There’s Something about ‘Girls’

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I’ve become fascinated with the HBO hit series Girls, about 20-somethings in New York trying to stake out their lives. Sex in the City may have been more glam, with its gorgeous cast and Hollywood endings. Girls is grimmer, grittier and often difficult to watch. Nonetheless, I appreciate what the show is trying to do. 

As a family lawyer, I’m fascinated by the insights provided as to the relationships and potential marriages of the girls who are currently graduating from college. The female characters in Girls are all seemingly well-educated and have a safety net of at least decent parents. The guys in the show are less well-defined in terms backgrounds – perhaps an essential flaw of the show.

It seems unreal that the characters, both male and female, are mostly out of work, but apparently have no real money problems. How long can anyone of either sex make it in New York without a job? In the latest season, Marnie’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Charlie has become a success so maybe the direction of the show is changing and the girls and boys are evolving. 

Notes for Younger Viewers

For younger fans of the show, I humbly impart these words of wisdom: 

  1. An excessive number of casual sexual partners can have long-term consequences, which range from the physical (which the show does deal with) to longer term psychological issues – so imitate with care.
  2. While the show pays less attention to anyone’s livelihood (except the central character Hannah who, like the show’s writer is herself, is a young writer), attention must be paid both to your own career and ambition (or lack thereof) of those you think you love. There’s a reason Charlie is more attractive in Season 2: ambition can be sexy.
  3. One of the shows best qualities is highlighting that we should all be careful what we wish, both in friends and lovers. It demonstrates the old adage that sometimes it’s better to not have what you wished for than to find yourself stuck with what you do not want. 

Viewing Tips for Parents

For older fans of the show, I offer these insights: 

  1. Long ago, Prophet Kahlil Gibran said, “Your children dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit.” Just because we didn’t do what the characters in the show are doing (and candidly we hope our daughters and sons aren’t doing either), doesn’t mean we shouldn’t watch the show intermittently to touch base with the realities that many 20- somethings are facing.
  2. Many of the conversations between the parents and their offspring in the show are familiar, ranging from “time for you to earn your own money” to the more banal like “you look tired.” The dialogues help reassure ‘real’ parents they’re not alone in their struggles to parent this new generation.
  3. The show demonstrates, better than any psychological treatise, that our children are simply growing up more slowly, at least in the affluent sector. It may be something we did or something the economy is still doing. But for whatever reason, there’s a prolonged period of dependency we all need to recognize. Even many insurance companies are now allowing coverage under our policies for our children until age 26.

One of the lessons of Girls for all viewers of all ages is that 20-something girls and boys are now much younger than they used to be, and society will inevitably be changed by that. The children of entitlement will hopefully have a happy life, but they’re starting later than their parents did by almost a decade. Luckily, life expectancies are also rising so everyone can stretch out their life experiences and even have time for the occasional episode of Girls.


About Gemma Allen

Gemma Allen is a partner in Ladden & Allen, Chartered, and has practiced family law for most of her career. Ms. Allen has written more than 50 articles and lectured on topics that include divorce, child support, maintenance, mediation, cohabitation, women and money, and reconciliation. She co-authored The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On! and helps you navigate modern relationships in “Relationship Gems.”