On Grand Gestures: How Life Is, and Is Not, Like a Movie

For those who haven’t seen it I won’t give away the ending of the second season of Girls, but I’ll say that it ends with a grand, cinematic gesture by someone who’s trying to make a relationship work. It was all too familiar—I haven’t done that, but I’ve made grand gestures. Running through the rain, handwriting 20-page letters, creating elaborate art projects. Universally, the reaction I got was never anything near the reaction the character gets on Girls. The reaction I tended to get was more like this.

The trouble with most grand gestures in real life—and on reality TV—is that they’re ultimately attempts to impose a fiction on reality. All those soaring strings and jaw-dropping vistas on The Bachelor can’t create a meaningful relationship; they just create the illusion of one. We made out on the Matterhorn, so it must be love. Sound like any study-abroad programs you’ve been on?

Grand gestures are appealing, because movies and TV shows teach us that all the most profound moments in life are eminently camera-friendly—so you feel like if you can just set the right scene, create the right clip for the trailer, you’ve made your life into the best movie it can be. If the scene involves a costar, you hope that he or she buys that logic as well, and that when he or she realizes no one else can pull such great numbers on opening weekend, he or she will sign on to whatever it is you’re trying to make your movie about.

One of the things you eventually learn, though, is that most people don’t actually have lives like that. (Maybe Blue Ivy Carter will.) You start to figure out what it is that makes you happy, and from that knowledge you start to realize that your life might not be a Hallmark movie, or even a buzzworthy HBO series. It might be a cult classic like My Dinner with Andre, or Eagle vs. Shark, or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. God willing, it’s not Liz and Dick.

If this sounds like a downer, it’s not. Your life will have those scenes: tearjerkers, turning points, quotable quips. There will be The Moment When Everything Changed, and The Farcical Misunderstanding, and The Touching Revelation. There might even be a Meet Cute or a Quirky Dance Scene, but unfortunately you can’t condense a six-month job search or a weekend-long apartment cleanup into a funny two-minute montage, and when you sit up in bed to eat leftover Chinese food after the Steamy Sex Scene, the sheet won’t magically stick to your boobs.

You just have to trust that those scenes will happen—you can’t force them, or stage them. You just have to hang out with the right people: the people you’d cast in a movie just because you’d want to hang out with them on set, like Jennifer Lawrence or Steve Buscemi. Then the trailer-worthy scenes will write themselves, and chances are you’ll have a happy ending.

- Jay Gabler

Comprehensive List of Blog Posts Not Yet Written About “Girls”

The lesson of Girls: How to get your sleeping boyfriend’s leg off your naked body without flashing your vajeen at the camera in the ceiling

Interesting storefront signs I saw in the background of Girls

The entire cast of Girls is on steroids, by José Canseco

Why Girls is really about boys

GALLERY: The most racist photos on Lena Dunham’s Instagram

How to do stuff men know how to do, by a man who knows how to do stuff

Hannah’s biggest mistake: Not withholding sex until the pharmacist gave her drugs

Girls and the Syrian Civil War

What happened when I tried to give sympathetic life advice to the baby-sitter my husband was trying to fuck

Romney definitely sitting down with HBO Go and first season of Girls

Girls: Where are the cats?

Shoshanna’s lesson: You should have backseat sex with your prom date just in case no man ever wants to sleep with you again

What would happen if Zosia Mamet convinced her dad David to guest-write an episode of her show Girls

Does Viagra increase the likelihood of back injuries?

Why Girls gets it wrong: Having a confessional off-Broadway show and not texting women back actually does not get you laid (take it from me)

The socioeconomic implications of the fact that 90% of Girls viewers are using their parents’ HBO Go passwords

The problem with Girls is that they’re actually WOMEN

Jay Gabler and Katie Sisneros

The Uncanny Similarities Between the Characters in Lena Dunham’s “Girls” and Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”

The Rapidly-Becoming-Disillusioned One

The Three Sisters: Irina Sergeyevna Prozorova

Girls: Hannah Horvath

Similarities: Both in early 20s. Past and present romantic prospects include a sexy but unaccountable rogue and a nice guy who has a suspicious fondness for dandyish clothes. Relatively (but not objectively) poor. Working at soul-sucking jobs (Irina at the local post office, Hannah at a publishing company).

Differences: Irina’s a virgin. Hannah has HPV.

The Diva

The Three Sisters: Masha Sergeyevna Kulygina

Girls: Marnie Michaels

Similarities: Both in long-term relationships with awkward nice guys who dote on them and bore them. Have the hots for sexy outsiders. Uptight and short-tempered. Fancy dressers.

Differences: Masha longs to live in the big city. Marnie’s already there, and bored anyway.

The Conservative

The Three Sisters: Olya Sergeyevna Prozorova

Girls: Shoshanna Shapiro

Similarities: Both single and dying to not be. Both are alternately jealous of and scared by the dramatic relationships around them.

Differences: Olya doesn’t want to be headmistress of the local school. Shoshanna probably would.

The Worldly One

The Three Sisters: Andrei Sergeyevich Prozorov

Girls: Jessa Johansson

Similarities: Both know a lot about exotic places the other characters haven’t been. Both are kind of spacey. Have not-very-well-hidden vices (gambling for Andrei, drugs for Jessa). Irresponsible.

Differences: Jessa’s a girl, Andrei’s a guy.

Jay Gabler will leave it to you to map Sex and the City onto this typology.

A (Sensitive) (Thirtysomething) Guy’s Thoughts While Watching “Girls”

No wonder they gave Lena Dunham a show. She’s just one of those people with a look of give-me-a-show about her.

Do girls really hang out naked in the bathtub together like that? Because guys sure don’t. At least, not the ones I’ve lived with. But then, we don’t need to shave our legs.

Aw, this sensitive guy is poignant! “You’re too nice to me…you make me feel like a bitch!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that, I’d have almost a dollar. Like, seriously. Almost a dollar.

I like all this dissing on Facebook.

This British girl’s crazy globetrotting life is meant to be an LOL, but check out this actual letter of recommendation I once wrote for an actual person.

She has an iPhone 3! Slumming it like me.

I dunno, I think Keanu Reeves played himself better than this guy is playing him.

This douchey dinner guest would have been played by Sydney Pollack in a 1970s Woody Allen movie. He’s also in my Twitter feed, where he’s played by [redacted].

Do girls really hang out together while they pee? I guess my aunts do, which weirds my sisters out. Guys rarely go into bathrooms together, maybe because they’re self-conscious about being seen peeing. Sometimes it happens, but I’ve never been part of a TP-handoff situation. But then, we don’t need to wipe after peeing: we just shake. Which may be why we’re self-conscious about being seen peeing.

“Why don’t you get a job and start a blog?” Lena Dunham’s mom sounds like The Tangential.

Whoa, stealing tip money? She’s risking alienating a large portion of her target demographic here.

Music by Michael Penn! Woot Gen X.

AAAUGH this sensitive-guy plot is cutting too close to the bone. “You worship me so much you don’t see what I need.” Lskjdfdjfoiaewjifejfaewielf;ja;ioefjiaojejfioejfjekdkjal;durrrrggggggggggg

“Hate-reading.” I like it. There are definitely blogs I hate-read.

I get sick of jokes about rape too. Should I be cooler about it? I could probably write a whole post about rape jokes. EVERYONE PRETEND YOU DIDN’T READ THIS.

Okay, so basically, it’s…a TV show.

Jay Gabler asked his mom for her HBO GO password, and felt like Lena Dunham would probably approve.