I am a twenty-something aspiring young professional living in New York City. I squat in the same bar with my only three friends, legitimately look forward to happy hour and have an annoying off-and-on-again best friend/ex-boyfriend who coincidentally lives down the street. Does this plot sound familiar?
Of course it does. It's essentially the premise of everyone's favorite sitcoms: Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and the City and -- as much as I hate to admit this -- How I Met Your Mother. (PS -- WHO IS THE MOTHER?!)
But why is it that these shows portray everyone as so successful?! I'm pretty sure Rachel worked in high-end fashion design or something, and Sex and the City -- we can't even go there. Carrie Bradshaw would not have been able to afford that apartment. Did Charlotte do anything? I'm not insinuating she was a stay at home mom in training due to her seemingly patriarchal and conservative views on romantic relations, I really just can't remember.
In SATC's defense however, Samantha did run a PR company and Miranda was a successful lawyer. On How I Met Your Mother, Ted is an architect, Robin a news anchor and Barney is always in a suit so I think that means he's successful.
The long-running shows began when most of the characters were in their mid-twenties and usually ended in their thirties; their professional lives not having changed one bit. How were they legitimately successful in their mid twenties? I mean seriously. Who did they know?
A lot of these characters went to schools like Vassar and Smith. I know this because in an episode of How I Met Your Mother they visited their old college, a small liberal arts school located in Poughkeepsie, New York, so it was either Vassar or something a lot like Vassar. I know it's weird that I remember this so vividly but it was the episode Seth Green guest-starred in and that's hard to forget.
Charlotte graduated from Smith and Miranda from Harvard, while Carrie and Samantha's education is never discussed. Even Dee and Dennis, protagonists of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia went to UPenn. It's debatable whether or not the two are successful considering they're portrayed as sociopathic alcoholics but they do own a bar together and that is a lot more I can say for most twenty-somethings I know.
My friends aren't (seemingly) sociopaths or alcoholics and are still deemed 'unemployable.' (Fun thing to do to make you feel better about yourself -- sing 'Unemployable' to the tune of "Irreplaceable" by Beyoncé.)
Straight out of college, everyone's at a level playing field. You realize your fancy school name didn't matter as much as you thought and there's always someone with a higher GPA than you. No matter how talented and intelligent you may be, there are still only so many jobs openings in the metropolitan area you and everyone else fled to upon graduating.
So if you get a job, good for you! If not, well, good luck. It seems there's no logic to it anymore. I know Ivy League alumni who can't get jobs as ice cream scoopers and high school drop-outs who got lucky and ended up working alongside celebrities.
So, that's the first lie. Employment isn't going to rain down on you like manna from the heavens; except for that one sort of famous Facebook friend you have and furiously stalk on a regular basis.
Lie number two: WHAT ARE THOSE APARTMENTS?!
I do not see one railroad apartment in any of these shows! Even Charlie, the "fool" of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, lives in a relatively nice apartment. He is a plumber (I think? He is often cleaning toilets), eats cat food and is addicted to sniffing glue but still has a place to live. I won't even speak of the apartments in Sex and the City. How I Met Your Mother -- again, beautiful. Big Bang Theory: Why is that apartment giant? How did they get lucky with that blonde across the hall? No one actually ends up dating that guy from down the hall. Seinfeld: everyone is comfortable. Oh, and everyone somehow lives in a safe neighborhood in Manhattan.
Lie number three: No one meets love interest in a cute way. Ever. How does everyone meet in an elevator? Why do attractive people just approach them at events or in public? I mean, really, who talks to anyone in line for coffee? If someone talks to me, looks at me, or even thinks about me when I'm in line for coffee: I go for the jugular.
Everyone has an OkCupid because none of this happens and this is why we're always dating our exes. (Since you have an OkCupid you should probably read these guidelines.)
Lie number four: Things really aren't that funny. Yeah, it's funny when you run into the guy you like and you're on your way from the gym (that is if you can afford a gym membership,) and yeah that guy at the bar was really drunk and gross and I guess that's funny, your one memory of the Fourth of July is probably funny -- but a lot of you are really miserable and don't want to admit it. Your roommate was probably your college roommate as well, and you're not getting along the way you used to. Your college sweetheart broke up with you a month after graduating. You miss your family, realized you chose the wrong city, the wrong career, and no one will ever be the creative artist type they wanted to be. (ALSO, JOEY FROM Friends. WHAT WAS HIS DEAL?!)
Carrie Bradshaw lied to you: comfortably wear stilettos in the city is not humanly possible. Don't expect a glamorous fairy-tale life either; no one has the energy to go out after work, if you do manage to get out after work your hangover the next morning is literally the worst thing that has ever happened to you and it's not like your prince charming is waiting around to get you coconut water when it does. SPOILER ALERT: No one on OkCupid is trying to get married.
You and your best friends will continue to meet at the same bars and coffee shops to complain about how much you hate all of this. One of you is probably more conservative, one is the "free-spirited" one, one is the successful one with a semi-steady boyfriend whom everyone is secretly jealous of and one can somehow afford graduate school. (Admit it, everyone secretly wants to kill that one because it seems like they're cheating the system, although nowadays even my grandmother says grad school is a waste of time. When I told her I was applying to an MFA program, she responded, VERBATIM: "Well..." Long pause. Sigh. "At least you're not selling drugs." Hi Grandma!)
So yes, you'll probably date a lot of people (or the same people, a lot). "One day," you tell yourself, "I'll get a job I like and have nice dinners with my friends." You may even afford to live in Manhattan. Actually I take that back. I seriously don't know who can or even wants to because we all know Brooklyn is so the new Manhattan.
I'm still glad Rachel and Ross ended up together, and still unsure about Carrie and Big. I do however know that maybe we should watch these shows as pure fantasy and start taking notes from Girls.
(Or we could just blame the economy. But we should still be angry with the shows.)
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