There is no effing way in a quadrillion years

You are the exact opposite of want. I tell you this in between eyeing the inside of your jacket like it’s a baked potato and I haven’t eaten in five hours. That’s a lot of hours.

It isn’t the stitching, or lining, the fact that you’re wearing it, or the texture of the outside I understand as I patronisingly pat you down, deciphering who your wife is. And there’ll certainly be a next one: the joke level quantity alone fills 50 dishwasher clean jam jars.

I pretend I won’t talk to you ever or later; you won’t be on my mind as YouTube playlists shuffle Fiona Apple songs. Oh, sailor. Even your friends think it’s me.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 01.04.56

I dreamt about you last night and I…want to know, is there a cure?

It’s kismet. It’s a dream so, of course it fucking is. I’m wearing these ridiculous bright green leg warmers, capri gym trousers, like I’m going for a run or to aerobics. I leave people I know, and ten steps out, there you are, across the road, matching my pace: your home’s the way we’re going, so it makes some sense to be there. You’re like, “Fate. Shit.” And I say, “Sure. You don’t believe that, do you?” But against odds, or only in this momentary jolt, you believe it. With me, you do. And we’re both dumber for knowing the other, in this way. Because reason is like an optional extra, an on the side salad dressing we wouldn’t start to drizzle, unless we had to.

You invite me over. I don’t make excuses like in real life when we walked this route, when I knew we’d see your family, worried what they’d think, of us together, years later, like this. Being a dream, they say what I wish they would. “Hi,” I think. Then the narrative skips, a scene deemed unimportant by the director, even if clues in it, prepare us for later deaths or laughs or kisses.

In town, the people I know ask about you, where you are, and I say, “Why would I know where one Facebook friend is over another?” Their smiles call bluffs, and work, because, like an earlier appearance, you walk past the shop that we’re in, and they open their eyes wide like a secret’s unwrapped like a chocolate box, like a ribbon. I go to grab you, but can’t find you in the street, or through windows, and when I’m back at the people I know, there you are, too, sat in the middle of them, like a commuter with not enough space for a briefcase, or arms.

The people I know are less judgemental now, move to let me sit there, and you hand me a present. “Why did you get this? You didn’t have to get me this.” It’s a necklace. It has three guitars on it. I have no idea why three guitars, or guitars even, and under your breath you say, “Matching,” and I know that, somewhere under your shirt is the same. I wonder if your wife bought you it, or your girlfriend. You put mine on. I wake up.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 10.41.45

Girls Season 2, Episode 9, ‘On All Fours’: Recasting the Romantic Male Lead

Sunday’s episode of Girls cemented something, which we all should’ve known, guessed, seen, but had somehow ignored: Adam (portrayed by Adam Driver), Hannah’s ex and sometime soulmate, is not Mr.Big. He may steal his lines, calling Hannah ‘kid’ at each opportune moment, but that’s where the comparison stops, since he segwayed into sexual predator territory.

adam 9

Perhaps it was obvious that Adam wasn’t rom-com fodder, considering every time Hannah found her way back to his apartment, he bestowed upon her a series of insults/assaults, from paedophilic role play to urolagnia (apologies to parents, but read urban dictionary ‘golden shower’). Dunham’s character, Hannah, consented, mostly, played these for comedy, romance, sexual embarrassment, all painfully relatable. Still, weren’t these signs that Adam wasn’t happy-ever-after material? When he told Hannah at the start of this season that loving someone means you don’t need to be nice to them all the time, wasn’t this also a clue?

When Adam turned up at Hannah’s apartment post-break-up, wanting to talk, it read two ways. It was the classic romantic comedy gesture, in which Prince Charming tries, but fails, to win back the girl he’s wronged. It also made me think of an ex-boyfriend texting to say he was outside my apartment, and where was I? He wanted to see me. The late night phone call, letterbox shout, that makes you check number plates when you walk anywhere at night. It’s a short distance from romantic involvement to borderline stalker. And I don’t use that word lightly. Definition says you ask someone three times to stop calling, texting, arriving at your house. After that, it’s harassment.

When Adam started dating Natalia (played by TV stalwart Shiri Appleby) we were meant to be in awe, I think, because she’s god damn beautiful, and we, afterall, have seen Adam’s apartment, have heard every word he’s treated Hannah to. We’re privy to information about him she’s not, as somebody set up, on a blind date. But the way this season has played, Adam’s shown us emotion. Sure, he hasn’t handled his break-up with Hannah well, but he genuinely loves her, that’s been clear in every screen-time scrap he’s torn. Adam had become likeable, even, as an individual, if momentarily, during his AA meeting, trip to Staten Island, and after. And then, on his dates with Natalia. Because of every Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy I’ve paid money for over the past fifteen years, I’ve learnt the conventions, know that if Adam’s on the same path, he may be an emotional fuckwit, purveyor of promiscuity and drunken sexual encounters, but it only takes one person to change that. Eventually, even he wants to settle down. Except, this being Girls, I know there’s only messiness and probably, he won’t end up happy any more than any of us are in real life.

