Guest Writers Week | How to Be a Girl in the World

liz furl quote

By Liz Furl

Others may be women, but I still think of myself as a girl. A married girl. A girl with mental health issues. A girl in her t-shirt and skinny jeans and hiking shoes she bought for her honeymoon. A girl wearing aviators she found in the street.

Women are stable creatures, even in their instability. They wear clothing made of linen, and maxi dresses when it gets warm. Their winter coats are made of wool and lined with silk. Their boots are pristine because snow, sleet, and rain haven’t touched them. They carry umbrellas or good shoes in their bags.

Women have taken out their nose rings and a cut and color isn’t a splurge for them. They have healthy nails without dirt beneath them. Their hands and arms aren’t crossed with cat scratches, or knife scratches, or oops-I-fell-down-again scratches.

Women have savings accounts, even if nothing’s in them. Women plan for families, even if they don’t include children. Women have achieved dignity and grace that girls don’t possess.

I’m that girl with dirt under her nails, and I use my canine teeth to get it out. My clothes are made of cotton, unless I’m going for a job interview–then they’re second-hand. My peacoat is dotted with pills and greyed by cat hair. The velvet on my JCPenney boots has worn off.

I’m the girl who just got her nose pierced and wants to Manic Panic her hair purple. Instead of carrying an umbrella, I just get wet. I’ve never been inside a Sephora and all my new clothes come from H&M or my mother’s consignment shop. I wear all of my husband’s old skateboarding sweaters.

I’m the girl who has plenty of scars on her legs from shaving too quickly in the sink. I have a job, but am on disability from it, and hate it besides. More than anything, I’m a writer, but I question the worth of my words every day. I’m questioning these ones now.

My husband is 11 years my senior, and has been where I am. He wants me to wear skirts when I’d rather wear jeans. He tells me writer’s jealousy is unattractive. He questions how often I’m on Twitter. (I’m also the girl who’s constantly tweeting.) He loves me very much.

But I feel like a grown girl, with the bills and responsibilities of a woman, but an imposter trapped inside. Who let me have a credit card? Don’t you know I’ve never read Joyce?

I’m the girl who swims like a frog because she never took lessons. All that kicking seems beside the point. I’m the girl who can cook miraculous things, but has just tasted cottage cheese and doesn’t care for it much. I’m the girl who feels like she repeats herself too many times, that she doesn’t have what it takes, who has nightmares like a child.

To some, on some occasions, I may seem like a woman. I earn money. I get jobs. I have (some limited) wisdom. I landed a man. In those moments, I feel like an imposter, a little girl in her mother’s oversized shoes, pearls hanging too low, lipstick bright and smeared at the lip line.

I once felt like a woman, but whoever she was got lost somewhere. I’m not sure she’s me, or if I care to find her. If my roots show, they show. If there are holes in my clothes, there are holes. If my fabrics are cheap, I don’t apologize.

Eventually, I’ll look in the mirror and see a woman there, but today the reflection is a girl. Not “just” a girl. Not “only” a girl. But a fully-formed, work-in-progress, mending-my-own-pieces girl.

She’s into fashion and good film. She’s read (and loved) Infinite Jest. She’s created a business and breathes life and love into it every day. She’s unhappy and uncertain, but finding a path.

She’s a girl who isn’t spouting excuses or proof, or yearning for some glamorous version of womanhood. She’s putting foot in front of Converse-donned foot.

She’s moving on her way.

Liz graduated from the University of Rochester in 2011 with Honors in Creative Writing and Distinction in English. She currently works as a freelance writer for Rochester Magazine, The Liberty Project, and Ravishly, among other publications. In her free time, you can find her working on her first novel, some vaguely misshapen scarves, and through most of the stacks of the Rochester Public Library. She hopes to one day be a full-time freelance writer, and published novelist. Follow her on Twitter @LizFurl.

Girls Season 3 Finale: I Need To Be The Artist In The Relationship.

I’m about 72 hours too late to write about the Girls Season 3 finale, but I am going to do so anyway.

