HBO's Girls and Today's Emerging Adult Women
Last summer, my best friends and I heaved a collective sigh of relief upon turning 30. How good it is, we admitted, to leave the restless, agitated wanderings of our 20s and begin to settle into adulthood. Thirty, we exhaled, for once comfortable committing to relationships, suddenly willing to send little root tendrils down into our own plots of earth. We were no longer holding in our tummies, content with our healthy, capable bodies, accepting the scars of surgeries and stretchmarks not as flaws but as badges of honor we had earned.
For women, negotiating adulthood has become increasingly difficult over the past half-century. Often a whole decade, your 20s, is taken up with figuring out how to find your place in society. As much as I appreciate the doors that have opened for women since the 1950s, I have to admit that the loss of a prescribed cultural path for women (education, immediately followed by marriage, immediately followed by motherhood), made navigating my post-college life confusing, to say the least. Everyone told me, "You're so gifted!" but no one could tell me how to steward those gifts into maturity.
Perhaps that's why I am sympathetic to HBO's acclaimed new comedy show Girls, which premiered April 15. Wittily written and capably directed by 25-year-old Lena Dunham, it portrays with agonizingly accurate detail the confusion of being an overprivileged 20-something woman today. Set in New York City, the show follows the floundering of four well-educated young women trying to navigate the path to adulthood, and while the specifics of their struggles may be quite different from mine, the anxiety at the heart of it is much the same.
As the pilot episode begins, Hannah (played by Dunham) is having dinner with her parents when they announce they've decided to cut her off financially (or, as Hannah's mom puts it, to stop funding her "groovy lifestyle"). Panicked, Hannah responds petulantly and manipulatively. Her internship doesn't pay; she hasn't finished writing her book yet (four essays are completed, she explains, but it's a memoir, so she "kinda has to live it first"), and besides, she's busy "becoming who I am."
while Hannah's immature response is cringe-inducing, the obstacles she cites aren't imaginary. She protests that all her friends get financial support from their parents, and that's likely true. Last year, only half of college graduates found jobs. Our generation's financial future is far from secure, with 20-somethings having an average debt of $45,000, and Social Security set to run out in 2033.
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