Watching "Girls" with girls: Weird couples, sleepovers, and tacos

A member of the "Girls" demographic helps me parse the show's attitudes toward dating, writing, friends, and food

Published January 13, 2014 1:59PM (EST)

Lena Dunham's "Girls" is recognizably smart, funny, and daring. However, as a man about to turn forty in a couple weeks, I must admit to often having difficulty relating to the motives, attitudes, and actions of the randy twenty-something woman portrayed on the show. Confronted with the task of covering this third season, I opted out of a standard recap format. Instead, I decided to solicit help in parsing the predicaments dreamed up by Dunham and company from various members of the target demographic. And so, I present the first installment of a weekly column -- nay, pithy yet lighthearted discourse! -- we are calling Watching "Girls" With Girls.

This Week's "Girl": Molly Oswaks, 25 (her birthday was this weekend)

Job - Journalist

Adam or Ray - Adam

Favorite "Girls" girl - Jessa

Episodes Watched - "Females Only," "Truth or Dare"


ND: I was taken aback by how extreme that scene in the coffee shop was. Do you think Natalia, Adam's ex, overreacted?

MO: It was an uncomfortable scene, but it would be an uncomfortable situation. I haven't been in situations quite like that, but I have had ex-girlfriend encounters. It's just never good.

You were the current girlfriend or the ex-girlfriend in those situations?

The current girlfriend. Nobody knows how to behave afterwards. It's just bad news. It was an overreaction only in that it was all very clever what was said, but I bought it.

Even the lying about being pregnant?

That was her friend. I can see that happening. Just to put the guy in his place, like, "You asshole." It seemed real enough to me.

This is already working out because that is news to me. So, you're a writer in New York City. Is Hannah's progress in her career similar to your experience?

Why isn't she publishing more on her own? Why does she have to wait for her editor to be like, "You should publish this on" She should have been publishing like four years ago. I don't know why she waits so long. She seems very scared. In episode two, she was being, like, the road trip wasn't living up to her expectations of, like, a story. It wasn't interesting enough to write about which is dumb because of course it could've been. She literally couldn't see the forest for the trees in that forest. She's so preoccupied with what she's trying to do that she doesn't even do it. I was publishing when I was a senior in college.

Maybe this is just my naivete -- I came up at a different time -- but maybe she's not publishing because it's writing for free.

That's how you have to start. You're not going to get paid the big bucks from the beginning. I mean, not today anymore. She should be publishing on Thought Catalog or whoever will take her. She doesn't seem very integrated in the writing, publishing, and journalistic community. She's sort of just with her friends and her boyfriends. That's what frustrates me.

Do you buy her as a good writer?

I don't know! I think the only encounter we've had with her writing has been last season with that boyfriend she had at the beginning of the season -- he had like a girly name. What was his name?

The black guy? Just call him "The Black Guy."

What was his name, though? He had like a funny name. [Writer's note: I found it fascinating and possibly telling that in trying to describe Donald Glover's character from last season that Molly did not simply default to pointing out his race -- which would have clearly delineated him from anyone else on the show at the time.] Remember, he was very unimpressed with her writing. I guess Marnie has commented on her writing. I don't think anybody knows. I don't think the viewer knows.

Do you think it matters?

I don't think it matters in the sense of the TV show, but for her character, yes. She seems to think very highly of herself as a writer, but is also paralyzed by her fear of it. Who knows? Maybe she's mediocre.

Do you think 16 tacos are enough for 4 people?

I was thinking about that. I usually require about three tacos unless I'm stoned or something. And definitely ice cream always anyway. I think three tacos per person is fine, so four seems like more than enough.

Would you serve tacos at a dinner party?

I love tacos. I think it's always okay to serve tacos. They're like the best food. Tacos are so good. I could eat tacos forever. If I had to eat one thing forever, I would choose tacos.

I almost agree with you. I'm a big fan of tacos. It's just hard to get good tacos in New York City.

It's sooo hard. And I grew up in Los Angeles, so I know a good taco.

You must be heartbroken, then.

It's really hard to find a good taco here. That's one of the drawbacks of New York City.

Do you agree with Hannah's assessment of friendship? Hannah is to some degree an anti-hero if she's even a hero at all. But some of the things she says are so counterintuitive and so callous, I just wonder why she has any friends at all.

That seemed like a very Hannah thing to say that ultimately might not be true. I'm sure she does care what her friends have to say. She has a boyfriend, maybe she cares more about what he has to say these days. Maybe she's, like, sort of abandoning her female friendships -- which would be a mistake.

You have a boyfriend, right? Did that scene feel familiar to you?

Yes. Totally familiar. Especially since my own boyfriend reminds me a lot of Adam.

