by Tara Beckett.
“Okay I don’t wanna split hairs here, but it’s not a journal, it’s a notebook. It’s notes for a book. I think journal implies a 13 year old girl who rides horses, and is obsessed with her mom and it’s not what I’m doing.” – Hannah Horvath, Girls.
Very occasionally, I can feel myself getting too invested in a fictional world. Actually, this has happened more often than I’d like it to, but I guess that’s a sad by-product of having been raised by television. I become drawn to a well written, smart piece of television or cinema and I dig my nails in so deep so that I can escape and pretend that their lives are my own. The latest of these longings is directed towards HBO’s Girls. Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow have brought me the missing link between the teenage bickering and backstabbing of Gossip Girl and the 30-somethings with marriage and babies on the mind in Sex and the City. And I am so annoyingly in love. Girls is also the thing that made me sort my life out. A few months ago I was pretty close to breaking down. I wasn’t progressing with my course, I hated where I lived, I longed for more life experiences, but I was too broke to achieve them. Enter, Girls. The truth of it is, I was in a serious rut and quite depressed. Getting out of bed was hard most days. But Girls allowed me an epiphany of sorts; I was going to get to New York if it killed me.
Being born in 1990, I sort of missed the whole Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek thing, the original teen girl obsessions of the ’90s. During their heydays I was trying to avoid dying of embarrassment when my mother picked me up from primary school with Bosnian folk music blaring out of her Hyundai XL Sprint. Instead, I picked up Buffy, the Vampire Slayer from age 12. The girls I related to were not the boy-chasing, moon-eyed, indecisive Katie Holmeses or Jennifer Love Hewitts. They were lame. My girls were arse-kicking, barbed-witted, funny, overtly feminist-subtexty Joss Whedon creations. And I’m not talking about Buffy Summers herself here. Sure, maybe she was those things for the first 3 seasons, but my hero was Cordelia Chase. She was self centred, acid tongued, opinionated and downright mean. But she softened over the years and became a beloved character and a strong woman. Well, half-demon woman, but nevertheless, this was the girl that I liked and I’ll never quite forgive Joss Whedon for destroying her as he did. She deserved better.
When I hit 13 or 14, my focus shifted to the 1999 film Cruel Intentions. Thus begun my descent into wearing some seriously age inappropriate clothes. No, not boob tubes, halter necks and low rise flare jeans, (gotta love the early 2000s). It was an entirely more dangerous sort of inappropriate for an over-imaginative adolescent. I would wear nothing but black pinstriped trousers, fitted dark coloured blouses with deep vees, and this long trench style pin striped blazer jacket with shoulder pads I bought from Christopher Ari. It was my power suit and I loved it. What can I say, I was a weird kid. I had an array of high heels ranging from pointed kitten heeled Jane Debsters, to platform stiletto heeled knee high leather boots given to me by a 35 year old family friend. I topped this off with my mother’s jewelry and most shockingly, chopped my long straight waist length hair to my shoulders, complete with layers and a side fringe.
I was 14 going on 30 and it was all due to a film. I wanted to be Kathryn Merteuil and I altered my appearance and personality to do so. She was beautiful and sly and had power and money. It was everything I wanted and could only pretend to have. At this point, I was painfully shy at school. Mercilessly bullied in cruel ways that only girls can do to each other. At the end of year 7, my small group of 6 friends told me they no longer wanted to be friends with me. I couldn’t hang around with them anymore because I didn’t fit in. A few years later, one of my former friends re-befriended me. I reminded her that we once friends before and how it had ended, but she didn’t recall it at all. How funny, I had spent the last 3 weeks of my first year at high school, the whole summer and then beginning of year 8 in utter misery because according to 6 other girls, I didn’t ‘fit in’. And this girl who caused my despair, couldn’t remember it. I can never forget it.
