Free Movie Channel Weekend arrived last weekend, and I took full advantage, setting my DVR to record a Louis C.K. routine, four HD movies, and four episodes of the HBO series GIRLS.
If you don’t know GIRLS, it's “Sex & The City meets Reality Bites meets Caligula.” But mostly just Sex & The City with younger real-looking women. And by “real-looking,” I mean that most of them won’t be doing heavy rotations on the cover of Glamour.
And the first season just walked away with the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, so someone out there thinks it's pretty good.
But that’s a tale for another day. Today is about GIRLS. And about dads. Specifically, being one.
Were I single and in my 20s, I would love GIRLS. It’s nakedly amusing, in both its frequently and awkward sexual matters and in the frank way it both celebrates and excoriates the modern-day twentysomething.
Watching those episodes in January 2013, however, as my two tween daughters slept not 100 feet away from me in their respective bedrooms, the experience was far less pleasant.
Let’s be clear: people my age need absolutely no reminding that life doesn’t ever turn out quite the way you expected. Illusions get shattered, dreams get crushed, goals get reached only to discover the post-game celebration wasn’t nearly what it was cracked up to be. Along the way, fun also gets had, love gets made, bonds get formed, and many things get better or easier. But no matter what, it ain’t gonna pan out like you thought.
So, as a father, I realize my daughters will not have some fairy tale existence. Hell, I’ve already ruined that plot thread several times over.
Still, from my perspective at this moment in my life, what I would have called the show I watched for two hours would have been: GIRLS, or Everything I Don’t Want My Daughters To Become (in homage to Dr. Strangelove). This isn’t intended as some preachy morality bullshit about Hannah’s slutty desperations or the Phoebe-cluelessness of Shoshanna, because my concerns go deeper and are admittedly more foolish.
What I don’t want is for my girls to be hopelessly directionless. The four girls at the heart of GIRLS don’t seem capable of fighting for much, nor do they have much passion for anything lest it crimp their disaffected style. To be fair, purpose-driven young adults probably don’t make the best fodder for Golden Globe-winning comedies, but there’s every bit as much truth and honesty in that show as there is in any "reality show" on TLC, and it’s the honest parts that scare me the most.
What I want for my girls, on some scale, is the kind of confidence and direction and purpose exhibited by another heroine of the Golden Globes, Jodie Foster.
Ms. Foster’s speech has received criticism for her refusal to “just say IT,” and for her stubborn appreciation for a modicum of privacy, but I loved it. I’ve never met Ms. Foster, nor do I expect to be so fortunate, but I’m certain she is an amazing and powerful woman whose long (closeted) career can only be attributed to a particular brand of willpower and sharpness most of us including myself cannot easily comprehend.
Her speech meanderingly, awkwardly, intelligently covered all those things I want for my girls that aren’t a part of GIRLS: purpose, passion, confidence, and, above all else, an abundance of love and loved ones. And it was imperfect in the kind of way that makes me love people for our imperfections.
When it comes to girls and dads, perhaps a spoonful of ignorance is a necessary ingredient for bliss.