Girls Recap: Sex Problems

Photo: Jojo Whilden/HBO

I wonder if Girls is starting to feel some pangs of envy for initially underappreciated shows like Friday Night Lights and every other series that had to fight tooth and nail to get any attention. A week after the show’s premiere, Twitter is still abuzz with fans and haters alike, all of whom are screaming their opinions on the still nascent series. Relax, everyone. It’s supposed to be funny. Girls is not supposed to represent All of Personhood, and it isn’t trying to. It’s a half-hour comedy on HBO. Take three episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and call me in the morning.

This second episode starts in flagrante, with Hannah and Adam naked in his bed. (Is it wrong that my first thought was, Oh good! He has a bed!). Adam talks dirty to Hannah about her being an 11-year-old with a Cabbage Patch lunch box and she doesn’t have an orgasm, which is not surprising. If the blog commenters of the universe want something to complain about, I hope they choose this, the all-too-real depiction of how young women often put off their own sexual pleasure in favor of pleasing their partners. Let’s complain about that, people! Hannah is not “into” this role-playing dirty talk, but she takes it in playful stride. When she says “I almost came,” Adam doesn’t even flinch. Can we start some kind of tally so I can keep track of how often I want to punch him?

In another bed across Brooklyn, Marnie is so grossed out by having sex with the ever-adoring Charlie (who wants them to look into each other’s eyes when they come) that she switches to doggy style. Oh, Charlie. He loves her so much that it hurts, even from my couch. I can’t wait for the episode where they all switch partners and have some really good sex, and every scene ends with a close-up of their blissed-out faces.

Across the river in Nolita, Jessa is smoking a joint out Shoshanna’s window. Shoshanna is making a “manifestation board,” which will no doubt make all her dreams come true, because she already has someone paying her $2,100 per month rent in Manhattan, so this thing has got to work. The apartment itself looks and sounds like a Pottery Barn Teen catalogue. Shoshanna says she’s proud of Jessa for scheduling the abortion, and Jessa exhales smoke in her direction.

Leaving Adam’s apartment, Hannah checks her purse for all her belongings by reciting my favorite punch line from childhood: “Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch.” She’s off to a job interview, and then to meet Jessa at her abortion. Hannah wonders aloud at how big of a deal an abortion is, which makes me mentally fast forward to the commenters on the inevitable Jezebel/Hairpin/Gawker/Slate coverage of this episode. She then worries that she sounds flippant to Adam, and explains that it is simply that she doesn’t have sympathy for those who don’t use birth control. She no doubt means educated, privileged young women like herself, who have easy access to such things, and I see where she’s coming from, even if her judgment is way harsh.

This conversation in particular reminds me of how young people in their twenties can be — I don’t see Hannah and her friends as terminally insensitive, or even so overwhelmingly jaded (which I think will be the loudest argument on the Internet) that they are nonplussed by the notion of the abortion. Instead, I think this is an example of how young and inexperienced many people are at 24. Hannah’s “never been to an abortion before,” which pokes holes in her cavalier statement to her parents in the last episode. I think she’s tangentially known of people getting abortions, but they’ve never been this close to home. In fact, Hannah has no idea what Jessa is going through, or what any woman in Jessa’s position might be feeling. It’s all still abstract, much in the way that marriage probably is — something that seems like it was invented for older people. So much of one’s twenties are spent transitioning from being a child to being an adult, and this scene shows us that Hannah is still mostly the former.

In other news, I’m still not sure why Hannah likes Adam, but he is tall, and has, at the very least, minorly inventive sex with her, which is two points in his favor. But everyone is having sex problems. Is that the name of this episode? Because it should be. Charlie makes a case for himself as a sensitive, caring man who wants to please his woman, and Marnie is underwhelmed. Hannah and Marnie talk about what boys are and are not allowed to say, and Marnie drops a bomb: “He’s not your boyfriend.” Hannah is so stunned that she pauses while eating her yogurt. The next scene shows Hannah doing some naked Googling, a time-honored pastime, combined with a quick peek at her vagina, followed at some more Googling. Some key search terms: “Things that get up around the side of condoms.” (I just Googled this to see what came up, and it’s about a hundred hits referencing Girls and then one Lil Wayne song.)

Okay, best scene of the whole episode thus far: Hannah is getting dressed and calls Marnie, who is now at work as a gallerista, on the phone. Hannah is wearing gray tights, a plaid shirt, and a tight skirt around her waist like a baggy cummerbund. This is REAL TALK MOMENT No. 1. Girls, I’m yours. Hannah wants to make them all appointments for STD tests while Jessa is having her abortion, since they’ll be there anyway. Marnie agrees. Also, Marnie, what are you wearing? I feel like this scene is an outtake from Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. God, I love that movie. Lena, if you’re reading, you should hire Josh Charles to do a cameo, pretty please and thank you.

