When I was home for several days, fighting off fever, exhaustion and a sore throat that turned out to be strep, I took a whole afternoon off and binge-watched HBO’s “Girls”. I’d heard that it was a good show, and clearly there’s some positive buzz around star/writer Lena Dunham, so I figured that I’d watch a few episodes and see if it was worth giving it a longer look.
Of course it was.
I ended up watching something like 1-1/2 seasons that afternoon, and then I finished off the remaining 1-1/2 within the next two weeks. Somehow, this one show had touched on something that I’d forgotten since “Sex and the City” went off the air: that there is dramedy out there that reminds us of what we once had in favor of what we have now, and how what seemed so awful (or perfect) back then may never have been.
Some of it is parenthood; when you become a parent, your life changes forever. Things that you formerly did (spontaneous travel, spending money wherever and whenever you wanted, etc.) and stuff you previously spent money on (like expensive dinners or event tickets) take a back seat to diapers and car seats. You spend more time at Old Navy in the Baby section than you do in the Womens section, and whether or not you become comfortable with that, it’s part of just how things are.
I have some memories of my twenties, especially before I moved up to Boston, when my Thursday and Saturday nights were spent at Tracks – a long-gone gay club that featured alternative & rave music on Thursdays and drag queen volleyball on any night when it was warm and dry outside. I won’t say that we “did things that would frighten fish” (look it up in “Steel Magnolias”, y’all) – or at least I never did stuff that was frightening – but we partied. A lot.
Even after I moved to Boston, when dh and I were dating (or before then), there was a lot of going out and partying with friends, hopping a MetroJet flight to DC for the weekend to jump up and down at RFK in the Screaming Eagles/Barra Brava section and repair to our friend’s house afterwards to down copious amounts of cava or to a nearby Indian restaurant for curry and Kingfisher. Life was different in my twenties, and seeing “Girls” really reminded me of that.
I have so much sympathy for Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath. She’s a self-absorbed writer (what writer isn’t self-absorbed?) going from bad relationship to bad relationship, where even the one with the person who she believes is the one is weighed down by his own self-absorption. Your twenties are a bitch. It’s incredible to think that I survived it at all.
Watching a “Sex and the City” episode recently, the one where Miranda finally caves in to the notion of moving to Brooklyn because it’s what’s best for her family, I saw the maturing of a character who really had been self-absorbed for so long. Is that where Hannah could be in 20 years? Is that what I became when I got married and had kids?
That’s not to say that I’m not self-absorbed at times; I like my time to myself and my quiet time. I lived alone for several years before I moved to Boston, and I was rarely truly despondent and lonely. There’s something nice about the quiet of not having someone else in the house. I love having control over the remote, which may explain why I end up staying up late so many nights; even a half-hour of shutting the world’s wants out can be wonderfully relaxing.
I have no regrets as to how I’ve lived my life.
And I suppose, by watching “Girls”, I get a double-treat. In one sense, I’m seeing some amazing writing – very honest, no-holds-barred – and acting that really shows very vividly how wonderful and horrible it can be to be in one’s twenties. In the other sense, I’m getting a reminder of why I do and don’t miss my life from before I got married and had kids. I have no illusions about the joys of travel and a carefree life, yet I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything. I get so many laughs from the jokes they make, so many moments of wonder when I see them surpass expectations for kids at least year ahead of them, I can’t imagine them coming in a distant second or third to anything. They’re not the center of my world – I have a husband, a job, friends…a life. But my kids don’t come in last, and I wouldn’t ever want to go back to traveling nearly every month, because I’d miss them terribly.
By the same token, I’m glad I got to do some of the things I did when I was younger – the travel, the wild oats sowing, etc. – because I’d hate to think that I’d have to wait until my kids were out of college to experience all of that. At that rate, I might never have gotten to it. So, now, I appreciate it more. When I can get out to a movie and/or dinner, it’s more of a hassle but I cherish the experience. That’s why my girlfriend from up the street and I like to go to Lux movie viewings; if you’re gonna do it, DO IT UP.
Here’s the thing: Lena Dunham doesn’t have it all figured out, and neither did Candace Bushnell. But what they wrote (and, in Dunham’s case, acted and/or directed) even at its most ludicrous has an insane ring of truth. Relationships are hard. Experiences are worth having. Children – for those who actually want to have kids – can be a brilliant, life-altering addition. I think the important thing is to live without regrets. Don’t do what you’ll regret later and don’t regret what you have done, because this life is too short to spend it being angry for what you compromised…or the consequences when you failed to do so.
I know how I got here, and I have no regrets. I wonder how many others can say the same?