Every week during the final season of Girls, Vulture TV columnist Jen Chaney will offer input or advice to various characters on the HBO series. This week’s recipient: Shoshanna Shapiro.
To: Shoshanna Shapiro
Re: Your engagement and your general future
I could have written you a letter, Shoshanna, as I did a few short weeks ago after that WEMUN mixer and the fight you had with Jessa. Instead, I have drafted my thoughts in memo form, because I am trying to keep this businesslike, the way a truly professional WEMUN member would.
Let me start by saying that I am sad we have not seen more of you on this final season of Girls. Even though you were the “girl” who drove me most nuts when this show started, you grew on me. I could see you blossoming, turning into a self-reliant, smart, and considerate woman, the kind that has far more potential than people realize because they initially dismiss her for saying “like” so much. There’s a little Cher Horowitz in you, mixed with a heavy dose of Hello Kitty, and I appreciate that.
I also dig your honesty about the Hannah/Marnie/Jessa dynamic, as you expressed quite bluntly and admirably in the most recent episode. It’s hard to let go of friendships or acknowledge that certain people tend to bring out the worst in each other. This requires a certain level of maturity and confidence that, when this series began, you did not yet have. It’s great that you have it now.
But here’s the thing: Honesty about one’s feelings and relationships does not necessarily equal living an authentic life. And while I still think that you have the potential to do so, I am not sure that what we are seeing at this engagement party is the most authentic version of Shosh, starting with the engagement itself. This is my professional way of saying: Who in the hell is Byron Long, and where did he come from all of a sudden??
I know, I know: You met him at a Sprinkles cupcake-vending machine, which is the most Sex and the City thing I’ve ever heard on a show that isn’t Sex and the City, and therefore, totally the perfect way for you to have met someone. (On Sex and the City, you would have met at Magnolia, obviously, but times have changed and now we eat overpriced cupcakes out of ATMs.) It’s hard to gauge exactly how much time passed between episode eight and nine, but judging from the size of Hannah’s baby bump, I am guessing maybe a month or so. Which means that — as you said in your written-from-a-template engagement speech — you and Byron have moved toward marriage awfully quickly. As quickly as, I don’t know, someone who wants to prove that she can find love as immediately and passionately as Ray and Abigail?
Ray was conspicuously absent from your engagement party — as conspicuously absent as Hannah would have been, if she hadn’t just randomly shown up at your door unannounced. You said that you didn’t invite Hannah because she didn’t tell you about her pregnancy, and that’s valid. Clearly you’re barely friends now, so why invite her? But the fact that both Ray and Hannah were not there also implies that maybe you decided not to invite the two people most likely to call you on your bullshit and make you question your choices in the middle of that perfectly curated celebration of love. (Are you really better friends with Marnie? Like, why did she get an invite?)
Shoshanna, you are a person with shallow tendencies whose waters deepened over the course of the series. But by getting engaged and so conspicuously upgrading your friendship operating system, complete with a bunch of “pretty” people who have “nice personalities” and “nice purses,” it’s like you’re draining all the water out of your pool. Instead of continuing the process of growing up and evolving, it’s like you got the plastic-surgery version of adulthood. Why bother working at it if it all looks the same on the surface anyway, right?
You often defined yourself based on how you were treated by Hannah, Jessa, and Marnie. Over time, you realized it didn’t make sense to do that because you’re your own person, and good for you! But now it seems you’re doing the same thing all over again with your fiancé and this other, new group of friends, and that’s just as bad. It’s one thing to tell three women who often took advantage of you that you’ve grown apart from them and their narcissism is too much to tolerate. It’s another thing to then add a PS that states, “I’m better off now because I have new people to hang out with, and all of their handbags are more on-trend.”
When Abigail and Ray recently asked if you would rather live in an ugly building with a view of a gorgeous building or in a gorgeous building with a view of an ugly building, you said, “Ugly building, gorgeous view.” They said you were wrong. “It’s shallow in a weird way,” Ray said, “because it implies you’re fine with being structurally flawed, because it means you never have to see your true self.”
Which is sort of an accurate description of the life choices you’ve recently made. But also: If you live in an ugly building with a view of a gorgeous one, couldn’t that suggest that you’re an optimistic person who sees beauty even when she’s mired in ugliness? Because that also sounds like you, Shoshanna. Honestly, the only right answer to that question is: “Why is there only one right answer to this question and why is it automatically the one that you two picked, ya smug Brooklyn jerks?” I wish you would have said that to Abigail and Ray. Instead, I suspect you let it get to you, so much so that you jumped at the first nice guy you met while ordering a red velvet.
The bottom line, Shoshanna, is that you are a woman with a potentially lovely interior who, like your old girlfriends Rachel and Ziva, has decided to invest all her energy into maintaining stunning curb appeal. I think you’re better than that. I think you could still change, too; I just wish that we’d actually get to see you do that on Girls. But unfortunately, this is where we leave you.