What I learned from “Girls”

HBO’s “Girls” finally wrapped up their raunchy, real and boundary-pushing series Apr. 17, bringing the work of Lena Dunham and partners Jenni Konner and Judd Apatow to its six-season close.

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@lenadunham’s farewell letter on Instagram

The show follows the lives of four women living in New York City as they stumble through relationships, adulthood and self-awareness. “Girls” ended with the show’s main character Hannah (Lena Dunham) struggling with new motherhood and settling into a mature adult life in upstate New York.

And, yeah, the finale made me sad, because things ending makes anyone sad. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the “end.” Hannah, having trouble with getting her new baby (conceived from a surf instructor that knocks Hannah up while she’s on assignment at a surf camp) to breastfeed, finally gets him to latch. This happens amidst other problems with her best friend, Marnie (Allison Williams), turned part-time nanny and tough-loving mother. But, like the rest of the show, it left me believing that even though I couldn’t predict what bizarre or unlikely situation Hannah or the other girls would get themselves into next, they were going to be okay.

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@aw (Allison Williams)’s Instagram post on the night the finale aired

I became a fan of Girls for a few reasons. The first being that I am biased towards anything the show’s producer, Judd Apatow, is involved with. If you didn’t love what he did with the show Freaks and Geeks then I’m honestly confused, but maybe you at least liked the Anchorman films, because he produced those too.

I saw him in a theatre in LA once and I think that’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me?

The second and most life changing reason I fell in love with Girls is that the show taught me I can be super okay with my boobs being out; out in plain view for other people to see.

I didn’t suddenly start walking around my apartment topless like Hannah or Jessa did, but after seeing Lena Dunham exist as a naked human on television and be like, “Yeah, this is my body, and?” I began to understand more the idea that not only is it okay to show your body consistent love, but to flaunt the heck out of it. Whether it be taking a bath, having sex or freely walking around the apartment, “Girls” depicted the lives of these women in a realistic way, and often that involved boobs.

However, it is important to remember that while some people feel empowerment from showing off their body, others feel the most confident when they are being more modest. Both are perfectly okay, normal and admirable.

Either way, boobs are great. And the free the nipple movement is valid.

I loved Girls because it was a place where I could go to feel like other people have stupid problems just like, if not worse than my own. I loved being able to loose myself in their absurd world. When I felt overwhelmed by school and extracurriculars and work, I could watch the show and be like, “Phew, at least my life isn’t as messy and ridiculous as theirs. Like, at least I have some of my shit together because I went to class today… right?” But then again, my life is kind of as ridiculous and messy as theirs, just in a different way.

Girls captures the extreme unpredictability of life. Nothing happens all at once. Not every action we take brings us instant gratification. And this is so frustrating because we can get that instant gratification on social media, and we can see it in film and television, but it doesn’t happen for us that often in real life.

It’s overwhelming to think, as a college student, “Am I doing enough? Should I try to get an internship now or enjoy one last summer of freedom? Is my GPA high enough? Shouldn’t I be working more because I am so, so poor? And, okay but actually what happens after I graduate?”

But as Lena Dunham explains in her commentary on the last episode,

“Everyone is trying to figure it out… It doesn’t matter where you are, there’s like this lack of resolution, but you can always make the decision to do better.”

She’s right. This show followed it’s characters as they were just trying to figure it out. Hannah, Jessa, Marnie and Shoshanna were always just trying to figure out where they were most valued and what would make them happiest.

Like many shows whose premise revolves around a group of friends “just trying to figure it out,” they fought with each other, fell in and out of love a couple of times, did some drugs, had horrible jobs and great jobs, and yet somehow managed to stay in each others lives throughout it all.

As much as Shoshanna began to feel that the rest of the girls were holding her back, or Marnie realized that she couldn’t control her friends no matter how many “emergency meetings” she called, as much as these characters began to become frustrated with each other, they all knew that they would never stop loving each other.

Which is awesome to think about, that no matter how hard or how weird life gets, as long as you have those people that will hold you when you’re sad and laugh at your jokes, you’ll be okay.

In the second to last episode, Hannah and and Jessa have this moment where they both apologize for what they put each other through and recognize the pain they’ve both put up with. A little context— Jessa began a serious relationship with Hannah’s longtime boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) which virtually ended their friendship. In Season Six, Episode Six, Jessa comes to Hannah’s apartment, telling her that she can’t lose Hannah as a friend, to which Hannah responds “I don’t care about you anymore.”

However, in the finale, the pair have a tearful reconciliation.

“We were just doing our best,” Hannah says, to which Jessa responds, “Our best was awful.”

And as Hannah agrees that their best was indeed awful, they both laugh because sometimes life feels like a joke. (Not necessarily in a sad way, but more of a “I don’t even know what’s going anymore but I’ll roll with it” way.)

