Every week until the series finale of Girls, Vulture TV columnist Jen Chaney will also serve as an advice columnist for various characters on the HBO series. This week’s advice recipient: Ray Ploshansky.
For the past several months, I have been staying at my girlfriend Marnie’s apartment. One might even say I have been living there, since I sleep there every night and wake up there every morning, sometimes after satisfying sex (from my perspective) that culminates with my girlfriend rolling off of me as quickly as she can. (Since you watch Girls, you probably know a lot of this information. But it’s therapeutic for me to get all of this off my chest.)
Anyway: Marnie recently suggested that I start staying at my own place, which, technically, at the moment, is my friend Adam’s apartment. The problem is that Adam and his girlfriend have turned the place into a den of sexual iniquity, and also a haven for reheating fish. At least I think that’s what I smell. They also shoved most of my belongings, including my beloved Andy Kaufman standee, into a corner. So it’s not very welcoming there and there’s nowhere to sleep, unless you count the sofa his girlfriend sits on all day while naked, and I’m not all that excited about resting my weary head on that thing. (She eats an inordinate amount of yogurt, which makes me even more nervous about what sort of infections her exposed nether regions may be spreading, if you catch my meaning.)
With nowhere else to go and feeling like I’m a shopping cart away from officially being a homeless person — though I do run a successful anti-hipster coffee shop — I am now staying at my former girlfriend’s apartment. It’s so nice there. My ex Shoshanna and I operate on the same schedule. We bask in each other’s company. We laugh at the same jokes about New York Times columnists. It’s just so cozy and lovely living with her. The thing is, I’m getting the sense that Marnie — who feels that Shosh gives off “manic energy” — is uncomfortable with my continuing to reside there. But Marnie also doesn’t want me to share living space with her, either. What should I do? (Please don’t make me go back to Adam’s, because my God, the fish!)
I realize you are specifically seeking advice about your current living situation. But it sounds like there are bigger, deeper issues at play that must be addressed first.
What I am hearing is that your “girlfriend” — yes, those quotation marks are there for a reason — doesn’t want you to stay with her. I get it. Marnie lives in a pretty small apartment and, as I believe she has expressed, is going through a divorce and therefore needs her space, emotionally and physically.
But let me ask you this, Ray: Has Marnie dumped you before with little warning, only to hook up with and then marry a singer-songwriter so insufferable that he wouldn’t last for two seconds in a really bad Lumineers cover band? Has she used you as Rebound Guy on previous occasions, perhaps even convincing you to act as her personal roadie/servant during a recent concert tour? Do both she and you refer to each other as “baby” so aggressively that it’s less a term of endearment and more a form of denial?
If you answered yes to any of these questions — and you should have answered yes to every last one of them, Ray — then you shouldn’t just be asking yourself where to stay tonight. You should be asking why you feel compelled to stay in this “relationship.”
Here’s why I think you have stuck so steadfastly with Marnie: because she’s the prize you never imagined you could have. She’s the Academy Award you never thought you could receive, the fortune that you and all the naysayers never thought you had a chance of amassing, the Super Bowl that you alone won despite the decades-long drought that made it seem impossible. She’s the one who seemed totally out of your league, then surprised you by actually being in your league, and on your team, and all the way in your pants.
At one time or another, we have all come in contact with, and maybe even dated, a person who seemed out of our league. Sometimes the person seems unattainable because of their status or popularity or intelligence. But let’s be honest: eight-and-a-half times out of ten, most of us decide that a potential romantic partner is too far out of field-goal range because he or she is empirically, ridiculously hot. And Marnie is empirically, ridiculously hot. I even have kind of a crush on her, and I’ve watched her be self-involved in episodes that I assume you haven’t even seen, Ray!
Of course, that does not mean that Marnie is above you, or that you are not worthy of her. But because you perceive her as you the One Who Could Easily Get Away, and because Marnie both knows that you see her this way and takes advantage of that fact, there is an imbalance in the relationship that has persisted for too long to ever be recalibrated. If I may quote Ferris Bueller: “You can’t respect somebody who kisses your ass. It just doesn’t work.” In this dynamic, you are the ass-kisser. (And, based on rumors I’m hearing, soon-to-be ass-licker.) To quote someone else, namely the editor played by Chelsea Peretti who recently presumed that your friend Hannah Horvath must feel like “a punching bag” or “a welcome mat,” you are the one being treated like a punching bag and a welcome mat in this scenario. And that’s not fair.
It’s so, so clear to me that you and Shoshanna really belong together. True, there’s a comfort level between you that reeks of an old, retired, married couple eating gluten-free toast while discussing current events. But there is obviously a warmth, mutual respect, and ability to support each other that is sorely missing from your “relationship” with Marnie. I’m not telling you to start sleeping with Shosh immediately. That would be unfair to her for the same reason it was unfair to you when Marnie seduced you only three episodes after breaking up with her husband. But I am suggesting that you consider the potential between you, and the fact that Shosh sees and hears you in a way that Marnie cannot. For God’s sake, Ray, Marnie bought you a grande Starbucks coffee. Anyone who has watched Girls for even five minutes, let alone fully resided in its universe, would know you do not drink hot beverages produced or sold by multi-international conglomerates. Jesus.
But back to you and your living situation. Do you have enough money to rent a tiny studio apartment, or perhaps a modest room in a group house occupied by like-minded people with whom you can (mostly) get along without bringing so much preexisting baggage to the equation?
If you can’t afford either scenario, I understand. But since you run an anti-hipster, man-bun-banning coffee shop, I thought maybe you had enough cash to at least find a room to call your own. I honestly think that having your own place is the best thing for you right now. You need to exist in a space that doesn’t put you in close quarters with anyone you have ever dated, or anyone who has ever dated anyone you know, if that’s possible.
If you have to, ask your boss, Hermie, for an advance so you can put down a security deposit and at least your first month’s rent. Then take in some oxygen that you don’t have to share with Marnie, or Adam, or Shosh, or anyone else for that matter. Just breathe. Then end that “relationship” with Marnie, and realize that no one has to call anyone else baby in order to feel confident and happy. For a while, at least, you can find strength from being your own baby, Ray.