A Letter for the Girls (and the Boys)

HBO’s Girls wrapped its six-season run on April 16. Coming close on the heels of my twenty-seventh birthday, I wince outwardly and inwardly at the way in which the show went to work on me.
Each episode touched those raw, cauterized, embarrassing teenage parts of me which persistently endure beyond their expiration date. All the common fuck-ups and chronic pretension of our generation are pinpointed perfectly by Dunham and crew episode by episode. But beyond the show’s frequently savage reckonings of youth and its tedious milestones lies the show’s true heartbeat – the fickleness and fleetingness of the love we chase in this pathetically poignant decade of our lives.
That kind of love we encounter in our twenties which feels so big and so raw and that which by the end of that same relationship arc reveals itself to be so immensely empty. It once was grand and now it is gone. Girls nailed that feeling.
It reminded me that remembering your ex is a lot like wandering the stalls of an empty theatre parking lot. Or sitting on the floor of your childhood room long after the boxes have been packed and chartered to unknown destinations.
The show was brave enough to face the terrifying reality of what it means to move on, putting one foot in front of the other in all that shit. Because the ground is uncertain and the landscape demands it.
It humorously reinforced that life, the unrelenting pace of it, takes every relationship to task. Your connection to your parents, your lovers, your friends, and most deeply, yourself, will all be taken to trial. Some of these deep forces will break as they’re meant to and some will harden around you like a solid kind of comfort.
There are things you thought and – more vividly – things you did that you wish you could burn after reading. Joan Didion once wisely instructed us to keep nodding terms with the people we once were, but she euphemizes the iron veins it requires to stare openly towards such ugliness and spoiled joy.
Our parents and our hometowns may be partially responsible for our upbringings, but the time we reach our twenties it is the wild environment of our choosing that becomes our teacher and witness of the downfalls, stunted maturation, and shaky resolutions that are obsessively our own.
We are taught as children that when things fall apart it’s our duty to put them back together again. What Girls did so masterfully was allow things and people to fall apart before our eyes and then dare not to stitch them up.
Lena Dunhum never played it safe right down to her nakedness.
It’s hard to accept the inevitability of personal disembodiment. Of familial disintegration. Of cooling love and friendly distance. And most of all, the surprise and unintentional serendipity of growing up all wrong. Here we all still stand, with different pieces of ourselves facing strange directions.
The friendships, the heartbreaks, the restlessness, confusion and fear are all a part of this period which may as well be called “girlhood.” And so too the sex, the violence of the world and the tenderness through which we find the strength to love becomes part of what allows the woman to let go of the girl.
My dad once said to me when I was twenty-two or twenty-three that all the best things in my life were still ahead of me. I didn’t understand him then but I’m beginning to understand him now. There is always light in the distance.
Like all of nature’s regenerations which rise from ash, we too possess the ability to heal after the wreck of our twenties and emerge a little wiser if not uniquely hardened.
We may be well advised to keep staring at ourselves in the metaphorical mirror and questioning who and what we are. But don’t squint too hard. A healthy degree of gentleness will be required for us to usher ourselves out of the fire and into the misshapen phoenixes we must become.
The Girls finale suggests that the people we become have everything and absolutely nothing to do with the people we once were. I happen to agree.
Or so I fucking hope.
Samantha Ellis

Samantha Ellis is a reader, writer, and self-professed sommelier. By day she runs the content creation agency Roots + Ardor. By night she chips away at answering the eternal question: "What do I want to write about?"

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