Sleeping on hospital chairs
Girls Season 3 Episode 9 recap
How dare you make me emotional, Girls. How dare you offer up something fine and nuanced about one of the worst parts of adulthood – watching your parents become both more wise and more flawed at the same time. This is not what we signed up for. Where’s the coke and awkward blowjobs?
For the second time this season I’m about to anoint this episode the best one Girls has ever done. The difference, of course, being that this episode is about just one girl, realizing that a lot of the things she thinks and does are because of the family she comes from. This is one of my favourite narratives – thinking you’re vaguely crazy and then, when you get back to the family of origin (many of whom have told you what’s wrong with you your whole life), you realize …oh no. They’re nuts. I’m not.
So Hannah is the (only) descendent of a happy marriage, and as a result is the only one who has a healthy functional relationship. The moment when she looks at Rebecca, truly shocked and concerned, because she only sees her “boyfriend” on Wednesdays, when he’s not with his other girlfriend, is the greatest sign of growth. A few years ago, Hannah might have nodded about how that was cool. In fact, she might still react that way, depending on who she met in the city who provided her with that same information. One of the curses and joys of family is that you don’t have to be careful what you say. You don’t have to wonder whether what you want to say fits in with the persona you’re maintaining, or whether you have to remind yourself not to judge. Family is judging. That’s what it’s for – that’s what it teaches you.
Of course, the question is whether family can be so right – as Hannah is about Rebecca’s mental state and dubious romantic relationship – and be wrong at the same time, as her mother so clearly is about Adam.
Which is kind of unfair, because the information she used to have about him has nothing to do with how he’s changing. And she’s not wrong – Adam is socially awkward and has some anger issues. But he’s changed, because he loves Hannah. I swear that I remain shocked that this is the way they went with Adam. Not that Hannah tried to change him and puts up with his shortcomings, even though she does. Not that he sticks around because of the sex, or something. Adam loves her – and maybe he’s confused by it and has no reference for it and it’s no guarantee that it’s going to be successful – but he puts her above himself in about six different ways in this episode, and it was beautiful to see.
I wonder whether the gestures have become so common that even Hannah doesn’t see them, though, even though she defended Adam to her mother, she clearly has seeds of doubt planted in her mind. Like she can’t see, maybe, that the issues her mother is talking about don’t actually affect her and Adam. That they’ve made their peace with them.
Hannah can’t know, of course, that her mother is reacting to the insecurity she feels about “lying” to her sisters re: Hannah’s engagement. That everyone else thinks it’s a seamless fit and only she knows the truth. This is what you do when you worry about your children, I guess – put on a good face and then mess and mess and mess with things, searching for some satisfaction that never comes.
Hannah doesn’t totally know this yet, though she’s coming closer. The idea that your parents have to approve of your life is long gone for her, but the idea that it would be nice is one she’s just getting used to. I’m sure the unspoken conversations about her job have confirmed that a little positive reinforcement from the people who have known you your whole life is great – enough of a drug that chasing it could be a full-time occupation, or at least one that’s the primary focus when you’re in your family’s immediate circle, as per Hannah’s mother and her sisters.
But my biggest question about the episode doesn’t actually have to do with the plot at all. Lena Dunham has both endorsed and mocked the phrase “Maybe I’m a voice of my generation”, and the show has always purported to be about the moments in time before your life comes together but I wonder whether she should be saying something different about her generation. This episode was so affecting, and Hannah’s parents are such real people despite being rarely seen, that I wonder whether she should spend less time commenting on girls’ lives in the city – which are relatively fleeting – and more on family, which, for better or worse, can be with you your whole life.