I would be a really shitty journalist if I didn't ask you how your boyfriend reminds you of Adam, who is currently the craziest person on television.

He's also so sweet! He's just like a sweet weirdo. He cares so much about her. He's just her person, yunno. Especially when he says stuff about if you wake up and don't know the person, it's not right. I think they really know each other, and I think that's so sweet. They're both so strange, but they're so good together.

Really? I was wondering about that. Do you think that Hannah and Adam strike your peer group as a good couple, like a Ross and Rachel? Is this the couple of the generation?

They're much more realistic than Ross and Rachel. That's sort of like a TV romance. I find them so believable. I feel like they're real people -- i that they're not like the cute girl and the cute guy. They're the really weird guy and the girl who really likes him. They also really love each other. They appreciate that they're not the perfect guy and the perfect girl. They're both sort of weird and flawed, and they like that about each other. Whereas Marnie and Charlie -- he seemed great and she liked him a lot, but ultimately there wasn't much there. I get their relationship and I root for it.

What about where she basically says that, as her boyfriend, he has to become a different person for her?

That seems like a risky thing to say because you're supposed to not want to change the person. But you want them to bend with you. In a relationship both parties are changing for the sake of the relationship. She might have just spat it out wrong.

Does your boyfriend enjoy hanging out with your friends?


When was the last time you took a road trip with friends?

I did a road trip with my boyfriend over Christmas. I love a road trip.

In that road trip sequence, Adam refers to female relationships as being totally hysterical.

I think he just doesn't get them. Female friendships are really weird in that guys don't behave that way with their guy friends. Guys don't have sleepovers and paint each other's fingernails and talk about very nitty gritty things with each other --

Wait a minute, does that really happen? In your age group, there are still sleepovers and painting nails?

Less frequently but, yeah, totally! It's extra fun to have sleepovers in your twenties because you can drink and do stuff that is really fun.

What do you think about Jessa's relationship with the older gentleman in rehab?

Didn't she have a similar relationship last season with the father of the children she babysat for? Older men seem to be led on by her and she doesn't even mean to do it. She's the kind of person that people are infatuated with. She's one of those girls who was, like, beautiful forever. [That story arc] probably represents that thing that happens when you are, like, a young girl and you are friendly and sweet and alluring and you're so innocent. She wanted to talk to this guy because he probably had some wisdom to pass on to her. He was lead on not because she was leading him on but just because she didn't even realize that she was. I've had a similar situation myself actually.

I wonder sometimes if older men are portrayed on "Girls" as unreasonably predatory. I'm trying to think back to the episode from the second season starring Patrick Wilson where Hannah stays at his character's house...

When you're a twenty-something woman, things tend to get complicated with men who are over thirty because you are just in different places. What could be a fun fling for a young woman is either more of a fun fling for the man, or he has his own weird motives -- not weird but it has less to do with you and more about that you are a young woman.

Congratulations to [actress Danielle Brooks] for being -- What, the first black girl with lines on "Girls?"

She's so good on "Orange is the New Black." She plays Taystee, like, sooo good.

I feel like the climax [pun intended] of that scene was telegraphed from the moment Jessa walks in her room.

Yeah, I saw it coming.

Do you believe Jessa actually believed that she was helping that character -- or anyone -- by her bluntness?

She seems to think she has everybody figured out. In this case she happened to be correct, but I don't know that it was helpful. I believe that she believes she was right.

I felt bad for her when it turned out that the older man just wanted to have sex with her, but it almost felt like karma. All throughout the episode, she was tedious and obviously mean and disrespectful and juvenile.

I think it was coming from a really damaged place, though. She was at rehab. Obviously, she had some sort of issues. And she seems to know that she did because she said so in group. Honestly, she must have her own issues which is why she's behaving in that way. It's a cover for dealing with her own stuff. I think it makes her more sympathetic.

That's the whole point [of rehab] is that you are now in a place where you can share those things with people have been through similar things. Her pain is no worse than the people she's around. She overvalues her experience compared to other people's which, to me, seems like a very insensitive and immature thing to do. 

She has her walls up. She doesn't want to be there. If she was ready to be there, she would be taking it more seriously.

I want to have sympathy for Jessa. That's maybe a good thing about the show is that they're not making her just openly sympathetic. They make it hard to like her -- they make it hard to like everybody, honestly. It's a delicate line to walk. 

It's hard to like all of them sometimes, but it's hard to be all of them sometimes. It's a really difficult age. And I think it's probably a pretty unlikable age when you're not that age yourself. A lot of people find them tedious and frustrating, but it's a frustrating time. I find Hannah difficult to like sometimes because I'm her age trying to do similar things and when I see her fucking up, I project it onto myself.


By Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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