We don’t have HBO, or cable for that matter, so I’m a teeny bit behind the ball when it comes to television culture. But thanks to the bounty of blog posts and attention given to Girls, I feel like I know enough about the show that’s taken the media world by storm. Everywhere I click boasts the show’s success or criticizes its lack of diversity, which in turn allows me to offer my ten cents on a show I’ve never even seen. And thank God because when the happy hour/cocktail party/dinner conversations steer away from politics, engagements or graduations I feel a great sense of relief. I can contribute something to the conversation even if it’s about make-believe, overindulged, self-entitled, motivationally-challenged white women.
As it turns out, I have more in common with them than I would have guessed. I shamefully caught a glimpse of former self while reading the exchange between one of the Girls characters and her parents, “I could be a drug addict. Do you realize how lucky you are? I mean, it doesn’t have to be heroin. It could be something more insidious.“
[Insert cringe.] And while I’ve never uttered those particular words to my parents I have I’ve expressed my own sense of entitlement in similar ways. Like the time they found out that I skipped more days of AP French than attended and true to form had my first F and all I said was, “We already put down the deposit for college. They’re not going to kick me out over a stupid foreign language.” And then there was the time I gave my parents the silent treatment for an entire two week period because my best friends went to Mexico after my high school graduation and they said we couldn’t afford it. By the way, this was also after I’d already failed French with no hopes of repairing the grade or my final cumulative GPA. It was also after
we’d they’d paid a deposit for two colleges because I couldn’t make up my mind. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I didn’t know the value of a dollar, I just didn’t care. A true gem.
None of my teenage behavior was ridiculously over the top. I was home by curfew until my friends and I started driving and then that went out the window. My reasoning was simple: I wasn’t having sex or doing drugs after midnight and because
I wasn’t doing anything bad they didn’t know I was doing anything “bad” I felt like I had the right to stay out late. And because I had an insane amount of school work, not ever matched until law school, I felt it absolved me of any household chores. I couldn’t take out the trash or do the dishes or sweep or mop or dust or make my bed or even do my own laundry. I didn’t need to focus on any of that when I had chemistry labs to write or theory of knowledge presentations to prepare. I made it sound like I was too busy being smart to help out around the house when in reality I was just too busy being an asshole.
My sense of entitlement exploded after I left for college. I shouldn’t get a job because my grades might suffer. It doesn’t seem worth the effort. But maybe if you get me a car. I shudder to think of the number of times I called my mother during my last two years of college to only ask for money. She never once suspected that I would even dream of asking her for money for liquor or clothes but that’s where most of it went. And when I think of her readiness and willingness to come up with money that she didn’t have for spring break in South Beach or dresses for senior soirées, I know I’m not lucky in my own right. She’s not lucky to have a daughter like me — well, she is — but you know what I mean.
Until all the hoopla over Girls, it never occurred to me in the almost thirty something years of being a self-interested jerk that I got lucky in the parental department. In turning the question around on my generation of spoiled brats, the conversation shifts from “Do you know how lucky you are to have a child like me?” to “Do you know how lucky you are to have parents like us? Not just because we’ve given you a near idyllic life filled with way too many material possessions and the best education money can buy, but because we could have been on drugs. Do you know how lucky you are?”
Frack. I never thought of that. True, parents aren’t supposed to be drug addicts or alcoholics but last time I checked the sperm and egg weren’t having that thorough of an interview to weed out innocent babies from bad seeds and eggs. It happens more than we like to think it does and we get too caught up in expecting life to be easier than it should be. Now, if you’re feeling a slight push back because we don’t need to congratulate parents or children for not being addicts or murderers, know that I’m with you. There’s no pats on the back for getting up and doing what needs to be done, but maybe there should be. My parents paid me for good grades throughout elementary and middle school, $5 for every A, $3 for every B. A C invalidated the agreement and I was left with nothing but when the rules changed in high school I felt like I had been wronged. There would be no money for high school grades. I had to do well because I had to and because I wanted to go to a good college. (They probably used that grade money to pay for those two deposits).
Teaching children the value of hard work, money, and discipline is hard work. Teaching children to purposefully accept their responsibilities in life and take care of them without any immediate rewards takes more than one lesson. And it took me a while, well into adulthood, to come to terms that nobody owes me anything. Not an apology for getting parts of it wrong, not a car or a card, not a hug. Not even love. Yes, they’re lucky to have me. I can’t unwrap my head around that, but I was amazingly lucky when compared to millions of other people in the world and I wouldn’t want to unwrap my head around that one.