before without being able to actually relate to that – those girls seemed to have it all. They incarnated the dreams of my generation: they were pretty, educated, successful, financially independent (most of the time), wonderfully dressed and were able to live and talk about sex as guys. That is what I saw in them, at least.

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Season by season, I watched every single episode over and over again with my girlfriends ending up to buy not one but two complete set of DVDs (one to keep in case the other became overused). In the early 2000s we were young and crazy about clothes and shoes and fashion and having a career and finding true love. We thought that we were going to live like the girls in SATC and that the way ahead of us was paved with interesting men and tons of glamorous nights out. Feminism was then an outdated word, something our mothers would talk about but that we weren’t concerned with anymore. After all, as Charlotte York puts it, feminism is about freedom of choice. Nothing more. I was a decade younger than the main characters in SATC but I grew up in the same atmosphere of economic optimism and conventional man/woman relationship. The openness about sex was already, per se, a revolutionary point in the show.

Time passed. I don’t watch SATC anymore on a boring night at home. Most episodes feel outdated as are the clothes, the values, the talks. I went from feeling like Carrie to being a Miranda to ending up a little bit like Charlotte. But then I was done. I always missed, though, watching a show I could completely relate to.

When last year I read somewhere on the web of Lena Dunham’s accomplishments and of Girls as a modern answer to SATC, I didn’t hesitate one second to order it on the amazon. Before the parcel arrived, I spent a couple of weeks in the States and had this TV in my room with that thing (I can’t remember what’s its name) that allows you to watch past episodes of current TV shows. There was Girls, of course. Season 1. It might have been the jet lag or the fact that it was like 2 PM and too hot to stay inside watching TV but I lasted less than 10 minutes. Why? I found the show ugly. It was so completely, shockingly different to what I was expecting. It was like chewing into raw beef fillet for the first time. There was no glamour, no extraordinary lives, no optimism, no prince charming and no Manhattan’s nights out. I found myself in front of 4 confused young girls, scraped walls, weak men and sick relationships. And bad clothes, of course. The SATC fan within myself switched off the telly, swearing I would never lay eyes on that again.

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Of course, once back in Europe and dealing with jet lag again, I changed my mind. I watched the entire season 1 of Girls in a night and fell in love with it. Once I cleared my mind of what I thought a show about young girls should be about, it was another world. There is no glamour and male characters are painfully deprived of a backbone as the girls seem constantly unworried about their looks and their reputation but it is so powerfully R E A L. My 20s weren’t as naked as theirs but the insecurities, the bad clothes and the messy boys were there. They always are in that decade. I can relate to Girls – after all – much more than to SATC. I lived Girls, with some sugarcoating, but I could only dream of living SATC.

Lena Dunham took feminism on centre stage again and today it doesn’t sound anymore as an obsolete word, reminding us of burned bras and 70s hairstyles. Hannah Horvath sails through her time with more confidence we could expect from young women in the past and learns what is right, and wrong or simply works for her in the oldest way: trial and error. Instead of received ideas.

I don’t think Hannah and her friends risk in any way to become Carrie and co. later on. They will be something completely different, despite – maybe – some designer clothes and better apartments. These Girls are not interested in pleasing men anymore. They prefer to please themselves and to be liked for what they are.

The return of primary school society

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Do you remember that time when girls would play with girls and boys with boys? That primary school class where little girls, with pink ribbons, would sit all together in a corner, already gossiping and exchanging clothing tips and bragging about the latest Barbie? Well, I do. I do remember it vividly. Probably because I never had the coolest Barbie or the trendiest outfit. I was already a stranger. The end of childhood marked a moment of enormous relief. Closed in a girls’ world I had few chances to succeed, too much pressure to bear. In a teenage world, where boys first entered the picture, I could reach a larger audience, and one that wasn’t necessarily interested in conforming to the Kelly Taylor (of Beverly Hills 90210, FIRST edition) ideal. Well, to my greatest surprise, I am back in that primary school class. I have been to more than a dozen birthday parties in the past year and a half and the girls (in their 30s) always decide to have a girls-only party. So I’ve been to manucure parties, cooking class parties, pole dance class parties, cocktail making parties…and yet there were only girls. Why is it? Is it because twenties are the mating years, when we have to find the love of our life and settle so that in our 30s (and beyond, unless life puts us on the market again) we can go back to the joys of sisterhood? I haven’t still figured it out but I have to admit that in spite of my rocky primary school past I do prefer to celebrate  – anything – with other girls. Past the partying-as-crazy years, we don’t have time anymore for girly talk: we live very short days and weeks and years trying to figure out who we are, and taking care of pets, partners and children. No more time to brag on the newest Barbie. Once settled the “Finding the Love of My Life” thing, which occupied a big part of my thoughts during my early 20s, I frankly have a much better time having a drink with a girlfriend, toasting on what we have become compared to who we wanted to be some years ago and exchanging opinions on our multiple lives. it’s liberating, it’s easier and normally funnier then sitting next to the regular guy at the dinner table discussing what we do and where we live and how many children we have and feeling the distress  – on both sides – to have a polite conversation with a stranger.

I had always thought that humans were so evolute and smart and intellectually sophisticated and then the question unsettles me: is the innate human reproductive urge the only reason why men and women enjoy a conversation? Would we have parties and beach resorts and New Year’s Eves and cocktails if there was no mating instinct?