girls talk

A Follow-up Open Letter to Marnie Michaels of Girls

Every week during the final season of Girls, Vulture TV columnist Jen Chaney will offer advice, sometimes unsolicited, to various characters on the HBO series. This week’s recipient: Marnie Michaels. Again.

Dear Marnie:

Last week, after an episode of Girls in which you demonstrated an EGOT-worthy ability to place your own concerns above everyone and everything else, I wrote you an open letter in which I said you will always be smug, self-involved, and entitled.

Now I am writing a follow-up letter, not to apologize per se, but to acknowledge that maybe I was a little wrong about your capacity for change. Apparently you can be forced to take a longer, harder look at yourself and recalibrate. All you have to do is walk into the right pawn shop.

In this week’s episode, the fact that you seem to have no reliably steady, robust income, yet enough money to afford unlimited Starbucks and yoga pants, finally caught up with you. An eviction notice landed on your door. You panicked. You begged your mom for money, and flipped her the bird when she wouldn’t give it to you. You tried to sell some random locket allegedly handed down to you by an icon of the Old West who was famous for his fabrications, then realized it didn’t even date back to the 1970s. You even turned to a girl’s alleged best friend — diamonds — only to realize that your diamonds were actually glass and could not be traded for rent money.

You responded to all this in typical Marnie fashion: by bemoaning the myriad injustices in your life while wearing a shirt bedazzled in pineapples.

Until the pawn shop guy finally said what everyone has been saying to you for years — “It sounds to me like you’re doing a lot of blaming” — then looked you in the eye after noting that you had just blasted your parents and ex-husband for deceiving you and added: “The liar is you.”

I’m not sure why this guy’s real talk and eye-rolling affected you so deeply when years of real talk and eye-rolls from friends, loved ones, and the entire internet failed to penetrate. Maybe you just finally hit the entitled white girl equivalent of rock bottom. Whatever the reason — possibly the fact that there are only three Girls episodes left and it would be too depressing to think that Marnie will be a basic narcissist forever? — you showed some real signs of maturity. You told Desi that he doesn’t owe you anything, which is true. You packed up your stuff, swallowed some pride, and did the same thing that a lot of 20-somethings do when they’re lost or low on cash: prepared to move back in with Mom.

The millennial who moves back in with the parents has become the go-to symbol of what some characterize as this generation’s laziness and their parents’ willingness to coddle them. Which is not entirely fair. If you move back in with your mom, let her do your laundry, and never try to find a job or your own place for years on end, yeah, okay, that speaks to a lack of initiative. But in your case, and the case of many people your age, letting your mom or dad provide a safety net for a little while until you can walk firmly on solid ground again is simply a practical way to regroup.

Marnie, you’re lucky that you’re able to do that. But you can also move forward from here like someone who knows she’s privileged, is grateful for what she has, and still determined to build her own future without casting blame or relying too heavily on others. This week’s episode offered the first sign that maybe you can do that.

To be clear: I don’t think you’ll ever stop thinking of yourself first. That’s in your genes, and in the fake pewter your great-great-grandmother probably didn’t actually pass down to you, since your mom bought that necklace at a Macy’s in the mid-’90s.

Years from now, Hannah will call you, ecstatic to tell you that her daughter just got into Oberlin, and you will respond by saying you know she has some [air quotes] “big news” to share, but first, you need to spend 15 minutes complaining about the disastrous mani-pedi you got that morning. That’s who you are and who you will always be, and in a way, it would be disappointing if you stopped being that way, because then you would just be totally boring. But maybe you can be a slightly more enlightened version of the oblivious woman of self-interest. That seems like a goal you can reasonably unlock, Marnie Michaels.

A Follow-up Open Letter to Marnie Michaels of Girls