All season long, we watched the tension between Hannah and her f-bomb-dropping beau Adam mount. What started off as their valiant attempt at a real adult relationship marked by cohabitation gradually unraveled into two people going in two separate directions. Or, rather, one person going in one direction and the other clinging on to the relationship for dear life.

In the season finale entitled “Two Plane Rides,” the episode kicks off with Hannah digging through her mail, ripping most of it to shreds, peering at a letter (that she also accidentally ripped) and then dancing crazily.  I know I’m not the only one who thought I missed something. I first made a mental note to watch the episode again so I could caught what I assumed I missed. But, I soon discovered I didn’t overlook anything; Hannah had gotten into grad school, despite her having never mentioned any sort of application all season.

True to form, Hannah drops the news on Adam right before he’s set to go on stage for the debut performance of his Broadway show. Ahh, bad timing. The authentic mark of being in your twenties. Their post show conversation is painful but, in Dunham’s signature style, more real and relatable than you ever thought fictional television could be. Adam hates every part of his performance because he knows how encumbered he was by the news. Hannah keeps trying to reassure him that he did an incredible job, but her flattery doesn’t deflect his self-deprecation. Nor does it amend just how self-centered she was to inform him she might move to Iowa for grad school minutes before one of the biggest moments of his budding career. We’re left wondering if Hannah is unconcerned, oblivious or a maddening combination of the two when it comes to her egocentrism.

Watching this season finale was not the first time I thought, “Yup, I couldn’t date another artist.” But, it certainly reinforced that sentiment. First off, let me just say it is strange to call yourself an artist, but for all intents and purposes, that is what I am. Sorry if I sound like a pompous ass. It wouldn’t be the first time. Despite the magnetic pull I have toward creative and artistic men, I know I probably could not sustain a long-term relationship with one. That doesn’t mean I do not  stalk my high school boyfriend’s Facebook page and “like” all of his musician photos made to look even more alluring by being shot in black and white (Hey, D. Jones.) But, it does mean that I know myself and my craft (craft–another pompous ass word) well enough to understand that I could not commit to someone else consumed by their art.

My best friend explained this equation best during a marathon Gchat this week: creative = emotional = not for you. In all fairness, all human beings have the capacity to be emotional. But, not all human beings have the capacity to be creative. There are some straight up, boring, vanilla motherfuckers out there.  I’m not sure about the exact math that goes into the creative = emotional equation, I just know it’s very true.

There’s something about producing original work that inexplicably ties you to emotion. You don’t get to be an artist by being nonchalant and unobservant. You become an artist because you are in tune with the world around you. You are in sync with how you feel about things, almost to a fault. You are affected, acute and aware. You spend an inordinate amount of time in your own head, engrossed in your own feelings. If it sounds selfish, that’s because it is. In order to produce the pieces that make people laugh or think or cry or react, you have to first laugh. Think. Cry. React. It always begins and ends with you.

Artists are self-indulgent beings who cannot be separated from their work. My writing and I are one in the same. If you don’t respect my writing, you don’t respect me. It’s that simple. That is why I am completely sure I could not date another artist. Because, I need someone who can extract me from my own mind. Pull me away from my work, not make me want to talk even more about it. I need someone who could support my art and understand how monumental it is for me without always allowing it to be the epicenter of conversation. And, while my penchant for poets and fondness of musicians probably won’t dissipate any time soon, I will simply have to admire them from afar.



The Last Scene In The Latest Episode Of “Girls”: When Virtues Become Vices

Part of the beauty and also confusion associated with “Girls” is just how disjointed every episode can be. First someone’s doing coke and then someone’s engrossed in a singing duet and then someone’s crying over a blanket. Or, at least that’s how the latest episode went.

A friend of mine asked me on Sunday night if I had watched the most recent episode and I told her no; I usually wait to watch the episodes on demand during the middle of the week. You know, a little piece of televised bubblegum to save for hump day.  But, her question and subsequent solicitation of my thoughts once I saw the episode intrigued me. So, I pushed my televised bubblegum to Monday night.

I was expecting something grand out of “Girls” Season 3, Episode 10 entitled “Role Play.” Simply because my friend had texted me about it and this is a friend whose opinion and exclamatory statements about “Girls” I highly respect. However, I spent most of the episode confused by all of the random shit happening until the very last scene with Hannah and Adam post coitus.