Tasti-D-Lite break! Shoshanna, Hannah, and Jessa are sitting on a bench, reading from a handy-dandy relationship guide that Shoshanna pulls out of her purse. Jessa takes offense and storms off, with Hannah trailing behind. The general idea here seems to be that Jessa doesn’t get taken on dates, only impregnated by pearl shuckers in Bali. Jessa claims not to be scared, or angry, or sad. Jessa says she wants to have children and will be really good at it, and wants to do it with many different men, of many different races. (Our proto-boho Jessa Halloween costume should now include multiracial babies, which can be borrowed from the Angelina Jolie set at Ricky’s.) This underscores my earlier comment about Hannah being very young, despite her quick tongue and comfort in her own skin. Jessa is going through something serious, even if she doesn’t want to talk about it, and she’s surrounded by people who can’t quite meet her there. Jessa understands that this is something life-altering, and even she can’t quite blow it off as no big deal.

Hannah seems to be doing gangbusters at her job interview, at a trade journal edited by Mike Birbiglia. They smile and joke and flub some Brooklyn real estate — Weather Up and Washington Commons are not in Cobble Hill, hello — but I almost want to write that off as them making awkward small talk during a job interview and not wanting to correct each other. Hannah then bombs the interview with a joke about date rape. Birbiglia does a great job of reacting, and shuts her down. I love all the bosses and would-be bosses on this show. There should be a spinoff starring Chris Eigeman and Mike Birbiglia, because they would hate each other and it would be like a sarcastic-cop-vs.-dopey-cop dynamic. See how well Josh Charles could be here?! They’d really lock in the 30- to 40-year-old viewers. I’m going to start a petition and a focus group. You’re all invited.

It’s 1 p.m., time for Jessa’s abortion. She ducks into a bar instead and orders a White Russian, as one does.

Marnie is already in the waiting room, having a bit of a meltdown, when Hannah rushes in, ten minutes late. Hannah (REAL TALK MOMENT No. 2) says that she never knows when her period is going to come, which is why all her underwear is covered in weird stains. I love this television program. If that makes me a white girl from the Upper West Side who went to Oberlin, so be it. Shoshanna enters bearing a shopping bag from Dylan’s Candy Bar, just in case it all takes a long time and they need snacks. Shoshanna says Hannah’s STD test sounds like “fun.” Oh, sweetie.

Back at the bar, Jessa is getting belligerent about Venice sinking. Jessa gets all the best weird throwaway lines. A cute boy comes in, needing a payphone. (Ha!) He calls his mother and looks cute enough doing so that Jessa makes out with him on the spot. When he sticks his hands down her pants, upon her command, Jessa is bleeding, which makes her smile drunkenly and kiss him again. Is this a miscarriage? Just a late period? I don’t know how pregnant Jessa was supposed to be, but either way, she’s not anymore. I don’t think this slight backing away from the fire means that Girls is trying to stay away from the controversial. Far from it. But I do think that it means that this show is intending to stay slightly above that level of “serious issue” business, at least for now. This is only the second episode! I know it feels like it’s been longer, because of the articles and visits to early morning talk shows and the piece in The New York Times Book Review, but this is only the second episode. And as all of us who are more adults than girls know, whether or not Jessa had to go through with the abortion, she still found herself pregnant when she didn’t want to be. These girls are waist-deep in real life, even if they still think they’re playing pretend.

Everyone else in this waiting room is shooting seriously dirty looks right about now. Now it’s Shoshanna’s turn to call Jessa. Marnie is majorly pissed off, and her reaction prompts Shoshanna to admit that she’s a virgin, which Marnie counters with the fact that she once hit a puppy with her car, when she still had her learner’s permit. Almost exactly the same thing.

And finally, it’s fun in the examination room time. Hannah’s sense of humor almost doesn’t work on doctors, it turns out. Talking aloud to herself more than the doctor, Hannah babbles that maybe she wants AIDS, as a bargaining chip to induce guilt in her lovers. One of Hannah’s gifts in life is that she says lots of terrible things out loud. People are horrified, as they should be, but Hannah doesn’t then get defensive, or aggressive. (Side note: Both of this episode’s AIDS references, Forrest Gump and Rent, are from 1994, which makes me wonder why they left out The Real World: San Francisco.) I might be alone here, but I find this all charming. She’s sorting it out, one awkward encounter at a time. Hannah is less like Carrie Bradshaw (tiny, cloying) and more like Larry David (self-obsessed, hilarious). I think the real takeaway from this show is that it’s awful to be young and in New York and we should all move to Bali. Who’s with me? The speculum goes in, and the episode ends, Hannah on the crinkly white paper, staring at the ceiling. We’ve all been there, girl. I would tell you it gets easier, but what fun would that be?

Girls Recap: Sex Problems