Their best may have been awful because it wasn’t perfect and it sometimes hurt themselves and others. But their best couldn’t have been awful because it was what felt right in the moment, and like always, it turned out pretty okay in the end.

“Their best” was all this show was about. And I think it was great, in all of its messiness and absurdity.

Their best made their lives crazy, but it also made their lives genuine and good.

And I think that’s all we’re really hoping for.

 

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Undefining beauty standards

Vogue just released their March 2017 cover, one that celebrated 125 years of print and made the case that, “there isn’t just one type of American girl—nor has there ever been.

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“Each of these cover girls proudly inhabits her own particular gorgeousness in her own particular way. Together they represent a seismic social shift: The new beauty norm is no norm.” —Vogue

However, there has been a bit of backlash from the public regarding the cover. Many social media users are pointing out that while the cover claims to be diverse, all the models appear to be medium to light skin toned and have very similar body shape and facial structure, the one exception being plus-size model Ashley Graham.

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There are speculations of photoshop, and questions about why Ashley Graham is the only woman with her hand covering her thigh or why Gigi Hadid’s hand seems to extend to cover Graham’s stomach.

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Vogue is trying to send a positive message however, one that says we shouldn’t hold everyone to the same standard of beauty because each individual defines beauty differently. But while their accompanying article is telling one story, pictures do speak a thousand words… and so far there hasn’t been a consensus on what those words are saying.

Nevertheless, Vogue inspired me to take some pictures of my own. If you’ve ever witnessed someone in a moment that made them feel so happy and beautiful, and seen that they’re just shining, you’ll remember how infectious that light is; you can’t help but smile with them.

To explore this concept, I asked some friends if they would let me photograph them in the state in which they felt the most comfortable and confident, where the only beauty standards existing were their own.

The results are so sweet and pure.

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“My mom and I would always go shopping and she always taught me to love myself and that I don’t have to change myself or personality to fit anyone’s expectation.” —Sidney Williams
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“Ummm I feel at home at the beach.”—Mya Hauck
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“There’s something so raw and real about spending time in nature; the peace I feel makes me feel beautiful and connected to my surroundings.” —Chloe Knowd
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“I am at my best when I’m surrounded by my closest friends. It really is the little things in day to day life—like drinking coffee or sitting on the couch with your best friend—that make me fully content.” —Kelsey Dunkelman
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“I just love the way I feel in a big sweater, dancing around my kitchen to groovy tunes while making dinner. I feel so in my element. I truly dance like no one is watching and I feel my entire personality come out with no shame or purpose of hiding. I feel confident, quirky, beautiful, independent, me.” —Mikaela McGill
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“I feel most beautiful when I’m giving all of my love, attention and admiration towards something else—often times that’s exploring Mother Nature.” —Lauren Zaragoza

 

To shave or not to shave

Eleven days ago at the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards, actress Lola Kirke walked the red carpet in a stunning baby pink Andrew Gn gown… and grown-out armpit hair.

And all the headlines read something like: Armpit hair?! What a statement. Which is kind of funny, the idea that a couple centimeters of natural body hair were suddenly the focal point of her look.

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Kirke was both criticized and commended. A Vogue article said she “expressed a bold message when it came to her own body—taking the opportunity to shirk conventional Hollywood norms.” Yes, Vogue. Amen to shirking those norms.

Body hair isn’t something that’s often talked about, probably because it isn’t supposed to exist on women. We are conditioned to shave it off, all of it, so that when we finally emerge from the bathroom we have become these smooth, hairless versions of ourselves. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s weird to think that we work to meticulously remove something that grows on our bodies naturally.

A lot of visible body hair on women is “gross,” but the same hair exists on men and it isn’t seen that way.

In the following feature for the StyleLikeU movement, artist, photographer and feminist inspiration, Petra Collins, said, “Not shaving was kind of the first step towards accepting my body as it was.” She talked about how, “in the beginning it was weird and hard,” but now she doesn’t give her body hair a second thought because it’s just a part of who she is.

“Why do I buy things every day to get rid of something that my body is just trying to grow?” —Petra Collins

I personally like to have my legs shaved and armpits waxed… but sometimes it gets to be too much. Then I get to the beach and hesitate for a second before taking my pants and shirt off because “agh my ‘pits and legs are hairy beasts what will the people think??” But I shouldn’t care what the people think. The people will always have something to say;  when it comes to our bodies the only opinions that truly matter are our own. 

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My #awesome #hairyarmpits

Of course, whether you choose to get rid of your body hair or not is a matter of personal preference. But the choice should not be reliant on what society says you should look like; it should be about what makes you feel the most like yourself, the most beautiful.