After a prolonged and excruciatingly awkward role playing scene between Hannah and Adam, the two end up in a dispute about everything and nothing including their sex life, Adam’s newfound passion for his Broadway gig and just how melodramatic Hannah Horvath can be. Adam says something about needing to focus and not having to deal with all this drama.

“What drama?” Hannah asks. “This is just me.”

“Exactly,” Adam replies.

Adam’s “exactly” line may have been one of those moments where I said, “Oh, shit,” out loud. That happens sometimes when I watch TV.

This scene resonated with me for a lot of reasons, as I’m sure it did for many viewers. I know firsthand that arguments about really astronomical things like goals and ambition can erupt from the slightest thing, even in a post coitus session when you would think you’re head is too far up in the clouds to think straight. Another thing I appreciated about the scene was that Adam actually leaves Hannah there crying. I hate, hate, HATE those TV shows that have the guy come running back in like the fucking white knight after the girl starts crying. That. Shit. Does. Not. Happen.

But, more than anything, I loved this scene because of those few lines of dialogue I just mentioned where Hannah says, “What drama? This is just me.” And, Adam replies with “Exactly.” I think sometimes the very things that draw us to people and help us fall in love with them can also become the things that drive us crazy. We love someone’s free spiritedness until it starts to seem like irresponsibility. We love how put-together a person is until it suddenly seems too boring and not spontaneous enough. We love all of the color a person provides to our lives until it begins to spill all over the place and seem more dramatic than exciting. In the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice.”

I know for some of the guys I have at first been completely smitten by because they were sensitive or artistic suddenly turned into them being too emotional or esoteric when the newness wore off. As I told a friend a few nights ago, in any relationship or friendship, there is a “fall from grace” period. There comes a time, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, where we realize that everyone is flawed, even the people who once made us swoon. We then have to decide if we can take on the bad just as much as we can take on the good.



Lena Dunham Looks Good In A Bikini And So Do The Rest Of Us

Wildflowers Unscripted Writing Challenge Day 18: My body

I realize this is the third blog post I’ve written with Lena Dunham’s name in the title so excuse me while I fangirl out for a bit.

You don’t have to be an avid viewer of “Girls” to know that Lena Dunham shows her bare body on the show quite a bit. If you are an avid viewer, however, you know that in the latest episode, Dunham spent about 90% of it clad in a bright green bikini and not much else. People have a lot to say about this woman’s body. But bodies are not political statements. They are very personal storehouses. And, that’s all I want to say before I dive in to talking about my own body.

There are certain inevitable truths we have to accept in life. One of the truths I have had to accept after 24 years on this planet is that my ass will never reach the appropriate level of curvature to qualify as a great ass. I know. It’s a difficult fact to stomach. But, I think I have finally reached the final stage of grief and accepted my very narrow ass.

That doesn’t stop me from spending every night dancing in front of the mirror in my underwear. I shower at night and as I get ready to do that, I blast music. Sometimes it’s J. Cole. Other times it’s Taylor Swift. Maybe it’s Mobb Deep or Adele. It doesn’t really matter. But, it’s one of my favorite parts of the day. Me in the mirror with my god awful dance moves and my narrow ass just dancing away.

I don’t think you can talk about your body without making light of it. Because I don’t think you can take your body that damn seriously. We exist in a world that already does enough to police how we fucking use our bodies, who we decide to let touch them and how we choose to adorn them. The world already takes our bodies way too seriously. It’s a sin for us to do the same.

Accepting our bodies is an ongoing, uphill, non-stop kind of battle. At least for women. Some days you wake up and you’re bloated. Some days it feels like nothing fits. Some days you feel hot and some days you feel, well, not. There’s hardly ever any consistency in our feelings about our bodies. We want rounder butts, flatter stomachs, slimmer thighs, bigger boobs. And, while the science of Spanx and the redemption of an ASOS bodycon dress can help us along the way, the skin we are in is pretty much there to stay. It may change. It may stretch. It may shrink. But, it is still there.