Watching for the first time, my reaction when, in his apartment, Adam asked Natalia to crawl on all fours to his bedroom, wasn’t of shock. Because I, too, have dated men with apartments this ruined, have felt the compulsion she exerts, to sort, clean and change, to better what’s already there. I, too, once thought you could save somebody. And next, when he grabbed her, her unease evident yet, for the moment, consenting, I saw every rom-com, Sex and the City move we expect, but shouldn’t – that women are waiting to be kissed, stripped, flung, thrown, held. And he does, strip her, and she, silent for the most part, can’t summon the voice she had at the start of the episode, where she very definitely told him what she did and didn’t want. They have sex and Adam ejaculates on Natalia, as she asked him to do earlier, except when he spins her over to finish, she says, “Not on the dress,” pulling her clothing out of the way, noticeably upset with the way this has gone, ended, clearly wanting it to stop.

I don’t know whether this is rape. Several articles have made a case for it being rape, or assault, or something in between, and it certainly is (xojane and slate both have excellent, detailed articles). It’s a long way from where the episode started, purposefully, and it’s not good sex, categorically. The scene is about control, is Adam’s way of exorcising his emotions having bumped into his ex-girlfriend earlier in the night, and it’s self-destructive, perhaps the only action left for him to carry out. But it’s not a surprise, or it shouldn’t be. We were willfully tricked if we thought Adam was capable of normality, was boyfriend-material by any stretch of the imagination, if we hoped that his, too, was a journey we would follow for more than a couple of seasons.

Threat of rape and rape situations are far from exclusive to Girls this season, and The Walking Dead, in particular, is uncomfortable viewing weekly. There’s a constant unease, each female character unsafe, and in this apocalypse scenario, assaults and rape are commonplace, another danger each person is wary, and seemingly capable, of.

This episode of Girls is fearless, which is important. What happens, happens, and that needs to be said. We’re not shown it to be shocked, because it’s ‘ground-breaking’ or whatever, but because sex is like this sometimes, and that’s not something we should be quiet about. The question the scene poses is crucial: during sexual activity with a some time or new partner, where is the line, and what should we do about somebody crossing it? In any new relationship, sex is a difficult navigator and, this early on, it can be impossible to determine what someone might do next, when you’re at your most vulnerable. If you’ve consented to one thing, does that guarantee consent for the next? It can’t possibly, but when do we re-label bad sex and sexual failure as assault or rape? And where is Adam on this scale?

I watched this scene knowing I’d experienced it, at least in part, as I expect many, many people have. Sex is coercion, or can be, and you can’t always place how you feel about an act until it’s already happened, and it’s too late, especially when it’s quick to happen like this is. Sex with the wrong partner can also be completely out of your control, as it is here. I know now the apartment is a warning sign, a get-out-cue if there ever was one. If nails, and trash, and someone else’s heels are on the floor, you shouldn’t be there, it’s time to leave. But knowing when to trust and not trust someone can be a tricky thing, and it’s important we see that, that it’s a TV story line that’s told, and not a shameful detail we tell as a joke, a lesson learned, or regret. When to revoke trust is also key, is no longer a clean-cut case of boyfriend and lover, with respect and consent as revocable attributes at any point of the night, even, and especially, during.

I also wonder if we’ve seen this scenario before, just set in a cleaner, brighter room, played completely for comedy. In numerous Sex and the City episodes, each of the characters encounters bad, grimace-worthy sex, which they’d rather they hadn’t had. Charlotte (played by Kristin Davis) may not have told men to stop mid-way, but she sure looked like she wanted to. She cringed as a man called her a whore (apparently involuntarily) and waited for it to be over. Miranda (played by Cynthia Nixon) is degraded as a partner insists on watching porn during sex, paying little to no attention to her, and when a man says she’ll enjoy an oral sex act she’s never tried, she refuses then changes her mind mid-way. And perhaps most notably, when Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) sees Jack Berger’s apartment for the first time, she tells him she’s seen it all, including dead bodies. “Men left to their own devices,” she says.

And can anyone say, in good conscience, that Joey Tribbiani wasn’t a massive sexual offender/predator/probably on a wanted poster somewhere? But until recently, sex on TV, for the most part, has been played for laughs. So discussion, and a change, is welcome.

This penultimate episode of Girls leaves us precariously wondering what happens next, what resolution, if any, we’ll find before summer break. The set-up suggests that Hannah and Adam will reunite, somehow, following his forced break from this new girlfriend. That Hannah and Adam are both on a disaster course ready to destroy themselves and others in any order.

