Like many big-talking 24-year-olds, I sometimes tell guys at parties that I'm writing a book about my post-college adventures. The reaction I get is always the same: "What about Girls? How is your story different?" Well, young man, most of my life stories don't actually revolve around being naked in Brooklyn, but thanks for assuming.
When I started my current job in 2012, an older male colleague broke the ice by asking, "So are you one of those characters on Girls?" When I'd leave for the weekend he would say, "Have fun at your rave in Bushwick!"
I had never seen the show, but I was thrilled to be compared to glam characters on a hit TV series. Warehouse raves in Brooklyn sounded cool to me, even if I'd never been to one... Until another senior level male overheard and said "I hope you're NOT a character on Girls..." That's when I realized I'd better figure out what other generations assumed was going on in my personal life, especially if it might affect my professional life.
The economic circumstances of the characters in Girls may be closer to reality than shows like Sex and the City, but the characters themselves are not. "The dynamics of the friendships are accurate" says my 25-year-old colleague from Staten Island, but "it's mostly strange characters that I've never come across. It doesn't resemble my life at all." The drift from reality is no knock on Lena Dunham -- she's producing a comedy. Lucy from I Love Lucy wasn't exactly a realistic Manhattan woman back in the day. Yet for reasons beyond Dunham's control, Girls is being celebrated as a factual representation of us young women living in New York.
The show's focus on our generation's selfishness is one of the first things NYC ladies criticize. Well, that and Lena's 24/7 need to be nude.
"I just... don't act like that," one of my friends stated when Lena's naked-ness came up in conversation. Sure, our generation is liberated by free love parents and accessible birth control. Still, not every millennial chica has thrown dignity to the wind. With as much crap as girls take now that chivalry is out the window and getting laid is easy, one of the first complaints I hear from girls my age about Girls is, "I wouldn't put up with that." The series equates sexual activity with humiliation and self-degradation, a tough sell to daughters of feminist moms.
Also, tradition hasn't totally kicked the bucket: my sister -- also born and raised in NYC -- has eight weddings coming up this summer, all of old classmates. And they're a year younger than Lena Dunham.
But if there is one element of our generation successfully highlighted in this show, it is the insecurity of the young and unexpectedly unemployed in 2013.
My generation's insecurity is paired with highly educated aspirations towards greatness. The result is a self-reflective and self-involved group of people who just don't know what to do with their great selves. So we go on Facebook.
What Girls taps into -- with satirical exaggeration -- is my generation's narcissism. The virus of self-infatuation that caused Facebook to spread faster than mono with young people: A whole website dedicated to ME and MY FRIENDS? I'll never waste my college education on reading anything over 150 characters again!
The self-involved nature of the characters on Girls became the catalyst for their misadventures. Like when Marnie sleeps with her best friend Hannah's ex, ignoring the hurt feelings and awkward position that puts Lena into. We love these plot lines. Sometimes we love them because we can relate to them. And sometimes because "it's like a train wreck. I want to look away but I can't," as one of my 24-year-old NYC-based girlfriends explains.
Lena's self-awareness of our generation's vanity makes the show plenty entertaining. But it's also what we bash her for: Why is she just writing about her experiences? Why isn't she writing about my version of New York?
My childhood best friend is a 24-year-old female living in Brooklyn. She even went to college with Lena Dunham. However, my multi-ethnic friend feels passionately about Dunham's misrepresentation of race: "I'll grant Lena Dunham that 'her experience' only included white kids. Even still, I think it's not OK that a grown person can't look outside of their bubble."
She continues "I'm not sure her 'universal' (her word) experience of women/girls is as universal as she may think." Of course, not every female in our demographic is going to have the same experiences just because they live in the same city.
Lena Dunham has been criticized for writing about her own experiences in New York, largely surrounded by other privileged young white women, and weird ones at that. In interviews, she rejects any claim on being the voice of our generation: "My generation kind of consists of so many different voices that need so many different kinds of attention," and that no singular voice can speak for a globalized generation.
Which makes us wonder, "Where are the other voices?"
As soon as I told my friends their opinion about Girls might show up in a blog, most refrained from attaching their names and identity to a quote or opinion.
Millennials are more educated than past generations of women. Yet we are sitting on the sidelines and letting one person do all the talking for us.
Of course, as one of my peers keenly stated when I asked about her opinion on the show "since I'm a real girl living in NYC with real bills and a real job to pay them, I don't actually have time to write out more of an opinion."
However, by never having a voice louder than a Facebook post and never standing by an opinion further than a tweet, we let one person do the talking for us. Until we start talking louder, and reach outside of our online social-circles, Dunham gets to paint us as a white-girl generation void of direction and sometimes, dignity.
The thing that upsets my friends and me about Girls is not what we feel the series gets wrong. What really bugs us is that Lena seems to be the only one of us brave enough to say anything.
Lena realized something my generation is having a lot of trouble with: it's finally our turn. To speak. To write. To produce hit shows.