A beautiful body is one that is completely accepted by its inhabitant. That’s why Lena Dunham looks good in a bikini; the mere fact that she’s not afraid to put it on is enough. It’s nice when other people like our bodies or when they want to cuddle up next to them in the middle of the night. But those things don’t really count for shit if we don’t love that same body. I know; I sound like a walking ad for a Kotex commercial.  But, trust me on this one. It’s your skin. Those are your limbs. It’s your place laced with your scars and coated in your memories. It is your body. Believe in it or doubt it. Appreciate it or analyze it.  Let people do whatever they want with it, say whatever they want about it or choose to own it and all of the rhetoric about it. This is your body. It’s not going anywhere. Love it or hate it. But loving it makes this life so much easier.



Girls Season 3 Premiere: Yup, Lena Dunham Is Still A Genius

Note: If you don’t watch “Girls” the text below will essentially read as Mandarin to you.

My allegiance to Lena Dunham’s “Girls” is really no secret. How else could I justify the extra $10 dollars a month I pay for HBO? I’ve been a fan of the show for about a year now and, just like Scandal, my fandom has at times wavered. I thought the second season of the show took a dark and twisted turn, leaving me cringing more than laughing.

So, I was both relieved and a bit perplexed when I watched the Season 3 premiere and the show regained its signature wit and spunk. What the hell happened? At the end of Season 2, Hannah had chopped the front of her hair off and was obsessively puncturing her ears with Q-tips as part of one of OCD rituals. Shit was not pretty. Now, this season opened with Hannah healthy and happy, back together with her sociopath of a boyfriend, Adam. I didn’t quite get it. Until I did.

For a show built upon the uncertainty and shambles of twentysomething life, the stark change of Hannah’s emotional and mental landscape hits it spot on. That is what twentysomething life is: an unpredictable mess characterized by unforeseeable lows and highs that jump out from behind a curtain. It is never learning how to ride the tide because it can and will change at a moment’s notice. The very things you thought you would never do end up happening. The very people you never considered before are the ones for whom you fall. The very career path you thought you’d denounce ends up bringing you sickening amounts of joy.

Or, something like that.

Because I’m not great at writing reviews, I thought I’d pull some of my favorite quotes from the premiere and pontificate a bit:

Marnie: I go into the city every day at a job where I’m respected. I have friends. I’m getting an apartment. I’ve already fixed everything.”

Oh, Marnie. Sweet, pathetic Marnie. I love that line because it’s the lie so many of us tell ourselves every damn day. We look at these arbitrary markers of success or happiness and let them somehow overshadow the fact that we’re nursing shattered hearts or silently hating our lives. We take this prescription of what a good life is supposed to look like and use it as a remedy to all of our brokenness. And, it never ever works.

Jessa: “I figured my shit out already when I was five years old.”

Jessa is that person who you can’t ever really get close to because she’s just way too cool for school. You love her and she probably doesn’t love you back. You want her to be your best friend and she could just take you or leave you. She’s so over it. We all know a Jessa. Hell, we’ve probably dated a Jessa. Those people who have had to walk through the pits of hell, probably early on in life, and therefore minimize every problem you have as a result. You admire their no-nonsense take on the world, but sometimes, you just can’t talk to them without feeling like a useless ball of air. I have the capacity to be a Jessa in that regard and I have to fight against it often because, I don’t know, people appreciate kindness and consideration and that kind of shit.

Also Jessa: “You can’t make things that mean nothing mean something.”

Enough said. Yet somehow we always try to do that. And it always fails.

Adam: “Just because I…could tell you her middle name or knew what record she liked, that doesn’t mean anything, that’s not a connection. Anyone can have that. Really knowing someone is something else. It’s a completely different thing, and when it happens, you won’t be able to miss it, you will be aware, and you won’t hurt or be afraid.”

Adam’s line is a testament to the magic of Lena Dunham’s writing. Just when all you want to do is write Adam off as a certifiable lunatic, he goes and says something that shuts down the entire episode. Those few lines sliced me to the bone, all too reminiscent of recent experiences I’ve had in my life where I’ve completely misjudged “connections.”

Bottom line from the season premiere: say what you want, but Lena Dunham still gets it. Homegirl is still getting paid. Because she is still a genius.