Six emotional degrees of Lena Dunham and HBO’s Girls: dating gay men and other dating foibles.

By: Britt Harvey

Before I get all navel-gazey and gross, let me preface this with saying I did not want to write this post. I love HBO’s Girls.  But considering current time constraints and in the interest of keeping a shred of my personal dignity, I decided to keep mostly mute (save for frantic text messages to friends) about the ever apparent similarity between myself and Lena Dunham’s main character Hannah’s dating life.

Until now. Following this past Sunday’s episode of Girls I’ve had six separate but equally fervent messages from friends stating that I “just HAVE to watch this episode of Girls. You’ll understand when you see it.” Twenty minutes in, the show’s main character Hannah (played by the Girls creator, actor, writer and director Lena Dunham) confronts an ex about the possibility he may have given her HPV. The ex, expertly coiffed and decidedly handsome, assumes she is there to confront him about the fact he now has a male lover named Beau. The scene is hilarious in its brutal awkwardness and the stark realization that social niceties can so easily slip into pathos and misery. “Your dad is gay,” Elijah tells Hannah after she mocks his supposedly new “fruity little voice.” I laughed, I winced, I itched a little because, the thing is, I’ve had this same conversation.

For me it came in the form of a Facebook message from an ex (suspiciously too attractive for me and a man whom to this day is an absolute doll and dreamboat) that I read while I was working at a foot clinic. Reading a beloved ex’s “outing” while surrounded by bunions is not anyone’s dream scenario. After excusing myself to violently cry in the bathroom, I promptly took an early lunch and ate three double cheeseburgers while parked behind a McDonald’s BFI bin. So when Hannah’s lips start to quiver as she quips, “I am fine. What I’m having right now is an inappropriate physical reaction to my total joy for you and your self discovery,” I too felt the familiar feeling of wanting to cry your insides out while tepidly typing “No hard feelings! We’ll always have Paris!” Extra points to my dad who after I told him conjured up a just-sucked-on-a-lemon face while stating, “you just don’t have the best luck do you? That’s brutal, just brutal.”

Gay ex-boyfriends aside, there is a reason why I and so many other women (and men) relate to this show. As a good friend put it, the show more or less accurately depicts the awkwardness and completely random nature of dating/living/working in your twenties. Yes, yes, I hear you Girls critics, the shows main characters do live an incredibly privileged life in New York that many people could never hope or dream to have. But no one can say any of them are exactly blazing a trail through their romantic and professional lives. Some of them have shitty jobs, some have bad relationships, but there is an unbelievable freedom and possibility to that. You might be dating a semi-douche named Adam that squeezes your belly fat for fun, but it’s all part of the brutal process of figuring out what kind of life you want to have and the kinds of people you want to populate it.

It also seems that the show Girls has a lot to say about guys. There’s something we all can learn from Hannah’s foibles and sexual agony.  “That guy Adam basically represents every guy my girlfriends have ever dated, ” said one guy friend. Another male friend texted “This show is the best.” Girls is decidedly about girls, but also about humans in general. Sometimes these humans have bad sex, whine about money, and then dance to Robyn in their very own apartments. Being twenty-something, it’s not so bad most of the time.


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Categories: Personal Essays, Television


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