So, I shook my old self away and acquired the wardrobe and attitude to match Kathryn’s. Every Sunday night, I’d watch Cruel Intentions and after an extensively pretentious ‘beauty’ routine, paint my nails the colour I’d mixed especially to match Kathryn’s. I was refreshing my character for the coming week. I was a serious bitch during that year of school, trying my best to emulate the manipulating seductress who bet her own body to her step brother in the hopes of winning his car and hurting a virginal Reese Witherspoon. Fortunately, I matured and found that after a some time my confidence had grown so much that I didn’t need my Kathryn persona anymore. Next came the goth phase, but I’ll spare you the account of that cliché. I did look a bit hot in black lipstick though so it wasn’t all bad.
During my later teens, after I’d mellowed a bit and began dressing my age, I jumped to the other side of the pond and found myself utterly and unequivocally obsessed with the British series, Skins. I was 17 when Skins debuted. It was raucous and raunchy, filled with sex, drugs and electro ska pop. I loved it. The first generation were my Skins, every other cast pales in comparison to Tony and Sid, Michelle and Jal and Effy, Chris and Maxxie and Anwar. And Cassie. Brilliant, airy, anorexic, aloof Cassie. I could watch her episodes again and again and still connect to that pain of being ignored, the way she can be happy and free as a teenager should be in fantasy to desolate and depressed as they so often are in reality. That first series of Skins is something I can watch on loop, and remember my final year of school and feel nothing but melancholy and nostalgia for the simplicities of my youth. For the trip to Bondi we took for Schoolies. For the incredible parties and underaged hangovers we nursed throughout our year 12 studies. For that beautiful, hot three month long summer between graduating high school until our first O Week of university. The final summer of seeing all my school friends together, as it turned out. Needless to say, I was desolate when Tony and his gang of Bristolian misfits moved on to college and the cast was replaced.
But Skins is in my past now and at 22 I’ve found my new love. Girls is about simply that. It’s the lives of four girls, who are not quite yet women. They are Hannah Horvath, who I definitely am, Marnie Michaels, who I definitely am not but who my parents would like me to be, Jessa Johansson, who I desperately wish I was but know I’ll never quite be, and Shoshanna Shapiro, who I could have been once if my parents were richer and sheltered me more. The series is about that time in our lives that’s never been covered so well on television. Felicity came close, but Girls is for that time after college or university. Those tricky in-between years after graduating from tertiary studies, but before landing that dream job you thought you always wanted. The bit when you’re trying to find your feet but you don’t know what you really want out of life yet; what you should or could or even want to become. It’s before the self assuredness I can only imagine that womanhood brings. It reminds me that I’m still just a girl, no matter what the law says I may be.
It’s no wonder I was depressed, really. I had such a desperate longing for New York and someone else’s life that I scared a few friends into thinking I might off myself. A note for all of you; don’t read Sylvia Plath if you’re having doubts about your life and definitely don’t drink a bottle of wine at 2am and then hit up Twitter and Facebook with your thoughts. You’ll get a lot of texts the next day.
The transition from Girl to Woman isn’t quite there yet. I’m still a little too disorganised, but I doubt that will change anytime soon. In terms of sorting my life out, I’m pretty close. One thing I know for sure is that I’m on my way to better things. Gone are the times that I would change myself to become some other girl, another Kathryn Merteuil. Gone are the frivolous days of my teens when the summer is what we lived for. But now I’ve entered the best of times, the game changing 20s. The time that will shape the rest of my life as a woman, the time I bid girlhood a fond goodbye and look forward instead of back. The first of my many solo travels abroad, to New York City. Perhaps my first romantic love. Sex without a side of nonchalance and indifference. There’s so much to look forward to and I almost can’t believe that my epiphany is due to the influence of a television series.
My advice to you, dear reader, is to never stop questioning yourself or what you are doing with your life. If you do, there’s the danger of becoming mediocre. Avoid that at all costs.
I am a writer, that’s what I do; but who I am is not yet fully determined, not even close.
I cannot wait to see who I become.