But if they end up together, I’ll stop watching. If that’s where this is heading, I don’t want in. How Adam’s indiscretion is dealt with in the next episode will tell us everything about Girls and the ground it’s prepared to cover. After this, Adam can’t be love-interest-extraordinaire, but only ex-boyfriend, approach-with-caution. Everyone makes mistakes, sure, but a temporary flailing (such as Marnie’s quarter life crisis, or Hannah’s OCD episode) can only explain so much, it can’t diminish responsibility. And Adam’s beyond reproach now. He’s not Chris Noth by any stretch of the imagination. And Mr. Big was a real dick some times, let’s be honest. He didn’t always act responsibly, didn’t deserve Carrie’s undying attention and advances. But he didn’t do this (that we know of).

In episode 10, the police need to turn up, or there should be a discussion about what just happened. No more bullshit excuses. Adam’s not endearing anymore.  If there’s any sort of promise of a romantic way back from this, I’m finding other shows to watch. Maybe like Nashville. Who knows? But I’m out.

Jennifer Aniston’s OT

You date him because one day he will date Jennifer Aniston. You sense this like month’s coming, movie reviews, the heat of food at friend’s houses. And you can’t help yourself. Or you help yourself to bigger than you should’ve portions at picnics, beach barbeques, youth group. You overdo every time, and I don’t think I just mean food but I don’t know and I wouldn’t want to insinuate something that wasn’t at least a little grounded in reality, didn’t have some truth to it, because we all know what gossip at school was like. Some of us started it.

Once you’ve dated him you wonder what the fuss is. You concoct plans to keep him, that might’ve kept him, and you go about altering every mistake you consciously made thinking it was the best choice at the time. But there are no best choices just best guesses and anyone who thought they had the hold on a situation may as well sign up to a religion sold to them for money.

You buy the shampoos, perfumes, clothes’ ranges, endorsements, water. You watch the nineties back like it’s re-creatable and chances are it will be, at least by 2023, and your kids will ask you for tie-dye, heat changing shirts, faded cut-offs, Adidas canvas trainers, and you consider the point of the past, fashions selected yearly, when the cheap and the sensible thing would’ve been to stick it out in your fluorescent pinks and luminous yellows and leg warmers. Back then, even Angelina Jolie wasn’t noxious.

Regrets Collect Like Old Friends

Jack says, “It’s too much to expect rationality at the end of the world,” and I say, “That’s all I’d want actually,” and he replies, “Faced with some flesh eating mouth your decisions would snap quicker than well worn bra straps to the touch of a moderately attractive man,” and I tell him, “The last time someone tried to ping underwear I was wearing, I deleted them,” and Jack says, “Facebook, what a burn,” and I say, “No,” snap my fingers meaning vanished or vanquished, whichever is stronger, and Jack says, “Yeah, yeah, but I still don’t agree about Shane,” and I wish he’d agree to disagree about it but Jack wants issues smoothed out like discussion has the same properties as a steamer, a rolling pin or tyre.

In the third nightmare, no-one’s been invited and we’re waiting and it’s not a nightmare at all because I always choose private over performance, would prefer to keep vows secret, not have to stand in heels on stone for hours. After the rings are forced on to our fingers I say, “Shane was right, every single time, and I’d sacrifice someone if it meant you, and I’d lie if it got you home, and I’d make it all obvious, do what I could to force you to admit that our feelings were thicker than the top layer of a sticky toffee pudding, and I’d find a piece of myself at the edge of your mouth, buried beneath a newly formed layer of skin on your lips, and I’d make sure you’d smelt me and you couldn’t forget, and you’d wake up eventually knowing that every action that seemed callous, every sentence that felt heavy, was an attempt, and I’d never run out of them.”



It Was Always Going To Die When She Left

Jack says, “Now where am I going to go for my ‘Columbo based medical CSI type hourly drama’?” and it sounds like a question but it’s not one because he knows there will be a replacement, that’ll takes years to ingrain, sure but, eventually, the reruns will feel retro, of a better time, like listening to Bryan Adams duet with a Spice Girl or hearing the song Save Tonight and wondering what that guy’s name was.

But I felt the death coming, saw it, the second they announced she was leaving for another show, a somewhat less popular show, that she’d rather be in than this (perhaps she was a big Sex and the City fan?)

Recovering from Cameron was hard, because you can’t create chemistry, it just is, exists, like the asteroid belt or rings around planets or how forks fall to the floor then bounce when you drop them. Cuddy was impossible, and if you think about it, her going was like Joey leaving Dawson’s, Rachel leaving Friends, Marisa leaving The O.C. (okay, bad example), Summer leaving The O.C., Luke leaving Gilmore Girls before the shows were up, before those shows got canceled or whatever you call it when they stop something while it’s still popular? I guess, dying with dignity, euthanasia.

But Cuddy and House burned out like me paired with many people, because some of us equate catastrophe with love. And ending the show one season after a principle leaves and saying you’re stopping while the show’s still got something is what we call “denial”.